Monday, March 30, 2009

SXSW (music) in a Nutshell

Yep, that's right, I was there. And I didn't even arrive early for the interactive part of the festival. This was pure unabashed vacation time to check out the biggest music festival for music industry insiders in the USA. Epic. Carnival-like. Night of the Living Dead. These were all phrases used to describe the event by the local press. The music got started by 11am every day and worked it's way through multiple crescendos at different venues through out the day and ended with thousands of zombie-like fans, bands, and entourage looking for the last party around 3am (usually RedBull).

Strategy and preparation are key. Without benefit of an event pass you must RSVP to multiple shows each day and prioritize your route through the chaos to try to catch the bands most worth seeing. And that may change mid-event as buzz erupts around how brilliant or authentic or ordained this or that band is, based solely upon the performance a group of people in your social media circle witnessed the night before. Bragging rights are around unbelievable performances (such as the reportedly off the charts performance by Jane's Addiction at the Playboy party) or new discoveries ("hey did you catch that show by Pains of Being Pure at Heart"?).

Twitter was a fairly big connection point and I have to believe much bigger than at last year's event, further emphasizing it's rising role in social nets as the real time bondo. I hear FourSquare (for you disgruntled dodgeball fans) was also big at the interactive portion of sxsw but didn't really see many people using it during music. All in all, great time. I came back with what was labeled as sxsw sars (really bad chest cold which turned into bronchitis) and a lot less money than when I left so would say from my financial and health deficits that it added up to one hell of an experience. ... and yes, I bought the tee shirt at the airport on the way out of town.

Overall experience top 14 list:

  1. plus ones FTW!
  2. twitter
  3. bloody mary's as breakfast
  4. waffles in the shape of texas (everything in the shape of texas)
  5. non aggro doormen
  6. sunshine
  7. random connections
  8. dual stage venues
  9. blackout curtains in the hotel room
  10. lines suck
  11. rsvp lists on delicious (thanks go to Tessa @ DriveAFasterCar)
  12. bands who twitter
  13. VIP lounges with food
  14. brisket

And my tops list of bands:
  • Grizzly Bear - similar to Fleet Foxes, intricate melodies and orchestrated sound. Try "Knife" from the Yellow House album.
  • The Whip - Not sure how to categorize, somewhere in between NiN and Crystal Method with some Basement Jaxx thrown in? And they don't just use a drum track. They have a kick ass female drummer and awesome bass player. They had the entire club dancing at the British Embassy party. High energy. Try "Fire" and "Trash"
  • Crystal Antlers - straight up blues rock. wall of sound.
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Maybe the best of the week. Awesome 90's throwback sound. Definitely try these guys out. Here's a link to them on Hype Machine. Give "Young Adult Friction" a listen.
  • The Republic Tigers - something like Bloc Party.
  • Vivian Girls - three piece garage girl band. a much better version of Hole
  • The Black Lips - Atlanta band, been around for a while and just breaking through. Headlined one show. Sound kind of country Rolling Stones
  • Voxtrot - Jangly guitar pop
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks - great fucking name. Scottish band. Actually didn't see them but meant to and downloaded the one free song available from Amazon.
  • Cursive - didn't see them but they were getting some hype, so downloaded and listened. good stuff. Try out "From the Hips"
  • Wave Machines - a lot of falsetto, mix of dance and rock, very tight set. They wear masks of themselves. Kind of strange I know, and I don't think they necessarily need the extra bit in the act. They sound a little like MGMT. Ok, you might not think so if you're a huge MGMT fan, but popularity breeds comparison.
  • Blitzen Trapper - also didn't get in to see them but very much worth the listen! Try the title track on the Furr album.
  • Chairlift - I've seen them before and saw them twice on this trip! Great band. Reportedly the inspiration for them was to make music for haunted houses and got their start around the same time as MGMT in New York (even remixing "Evident Utensil" by MGMT as one of their first releases). What's up with Caroline's leg tats? Following up Chairlift at Red7 was Telepathic, another rising avant-pop band composed of two women drums, sample track, and dancers. Also, worth checking out.
that's it. so long southwest.

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