SXSW in 2010 is big business. This Economist article underscores just how reliant the Austin, TX economy has become on the festival, which drew 1,900 bands and their supporters to the Texan oasis.
And, from the consumer’s perspective, things are pretty good. There’s lots to see, killer cuisine that’s fairly price friendly, and a centralized location (downtown Austin's 6th Street) that can realistically accommodate all the showcases. So, structurally, yeah, good stuff. Problem is, we’re all still in the mist as we look for a solution to fix a broken industry. But, for the week, I was in Austin to see music, not sit in think-tanks and panels scraping at the far-aloft solution bubble up in the sky somewhere. And that’s just fine. I only had a wristband, so these intellectual talks weren’t to be graced by Epilogue Magazine this time ‘round.
I’m only one man and embraced the notion that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything I wanted. So, to these following bands, we’ll catch up next year.
BANDS I WANTED TO SEE BUT DID NOT SEE: Suckers (get their sweet new single “Black Sheep” here), No Age (opted for the Freddie Gibbs/Sleigh Bells back-to-back at Scoot Inn), Hole (just because I was so damn curious), Pill (light SXSW schedule), Major Lazer (we’ll meet again!). Actually, missing out entirely on the Mad Decent carnival may haunt my waking life for a while.
I’VE SEEN IT ALL; SXSW 2010 has to be the most over-documented event in the history of events (until SXSW 2011). Twitter accounts were aflame (big ups Austin accounts that I no longer follow but saved my bacon for a week, AustinBloggy, BVSXSW, SXSWNoms for the free food tips), Flip cams were hauled around as ordinarily as drivers licenses or fake IDs, and rigged-out, multi-thousand dollar cameras easily occupied the first couple rows of venue stages regardless of performer or venue. But, some good comes of that; videos! Pictures! Media!
Some great clips from SXSW:
Nas ft. Damian Marley “Made You Look” at Levi’s/Fader Fort
Sleigh Bells “Crown on the Ground” at Levi’s/Fader Fort
Delorean “Seasun” (from AustinBloggy)
Bill Murray (Most Overdocumented)
Best Coast “When I’m With You” (Most Overworked)
SXSW MVPS: If we’re balancing quality/quantity, I think Brooklyn’s Tanlines has a pretty solid case for “Best of SXSW” honors. New songs from their recent LP Settings became full-on transcendent moments; their show at the True Panther showcase Thursday night was easily the first time I had seen song requests (“Real Life,” in this case) shouted onstage for a group with so little published material. So yeah, people were really feeling Tanlines. (read our Tanlines interview here.)
Best Coast, who’s just in the terminal waiting for her non-stop rocket to the indie rock limelight, played a great gaggle of showcases that certainly began to fray her own sanity. But, even an exasperated Bethany Cosentino sounds pretty good, despite her multiple apologies on the contrary. (read our Best Coast interview here.)
Sleigh Bells. I would type more about Sleigh Bells, but the press crescendo for their new record (produced by M.I.A.) is going to be so huge that you’re going to need a couple weeks to sift through it all.
Washed Out’s Ernest Greene has developed a real chemistry with fellow chillwavers Small Black, utilizing Small Black’s full-band approach to lend body to his own songs. While the vocals are still very much “getting there,” the low-end produced by the Small Black rhythm section makes these tracks sound massive. (read our Washed Out interview here.) (read our Small Black interview here.)
Keepaway, the latest buzz group from the Wesleyan crowd, has that Merriweather Post Pavilion type of thing going on, and I extend that entirely as a compliment. Interlocking vocals, colorful sounds, nostalgia-drenched lyrics…looking forward to more releases from them. But for now, will keep “Five Rings” embedded in the playlist.
Andrew WK, whom Brad Lauretti of This Frontier Needs Heroes called a “rock and roll evangelist,” ruled. His show just puts energy into the air, and though I had been standing for 12 hours straight, I totally forgot the ache when he put on his show. It’s weird, exuberant, and full of tongue-in-cheek stabs at rock ‘n’ roll clichés; I can’t believe we went without his full-band live performances for almost five years. Close Calls for Brick Walls, originally released in Japan but now available in the US, is just chock full of anthems.
CONCLUSIONS I’VE DRAWN OR THINK THAT I’VE DRAWN: The demand for music is still there, dude. It’s just a matter of making it actually valued. From what I understand, the industry consensus is that the music is now the marketing tool, drawing consumers into live tickets, merch, iTunes exclusives, and so on. And Todd P’s MtyMx showed that, while you can do it yourself, there’s some things you just can’t account for and throwing money at certain aspects (i.e. busses) can reign in some of that. If you didn't catch Todd's letter to SXSW, check it here.
Speaking of MtyMx and Todd Patrick, that's a festival that could totally end up as a template for independent festivals going forward. Sure, it could have been more successful, but it was totally gutted of bigtime business interest, proving that it isn't totally necessary to pulling a festival off. It was about the music, and everyone got a chance to show off their art, which is truly inspiring. (read our Todd P interview here.)
SXSW still kicked ass; that part of it isn't dead. Waves of people are still coming out, and that's going to be going on as long as Austin will have it, which I imagine will end up being a very long time. As consumers of music, we just need to make sure artistry survives, living wages can be earned as musicians, preserving the notion that there will be bands to showcase.
That's the challenge, anyway. See you next year, Austin.