SXSW 2013 - Monday + Tuesday - Austin, Texas
South By South West is an industry based music conference / festival located in Austin, Texas. An average of 2000 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.
This was my 8th SXSW in a row and I arrived in Austin on the Sunday evening. I did manage to leg it to a gig the previous year but I decided to take thing easy and have an early night, so I was raring to go Monday Morning.
In addition to the music side of things, SXSW also hosts Film and Interactive events too. Music doesn't kick off properly till the Wednesday but there was plenty going on in Austin already, with countless film buffs and internet geeks filling up the Convention Centre to view panels.
I had assumed my Monday was going to be fairly quiet but I ended up out from about 10am till 2am my first day. I had just picked up my music badge from the Convention Centre (the badge gives you access to all the official showcases and panels during SXSW) and was ready to leave when I heard "Free screening of new show Bates Motel, all badge holders welcome!" As a fan of US TV in general I was drawn like a magnet to the screening and was pleasantly surprised on finding out that there would be a Q + A with showrunner Carlton Cuse after the show. As Carlton was one of Lost's writers I knew the show would be interesting.
Bates Motel focuses on a young Norman Bates and his mother (alive at this point) and was very interesting with a few twists. I wont spoil it as the 10 episode series may show up in the UK at some point as it's just started this week in the US but it's certainly worth a view.
I had a quick look online after the screening and noticed there was a party at new venue Hotel Vegas. Bands play official showcases at SXSW in the evening but afternoons are full of unofficial parties all over town. HV was a bit off the beaten track and I was glad when I finally arrived, especially when I was entertained by Madison band Phox.
Austin Rockers Smoke And Feathers were up next but I was actually waiting to see the Allah-Las as there was a bit of a buzz about them this year. Unfortunately I found them a bit dull so left in search of something a tad more exciting!
Smoke And Feathers
I kept myself busy at the Convention Centre for a couple of hours then headed to Javelina for a party featuring UK Eelectro popper Charlie XCX. I had hoped Charlie was on early as I wasn't planning on staying out too late but I eventually found out she was due to take the stage around 12.30. I sat through one band's set but I knew I couldn't suffer four bands I had no interest in before Charlie appeared so hopped onto a pedicab, taking me back to the 6th Street so I could visit the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30.
Latitude 30 is a very easy option when at SX as it always has decent bands and it's fairly central. Monday's showcase featured Irish acts and I caught the tail end of Girl's Names while waiting for Tim Wheeler to play an acoustic set.
Tim was playing with Ash later in the week but delivered a terrific solo performance on the Monday, featuring hits like 'Oh Yeah', 'Girl From Mars' and 'Shining Light', lifting my energy right up again.
I still had a trio of bands to get past on my return to Charlie's venue and it did seem to take forever but eventually I was rewarded with a high energy performance from the highly tipped UK act, making it well worth the wait.
Tuesday began with a talk from Nick Cave. Photographers were granted a couple of minutes to snap away at the singer, so I got my shots and left, heading to the Mohawk for my first band of the day a little bit later.
My Tuesday afternoon was fairly quiet compared to the previous day. I was hitting the Mohawk to see Danish singer Fallulah. I'd seen her play a couple of times in London but missed her in Austin last year as she seemed to only play the one show. This year she had a few in the pipeline and I wanted to catch the first one as I've been really blown away by her current album Escapism.
The singer had posted a Tweet earlier in the day saying half her gear was still in Chicago and I noticed her name missing from the running order on the door so assumed she had cancelled. I grabbed a beer and took in a band on the venue's outside stage but I wasn't really paying attention and headed for a rest indoors. I had been there for about twenty minutes when I heard the sound of the opening track from Escapism coming from the indoor stage of the venue.
The was the first really great set of my SXSW as I'd been looking forward to hearing the new songs live and wasn't disappointed, with tracks like 'Dried-Out Cities' and 'Superfishyality' sounding terrific.
I always seem to end up catching fave acts a few times at SX. Last year I viewed a trio of shows from New Zealand's Kimbra and took in way too many sets from fellow Dane Oh Land in 2011. Fallulah's music travels a similar path to the pair mentioned so it's no surprise that this was the first of four Fallulah shows viewed this year!
It may have been great musically but the venue's lights weren't that photo friendly. I got a few shots but the pictures I took at the end of the week were loads better so they'll stay on my computer for now!
After a bit of a break I started my evening's entertainment with a Country showcase filmed for VH1, including a really nice set from Ashley Monroe, promoting her second album Like A Rose.
Tuesday actually brought my favourite show of the week. LA sisters Haim were playing Vevo Control Room. It was a new venue to me and I assumed it would be fairly big as the band have a got a real buzz in the UK at the moment (although nobody can decide whether they're pronounced Hyme or Haim, they're still Haim in the US!) and I expected it to be mobbed. Luckily it was quiet when I arrived and the stage was pretty small, enabling me to land a position right in front of lead singer Danielle's drum.
I managed to view a couple of the band's shows last year and they were tremendous fun. On record they're like a modern Fleetwood Mac but live they're a lot harder and more aggressive. The venue was full by the time the girls started and they delivered a jaw-dropping, blisteringly rowdy set that had the crowd roaring their approval, with singles 'Forever', 'Falling' and 'Don't Save Me' getting the best reception.
My final two acts of the night were at Latitude 30. I just really popped in to see what UK chart topper Bastille was up to but I had a lot of fun watching Willy Moon produce a few retro soul sounds, throwing himself into his performance. It didn't quiet reach the standards of the LA girls' set but it was a fun way to wind down the evening.