Let me start off by saying that SXSW (South by Southwest) is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. It was nearly midnight when I arrived on Tuesday and the first thing we, and by we, I mean myself, Deb, Elaina, and former Music Director Gabe, was walk down the infamous strip of rowdy cowboy bars and music venues known as 6th Street. No cars allowed. The street was laden with twenty-something college students, graduate students, music gurus and the occasional old guy (a rare sighting to say the least.) Five minutes after getting into Austin and I’m already saturated with more music and yelling and camaraderie than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Not ten minutes later and I’m five feet away from Hollywood movie star/heartthrob Michael Cera who’s playing catchy rock songs with his band Mister Heavenly at the Paradise Club. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the week, the main themes being: incredible music, mouthwatering Tex-Mex, and an incredible energy that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. All of this situated at the four-day, Austin, Texas music extravaganza, South By Southwest.
Now instead of talking about the conferences and lectures and badge-only panels that figured into my daytime schedule, I imagine the most important thing to consider is the great musical performances I was able to see. The thing about SXSW is that there are literally hundreds of bands playing each and every day of the festival and it’s simply impossible to see everything you want to see. Each night I spent at least an hour putting together my schedule for the following day. It included all the official things I was responsible for, all the showcases I wanted to see, all the restaurants I wanted to chow down at – there just wasn’t enough time in the day. That being said, I was lucky enough able to see some truly amazing bands perform, most of which can be found in rotation this very second.
Hands down the best act(s) of the festival were those performed by L.A. rap collective Odd Future headed by the cynical, and almost too-real, skateboard punk, Tyler, The Creator (see picture – I’m the doofy guy on the left.) I’ve never seen any act command the attention, angst and overall energy that Odd Future did with their fans at the Thrasher Showcase at Scoot Inn on St. Patrick’s Day. There was nearly a riot, people broke down the fence, Tyler broke some kid’s nose, another member of the crew staged dived off the roof of the outdoor venue, it was madness, pure and simple. The crew played yet another show on Saturday night, their last of the festival to a crowd of over one thousand people in an old drive-in movie lot filled with dust and dirt. The constant cloud of dust that erupted from the mêlée towards the front of the stage was enough to turn my boogers black for two days and give me a wicked cough that I still can’t shake. Regardless, to be able to experience first hand the raw energy and excitement over this new rap crew, one that will undoubtedly take the music world by storm was worth every dirty lung and beer splattered shirt.
Some other amazing shows that really stood out include:
Braids, Das Racist, Big Boi, James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Cloud Nothings, Toro Y Moi, Daedalus, Gold Panda
So yea! If you ever get the chance, SXSW is not only an incredible opportunity to experience up-and-coming musical acts, but also a good way to learn about the music industry, network with fellow artists and enthusiasts, and most importantly enjoy yourself in the context of a new, exciting city.