Words by: McClain Johnson | Images by: Scott Dudelson
South By Southwest (SXSW) :: 03.13.12-03.18.12 :: Austin, TX
Recap of gathering below photo gallery!
Even in a sea of corporate advertisements and sponsorships, at its core South by Southwest (SXSW) still represents something vital to the independent music scene; i.e. the joy of discovering new music. Every style of music was showcased officially and unofficially in Austin's many venues and on its streets. The sheer amount of music is staggering.
Whether you are a band, a music fan or a member of the press covering it, SXSW is a musical endurance test unlike anything I have ever encountered. I caught at least 50 shows in 7 days. It is an exhausting, wonderful experience. What follows are some of my highlights from the musical beast that is SXSW.
Big Sam's Funky Nation 's set at the Lucky Lounge served as a hard-hitting dose of New Orleans funk. It was the perfect way to get in the mood for the shows to follow. The show was put on by Downtown NOLA in order to promote New Orleans music and culture, and Sam showcased his skills as one of New Orleans' top trombonists. (Video)
The Picthfork Showcase at the Mohawk on Tuesday night delivered quality sets from Teengirl Fantasy and Mr. Motherfucking Esquire. Teengirl Fantasy played a set of sweeping synth-driven indie rock. There seemed to be a lot of bands working in this style at SXSW 2012. However, Teengirl Fantasy’s use of heavier beats and dynamics helped them to stand out from the rest of the bleepy-bloopy pack. Mr. Motherfucking Esquire's fluid rapping whipped the crowd into a frenzy. SXSW crowds are generally not easy to impress, but Esquire had the crowd rocking.
DJ Rusty Lazer's showcase at the Hotel Vegas represented some of the finest underground music New Orleans has to offer. Caddywhompus' visceral two-man attack was loud and raucous. With so many bands at SXSW relying on atmosphere, a hard rocking, oddball kick in the teeth was a refreshing change of pace. (Video)
Bounce rapper Nicky Da B's short set was filled with energy. The new Diplo single on which she is featured sounds like some strange New Orleans rap from the future. Danger Boyz represented the bounce dance culture from NOLA with their dance moves throughout the night. (Video)
Dee-1's set of social commentary hip-hop connected well with the crowd. The showcase was headlined by legendary rapper/producer Mannie Fresh. Fresh started of DJing, but the real insanity occurred when he got on the mic to rap his hits. The back-to-back anthems of "Project Chick" and "Get Ya Roll On" produced the most rabid reaction I saw from a crowd all week. Fresh's performance drove home the point that everyone knows these gloriously raunchy rap songs. They are not just NOLA classics, they are American classics.
Youth Lagoon's afternoon set at Hype Machine's Hype Hotel focused on his angelic vocals and shifting soundscapes. It was one of the best sets I saw at all of SXSW.
Caveman's late night set at the Hype Hotel showcased tight, heavy rock grooves. To have a crowd dancing at 3 am after a long day of shows is no easy feat.
The Mynabirds delivered a set of soulful pop rock at Lambert's on Friday night. Lead vocalist Laura Burhenn's voice was in great form all night. However, the crowd was chatty throughout their set. Before playing a new song, Burhenn asked if the crowd could, "Please shut the fuck up. I'm trying to play a tender love song." The crowd, sadly just kept on talking. One of the negative aspects of SXSW seems to be the overall rudeness of some of the crowds. So many folks seem to be self-important people who love talking about themselves. If you're going to a show, the focus should be on the music, not you, but clearly not everyone felt that way.
MyNameIsJohnMichael delivered a set of high energy songs that had the crowd singing along and dancing. They have incorporated a more funk edge into their new tracks.
BeatauCue spun a set of quality French House at Malverde that had the small crowd digging the infectious, soulful grooves
Laura Gibson's hotel room set showcased her oddly soothing voice and her well crafted indie-pop song arrangements. (Video)
Going into SXSW, Grimes’ showcases were some of the most highly anticipated. I caught her at a Google and YouTube sponsored showcase at a parking garage on Saturday afternoon. Her voice started off weak, but improved as the set went on. Tracks like "Genesis" went over really well with the crowd, and the spacey beats and floaty vocals were a great combination. Grimes definitely lives up to the hype. (Video)
The Revivalists had a strong set at Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar that focused on the material from the new album City of Sound. The songs were jammy but also featured sections of tight interplay. Years of steady touring have helped to strengthen their live sound.
Hi Ho Silver Oh crafted a set of feedback drenched indie rock that woke me up out of a daze on Sunday. Their set at the Lomography Camera Shop made them one of my favorite finds during SXSW. (Video)
I closed out my SXSW musical overload with a set from Chicago house legend Derrick Carter at Kingdom. He had the crowd moving with his classic House sounds. It was a perfect way to end a week long musical odyssey in to the many sounds of independent music.
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