Set your bearings to South by South West
In last week’s music media mash-up in Austin, Texas, the big names mingled with the wild, the innocent, the dreamers and the deluded: Here’s 20 of the best
Singer Solange performs onstage at the Hype Hotel during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Long Center in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rita Quinn/Getty Images for SXSW)
Every March, a city in the heart of Texas becomes the place to go if you want to see the music business in action.
Austin is already the self-appointed live music capital of the world, thanks to its ample supply of live venues, but the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival and conference takes this to another level. In fact, it takes the existing _infrastructure and adds a couple of hundred other stages by pressing car parks, empty retail spaces and backyards into use as pop-up venues.
More than 2,000 bands head to Austin every year in search of all kinds of everything. At the top of the food pyramid, you have blockbuster and established acts such as Prince, Justin Timberlake, Nick Cave, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many more playing shows which usually grab all the headlines.
They’re here, in many cases, to pick up fat cheques from brands and sponsors for their troubles, as well as to draw attention to an upcoming release or tour.
Then, there are the buzz bands. These are new acts with agents, managers, lawyers and publicrelations gurus helping them to do the heavy lifting and ensure there is an audience for their shows. Many of these acts are the ones you can predict in advance will make a splash in Austin and feature in the post-event dispatches.
And that leaves the rest. The wild, the innocent, the dreamers and the deluded, the acts who are here as much in hope as in expectation, make up the bulk of the acts who come to the Lone Star state for the week.
They hope to strike it lucky, to make a connection with an audience, an agent, a manager or anyone else who will help them get up a rung or two – or even just get onto – the ladder. They come to Texas with a dream, eat a lot of tacos and go home as SXSW veterans. Many will come back next year and the year after, while many others will never set foot on Sixth Street again.
It’s actually interesting to note how many repeat visitors from 2011 and 2012 were in Austin last week, proof that you can’t become an overnight sensation in the music business without first putting in years of hard work . Increasingly, it takes time to make an impact and, for bands who do want to make a splash, that means coming back to events such as SXSW again and again – and again.
Beyoncé is not the only Knowles family member with a busy year ahead of her. Solange played a few shows at SXSW and wowed every time with her giddy and infectious tunes, superb footwork and sunny disposition. Losing You may be the shiniest jewel in the crown right now, but there are plenty of other promising gems in there too.
IVAN & ALYOSHA
From Seattle, Ivan & Alyosha had been at SXSW before, but came back with a fine album (All the Times We Had) and a much stronger live show. What are in their favour now are their superbly catchy, soaring, infectious folk-rock songs, which chime neatly with the mood of the times.
Not the out-of-sorts Chelsea striker, but a band from Nashville, led by MacKenzie Scott, pushing their spellbinding blues . Scott’s songs will remind you of a host of people who have stepped this way before – from Cat Power to PJ Harvey to Karen Dalton – but the delivery is strikingly individual and the songs deeply emotional.