SXSW 2011 - Day One - A Review In Pictures - Austin Texas
South By South West is an industry based Music Conference / Festival located in Austin, Texas. An average of 1500 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.
I started my first "official" day of 2011's SXSW around lunchtime, grabbing a lie in after the previous evening's gig from The Sounds. I had planned on setting out late afternoon to pick up my music badge from the conference centre and my media credentials from Pure Volume House, a venue that offered a decent afternoon line up throughout the week. My plans changed however when a tweet appeared informing the World of a last minute car park showcase from US band Mr Heavenly featuring members of Islands and Man Man. The real draw for the curious however was the band showcased the bass playing skills of Scott Pilgrim star Michael Cera. The band delivered a fairly generic take on US Indie but they were certainly worth viewing in in the afternoon sun. It was just a pity the free beer didn't arrive at the venue till after they played due to roadworks!
I headed back to my hotel for a break after the band, heading to 6th Street to begin my gig watching around 8pm. In previous years the music part of SX has always started on a Wednesday, with a few unofficial sets popping up the night before. This changed in 2011 as several official showcases had been scheduled in a handful of venues.
I had pencilled in performances from Grimes and Esben And The Witch at the beginning of the night, moving to another club to view a midnight set from The Sounds again but I changed my mind while walking past the Maggie Mae's venue as I noticed they were hosting a You Tube party that included sets from Swedish Electro Pop sensation Oh Land and Brooklyn based comedy rappers Das Racist. I felt this could be a really fun evening and a very easy option so decided to spend the duration of my night there.
The first act on the bill was UK Beatboxing genius Beardyman. i had viewed a very short performance from the man himself a few years back but he hadn't used his live looping skills that night so it was an impressive set at Maggie Mae's and one which went down extremely well with the bar's crowd, including some genuine "Oh my gawd's" and "That can't be real" from US punters!
The next band up were Playing For Change. The group are part of a multi media music project created by the American producer and sound engineer Mark Johnson featuring singers and musicians from throughout the World. Now the band's take on standards wouldn't normally be my thing but you just tend to go with the flow at SX and the free beer on offer certainly helped, so I was cheering along with the rest of the crowd by the time their trademark song "Stand by me" completed their performance.
Oh Land's 2010 single "Sun of a gun" was one of my favourite tracks of last year. She had recently played two smallish gigs in London but I was busy both nights so didn't get a chance to catch her. She was on my "Must see" list for SXSW so I was glad I had the opportunity to view a set so early in the week.
The singer was in a great mood as her self titled debut album had been released that day in the States and what was even better was it only came about due to getting signed at 2009's SX. The album is a stunning collection of tracks that bring to mind the likes of Bjork and Robyn, with the songs really coming to life in the live arena as the singer has a really strong stage presence.
Even slower material like set opener "Wolf and I" were great to watch as Oh Land commanded the crowd's attention adding some top notch dance moves to the mix. Naturally it was the more upbeat material that the got the assembled patrons dancing though, with set closers "Sun of a gun" and "We turn it up" both in your face anthems!
I was blown away by Oh Land's set, so much so that I ended up seeing her six times during my SXSW week! It may have been Oh Land overkill but I always knew I was going to be entertained!
There had been a bit of a buzz around last act of the evening Das Racist so I was curious to see what they were all about. the venue was heaving with expectant Racist virgins and numerous devotees so the band took to the stage to a roar of applause, blasting their way through a shortish set.
The band were very tongue in cheek, with no macho rap posturing and spent almost as much time as the audience laughing and grinning through their feel good set. Yet again it may not have been my normal cup of tea but it was just what I needed at that time of night and a fun way to end my first official evening at SXSW.