Among all the dumped dockless scooters, food trucks, and people on hoverboards holding boa constrictors (yes, really), Austin once again hosted countless numbers of great up-and-coming artists alongside established acts for SXSW 2019. Who were some of our favorites? Only one way to find out.
For 30 years now, SXSW has brought the best and the brightest of the music industry to the music capital of the world for for a week of controlled chaos and musical overload. Music journalist Marcus J. Moore attended this summer camp for music nerds for the first time this year, and he’s hanging out with us to report back on what went down.
Laura Gibson has made a career of making sublimely beautiful folk music, but on Empire Builder she beat back adversity and ended up with her best album to date.
Oddisee is back with a free album Alwasta, and we’ve got a politically charged track off of it to rock your freaking dome.
Sounds Like: Garage-y Ramones
Why You Should Care: Shake off your “will this winter ever end” doldrums with a furiously fun song
Sounds Like: Some parts Austra, some bits Glasser, some echoes of Bats for Lashes
Why You Should Care: This song will wash over you and take your cares with it
Words by guest contributor and general rawk GOD, Chris Smith
Editors Note: Over the years, the annual music industry summer camp known as SXSW has grown from the coolest little music conference that could, to a nigh full blown music festival headlined by the likes of...well everyone...at once. But while the years may have brought on an increase in scope and line size (oh the lines) there are a few simple truths that have remained universal. Truths that we are now proud to present to you by way of a man that's been there and back again...and again...and again. Unfiltered. Unedited. This is SXSW and how to survive it.
An exuberant vaudevillian throw back with a modern twist
Why You Should Care:
Her lovely voice and brass band swing make for a joyous celebration of overcoming obstacles
Another South by Southwest (SXSW) has come and gone, leaving a wake of fuzzy memories, ringing ears and a few triumphant “finds” to keep us listening for another year.
Even as music festivals are growing in popularity across the country, SXSW, which is in fact a conference not a festival, holds a special place in the musical landscape, providing a forum for acts and bands of all sizes and degrees of notoriety to perform their latest creations in the hopes of drawing the attention of someone, or everyone. Prince played. Justin Timberlake played. And, thousands of other bands played, too, in over a hundred clubs in and around Austin, TX for five days in March.
Clearly, it’s impossible to see every band, so a strategy is required. My focus was to see bands I’ve never seen before over acts or bands I’ve seen, or would see soon in DC. To prepare, I listened to as many SXSW bands in advance as I could, which was about 175. That resultant list, augmented by other sources, guided my decision making over the course of the festival. But serendipity and attachment to some of my favorites played a role, too. All in all, I saw 60 bands over 5 days.
Still, despite best-laid plans, for some line-ups, you simply have to change your strategy. Thursday night’ Belmont Warner Sound Nikon showcase was one such night, and as a whole, accounts for my favorite overall night. The lineup? Guards, Surfer Blood, Atlas Genius, Frightened Rabbit, The Joy Formidable and The Flaming Lips. A strong bill that was the perfect mix of beloved bands and new contenders. The Belmont isn’t a large club and the line wrapped around the block, preventing many people from getting in that night, but fortune (in the form of a badge and some kind Austin friends who let me in the line) helped me find my way to the front of the stage.
Last fall’s CMJ Music Festival had 1,436 bands playing 84 venues across New York City, and Little Green Cars rose from the din to make the “15 Artists to Know” in all the Best Of lists. Similar things went down last week at a little musical Clustercrunch in Austin, Texas (you may have heard about it), and now Ireland’s next big export is boomeranging its way across North America in a mad dash before returning to the British Empire for the summer festival schedule. Lucky for you D.C. is one of the towns on their list of places to unleash some harmony, and even luckier for you it’s going down tonight at DC9 and tickets are still available.
Little Green Cars have been compared to everyone from old school R.E.M. to Arcade Fire to Magic Numbers, and their debut album, Absolute Zero, comes out next week on Glassnote Records (which is also the home of Mumford & Sons and Two Door Cinema Club). Absolute Zero is a mish mash of vocal harmonies, lush compositions, and pretty clever lyrics all wrapped in a giant American alt-countryish ribbon. Your future self will thank the hell out of you next year when Little Green Cars are selling out much larger venues, and you can give your current self a high-five for being so effing cool. Maybe it’s a SXSW hangover effect that makes us want to share things you shouldn’t be missing, but seriously, we can’t believe tickets are still available. Pounce on ‘em right now if you know what’s good for your ears.
All words/pictures by ace contributor Suzanne Wnek
Kevin here. Yesterday we heard all about the planning, today it's on to the MUSIC. And by the looks of it, there was a metric sh!@-ton to be had. So lets hop back on Suzanne's wild ride through 2012's SXSW and let's see where it takes us.
More NPR, at the The Parish. I loved La Vida Boheme and Sugar Tongue Slim. The first band was super lively and irresistible. Sugar Tongue Slim was smart and humorous and filled with hip-hop pageantry. I was again disappointed in Polica. She is beautiful and all that, but there’s not a lot of differentiation from song to song (to me) and her moves were very repetitious. I was also disappointed in Lower Dens. I thought I'd just missed the "good" stuff the night before, but all they played was the same, and nothing stood out to me at all. Must all be new. Next up was the legendary Magnetic Fields who made you laugh, cry, cheer, and sing with songs about death and weddings (according to them) and it was a great way to end the first portion of the day.
All words/pictures by ace contributor Suzanne Wnek
I just attended my first SXSW and I got everything wrong. But even if you get everything wrong at SXSW, it’s an experience you cant’ help but love, and hey, there’s always next year.
First things first: if you’ve never been to SXSW, it’s not like a huge park with 2 or 3 stages and the acts rotate through while you decide in which field you’re going to sit. Instead, it’s as if all your favorite bars and music venues in the world relocated within a one-mile radius (give or take…someone out there was probably wearing a pedometer). In those 100s of venues, 1000s of bands can play 40-minute sets over the course of 5 days, and they will.