SXSW Sunday 13th March
SXSW is upon us again and Sandra and I have changed things up a bit. The music festival really starts on Tuesday, March 15 and runs until Sunday, March 20, but we have decided to stay in Austin for the entire week...Sunday-Sunday
Sadly that meant we were arriving in the middle of the interactive portion of SXSW. The housing desk that books your hotel for you was unable to book us in one hotel for the duration. Upon arrival we would be staying well out of the city for the first two nights then into the core on the 15th.
There is music events on Sunday and Monday so it's a bit of a hike, but if you have a solid plan it can be done. The solid plan combined with the fact that for the first time in 10 years we could book a direct flight from Toronto to Austin meant getting to town and starting SXSW off well, but ...
Our direct flight left over 5 hours late due to two things, a flight attendant forgot to set her clocks ahead on Saturday (North America moves clocks ahead on the 13th) and then a computer malfunction before getting off the gate.
So....so much for a plan!
We landed quite late...took a taxi to our hotel and dropped our bags, took another taxi to Latitude (home of the British Embassy parties at SXSW).
Arrived in time to see a full set by Hooton Tennis Club. They were on my list so this has worked out well. This little band from Wirral packs a lovely indie rock punch and has succeeded in giving us a boost after today's flight and travel issues. A small crowd has gathered to enjoy the free music and the band play their set loud, and being influenced by everyone from Deerhunter to Guided by Voices, I can see these guys pulling off some solid festival stages all over England in the summer...check them out if you can.
Now that we have had that boost...and with Hooton Tennis Club being the only band we could fit in this late at night...it was time to end the night off with a few pints of Craft Ale at the "Craft" pub on Rainey street. They serve only local Texas Craft Ale and they serve it well. We enjoy a few and as the night ends it's time for the Taxi ride back out to our hotel and hopefully the plan we have for Tuesday will all work out!!
SXSW Monday 14th March
Monday in Austin ( or just outside Austin where our hotel is) brings a slight hangover from late night craft ale and some weary travellers trying to get motivated for a full day of rock n roll..so after a greasy breakfast we walk into Austin.
It's a good hour long walk but nothing is scheduled to kick off until after noon so we have time. We walk directly to the convention centre and pick up our music badges.
Then it's off to the parties put on by Strange Brew & Spotify.
First we walk into Spotify and get our free beer tickets and watch BADBADNOTGOOD. The band from Toronto is a mess of jazz fusion and hip hop beats mixed together to form some very solid instrumental songs. These guys are well known in hip hop circles and have worked will everyone from Ghostface to Danny Brown so they are a very tight band and they produce some very catchy and clever songs that go well with the blistering heat of the day.
Now it's time to head across the street to an ideal set up for music lovers...the Strange Brew party. Plenty of bands I knew of, plenty I did not...but there are 3 stages with a main stage outside and two smaller stages inside two separate adjoining bars. You can move from one to the other to find your spot.
We arrive just in time to watch Patch. These local guys are fantastic. Tight little Austin band whose songs are built around the accordion!! and acoustic guitar and drums. The guys play some perfectly crafted indie rocks songs with great voices and lovely harmonies. Great way to start and a fascinating band to watch. This is what SXSW should be about, discovery and enjoying live music.
The day is simple now...just shift between the three stages and see if anything clicks for us. Main stage is Volcano...a two piece electro pop band. Solid singers but on the outside stage, the sound drifts away and so does the crowd. Inside, you have Mirror Travel..a three piece garage rock band featuring three dynamic young ladies. Seems the crowd has shifted in here as well..they are solid, but I must check out the other stage.
There I find Blankus Larry..a solid two piece garage rock band from DC. Now a quick move to another stage and its Daddy Issues...another all girl group doing Breeders like songs. Another solid set outside on the main stage are the hard rocking..pop punk band White Reaper. They are garage punk and suited for the main stage. They are a great live band but inside.
Stonefield are going to be on soon...this is an another all girl group from Australia. They are sisters and they are very very good. Can see why they were invited to play at Glastonbury...lead singer is very confident, playing is quite good and they are one of the better sounding bands of the day.
Again...have to keep moving and we find a lovely surf psych pop band The Deer. This local band play indie pop with a passion that is rare. The lead singer smiles through every song and she can switch from pop to folk to country seamlessly and with a talented band playing with her...they are a treat.
Outside its an odd "chillipeppers" ish band called Purple, the lead singer of the 3 piece is a young lady who is also the drummer...and while I admire their energy, it's not enough to keep me outside because Tacocat are playing inside. Their feminist pop punk goes down rather well on the small stage inside and their set is full of songs I enjoyed from their album.
All of these bands were setting us up for the main reason to hit this showcase, and that is Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires..and they pack a punch. They are experts at southern rock and they kick ass. Their songs confront plenty of social injustices and they beat injustice with some pretty nasty riffs. Well worth sticking around for!
Following dinner..it's our usual trek to Latitude and a couple more Brit bands before we call it a day.
First off at latitude is the lovely Irish singer Ciaran Lavery. Great little songwriter who clearly is a fan of some Americana..not simply a folk singer, it's a mixture of Ryan Adams, and Bob Dylan...but it all mixes into a wonderful blend. He gets a sing a long going with the crowd in the bar, so I would say he was successful.
Up next, is the Crookes. This Sheffield band have been around for some time, but I have never seen them. They are a solid indie rock guitar band with some sweet melodies and some great songwriting. It is a great way to end the night, because we have to get a cab out of the city and get to our hotel, so that we can grab all our gear and shift to the downtown core Tuesday morning!
SXSW Tuesday 15th March
Finally...time to shift our gear and move into our hotel in the heart of the city. We head to our hotel, drop our bags and off we go. The plan for the day is a little loose...it's Tuesday and there are not a lot of big day shows so it's off to Spotify House.
It's a pretty easy music day at Spotify ...up first is Lukas Graham, a young Danish pop rock soul singer. He is a big deal back home playing to crowds of 40,000 + so this youngster is used to big shows and the kid has swagger. His voice is solid and the songs all seem to be possible big pop hits, so we believe this kid will be playing huge shows in North America soon.
Kacy Hill is up next...young American singer who was hand picked by Kanye to join his label. She pretty much has it made. Her band is tight and her trip hop/dream pop/ soul style goes over well with the crowd and it's a good showcase for her voice. It's very smooth and perfectly suited to this sunny day
Now it's time for a boost of energy. Jack Garratt hits the stage and the crowd swells. Considering a year ago we saw Jack and he performed to a much smaller crowd, clearly his popularity has increased. This singer songwriter/multi-instrumentalist forms some perfect little pop/electronic songs with quite the kick and it's a fun upbeat way to end the afternoon on a sunny day.
A quick check at the schedules reveal a new addition...NightBeats are playing close by....so...off we go! Playing at the outside stage at Hotel Vegas, we wander straight in and the band goes on. It's perfect Psychedelic garage soul played by 3 wonderfully talented young men. It takes no time with these guys to raise the volume and a wave of sound and heavy guitar hits you in a good way. These guys take no prisoners, it's a heads down full on assault of their instruments and what results is a smooth but loud set of blissful but challenging psychedelia!
Continues in Part 2
Jim & Sandra