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  • Josh Haner/The New York Times

When Holcombe Waller arrived in Austin this week for SXSW, he wasn't even registered as a performer. In the midst of a few thousand other artists and musicians, the Portland singer/songwriter didn't have any sets lined up. That is, until he, his manager (former Mississippi Studios booker Alicia Rose), and a few others decided to put together an intimate hotel room show for friends and industry folk. Seems like the New York Times showed up and took in Waller's hushed tones and melodies, along with those of Alessi's Ark and Jenny O.

The performers... all use whisper dynamics to cast their spell — which can be a severe disadvantage at a festival with more clamor per square foot than just about anywhere else in the world.

But at the hotel on Saturday afternoon, they sat at the foot of the bed and played with a delicacy — and a casualness — that would simply be impossible anywhere else here.

Always nice to see a local boy turning the big heads. Like an oasis in the desert of insanity that this year's SXSW became, Waller even managed to squeeze a cello back there (as seen in the video below) to play out his somber and serene music. Back in town and playing the Woods March 29, Waller is continuing to tour in support of his new album, Into the Dark Unknown, booking be damned!