SXSW 2015 - 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.
And on the fifth day it rained. Torrential rain. Rain that wiped away little outdoor shows and barbecues.
The weather seemed to be fine when I arrived at the Convention Centre in the morning to shoot Snoop Dogg's keynote speech and the sun was shining early afternoon when I made a one song stop off at Spotify House during James Bay's set.
The heavens seemed to open during the few hours I spent at Fader Fort (or to give it its proper name, The Fader Fort Presented By Converse). I'd decided to head along to cover UK chart toppers Years And Years, shooting a few other bands in the process and I'm glad I did as I was saved from the worst of the downpour, as the Fort's live arena is undercover (though staff were working hard throughout the afternoon, constantly clearing up water that was running in).
It was great to be under cover but as the afternoon turned into early evening things became a bit more uncomfortable, with many of Austin's music fans deciding the Fort was their best bet, leading to a bit of a crush down the front. The Fort is a fantastic place to shoot, as the lights are great, it has a large pit and you generally get set duration to photograph the act on stage if you want it. The only problem is what happens when you've finished shooting.
There's never an issue for the first part of the day, but the venue is usually rammed to capacity by the time the last two or three performers are due to play their sets. With the photographers forced to leave the pit area the way they came in it adds somewhere between 20 to 30 people to the front of the crush, as there's nowhere else to go. This leads to altercations betweens photographers and the rest of the crowd, many of whom are trying to push themselves to the front. I witnessed a couple of fights almost kicking off and fellow photographers getting crushed, while holding on to their gear for dear life! I gave up waiting for the group I wanted to shoot as the whole thing was a bit of a nightmare. Surely there's a better way to deal with press? Hopefully something will be put in place next year anyway.
Years And Years
I had decided to spend my evening at Stubbs, which may not have been the best idea weather wise as it's an outside venue, but it was where the acts I most wanted to see were playing, including my second shows of the week from Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit and a triumphant return for the Ting Tings. It was fun to hear the old singles again and the new material wasn't too shabby either!
The Ting Tings
As it was still raining heavily I decided to have a bit of a break, legging it to Maggie Mae's, finally catching up with the reformed post-punk noise makers The Pop Group after giving up the previous evening. It was certainly worth the wait as the tracks from current album Citizen Zombie sounded stunning live, while classics like 'She Is Beyond Good And Evil' and 'Trapped' just blew me away. The light at the venue is never great so I just decided to take the music in, as I'd hopefully get to shoot the band again at an afternoon party the following day.
I had planned to hang around for Will Butler's set but I was clock watching slightly as I knew I had to get to Stubbs for Marina And The Diamonds performance and wasn't sure if I was going to encounter a line or not. As it was, there was no queue, probably due to the rain putting people off, and I'd got there way too early as Bleachers were still doing their thing onstage. Bleachers were the final band I saw at 2014's SX and they didn't make that much of an impression, even though 'I Wanna Get Better' was one of the best singles of last year. This time round I was really surprised, as they're stadium ready, with frontman Jack Antonoff a fantastic frontman.
There's never a day goes by at SX without technical issues, with Marina and her gang facing a few problems, leading to the singer taking to the stage almost an hour after she was due to appear. Fair play to her faithful fans as they stood in the pissing rain for all that time. At least photographers got to shelter under the stage canopy.They were finally rewarded with a set featuring tracks pulled from the singers's two previous albums and newcomer Froot, including 'Primadonna' and 'I'm Not A Robot'. It had been years since I'd seen Marina live and I was really enjoying her set but had to leave as my hotel was on the outskirts and I was wary I'd miss my last official shuttle bus, vowing not to leave it as long to see her again.