This year I stayed at SXSW for two days of the Music part of the festival and I’m really happy that I did, next year I hope to stay for the whole festival (though I won’t stay at a hotel across the river if I do so, the time it took to get back to/from my hotel this year was a bummer). I heard 9 full performances of bands I sought out over the two days of Music and many partial sets. Of the nine full sets all of them were fantastic (a record I suspect I won’t be able to sustain in future years). It says a lot that Amanda Palmer’s afternoon set at the Paste Showcase was my least favorite of the nine sets. (look at the photos on her blog – I was there for the Paste Showcase though not in that shot I think and I was walking past the same intersection as she was taking the photo of her lying down in the street, that’s SXSW for you!)
Now I should be clear – I really enjoyed Amanda Palmer’s show – and I plan on seeing her again and getting her music (both her latest album Who Killed Amanda Palmer and probably her earlier work with the Dresden Dolls) it is just that I really saw some truly amazing music this year at SXSW. Her show was good – some of the other sets were astounding and transendent.
On Wednesday afternoon I bounced around between a number of the day parties – caught full sets by Amanda Palmer at the Paste Showcase and a full set by The Vivian Girls and many partial sets. Then in the evening I saw five out of the six acts at the KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic Showcase (slightly inaccurate post about the showcase w/many links). I really wanted to see The Vivian Girls and they did not disappoint, though the set I caught was on the shorter side.
The KCRW showcase was so amazing that next year my plan is to find that showcase and spend my entire evening at that showcase from start to finish. Sure, as I did this year that may mean I miss a great concert such as the Decemberists playing their new album live, but based on this year’s showcase, it will be an amazing evening of music. More importantly it will be an evening exactly suited to my tastes in music – eclectic but in my opinion great sounds, writing and performing from the start to finish. And you can, as I have already, download the full Decemberists’ concert from NPR Music.
Writing almost a week after the KCRW showcase I’m not sure I can do each performance justice – they were all different and all great. But a few highlights. Angus and Julia Stone were a revalation, I had not previously heard them (or indeed heard much about them) but I really enjoyed their performance. School of Seven Bells, which was the group that more than any other was why I wanted to attend the KCRW showcase did not disapoint – a truly amazing show (I agree with the Entertainment Weekly reporter who called it the best performance of the day) though it was then followed by a really great show by Zee Avi which was to a then nearly empty room (the fact that she started at 1am may have been the reason) but she was well worth staying up late for (and heck, I’m a night owl and was still on CA time). Again, I agree with the EW reporter’s assessment of her show and I’m eagerly awaiting Zee Avi’s album when it comes out in May.
On Thursday I started the afternoon by exploring a number of venues and events, then ended the afternoon at the Rhapsody Rocks concert at The Mohawk. I caught the very last song of School of Seven Bells then heard performances by Glasvegas followed by … and you will know us by the trail of dead. (links are to appropriately Rhapsody pages for those bands – on the Rhapsody Rocks page see a link for a free 14 day trial)
Here is the full list of acts I saw full sets of this year:
- Amanda Palmer
- Vivian Girls
- Other Lives
- Port O’Brien (partial set at Paste Showcase, full set at KCRW Showcase)
- Angus and Julia Stone
- School of Seven Bells (partial set at Rhapsody Rocks, full set at KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic showcase)
- Zee Avi
- … and they will know us by the trail of dead
when I can find a good way to link to tracks from each artist I will update this post – suggestions for the best way to do that are more than welcome – please leave them as a comment below!