SXSW 2014 - Friday - 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.
The Convention Centre was pretty quiet when I entered on the Friday morning as a lot of SX attendees had journeyed across the road to the Hilton Hotel to take in Lady Gaga's keynote speech. As Gaga had banned photographers from the event I'd decided to give it a miss, viewing a set from Damon Albarn instead on the Radio Day Stage.
Damon was promoting his forthcoming solo album Everyday Robots. The tracks were a bit downbeat at times but he did bring on a choir for a couple of slightly more rousing numbers that were more up my street, so I'll give it a spin when it streams online.
My main reason for attending the Ballroom was to take in the performance that followed from Brooklyn's Lucius. I'd seen the band playing in the back of a London pub last year and was bowled over by their set. I'd only just got to grips with their album Wilderwoman at the time so knew my second encounter would be even more rewarding as I was more au fait with the songs.
The Ballroom at the Convention Centre is an atmosphere free zone but I will still having a great time watching their show, with the band delivering exquisite live renditions of their hook-driven, percussion-heavy songs like 'Turn It Around' and the album's title track.
I appreciated the band's performance so much that I really wanted to see them again at SX. I thought they'd played all their scheduled showcases and parties but a quick Tweet brought news they had another set that afternoon at Rainey Street at Tumblr House. I dumped my afternoon plans and headed to the venue, making a brief stop on 6th Street to take in one song from The 1975, cherishing their set just as much, second time around.
I'd had a pretty decent afternoon but the three hours that followed weren't as enjoyable (to say the least!). Although I'd already seen Damon play I wanted to view his set at Fader Fort (or to give it it's correct title - THE FADER FORT Presented by Converse) as he had "Special Guests" performing with him. I spent over an hour queuing to get in as I'd forgotten that Wiz Khalifa was playing with the Taylor Gang, creating a huge demand for admission.
I managed to get into the Fort's photo pit just in time for Wiz's set, hoping to stay there until Damon took to the stage. The rapper's music isn't really my thing but it was a fun enough shoot, especially as I'd never seen the Fort's stage so crammed!
I managed to retain a pit position but things were running way over time and I had another gig to go to. About 30 minutes later the head of security told us we couldn't shoot the show as only Damon's photographers and Faders in-house togs were allowed, even after we'd signed a release form allowing us to shoot three songs. My fellow shooters hung around in the vain hope they'd get back in the pit but I'd had enough, so legged it from the venue!
I left to get a decent spot at Brazos Hall as I was hoping to view a set from Green Day offshoot Foxboro Hot Tubs. I was lucky enough to get a spot on the barrier but things got a bit shaky when it was decided to move it forward to create a more intimate experience. It wasn't secured down properly so kept tipping forward slightly when the gig kicked off big time.
The show was great fun but very chaotic, with a lot of water and beer flying about. I lasted for about six or seven songs down the front but retired to a slightly safer area for my camera after that!
Foxboro Hot Tubs
I was going to stay for their full set but remembered that Nicole Atkins was playing an imminent showcase, so took a trip to 6th Street for my first encounter with the dive bar Shotguns!
I'd already seen Nicole play at a party a couple of days earlier but it was worth viewing another performance from her band as she was showcasing tracks from her current album Slow Phaser and it's her best album to date. The showcase was as lively as the previous concert I'd seen, with stand out tracks 'It's Only Chemistry' and 'Girl You Look Amazing' again.
I was going to call it a day after Nicole but decided to stay for a midnight showcase from Nashville's Those Darlins, who delivered some shit kicking Rock 'n' Roll, making me glad I'd hung around for one last band!