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Rachel Fredrickson escapes from KC.


For my first SXSW experience I didn't want to have any pre-determined expectations. I just wanted to let it be what it was going to be. And what did it end up being?? Amazing, intense and like nothing else.


Wednesday

So maybe I should've left Dallas a little earlier. Because my first impression of Austin was stop and go, 10 mph, rush hour traffic! And I thought L.A. freeway traffic was bad. I finally made it downtown and found a parking space. Just to find out that I had to wait again, this time in line to get my badge. Yes, I was one of the stupid late ones (thank Sipes). 6pm rolls around, I got my badge, checked in with the Hybrid staff and was ready to start the week.

Tooth & Nail Showcase:
Now maybe on my first night I should've gone around and checked out a few venues and some different shows. However, I was content on spending my entire night at the Tooth & Nail Records Showcase. By the time I got there The Fold was in the middle of their set. This is a band that I've been desperately trying to find their album for weeks. So needless to say, I was elated to see them live. Some could say that they fit in that standard of pop-punk, but I think they have a simplistic style to their music that's refreshing. Plus, they ended their set with my fav "Gravity." Next was one of the most energetic and crazy shows I've ever seen - done with cramming seven guys onto one stage. Showbread was a little harder than the other three bands I saw that night, though their performance was something else. The synchronized dancing and matching outfits definitely added to the experience and the show. Following them was Anberlin, who, no matter what kind of a show they put on, will never disappoint me. Seeing their new album material performed live proved that it will be just as successful as their last. Showbread kicked up the energy in the room and Anberlin took it that much farther. Ending out the evening was MXPX, some rock veterans. It was unusual yet enjoyable to have a band put on such a relaxed show as they did. Now I don't mean that the music was relaxing or the audience was. No, no, we were all jumping around like animals, mosh pits everywhere! What I mean, was when Mike Herrera literally threw out the set-list and played whatever the audience suggested, it made it for a less professional, by-the-book kind of show. Which I believe, is how all bands should do it. Everyone that night left pleased, we all got to hear our favorite songs, played by our favorite bands.

If you subtract the Dallas construction, the Austin rush hour and the huge line for badges, it was the perfect way to start the week.


Thursday

A 3am bed time deserves an 11am wake up (at least). Thus the reason why most days panels at the Convention Center didn't start until noon. Thank you SXSW! So, we attempted a few panels, including an A&R discussion with some V.P.'s from major labels. However, we ended up making it through about…one and a quarter of the panels. The daytime showcases seemed more appealing.

Anodyne Records Showcase:
Now, of course, we had to hold true to our home and go see the showcase with KC bands, put on by a KC label. And the free drinks didn't hurt the afternoon, either. The Architects rocked the stage as usual. They displaced their anger for society and KCMO cops, through gut-wrenching lyrics and distinguished riffs. For the promise of a second to rest, we departed the bar just as the Meat Puppets took the stage and packed the place to capacity. No surprise there. A 20 min break to catch our breath, sit down for once and eat some dinner, was really the only slow part of the day. So back to 6th we went.

Universal Republic Showcase:
I headed for the Straylight Run show, but got there a little early so as to get a good seat. In doing so, I caught the last two songs of the previous band. When these guys (well, four guys and one girl) harmonized, they sounded like they were 10 years old. However, that sound went perfectly with their indie-pop music. Still, a little strange. What was the name of this band? Not a clue. They were marked as "Special Guest," so I asked everyone around me and no one had a clue either. Oh well. As expected, Straylight Run put on a great show. Even though their music is on the mellower side, they still had the place moving. The aspect that impressed me the most was after almost every song, the front three members (John, Shaun, and Michelle) would switch instruments. The switches took place from lead guitar, to keyboard, to back-up guitar. It showed the depth of this band and the extent of their musicianship. Had they not had technical difficulties, which caused them to start over a half an hour late, I would've been able to catch more of their performance. But I had to jet…

Bloc Party:
Stubb's was an outdoor venue that held the larger shows. It was never really affiliated with any one label or showcase. Therefore, it was appropriate that Bloc Party played there, because it was really the only place that could handle the size of the crowd. Their music was unique to the others that night. A borderline dance or R&B sound, mixed with fast guitar made it a little more "alternative." The trademark guitar echo was so powerful in that outdoor setting that they probably didn't even need all the extra equipment. The light show and extra effects made them easily a crowd favorite for the evening.


Friday

On Friday I wanted to do something different, at least during the day. So I headed over to Waterloo Records, which is a nationally known record store located a little West of the main drag on 6th. This place was probably the coolest record store; they had about every genre you could imagine. Not to mention the free beer and live music again, thank you SXSW. The day went on and it was time to start the new journey. However, the journey for this evening was a little mellower than our previous nights.

Wave Bar:
First I caught Vaeda, not only had I been anticipating seeing them live for the first time, but it ended up being a good thing. Come to find out they had to cancel their show in Kansas in order to play the Taste Of Chaos and open for 30 Seconds To Mars. Eh, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Rock Star Stage:
Afterwards, I headed over to see Faktion, a band that actually only had to drive about 3 hours to SXSW. The Denton band had previously played the BMI Showcase the night before and decided to stick around one more day in Austin. Their music was great; exactly what a young alternative rock band should sound like. It just seemed like perhaps the acoustics weren't in Ryan's (lead vocals) favor. After Faktion was a "Special Guest," so of course we had to stick around. Our special guest….The Feds. A band that had, for sure, been around the block a few times. I've come to realize that I really like their old music a lot more than their new stuff. It's almost like a complete reversal in sound, their old stuff: more upbeat, more jumping around, more chipper energy. Their new stuff: harder, darker, more of an energy that you would bang your head to.

After the Feds I realized that only getting two hours of sleep the night before had taken its toll on me. We called it an "early" night at 2am.


Saturday

This was the busiest day of the festival and, appropriately, the last day in Austin for us. The music this time, started about 3pm:

Alternative Press Party:
We strolled along 6th, popping in and out of venues, until I suddenly remembered the AP Party going on at Emo's! It all started with The Spill Canvas. Though this was my second time seeing them this week, I still really enjoyed their set. Following was Cute Is What We Aim For. Ever since missing them at Warped Tour, I've wanted to check them out. And well, I did, yet was not really impressed. There has been a lot of hype about these boys, though there was nothing new about their sound. They were able to keep my attention for 40 min. To finish out the teenie-bopper fest was Jack's Mannequin. Another band I've had on my list to see. But not for the same reason, as I am sure 90% of those teenagers had. I'm a long time Something Corporate fan and am truly interested in anything Andrew (lead vocals) has been working on. Now he is a genius, a genius on the keys. He doesn't need the guitar or drums, just him. After fighting through all of that, he still makes some great music.

Monolith Make Out Party:
Not sure why it was called a make out party, but it was a lot of fun. I got there just in time for Cloud Cult. Wow, these guys are one of the coolest bands I've seen. Apparently what normally goes on at their show is some painting. I guess normally they would have a couple of people just randomly painting to their music. This is the first time I've ever heard of something like that. Sure there have been entertainers with bands, but not artists. I wish we would have had the chance to see that part of their show.

Wave Bar:
Back to the Wave Bar for two bands: Anvil Chorus and National Fire Theory. If I hadn't had my fill of awesome Alternative Rock, these two would have finished me off. Timing, however, didn't work in their favor. The Make Out Party overlapped with Anvil and Soular overlapped with NFT. So again, I had to bail on one in order to see a more preferred band.

Spill:
Soular was another one of those bands that I, for some reason, felt the need to see twice. Maybe it was because I knew I wouldn't be disappointed if I saw them again and I knew I would have a good time. Plus after so many festival/conferences you tend to start making friends and I had made friends with Marsh (lead vocals). I finally realized my favorite song of theirs "Take Me Away." The way Marsh sings it just has this power and intensity. It's almost spiritual.

Stubbs:
After Soular finished and I said goodbye to Marsh, I high-tailed it down the street, only to never actually go into this venue. I really, REALLY wanted to, though. At Stubbs, Kings Of Leon and Spoon would be gracing us with their presence that evening. Apparently I was not the only one who really wanted to see these bands. When I finally got there, there was a line that literally wrapped around the block and possibly all the way up to the next one. And this wasn't just fans in general. This was just badge holders, who automatically get priority at huge shows. I guess this show was so huge that even the badge holders had to wait forever. So I said: forget it. By the time I would have actually gotten into the venue, Kings Of Leon would have finished their set and Spoon could've been already half way through. Instead, I decided to get a good seat at the one show that I've been stoked about ever since I decided to go to SXSW:

Maggie Mae's Rooftop:
I got there about an hour and a half early so as to make sure I could squeeze my way to the front. After sweet talking a couple of really nice guys, who happen to be in a band themselves (Naked Apes, I think), I had a primo spot for The Presidents Of The United States Of America or PUSA for short. I cannot tell you how long I've been listening to their music... or the first time I heard the lyrics "millions of peaches, peaches for me." But the thought of being able to see these guys live, was too much for me. Luckily, they were one of the quickest set changes I've seen all week. They didn't jack around, they tuned their guitars (which Chris, lead vocals, actually played a two string guitar) and got to business. They played everything anyone would want to hear from them. The crowd was insane! Now imagine you're on a rooftop and a good 150 people are jumping up and down. That could cause some problems, seeing as how the floor never stopped shaking. But we made it through alive. Alive and much more enriched, after seeing "Kitty", "Lump", and "Peaches" performed to their fullest. After their set, I took a little breather and moved myself closer for pictures of the next band (courtesy of my press pass). In my trek through the crowd I happen to pass Dave (guitar and backup vocals) and Jason (drums). A little star-struck, it took me a second to get out the words "can I get a picture?" Luckily they were some of the nicest guys I've met and I ended up sticking around to chat with them for a little while. I broke away from the guys and planted myself in the perfect place for the final band:Bowling For Soup. Lucky for me, SXSW had appointed workers to look out for press people, that way the mosh pits don't crush us. Because this crowd was even crazier than the last. Perhaps it was because BFS called Texas their home or maybe it was because this was the last band of the festival for a lot of people. Either way it was a good way to end the night and the week. I believe their last song was "1985" and, of course, a crowd favorite.

Never before have I had the chance to see so many bands at once. Not even at Warped Tour. Of course, there were some that I missed, like RJD2. But I'm only human. What would I change for next year? More water, booking a hotel near 6th like 8 months in advance and more sleep. Was it worth it? Hell, yes. And I plan on going back next year.


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Mike Doughty



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