SXSW 2014 - Tuesday - Austin, Texas
South By South West is an industry-based music conference/festival located in Austin, Texas. An average of 2500 bands play over a period of five days so it's a great opportunity to watch the latest "up and coming" acts from around the world alongside more established bands playing slightly more intimate venues than they are used to.
My first stop of the day was at Austin's Convention Centre, taking in a talk from Star Trek veteran George Takei as part of the Interactive Festival. It was a very interesting experience as the actor reminisced about his acting career and current online activities, producing numerous humorous anecdotes.
Around lunchtime I popped back to Spotify House to see what was happening, viewing part of a set from London band Jungle. The dance act weren't my thing musically so I gave up after a couple of songs, especially as they were useless to photograph, wearing shades and with microphone pop shields covering the faces!
My second talk of the day came from musical legend Neil Young, with the singer punting a high quality music service called Pono. I've no idea if it will be a success but there are plenty of audiophiles out there, so you never know!
SXSW have introduced a new project this year: 2nd Play Stages, where a variety of acts play an additional set in one of the city's hotels. I took in an acoustic performance from Melbourne singer Gossling at the downtime Hilton but it wasn't the best place for gig watching as there was a lot of noise in the room and was open to the general public. I did enjoy what I heard though and had planned to watch a full band showcase later in the week but sadly our paths never crossed again.
I was at a bit of a loose end until 11pm, where I had a show in place, so decided to trek up to Rainey Street to investigate Seattle's Shelby Earl. The singer/songwriter's showcase was mostly pulled from current album Swift Arrows, producing an extremely enjoyable intimate set, especially the closing track, which was just sumptuous!
The official SX music schedule doesn't really kick off properly until the Wednesday evening so I found myself gravitating towards Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy. The venue is fairly small and always offers the best in new UK music, usually acts that have totally passed me by, giving me a chance to sample the end of Sweet Baboo's onstage stint and a blistering performance from London's Wolf Alice. WA's set really made me want to see them again as they were pretty full on at times but also managed lighter moments, flitting between rock and folk, even reminding me of The Sundays at times.
My final set of the night and the only showcase on my schedule was from singer/songwriter Emily Kinney at the 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn. Emily has two self released EPs under her belt - The Blue Toothbrush and Expired Love but she's more famous for playing the part of Beth Greene on TVs The Walking Dead.
Emily's performance background shows in her lyrics as they're very descriptive and she's such an endearing presence onstage, making her SX debut one of the highlights of my week in Austin. It was fantastic to hear the EP tracks in a live setting, especially the galloping 'Julie'.
Expired Love has just been re-released with a couple of extra tracks, including 'Dad Says', which got an airing at the Hilton, with the singer dissuading us from purchasing it as she wasn't certain she was happy with the recorded arrangement. I had bought it a couple of weeks earlier so was a bit miffed when the extended version appeared. I did end up double dipping though, with the new additions sounding mighty fine to my ears anyway!