SXSW Review: Van Mary, Blushing

The cancellation of the 2020 edition of SXSW was a big deal and also a bit of a disappointment for us at Panic Manual. We’ve been heading to Austin for years now and after months of buildup leading up to SXSW 2020, it felt odd to not be attending the festival last year. So it was a bit of a relief that SouthBy made its return this year, albeit virtually.

Still, it felt a bit odd not actually being in Austin for this year’s festival. After all, much of the appeal of being at SXSW is, well, actually being at SXSW – walking down 6th Street or South Congress, taking in a show at Cedar Street or the Central Presbyterian Church, grabbing some tacos, making our annual burger pilgrimage to Casino El Camino, and just generally taking in the vibe. So no, unfortunately there will be none of that this year.

But if we can’t come to Austin, it’s nice to know that in a way, Austin can come to us. And that’s just what happened on Friday evening as I tuned in to the Hotel Vegas & Hotel Free TV showcase to take in sets by a bunch of local Austin acts recorded at one of my favourite SXSW venues over the last few years, Hotel Vegas. It was nice to revisit the venue even if it was through a screen and I also appreciated the old school VHS tape aesthetic that Hotel Free TV brought to this production.

There were great performances across the board, from the bratty punk of Lord Friday The 13th to the psychedelic sounds of Holy Wave, but the two acts that made the biggest impression on me were the first two up on the bill – Van Mary and Blushing.

Blushing was a known quantity to me already, having seen them live a couple of times, but the band, made up of two married couples, are always a treat to see live as they’ve got the classic shoegaze sound nailed. Van Mary, who started off the evening, was a completely new discovery for me, but a welcome one. The band, led by Emily Whetstone, played a short but compelling set of indie rock that gave off a bit of an old school Julianna Hatfield/Liz Phair vibe, while also sounding thoroughly modern. It sounded great and I look forward to being able to see Van Mary play these songs in person some time, hopefully next year in Austin.

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest