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
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.
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
Universal Republic Showcase:
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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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