Friday, March 26, 2010

SXSW - A cold wild wind will come

Day Four - Saturday

Holy crap. Beginning around 3 AM, Saturday was a bust. That was about the time I was sleeping on my friend's couch and thought I was going to get sucked out the window because the cold front and rain hit with so much force. Hence, nice weather officially over. The cold temperature and strong winds made for the most unpleasant day I have ever witnessed in the three total SXSW's I have been able to attend.

To cut short the complaining, I'll summarize by saying I did a LOT of walking in this cold wind to a number of shows that were either canceled or postponed. We caught the end of the last song of a set by Sonny and the Sunsets and the last 2 songs by Sarah Jaffe, followed by another performance by Doug Burr, but due to some poor planning and the weather disaster, the afternoon was largely a bust.

SXSW Axiom #5: SXSW is not designed with much of a contingency plan for bad weather, and your "list" for the day is likely to be thrown into total flux if this type of weather hits.

Most of all, I was super disappointed that the Ground Control Showcase, featuring Dawes, Deer Tick, Justin Townes Earle, and Lucero was postponed to evening when I couldn't attend, but such is life, even though SXSW isn't that much like real life at all.

The only redeeming factor of the day was the showcase I attended that evening at the Ale House. This showcase first featured Denton band Telegraph Canyon, a band that has been on my radar for some time now, but whom I have not had the chance to see live yet. The many band members crammed on to the tiny stage at the Ale House and put on a fantastic showcase that was quite well received by the packed venue.

As a side note, I actually saw Vic Chesnutt at this exact venue at a SXSW five years ago, so despite the fact that the small room is really only a music venue during SXSW, it holds a special place in my musical memory.

Following Telegraph Canyon, the crowd mostly stayed put for the set by Thrift Store Cowboys. Yet another large band, at 6 pieces, TSC played a very strong set, closing with one of the most upbeat songs from their upcoming album, entitled "Bright Fires."

In short, I was extremely happy with how SXSW turned out this year. I saw roughly 20 artists that I really wanted to see, and you just can't complain about something like that. I went to only a few of the most hyped shows, and honestly, had the best time at the shows that were more low key, and had a lower proportion of people in attendance who spent the whole time talking about all the other cool parties they went to.

SXSW Axiom #6: Hipper is not necessarily better. Yes, you'll hear all sorts of things about the hippest bands that came to SXSW, and for some reason, most sites love telling you about how they got in to see Broken Bells at SXSW, but all in all, it probably wouldn't have been worth your time to do the same. I saw {band name censored} and {band name censored}, who played the storied Fader Fort, at a few other venues, and they were just a plain let-down. If you have the chance, go to the smaller parties with smaller crowds and you'll have a much better time.

If you've never been to SXSW and you really love music, then try to go. Don't bother with the badge because you can see more than you could ever want to see at the free shows that happen each day and are increasing in number every year. The musical energy of this week is unlike any that I have otherwise been a part of and is not easily replicated, so please do yourself the favor of taking part.

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