SXSW is always a little bittersweet for me. On one hand I always have a blast being down in the heart of Austin in the midst of a million people, hanging out with friends, and experiencing music that I wouldnt get to on a normal basis. On the other, its just exhasting to participate in the festival. There is alot of walking, not alot of places to sit, and since we cover a very specific group of artists, it takes some major preparation to be in the right place at the right time. In addition to this, I am actually working another job all week, a Spring Break day camp at a local YMCA. Despite all that, I have seen some really great stuff over the last few days, and in the middle of a great song it seems I am always able to forget how tired my feet are a thank God Im standing in the room Im in. I am blessed.
Day 3: The Civil Wars, Appleseed Cast & Shad
I actually didn’t get to see The Civil Wars or Appleseed Cast. Here is why: THERE ARE A TON OF PEOPLE AT SXSW! As the week goes on, many of the industry people and bands begin to populate the showcases in the audiance. I think I saw Doug Van pelt from HM Magazine almost everyday; Brooke Fraser was in line in front of me for The Civil Wars. On top of that, there are the thousands of people attending SXSW that are just average joes. All this to say i didnt get to see The Civil Wars because Im dumb and left the ballroom at the Driskel to get some air and then couldnt get back in. It was a small room (capacity was 120) and it was packed 2 hours before the folk duo’s set. There wasnt a line when I left, but a mega one when I returned. Strike out!
I DID get to see SHAD though, which I was really happy about. I actually learned about SHAD two years ago at SXSW when his record label handed me a sampler CD of his music and told me he was a believer. I have been a fan ever since, and his latest album, TSOL, was at the top of our Hip-Hop album of the year list.
The thing about SHAD live is that the dude never stops smiling. He was grinning ear to ear from the moment he walked out to sound check till the moment he disappeared into the back after his set. He was a super happy guy and it rubbed off onto the crowd…..mainly because he spent most of his show out in the crowd. The first two songs were spent bouncing around in the middle of the audience and handing the mic to people who knew the words. SHAD freestyled for us, played several of the songs form TSOL, and put on one of the most entertaining hip-hop shows I have ever seen. this ended up being my only show for the day, but yet I left that night feeling satisfied.
The Appleseed Cast show was also full by the time we got there, we listened to a couple of songs (which were great) sitting outside the window and decided to call it a night.
Day 4: The Almost and Emery
Another kind of epic journey occurred on Saturday when my wife was actually able to attend some of the festival with me. We got there early to attend Flatstock, and then made the trek across downtown to catch the hip-hop show at the Carver Museum. This is the same showcase where we interviewed Kaboose, Tre9, and Lecrae two years ago, held at the same location. At least according to SXSW. When we got there, we walked in on a panel, which was cool enough, but by the time we realized we were in the wrong place it was all over. You see, the music was happening on 51st street, and we were on 18th. We had the right location, but apparently the oganizers had decided to move the music without telling anyone. So we missed Tedashii and Pro.
We wne t back downtown for a bit and actually wandered onto a free show that Vans was putting on outside of EMOs. Low and behold, The Almost were rocking the stage as we walked up! We were able to catch a good portion of the set, and man can Aaron Gillespie sing! That dude’s voice is super strong live, and the band had the crowd eating out their hand. They closed their set with a more up tempo version of Tom Petty’s “Free-Falling”, and everybody was there wanting more.
Luckily for me I caught the band again at the Tooth & Nail Showcase, so I was able to get more!
After The Almost came Emery, and the crowd was buzzing for the re-tooled screamo band to tear the place down. Emery got things going quickly with several tracks off their upcoming “heavier” album, We Do What We Want, and remarkably most of the crowd already knew the words.
To answer the lingering question: Yes, Emery‘s new stuff is alot heavier than past efforts, but the important thing to note is that they blend it well with their older, more melody driven material, so you get a well balanced, interesting show. Heck, half-way through the set they pulled out acoustic guitars and sang some stripped down versions of their older songs to the crowd.
By the way, the crowd was not only standing in close quarters inside the club, but also right outside this huge window the club has right behind the stage. Emery showed their fans that they came first by setting up the drummer facing these people on the street so that everybody could feel like they were part of the show.
That was it for me. The end of SXSW was kind of strange in that i dont feel like I was able to see alot of music as in past years, and yet I feel like some of the artists we cover (The Civil Wars, SHAD, The Almost, The Rocketboys) were some of the biggest names floating around the festival. See, just because you are open about your faith doesnt mean that you will be a failure in this industry, it just means that you have something to say. On to Cornerstone we go!