SXSW 2024 Recap: So Long and Thanks for All the Brisket

20240313 HotWax

Another year, another SouthBy. Team Panic Manual has been coming to Austin in some shape or form since 2009 and while some things have remained constant, much has changed over the years.

This year, it was hard to ignore the controversy caused by the presence of the U.S. Army as a sponsor, which led to many bands cancelling their official showcases. Oh, also, every other panel seemed to be about AI, so maybe next year will be brought to you by Skynet and HAL 9000 will be playing his hit single “Daisy Bell” at Stubb’s. Who knows? Anyways, here’s a rundown of how our week in Austin went.

Best Act

Ricky: Most entertaining acts were Faux Real and Wolves of Glendale, both of those groups made me smile. Faux Real’s endless energy and their incredibly fun dance shows really kicked off SXSW in a a great way. Wolves of Glendale blended humor and ’80s inspired music in a perfect way and were just super fun. My favorite musical act was probably Bubble Tea and Cigarettes, whose music was perfectly suited to a dark church backdrop.

Gary: Emily Barker. I knew some songs but was not expecting the quality of songwriting that shone throughout. 

Paul: Simply for putting on one of the more unique shows, I’ll give it to Tommy Stinson for jumping onstage mere minutes before his set time and seemingly just winging it – I don’t think he was even scheduled as an official act until that very day. A special shout out to Hinds as well for giving me a much needed boost of energy on Wednesday night after an unplanned (but much needed) nap that almost took me out of commission for the rest of the night. They’re always a fun watch.

20240312 Lottery Winners

Best New Discovery

Paul: The Lottery WInners.

Ricky: My favorite discovery was Poo-pourri, this random product that takes the stink out of #2. Every SXSW, the 4 of us hole up in a hotel room for 8 days, with 1 bathroom. Previously this led to some problems, but with Poo-pouri, the bathroom problem was instantly resolved, much to my amusement. Musically,  I haven’t really digested it yet, but I had written down to check out Vital Powers, a rapper from England, Chinese American Bear – a pop duo from Minnesota or something, and Automatic, a buzzy band that had lots of kids really energized.

Gary: Earth Tongue. I am still not computing how robotic, heavy psych chants of “Bodies Dissolve Tonight!” became so good. 

Derek: The Lottery Winners were such a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to be blown away by any music since I was leaving town just as music was getting started, but The Lottery Winners at BME (and later that same night at Seven Grand) scratched that itch and left me feeling like I got to experience some of what makes SXSW so great.

Biggest Disappointment

Ricky: Bar Italia had a lot of hype and I was not into their performance. One of their members had major microphone issues so maybe that played a big part but considering their hype, they didn’t really do anything to stand out. The biggest disappointment was actually just me, letting work greatly disrupt my focus and mood during the entirety of the week (again).

From a festival perspective, the quietness of the festival was extremely loud. The lack of big bands to anchor a night really stood out. 

Gary: Bar Italia? It was mostly due to hype from others … I wasn’t even going to see them. So in all honesty I had not been “disappointed” this year.

Derek: I’m old and can’t drink like I used to. Maybe that isn’t disappointing, but there it is.

20240312 Mogwai

Favourite SXSW Moment

Gary: Mogwai playing a cadenza on “Rano Pano”… or was it “Dry Fantasy”? Regardless, it’s still one of the best sets this year. 

Derek: Being called “Simon Cowell” by Lottery Winners frontman Thomas Rylance.

Paul: Watching The Appleseed Cast close out their set with a motorik noise jam before calling it quits, apparently due to an amp that was on fire. It made for a big cathartic end to their set and also a memorable way for me to close out my SXSW 2024 experience.

Ricky: I can see Ash over and over again, so probably that. Or the giant tuna collar we ate at Kemuri Tatsu Ya.

20240316 The Ayoub Sisters

Final Thoughts

Gary: If I am not going back next year, it would be an anticlimactic note on which to end a decade-plus of riotous music, film, poster, and food discoveries in Austin. This year felt particularly sparse and disconnected, more so than even 2022, which is hard to fathom. So many venues are going their own way and old, reliable sources are evolving past each other and the festival itself, and the model of music discovery is still shifting, even beyond the pish of Spotify. If I am going back, I would be setting myself up for an expectation of impossible proportions. We are all addicts now, grappling with the decision whether to take that one last hit… all I know is that going cold turkey will not be something my system would take lightly to.

Derek: After attending every year since 2010, I finally feel like 2024 is probably my last (despite having said that since 2018). During this trip I found myself looking at photos of years past and remembering the many amazing shows we’ve seen, surprise acts discovered before they blew up, great food we’ve eaten and the unlimited free drinks we consumed. Over the years, we got to know which parties or venues offered the best free booze and free food (shoutout Péché for that one time but never again).

My age showed as I reflected on how much the city has changed since we started attending the festival, engaging in plenty  of “I remember when..” conversations – I guess it’s that thing dudes do as they turn into old dudes. For me, SXSW has always been equal parts professional development (during interactive), indulging in Tex-Mex or BBQ and hanging out with the PM crew while catching some amazing bands up close. And even if this is my last year, it’s been a pretty great run.

Paul: Fifteen years. That’s how long Panic Manual has been going to SXSW. I don’t think any of us expected to be doing it for this long, but as Derek said, it has been a pretty good run. And while we’ve talked about whether to come back for the following year or not for at least a few years now, it seems this might be the last year that the four of us will all be in Austin at the same time with two of our party likely calling it quits after this year’s edition of SouthBy. So to quote The Rolling Stones, this could be the last time, I don’t know …

Though in all honesty, the other two of us might still be good for at least one more time. The AI that is T-800 said he’ll be back. So … see y’all next year? Possibly.

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest