And we’re back and beginning the musical comedown following the trip that is South By Southwest. A week full of music has left us all in bliss but also completely exhausted. Each day began with an early rising and preparation for the day. After chomping down a few quick breakfast tacos we’d hit the studio for the day’s interviews. Between interviews we’d explore the streets of East Austin to capture the many unofficial showcases taking place throughout the East-side of town. As the sun set, we’d take to the streets of downtown Austin for the hundreds of shows running late into the night. Catching a few hours of sleep, we’d awake the next morning to do it all over again.
One could label South By South West as a festival and leave it at that. It fits all the standard definitions of a festival: lots of bands, various stages and a central location. However, any other festival pales in comparison to the enormity of SXSW. To put into perspective: our hotel, Hotel Vegas, had 3 separate stages, with each stage featuring 10-15 bands a day. In one venue you could hang out, drink some Lone Star pounders and get your fill of music without walking anywhere. Throughout Austin there were 100’s of other places doing the same thing as Hotel Vegas: multiple bands, food and beer – all day, every day. SXSW is a mega-fest, full of hundreds of other mini-fests taking place simultaneously.
These unofficial SXSW “parties” are what make the musical festival so unique and so full of music. Digging slightly into the economics of the whole scene: a band can come down and play only official SXSW showcases to a select crowd of badge holders, wristbands and a handful of people who paid a cover OR a band can travel to Austin, play one official show and 4 other unofficial parties and reach 4 to 5 times more people with their music. Both shows may net the band the same amount of exposure. Official shows may cost hundreds to attend (if you’re rocking a badge) and unofficial shows are most times free with free beer and BBQ. Which do you think is more popular?
What this phenomenon means for fans: an unmatchable opportunity to see so much amazing, new music that you would never see anywhere else. Yes, you could go and watch Duran Duran play a major showcase or see Yoko Ono’s performance but you know that they will tour again. But when will you have the chance to see the rock and roll band from Oklahoma that drove down to Texas in their Sprinter van to play their hearts out for a few hundred people in the backyard of a hotel?
This is how SXSW has evolved and will continue to grow: bands will go where their fans are and where they can reach new people with their sound. The official SXSW showcases rule the downtown and the unofficial showcases are being pushed to the edges of downtown into new areas, which 10 years ago were poor and run-down. Now these areas are thriving again, due to the spread of music.
I spent the week asking bands what SXSW meant to them. Now I have an answer of my own: SXSW is proof that quality music thrives and that one day soon, true musicianship will be valued more so than sheer popularity (i.e. Rebecca Black’s recent YouTube success). This day cannot come soon enough.
Enjoy these pictures below from the final 3 days of the festival and await a final band wrap up post with categorized pictures and links to hear each band we were able to catch live. Cheers.