SXSW Film and Music Festival wrapped up in Austin, Texas. It was the usual experience of too much to see with not enough time or life force to see it all. Hearing of the secret guest appearances you missed like Kenny Rogers coming on stage with Lionel Richie and Donovan performing with Eric Burdon would whittle away at your in-the-know ego. Unable to make the noon keynote speaking of Bruce Springsteen was heartbreaking. The endless and over lapping day party’s and after party’s and rumored surprises would make our head spin so fast that if you had a hot tub to sit in you’d lean towards that until a pal picked something for you. I often wondered how I’d survive.
The things you’d be dead set on seeing, like Jack White, you wouldn’t get into. Not even if you gave yourself 3 hours to wait in line to get in. No photography or any kind was allowed inside so I was lucky enough to never make it in anyway and got some shots through the window.
When you were sick of the lines and you were on the list for the Virgin Mobile House, you could tuck yourself in for the night with the endless pouring of free drinks and radical performances from the likes of Lyrics Born and Hottub, Blackalicious DJ-ing and plenty of pretty faces at an intimate house, with a yard, across from Stubb’s BBQ. Handy. Last year when Oakland’s Hottub (I describe as the modern day Salt n Pepa) performed the house floor collapsed. Hottub is a talent that should explode. (I want them at Grammy’s.)
Every night after parties went until 5-6-7-8am and then a whole another day of Lincoln log schedule building while twisted up on margaritas and light beer on your tippy toes, and for me, carrying 25 pounds of camera gear. Every day that rose, I didn’t know how I could survive it again, but by night, after so much music and buzzy energy I became blazing thunder. Everyone else did too I could tell by their carnival eyes.
I managed to catch the Scottish showcase and see up and coming bands Wooden Box and Tango in the Attic, as well as buzz band, We Were Promised Jetpacks. All of whose sounds were impressive. I meant to catch only Tango in the Attic but one gets tucked into a pint and shelter from the schedule storm and staying put rubs you the right way.
I was lucky with all the bands I got to see as they dished out charismic performances. I caught the UK’s Kasabian at Stubb’s and Santigold at the Spin party. New York’s We are Augustine’s, fresh off the Letterman show, belted tunes off of Maggie Mae’s roof top.
San Francisco’s Two Gallants and Geographer played to packed crowds and killed their sets while in the same vain Melvoy and The Ferocious Few played a private house party in the living room.
I had my celebrity sightings of Matthew McConaughey watching a show through Buffalo Billiards window with his daughter on his shoulders; Jason Sudeikis attending film The Big Easy Express; Howard Stern at the Four Seasons Emmy party and Win Butler of Arcade Fire strolling up the street in a ball cap with band mate and wife Régine Chassagne.
There are also gems like when you leave a Mexican restaurant (across from the Four Seasons) and in their parking lot a crowd is forming because this band sounds of the real deal amazing with a singer’s voice comparable to Julian Casablancas. When we get up to the stage we see the singer is a mannequin with a TV for a head with the live singer’s head in it. I asked the name of the band, no one knew and the chalkboard out front was all smeared. I. Was. Blown. Away. This band could be big. Armed with no information I had to go to catch Fiona Apple in time, of whom show was at capacity and I didn’t get in anyway.
Austin is a special and wonderful city, but shit happens like anywhere. New York based Alberta Cross’s van was broken into and their gear was stolen which lead to our portrait session to be cancelled. I was however able to catch up with LA based Milo Greene and Atlanta’s Grammy winner Van Hunt for a couple snaps.
The Big Easy Express closed the Film Festival. Where Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Shape and the Magnetic Zeros performed together. It felt like a “moment”.
SXSW is a stellar party experience with enough music to satiate any taste for it. Its the music business’ spring break, and with all that statement implies, you’ve got to be prepared for a twister. If you’re over 25 be sure to take your supply of 5-hour energy drinks and vitamins B, C and zinc. This thing can give you pneumonia.