SXSW 2015 - Saturday - 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 final day of 2015's SX began at Fader Fort, viewing Spanish band Hinds and my second set of the week from potential star Kali Uchis.
As it was the final day I was taking things fairly easy so only took in one more set that afternoon, and it was a doozy, coming from post-punk legends The Pop Group, delivering a similar set to the one I viewed the previous evening - and just as entertaining. The band's new album Citizen Zombie is their first material in decades, but it's just as strong as their work from the 70s, leading to a few great live moments. Naturally the older material did make more of a connection though, with a scintillating 'She Is Beyond Good And Evil' one of the day's highlights.
The Pop Group
For the last few years my Saturday SX evenings have been spent at Austin Music Hall for Perez Hilton's 'One Night In Austin'. This year circumstances led me to a different venue - Empire Garage, grabbing a spot on the barrier for the Neon Gold Showcase. I was there specifically to shoot Marina And The Diamonds and didn't realise the bill was so strong till the other acts appeared.
Swedish soul singer Seinabo Sey was the first revelation, as her music just completely drew you in, the songstress overwhelmed by the response she was receiving from the capacity crowd. French dance act Christine And The Queens also blew me away with an energetic performance, reminiscent of Robyn or Kiesza and I regretted missing earlier sets during the week, especially Christine's show at Hype Hotel, as she'd have been well lit and perfect for pictures.
Christine And The Queens
My final two showcases of 2015's SXSW came from Marina And The Diamonds and New York electro poppers Ms Mr. Having only managed to view a trio of tracks from Miss Diamandis the previous evening it was a real treat to take in a full set, featuring oldies and some fresh Froot tracks. Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to view another couple of (probably partial) shows during festival season, if not before.
Ms Mr were one of the first bands I viewed in Austin in 2014, so I knew they'd be an uplifting act to finish my 2015 experience. Even though their set predominantly featured unreleased songs from their forthcoming album they still managed to have the joint jumping, with singer Lizzy Plapinger throwing herself into the performance, making my last SX showcase a memorable one.
Marina And The Diamonds
SXSW is the perfect holiday for a music fan. It's a bit costly coming from the UK, but worth every penny. It generally costs me just over £2000 all in, staying at an official hotel on the outskirts, using the SXSW shuttle service to get in and out each evening. Once you've paid for your hotel, flight and music badge you won't need much in the way of spending money.
Austin plays host to countless sponsored parties during the day, with free food and drink and if you're running from venue to venue in the evening there isn't much time to spend much in bars. I only spent $5 on the Monday, with my most expensive day Thursday at around $70, including $50 on pedicabs. Occasionally I'll sit down to one decent meal during the week, but otherwise it's usually huge sandwiches from Jimmy John's. People may frown upon them, but even McDonalds had a huge tent next to the Convention Centre this year, giving out Big Macs, Chicken Nuggets, Veggie Wraps, etc. for free up till 5pm each day, so there was always somewhere to fill yourself up on the cheap if starving!