A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

Marissa Suiter of Burnsville:

1 South By Southwest. The massive annual conference and festival in Austin, Texas, is about discovering new artists, and sometimes rediscovering seasoned acts. These are some of my SXSW favorites I saw this year: Danielle Ponder, Thundercat, Luna Luna and Georgia Lines.

2 Robert Smith takes on Ticketmaster. For the Cure's on sale for its upcoming tour, the lead singer was not only adamant about tickets being reasonably priced, but he actually got Ticketmaster to automatically refund fans for some of the excessive fees. While the refund was small, Ticketmaster caving felt huge.

3 "The Last of Us." I won't give any spoilers, but thanks to this HBO series, Linda Ronstadt's "Long, Long Time" will now make me bawl any time I hear it. That song masterfully incorporated music into the episode's story line and elevated an already great episode into an unforgettable one.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune critic:

1 Taylor Swift's Eras Tour. To kick off her hotly anticipated first trek in five years, she played 44 songs — grouped album by album — over 3 hours and 12 minutes. Not only was her approach sui generis but it was uber-generous.

2 The Cure fights Ticketmaster. The fan-friendly veteran Brit band charged as little as $20 for its upcoming arena tour but Ticketmaster fees for a $20 ticket were $27.15 ($11.65 service fee, $10 facility fee, $5.50 processing fee). The Cure's singer Robert Smith protested and compelled Ticketmaster, which admitted the fees were "unduly high," to give modest refunds of $5 to $10. A small but significant victory.

3 Sona Jobarteh, the Dakota. What a remarkable performance by the only woman to master the kora, a West African string instrument that dates back to the 14th century. A resident of London and Gambia from the griot tradition, she was warm, gracious, funny, playful and superb on her 21-string kora, backed by a band that grooved. She and her musicians had wonderful interaction with the SRO crowd (a "60 Minutes" report last fall created an audience) including Carleton College prof Chérif Keïta, whose book inspired the title of her second CD, "Fasiya."

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