SXSW 2012: it’s (really) a wrap
(1) I’ve a couple of SXSW-related features running in the paper over the next few days (the first one is here which is a look at what the hell SXSW is all about). But despite that coverage, there’s still a …
(1) I’ve a couple of SXSW-related features running in the paper over the next few days (the first one is here which is a look at what the hell SXSW is all about). But despite that coverage, there’s still a ton of stuff from 10 days in Austin TX to get through and I’m sure I’ll be remembering bits and pieces for weeks to come. Here’s some of the stuff which fell between the cracks.
(2) By Saturday night in Austin, you’ve seen everything you’ve come to see and you’re beginning to get itchy feet. There may be one or two acts to check out again or some late tips to catch up on, but it’s usually time to kick back a little. This time around, I managed to get see not just one, but two of the bigger acts latching onto SXSW 2012. It started with NaS with help from DJ Premier and Pete Rock playing the classic “Illmatic” album in full in front of a heady, up-for-it crowd in the same venue graced by Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z earlier in the week. It was a hoot to hear NaS and friends blowing the dust off a 20 year old classic – yes, 20 years – and finding new ways to blow it all up.
(3) Later that night, I clicked that Erykah Badu was in town to play a show in a car-park downtown. What we got for a rapid bike ride through town was Badu doing an improvised set backed by The Cannabinoids. What could have been a bit of a mess turned out to be a totally awesome headfunk instead, Badu’s still glorious voice and queenly poise coupled with new arrangements for stone-cold classics like “On & On” produced a wave of nodding heads and gently swaying bodies. The best interstellar, out-there, far side drive of the week.
(4) SXSW 2012 was a fantastic year for hip-hop with great throwdowns from the likes of Action Bronson (the rugged chef is in Dublin’s Twisted Pepper this Friday), Kendrick Lamar (believe), A.Dd+ (bright new Dallas heads behind the “When Pigs Fly” mix-tape), G-Side, Cities Aviv, A$AP Rocky (new thrilla for the masses), Main Attrakionz (space cadets of the week) and many, many more. It’s bigger than hip-hop.
(5) Having spent most of my time at SXSW Interactive at panels and keynotes, I tend to avoid such talking shops during music for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s because the topics and themes are dull and the speakers don’t really know what they’re on about, problems you don’t encounter at Interactive. I hadn’t realised others thought the exact same until I turned up for the Dan “The Big Payback” Charnas and Steve “The Tanning Of America” Stoute panel on Saturday morning along with just 15 other people in a large room. Attendance aside, it was a good chat with Stoute – record label exec and NaS manager turned advertising dude – in particular running the rule over advertising and big business’s approach to hip-hop culture.
(6) Speaking of brands, we now have a winner for The Worst Stage Ever at SXSW. Sponsored by a company who manufacture crisps, it was a stage decked out as a vending machine for said crisps. To see acts like the GZA play on this monstrosity made the heart sank a little. Just because we want brands to get involved, do we really need to sink to this level?
(7) I’ll be listing the 20 best acts I saw at SXSW in The Ticket on Friday but, as always, the list could have been a little longer. Acts who impressed who didn’t make the final cut include Electric Guest (new-school indie pop with some soulful moves and oddball twists under the hood as produced by Danger Mouse), Nikkiya (the “When I Was High” r’n'b lady showed lots of potential for future turns on bigger stages), The Coathangers (fiery-as-fuck riotgrrrl punk rock from the Atlanta foursome), Family of the Year (beautifully pitched melodies in the midst of tunes tailormade for your radio), John Steel Singers (Australian band banging out the harmonies), Pomegranates (frantic mod-pop from a four-strong band who seemed to levitate from the stage) and Gliss (mega-promising artful pop from a Los Angeles/Copenhagen trio).
(8) One of the coolest hours I spent at SXSW was when I went off-grid to see Australian janglers Twerps playing in someone’s backyard out in the wilds of east Austin. There were no heavily branded stages here, no-one checking IDs and badges at the door, no posters selling you stuff. Instead, you had a bunch of good acts (I also liked Snowmine) playing for music fans, while a bunch of hens (hipster hens, no doubt) clucked around merrily in the background.
(10) My final SXSW 2012 soundsnap came at the Malaia club at the New Orleans bounce night with Katey Red at large bringing 10 crazy days and nights to a close.