Sandra and I booked ourselves into a Monday departure from Austin which allowed us to enjoy the city and some favourite spots on Sunday. After a lunch at Craft Pride (which featured some fantastic beer and local jazz bands) we set off to roam a quieter downtown area We happened upon yet another Craft Beer bar and couldn't help but drop by to check it out and have a rather great conversation with the young guys that ran the bar.
Because of where this bar was, and having done a little research, I found a benefit music showcase going on close by and there was at least one band playing there that I was interested in so...off we went
Found ourselves at Stubbs inside bar in time to see the entire Will Varley set. This British singer songwriter is a great little story teller. Great voice, some wonderful songs, amusing anecdotes and he ended up being quite the treat so early in the day.
Next up...a band that turned out to be the Grammy nominated Blue Grass band Wood & Wire. Stand up Bass..Banjo..stunning harmonies..an absolute powerhouse of a blue grass band. Duelling Banjo/mandolin portions of the set mix with some phenomenal singing and a band that is clearly having fun..we are so glad to have made this choice..these guys were phenomenal
Tow'rs band are up next and were the reason we had come to this showcase. Indie folk pop that features a Cello is going to stand out. Fronted by a husband and won team, these guys produce some rather spellbinding songs. It's not complicated..it is just very very well put together, sweet sounding and warm. It's intimate and poetic and a nice way to end our afternoon
At this point, we decide to pack it in, enjoy a nice dinner and say goodnight to Austin
As we wake up in a quiet Austin, and before our flight, we spend some thing going over the festival. It's been a wonderful festival but we spend some time considering our return in 2020
We have talked to the festival at length about our concerns. The music badge, at its cheapest is US$700 and that is with our alumni discount. The festival has tried to add value to our badge by allowing us into other elements of the festival (film, interactive, etc) but for us, that really does nothing. We go to see bands, not conference sessions, interviews or other festival events. The badge guarantees that you will get into showcases first when it's full but it is so rare that these showcases get full now...it's not needed. There are very few day parties (where you see most bands during the week) that require a badge and wristbands and general public can get in as well. Even at night, bars allow the general public to pay $10 at the door and you can get in even if you don't have a wristband or badge.
With all this in mind, and with the festival now selling wristbands to the general public when booking a hotel through the official SXSW housing desk, we have decided to go the wristband route (saving more then US$500 per person)
2020 will be an experiment but considering the amount of free days shows we attend and how many bands we see during those shows that were on our "must see" list..it seems like a natural logical move. So..please don't be dissuaded by the industry badge cost for this festival, you could easily come to Austin with no badge and still see 100 bands in the week and enjoy some sun at the same time
Jim & Sandra