Everything

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

Posted on by Ricky in Everything, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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 I’m very glad the organizers of this festival has withdrawn from that type of booking.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.

SxSW Review: Hatchie, Anna Burch, March 15, Cheer Up Charlies

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Hatchie, March 15, 2018

Hatchie
Despite how the number makes me feel old, having a touch of the ’90s isn’t a bad thing. Hatchie certainly captures the sound of that glittering bygone era in spades. Her music reminds me a little of Natalie Imbruglia (I’m fairly certain it’s not because she is also Australian).

The slow, dreamy melodies of “Sure” and “Try,” especially the bright guitar and harmony, seem like they could float on forever. This is true when listening to them live or recorded.

Anna Burch, March 15, 2018

Anna Burch
To follow Hatchie with Detroit songwriter Anna Burch seems to me like an intentional juxtaposition. One offers up glittery melodies, but another communicates with lyrical, descriptive songs. True to this change, we went from shoegazing to speaking directly to the audience. Which made my second job as a photographer a bit easier.

Still light and airy, Burch’s songs, such as “Asking 4 a Friend” and “2 Cool 2 Care” are catchy in their own ways. Twisting and turning, you never quite know where the next hook is coming on the first listen – and then they will grow on you quite quickly to confuse your normal expectations. Quite interesting. My favorite would still be “Tea-Soaked Letter.”

SxSW Review: SYML, Low, March 13, St. David’s Sanctuary

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SYML, March 13 2018

SYML
After overcoming some sound interference troubles, Brian Fennell (formerly of the indie rock band Barcelona) quickly began in the church pulpit as SYML, which means simple in Welsh. Just as the name implied, it would turn out to be a straightforward singer-songwriter concert that has come to be St. David’s Sanctuary’s signature.

Over the years, it has also become clear that if you can’t sing, St. David’s is not a place to showcase your talents. SYML is, fortunately, not in that latter category. While I find it a bit distracting to have the cello and violin backing to his one man show, there was little hestitation in his delivery for passages. That said, the songwriting itself isn’t always clearly original. It isn’t hard to see that the opening of “Ghosts” neatly paraphrased Coldplay’s “In My Place.” While refreshing, his “Mr. Sandman” cover was not just a little creepy, and self-admittedly so. The lyrics were twisted into a lament about loneliness that might make Tim Burton jump. Even with all its idiosyncracies, this is still a first-rate set, ending with the promotional piece “Where’s My Love.” I would recommend the above tracks as well as “Wildfire.”

Low
If the previous set was “simple”, Low’s performance is its quantum entangled pair. How can we put more symbolism into a show? “I know! Let’s have two stern-faced, practicing Mormons sing nearly monotonic verses against a backdrop of ascending drum beats for 40 minutes in a dimly lit church, and conspicuously display their drinking of red soda and chomping of apples. That way, no one will think we were being serious!”

To be fair, Low has had a long career of minimalist excellence. It’s really not surprising that they managed to make the seemingly simple and monotonic music beautiful. And to be honest, it was a completely different experience if you were willing to stay the course. Problem was, it did not engender that will in most of the audience on this night. If St. David’s Sanctuary monitored their doors, they would have registered the exodus in between every track played. It was rare to see a concert hemorrhage audience throughout. I think a masochist mindset definitely came to the fore – and many just wanted to derive some type of reward having stayed with the performance. And as if they understood implicitly, Low did eventually open up the format for a number of more flowing pieces.

As for me, I felt like I had been party to some ritual to which I did not submit, but perhaps I did sign up for it. After all, SxSW is about getting a dose of the weird.

Low, March 13, 2018

SXSW Preview: British Music Embassy (Latitude 30)

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bme

Having been to SXSW 9 times now, you start to notice certain showcases as always being awesome. The British Music Embassy is one of them. Taking residence at Latitude 30, the BME showcases bands new and old, and despite what you think, it broadcasts quite the diverse showcase. Usually each area of Britain takes up a day or nite and you see a wide ranging group of musical acts.

Bascially you are guaranteed a good day or night of music. No lie, when my buddy visited Austin for one night during SXSW and he didn’t have a media pass, I told him to just go to BME and pay 10 bucks and stay the night there because it was the best bet for solid music.

Off the top of my head, I can think of some great shows I have seen there, including

Kate Tempest
Tim Wheeler (of Ash)
Late of the Pier
Sundara Kharma (why aren’t they big?)
Billy Bragg
Temples
Django Django

and I’m not even going to talk about the bands I have missed there which in recent years include

Glass Animals
Young Fathers
Wolf Alice

etc. You get the point, this shit’s gonna be good

Anyways, go here and check out this years lineups
http://www.thebritishmusicembassy.com/

Here are some acts I’m excited about this year:

Shame
Idles
Gaz Coombes
Frank Turner
Shopping
FrancoBollo
Girl Ray

It’s gonna be good. See you there.