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Surviving SXSW 2011

crowds at sxsw  Surviving SXSW 2011

Crowds at SXSW

Surreal doesn’t even really begin to describe the experience of SXSW, the festival that twenty-five years earlier began on lawns and small venues around the University of Texas campus and has now grown to overtake the entirety of Austin. Although the festival also encompasses an Interactive and Film portion, what the vast majority of the masses descending on Austin come for is the four-day, jam-packed, non-stop drinking musical extravaganza that SXSW is most known for.

Being a SXSW virgin I didn’t really know what to except when I arrived fresh-faced and sanguine. I had my little spreadsheet with all the bands I wanted to see, addresses and all. Yeah, that whole plan went to shit about the second day in. Not to say I didn’t see a bevy of excellent bands and performances, but with SXSW you just have to go with the flow (or more be pushed with it due to the hundreds upon hundreds of people sharing the streets with you). For the next eight days I not only discovered the main streets of Austin but also the hidden away gems of the lone star city.

club de ville club deville
Crowds at Club de ville

One of the bigger and most memorable acts I saw was Glasser at the Rhapsody Day Party occurring at Club de ville. The hip outdoor venue carved alongside a rocky hill on Red River Drive was the place to be on Friday. Besides offering gratis Red Stripe and Guinness, it was also host to a plethora of indie’s most cherished darlings (Deerhunter, Small Black, Kurt Vile).  I arrived just in time to catch Glasser’s hypnotizing set. The group, fronted by the ethereal voice of Cameron Mesirow (while although often compared to Bjork has a more accessible clear voice) seamlessly translated the dreamlike, but still energy-filled sound heard on Apply and Ring to the sweaty, dehydrated crowd. Although the sun mercifully beat down and the majority of the audience had been on their feet all day kicking back the aforementioned free drinks, Glasser’s music and the band’s spirited stage presence (Mesirow’s ability to pull of such dance moves while wearing towering boots was impressive all by itself) prompted plenty of swaying and dancing from myself and my peers.

 Surviving SXSW 2011  Surviving SXSW 2011

Glasser at Club de ville

Glasser: Home

The group experienced some technical issues at the end of their set due to a computer basking in direct sunlight, but Mesirow handled it like a pro as she chided the audience about us probably tweeting about the equipment issues and how Mesirow thinks she is Bjork. Instead of allowing the computer issues to set them back, Mesirow took the unforeseen opportunity to regal us with an acapella version of her favorite Flamingo’s song. Although their set was short and I might have been suffering from sun poisoning, I walked away knowing that all the hype surrounding Glasser is thoroughly justified. They offer a genuine unique sound and luckily people are taking notice.

Braids: Lemonade

Although I took a bit too much advantage of the free beer at the day parties (experiencing the onset of a hangover at 7pm is never enjoyable) I was able to rally myself and get out to the bevy of night showcases that SXSW is known for. One of the most refreshing was the tail end of Braid’s Friday evening set at Longbranch Inn. It was a relief to get a bit away from the madness of Sixth Street and although the line was quite long due to the small capacity of the bar, I managed to slip in right as Braids was wrapping up their performance. Even catching just a few songs of the Canadian art-rock band proved the boast I needed to give me my sixth wind of the night.

Mount Kimbie at NDMount Kimbie

Mount Kimbie at ND Showcase

My favorite discovery of SXSW (besides Takoyaki) was London’s ambient dubstep duo Mount Kimbie. Their unique blending of samples mixed with live instrumentals and vocals proved a bewitching combination. I caught them first by accident at Tuesday’s Pitchfork Interactive Showcase, and although the group experienced some technical issues that derailed their set from being as magical as it could be, I was still enraptured by songs such as “Ruby” and “Before I Move Off” from their debut LP Crooks & Lovers. Luckily I was able to catch them again (one of the benefits of making artists playing 100x at SXSW) at their Thursday set at Windish Agency House at ND. The technical issues seemed more smoothed out and it appeared that both Maker and Campos were having a slightly better time performing then they did on Tuesday. I know everyone is losing his or her head over Mount Kimbie’s peer James Blake (who is an excellent DJ in his own right) but I am fully on Team Mount Kimbie.

Mount Kimbie: Ruby

Although I only saw about five out of the thirty or so acts I originally planned to see (sorry Beach Fossils, Prince Rama, and Nite Jewel). SXSW, although exhausting and probably shaved two years off of my liver, still proved to be an overall positive experience. Once you get away from the craziness of the main drag and get a chance to focus on the music (as opposed to the free swag) you are reminded of what SXSW initially began for and the joy of seeing raw talent displayed before you.

By: Stephanie Glass

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