SXSW 2018 – The Recap: Favorites, Surprises, etc.

Starcrawler, March 15, 2018

The 10th Year. That is pretty crazy. At this point, I have spent over 100 days in Austin. I have spent over a month at the Sheraton on 11th. All because of this little tech and music festival in the heart of Texas.

This year was an invigorating year. I don’t know why. Everyone at SXSW just seemed happy to be there. There were the crazy years from like five years ago when Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga and Springsteen were all at SXSW, but really, that was not what SXSW is about. I’m very glad the organizers of this festival has withdrawn from that type of booking. It’s now looking more like what it was when I first started (which probably still looked different than it did when people first started going, but whatevs).

Anyways, we polled the people at the Panic Manual about their experience.

Best Act

Paul: While it was great to revisit old favourites like Gaz Coombes, The Wedding Present and Low (whose Tuesday night set of church organ driven arrangements of their latest material had me feeling like I was stuck inside an episode of Twin Peaks all night – in a good way, of course), I’ll go with London’s Shame as one of the best among the new acts I caught.

Derek: Toss up between Meute and Superorganism. I’m hoping both continue to churn out new stuff.

Gary: Between Nubya Garcia and Albert Hammond Jr, which oddly were among the first and last shows I saw this year.

Ricky: Two acts I really enjoyed (but have already seen before) were Cut Copy and Young Fathers. Those are unfair because I knew what I was getting into. Three acts that made huge impressions on me were Meute, Shame and Gangs of Youth. I’m a sucker for anthem rock and saw Gangs of Youth twice so I might go with them, although Shame was definitely a 1b.

Most Disappointing Act

Paul: LuxDeluxe. They’re talented enough guys, but something about their performance just didn’t gel for me. Points to the singer for dancing so hard though.

Gary: Yes I was paying attention… but I can’t recall anything that was disappointing enough for me to bother to write about it. Even ShitKid was disrespectfully charming. Perhaps the band that me and Paul walked into at the Driskill?

Ricky: Not sure what the hell Porches ever did to give them a closing slot for a day show. Was not interesting at all.

Most Pleasant Discovery

Gary: Gordi. I have always thought that sunset and an inanely-smiling crowd are prerequisites to a wholly entertaining show. Her singing was transporting enough to forget that I was bathed in molecules of rotting hipster garbage from the high-rise next door.

Paul: Meute was the most fun and put on an amazing show, though I’ll also give a shout out to a band on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of mood and energy – Holy Motors from Estonia. Their Mazzy Star gone spooky Spaghetti Western vibe made for a nice, chill break in the middle of Friday afternoon.

Derek: Meute were fantastic. I wouldn’t think that a German techno marching band (complete with uniforms) would be a thing I’d bug out to, but they had an amazing energy that had the crowd moving.

Ricky: Meute was amazing. Everyone has already said that. Aside from them I would say my most pleasant discovery was going to the China showcase, seeing a psych-rock act named Fazi and then watching a bunch of old Chinese people in winter vests dancing it up as if their lives weren’t pinned down by some overwhelming suppressive communist regime or something.

Anything new or notable about SXSW this year?

Paul: The continued downsizing of SXSW from the excess of a few years ago has continued into this year’s edition and it seems to be a good thing – the lack of huge big name headliners means a lot less FOMO and frees you up to explore a bit more.

Another thing I noticed was a large number of great female performers this year, including Starcrawler, Fruit & Flowers, Wye Oak, Anna Burch, Superorganism, Boytoy, Ex-Girlfriend and Rachel Bloom (of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), just to name a few. When I first got to Austin (or maybe it was at the airport before I even left – Monday was a long day) I noticed a woman wearing a t-shirt that said “The present is female” and based on what I took in at SXSW this year, that statement would appear to be true.

Derek: It definitely felt smaller and the lack of huge headliners was noticeable.

Gary: Austin remains as lively and friendly as ever, but it’s an odd mix of care-free and hyper-vigilance that is new. Ever since the truck accident they have been scaling back, first pedestrian barricades on 6th to thin the crowd, then dump-trucks full of sand at intersections as precautions. This year the new fire regulations and enforcement were really thorough, although fewer venues remembered to check my camera bag. Glad to see that even as our world spins out of control, it still needs music.

Ricky: The bands seemed smaller this year. When Rae Sremmurd is the biggest act, you know they have scaled it back a bit. I really liked that. Also, they were a lot stricter with capacity levels. Often times you would line up to get in to find out its only half full.

All in all, an amazing year. Here’s a spotify playlist of some of the bands we saw.

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Posted on by Ricky in Everything, South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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