Sure, with the passing of every new SXSW, you hear the same gripes. But it’s really not even about how the festival is run or by whom, it’s the deluge of bands that descend upon it more and more each year. It’s always been like that, but with the advent of every little technology, artists are actually more empowered than ever before. There’s just so many bands who are all worthy of attention, and you can be approached to play SXSW official or just do it yourself in the middle of it all.
McDonald’s has no business being a “tastemaker”, but that’s all bluster that really only concerns artists that are Pitchfork or Fader approved already. It was never going to be your unknown band’s break out point.
I guess what I’m driving at is, SXSW is a lot of fun and it’s still a great venue to grow. That comes down to the artists who go out and seek these connections rather than waiting for someone to come along and sweep them off their feet to the magical mystery record label/booking agent kingdom.
If SXSW was your venue for getting to the next level, you knew it well in advance of the fest. It’s a shitty thing, but just look at the hundreds of shows and bands on the official/un-official schedule and it’s enough to make your eyes bleed. Go to SXSW, eat tacos, see some cool music, and leave it at that. Once the pressure’s off, the actual beauty of the festival reveals itself.
All that out of the way, I happened upon some really great shows last week. I saw Spoon play a hometown festival headliner style set at Auditorium Shores, Twin Peaks absolutely obliterate Cheer Up Charlie’s, and Howard play their debut album, Religion, in a church. I also didn’t have a badge or a wristband, because you don’t need one.
Check out some live snippets of my SXSW walkabouts, including a bonus house show with Brett Saxon I caught in Nashville on my way down, below.