South by SouthWest (SXSW) in Austin Texas is the annual film, interactive, music conference and festival which began in 1987. My first SXSW experience was in 2000 when I purchased a wristband for $95 and found out I still had to wait in lines and could be turned away even with the wristband.
I went to free events instead. No more wristbands for me!
I stopped in at the Canada House – Manitoba Party event at Friends Bar on 6th Street for a beer and a listen. I heard the last song of the set from Winnipeg band Mise en Scene, who according to their Facebook page were “unimpressed” with SXSW. I stuck around for another Winnipeg band called Royal Canoe, a Juno nominee for Alternative Album of the Year for Today We’re Believers.
I suspect there are many bands that have the same sentiment as Mise en Scene. SXSW is tough – lugging gear through the crowds for multiple gigs each day, a few minutes to set up and do a sound check. Especially during the afternoon gigs the audience may be sparse. Add that to the fact it costs a good bit of cash for travel expenses and suddenly the shine wears off.
Bands come to Austin in droves. There’s more hype behind SXSW every year.
Every bar downtown and along South Congress (SoCo) has a showcase for SXSW and many of them are free. There are also some large-scale free shows at Auditorium Shores just south of Town Lake – okay it’s officially Lady Bird Lake now but I still call it Town Lake.
In past years I’ve seen Ozomatli, Bajofondo; Café Tacvba, The Flaming Lips, Raul Malo. I’m skipping Auditorium Shores this year because I’m more in the mood for the smaller venues. SoCo is a great place to hang out, a little less frenzied than downtown.
There’s always splendid people watching – it’s part of the draw for me at events like SXSW.
Chris Rogers, the talented artist behind the mural at The Romani Gallery, was creating on canvas on 6th Street.
Street musicians are everywhere on 6th Street in Austin during SXSW, each vying for an audience. I keep a pocket full of small bills so I can tip the musicians, it’s something I do when I am traveling as well. I have a deep appreciation for musicians and anyone trying to make a living in the entertainment industry.
The most popular street performers are gifted musicians with showmanship skills. An excellent example is the band Heymoonshaker that I happened to notice setting up while I was chatting with a couple of young first time SXSW attendees.
Yanni (from Ohio) and Alvaro (from Bahia Brazil) are both students in San Antonio who were visiting Austin for the day – taking in all the craziness of SXSW for the first time. They performed a lovely rendition of Stand by Me just for me – so sweet! I tipped them a dollar each and an extra buck for little Sophie sleeping in the guitar case. Adorable.
Twenty feet away Heymoonshaker (from UK) had set up their amps and generator so I decided to check out their impromptu show. These guys have skills. David Crowe – beatbox vocals and Andy Balcon on guitar/vocals. Outstanding!
Heymoonshaker plays BD Riley’s SXSW showcase Saturday March 15th at 11:00 pm
Occasionally I have the ideal vantage point at one of the impromptu street performances by a visiting band only to be robbed of my view by some guy with an overwhelming desire to stand directly in front of me.
I was patient and only uttered the word jackass once. It’s all right, he moved eventually. Just another part of the SXSW experience. If he gets the band some decent exposure I’m happy to have given up my view for the cause.