The Real SXSW
I hate Jay-Z and Lady Gaga.
OK, I really don’t, but this past week in Austin during SXSW, I really, really thought I did. It has nothing to do with them as artists, or their work, or their ability to draw crowds, or what brand sponsored them to play what other brand’s show. I’m not concerned with any that. What I do hate is when an artist of their profile swoops into a town bursting at the seams with industry sorts and music die-hards, and takes the attention off of the pulsing heartbeat of SXSW, young bands.
As far back as I can remember, the process for SXSW was that a young band would play the festival as many times as they could, try to kill it at an early set, and as people began to talk about who they’ve seen and enjoyed, the buzz would build during the week. But in recent years, SXSW has grown by leaps and bounds, with labels, artists, and brands swooping in for a sort of arms race as to who can create the most attractive bill, which naturally lends itself to bigger and bigger artists. It’s not the fault of any of these larger artists, it’s a natural progression that unfortunately leads to natural selection, and neglects the crux of why many journalists go to SXSW (besides the, uh, networking, I mean beer).
So my goal at SXSW this year, and every year, was to JUST see the young, buzzy and the hopeful, surpassing invites to many of the giant names that swooped into Austin. Of the over 50 bands that I saw (some several times), the following resonated the most and of those, many took place in odd spaces like the Beerland patio or South Lamar Pedestrian Bridge.