This year’s SXSW was one of good fortune. It seemed like everything went our way – from transportation, to a plethora of engaging shows, to one fantastic food truck choice after another. To sum up, this SXSW 2017 was one of the best I’ve attended in years, and here are some reasons why. Continue reading
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This was a year of many firsts for me at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. For the first time in 12 years, I didn’t get a wristband, didn’t attend the entire week of events, and didn’t have any friends join me for the week of music madness. All of these firsts were a result of another first for me – my spring break from work didn’t line up with the music festival this year. After spending my actual spring break in San Diego with a friend (great beaches, great weather, and great beer), I didn’t think I’d attend the festival this year due to money, work, and the lack of comrades.
Then, of course, the day of the festival neared and I got the SXSW itch – I had to go. I ended up calling-in sick to work two days (don’t tell my boss) and made the best of my three days in Austin. Usually the SXSW experience contains its moments of frustration (the goose chase that is buying a wristband, the annoyance of not being able to get into shows, and the insanity of 6th Street) but this year didn’t feature any of these issue. I avoided 6th Street for the most part, didn’t worry about the wristband rat race, and was able to get into every venue I walked to. Not only that, but almost every performance I saw was top-notch. Although I don’t have nearly as much experience to draw from for this year’s best of SXSW list, here were some of the highlights (and a few low-lights).
On first glance, this poster for a SXSW show back in 2005 doesn’t seem worth discussing in my “Posterized” series. It’s really more of an advertisement for MTV2 than actually a poster promoting a concert. Most shows at SXSW are sponsored by someone (a record label, an online streaming outlet, a beverage company, a natural gas/fracking conglomerate) but rarely do the posters feature much about the sponsor other than a small watermark logo in one of the corners.
The second reason this poster doesn’t seem to deserve much attention is the fact I didn’t even go to any of the shows listed on the poster. They were all day parties, something I wasn’t even familiar with in those early days of SXSW.
No, this is far from the coolest concert poster I own, and no, I didn’t even attend these shows. But despite these two admissions, it’s still one of my favorites in the entire collection that adorns my walls because it reminds me of one of the best concerts I ever attended.
In this episode I revisit my week at SXSW, discussing some of the bands that made 2014 another successful experience. Also, I continue my look at Bob Dylan’s life, this time visiting his college days in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Check out the latest episode HERE or subscribe at iTunes (search: BDWPS).
Guided By Voices “Salty Salute”
Cloud Nothings “Just See Fear”
Vertical Scratchers “Pretend U Are Free”
Urge Overkill “Bottle of Fur”
Black Lips “Boys in the Woods”
Upset “She’s Gone”
Bob Dylan “Bob Dylan Blues”
Before I get into all the fun that is South By Southwest, I wanted to first take a moment to express my sympathy for those who were injured and lost their lives during Wednesday night’s festivities. My two friends actually witnessed the horrific event, and if I hadn’t gone for a quick restroom break before leaving Cheer Up Charlie’s, we could have been out there when the drunken asshole selfishly plowed through a barricaded street. I’m not sure if the media conveyed the amazing speed and efficiency executed by the medics, volunteers, and police that evening. By the time I emerged to meet up with my friends, only minutes after the atrocity, all 25 of the victims were already receiving assistance, often from groups of three to five people, administering CPR and helping to bandage wounds.
With SXSW growing more and more each year, the streets feel more chaotic and dangerous than ever, but the quickness and professionalism displayed by everyone that night assured me that both SXSW and the city of Austin are prepared for literally anything. While this event certainly put a damper on the week, there were still a lot of highlights to look back on. Here are some of the best and worst moments from the week…
When you think about Austin (the live music capital of the world) and festivals, one of the first events to come to mind is probably the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Starting 11 years ago, the first two day festival didn’t draw huge names but instead brought in acts that fit within the TV show’s tradition of Americana and Alt-Country. Ticket prices were low, and the focus was solely on the music. In 2004 I attended the festival and caught a more indie line-up of acts like Cat Power, Modest Mouse, and The Pixies. But it seems with the recent release of the festival’s 2013 line-up and its avarice plans to have two separate three day weekends that ACL has lost its way. Only a week prior to the line-up release I attended Psych Fest in Austin, and as I basked in the warmth of the psychedelic sounds from the stage, I had a realization – ACL is no longer the best festival in Austin: in my opinion, it ranks 5th.
Just moments before sitting down to write about the best and worst of the South By Southwest music festival of last week, I found out about the death of Jason Molina, the troubled genius behind folk-blues outfits like Songs/Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. This news would have been unsettling and heartbreaking regardless of what I was about to embark on, but sitting here trying to write about my 10th year at the music festival, I can’t help but think back to my first year in attendance and how I got to see Magnolia Electric Company perform at The Parish.
A lot has changed since that night a decade ago when Molina first enchanted me with his fragile, somber voice. Over the years I’ve seen SXSW grow along with my understanding of the festival and all its nuances. I think back to those performances from the first few years and wonder where the festival’s one time luster has gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a great week, seeing dozens of bands each day, but along with the growth of social media, SXSW has become more about the hype and less about discovering unpolished gems like my friends and I did 10 years ago with Jason Molina and his band. Yes, Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, and John Fogerty played a surprise set together, as well as Prince and Green Day (badge only shows), but due to the influx of speculation and misinformation within the Twitter world, I was unable to see several shows I would have in years past due to the miles of sheep lined up in hopes of seeing MTV TRL darlings like of Usher and Justin Timberlake.
Yet as much as these moments of frustration tainted my week, I still relished my chance to see up-and-coming artists pour their hearts out on the stage. Within the past ten years I’ve seen unknown artists perform at SXSW that went on to big time success (Bon Iver, The Fleet Foxes, and TV On the Radio), and I expect that many of the artists seen this week will go on to do just the same. Who knows? Maybe in ten years folks will be lining up for miles to see some of my favorites from this past week while I roam 6th street, 10 years older and wiser, in search of that next great unearthed treasure.
In memory of Jason Molina, I present to you my list of the best and worst of SXSW 2013.