I just spent several days in Austin, TX checking out the South by Southwest Music Festival. It was a crazy scene and nearly complete sensory overload of music at all times. Most people probably have some idea of what SXSW is all about, but the main idea is that everywhere you walk in downtown Austin during the SXSW festivities you will find bands playing and people partying.
There are huge music showcase events at the bigger venues, but there are also smaller (and more importantly FREE) shows at almost every bar or entertainment location around town, especially on the “East Side” of Austin. You can spend literally all day every day bouncing between parties, checking out ALL types of bands and music, and meeting tons of people from all over the country.
I had a few local friends to help show me around the madness in Austin. Our main goal was to stretch our dollar and find the coolest free shows.
One big help: The twitter feed. Many bars and venues would tweet their “free drink specials” and other announcements which definitely helped to steer us towards them
Of course I managed to take in a ton of music during our long trek around SXSW, but I picked a few of the more memorable performances to pass along to you. I hope you will check out their myspace pages and watch all of their youtube videos!
One of the Better bands I saw was The Soft Pack (http://www.myspace.com/thesoftpack) at the well-known Waterloo Record Store. Waterloo had a very cool, spacious outdoor stage situation with a good sound system so it was really a treat to see any band there. The Soft Pack caught my ear pretty much immediately with solid rock riffs and catchy vocals. I also liked that their drummer plays standing up on a cocktail-style drum kit. Pretty cool!
Check out this video that Billboard Magazine put up on Youtube. It features a few of their 2010 SXSW performances and gives you a good idea of what its like around Austin during SXSW.
Another stand-out band for me was Keepaway from Brooklyn, NY (http://www.myspace.com/keepaway). These guys definitely have that Animal Collective sound going on, and in probably the best way possible. Animal Collective has a pretty wide range of sounds to draw from, but if you listen to Keepaway you will see what I mean. They have a really nice blend of sample-based music along with live percussion. Good vocals and interesting guitar playing. You can check out one of their tracks here on Youtube .
As I previously mentioned, Twitter can be your best friend when attempting to navigate the gauntlets of SXSW show-hopping. A tweet alerted us to an offer of FREE WINE (hey, I’ll take it) at Max’s Wine Dive where LA based Anya Marina (http://www.myspace.com/anyamarina) performed. It was a win-win situation. We managed to snag the last few glasses (ahem, plastic cups) of free wine while listening to Anya’s unique solo style. Her original songs were beautiful and delicate, although I must say it was slightly difficult to hear everything down in the basement room where this was all happening.
You can check out this video from the event (no, I didn’t take it!) in which Anya is covering TI’s “Whatever You Like”. Definitely check out her myspace page to get a good idea of her style.
Another event that my group and I hung out at for a little while took place at the historic French Legation Museum in Austin – what an amazing space to have an outdoor show! The Museum grounds are green and beautiful, there are lots of shady spots as large trees extend above you, AND they had a great line up of bands to boot on two stages. We hung out for a bit and caught the well-known band Real Estate (http://www.myspace.com/realestate). These guys were very good – GREAT vocals, stylistically they were a healthy mix of alt-country and rock with a little bit of pop flavor. I’m pretty sure these guys are gaining a ton of notoriety these days so I don’t need to go on and on about them.
Check out this video from the Museum event (again, I didn’t take this video!).
Okay, the last band that I want everybody to know about is absolutely amazing. I saw them three times in Austin and they get better with every performance. Ladies and Gentlemen give it up for Whqles (http://www.myspace.com/whqles). Pronounced ‘Whales’, of course, this LA duo plays one of the most unique blends of rock and pop music you could ever ask for. The compositions that these guys put together are truly inspiring and just a little non-conventional. When you see these guys live, it’s pretty mind-blowing because only TWO dudes are able to make SO much music. Through the extensive use of looping pedals, samplers, synthesizers, and LOTS OF DELAY, these two guys make a truly wild blend of sounds even in a live situation. Check out this video they did on Youtube!
That about wraps it up for my SXSW experience for 2010. Check out the bands and come down to Austin next year – it gets bigger and better every year!