FasterLouder at SXSW
Thu 24th Mar, 2011 in Features
Over the last two weeks Twitter, Facebook and blogs the world over have been alive with updates from South By South West. Stretching across ten days in Austin Texas, SXSW has grown to become not only the biggest music conference in the world but a Mecca-like destination for punters, promoters, labels and festival bookers all hunting for the ‘Next Big Thing.’
Fasterlouder’s Brisbane Editor Crystle Fleper made the sacred trek to America’s South to immerse herself in all things SXSW, and see if she could discover some music behind the hype.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO TEXAS
At the heart of SXSW’s shows and parties is 6th Street, a mile-long strip lined with only bars, tattoo shops and taco stands, with ten just as lively cross streets extending at least eight blocks in both directions. Austin Convention Centre is right nearby, where hundreds of conference attendees sit in on panels and keynote speeches by the likes of Sir Bob Geldof.
The atmosphere is incredible – a mix of tens of thousands of people from music, film and interactive industries, along with students partying for Spring Break. There’s more than 90 official venues and hundreds more unofficial ones (which could be a field, a taco stand or a church) and 2000 bands playing across five days. The most-hyped bands and parties require RSVPs from badge-holders (a ‘badge’ will set you back anywhere from $500-$1200) long before SXSW week. Even then, you can spend hours waiting in line and often missing who you want to see.
Getting around Austin requires cabs, busses or shuttles unless you stay within walking distance of 6th street. The increased strain of thousands of extra people on Austin’s transport infrastructure is not to be underestimated, so be prepared to wait anywhere up to three hours for that elusive cab you’ve ordered.
For after hours band-spotting The Driskell Hotel is the place to be. The lobby bar is full of industry after the bars shut everywhere else. Fogo De Chao Churrascia, a fine dining all you can eat BBQ restaurant hosts plenty of meetings, and The Hideout cafe on Congress is THE only place to obtain a half-decent coffee.
THE EGOS HAVE LANDED: FOO FIGHTERS, THE STROKES, KANYE WEST
These days it seems everyone wants to play South By. No longer merely a hub for those bands trying to ink a deal or crack the US, many of the biggest names in the buisness have taken to putting on impromptu performances to support their latest album.
The Foo Fighters surprise gig was one of the better-kept secrets of the festival, and once the word did spread, the lineup to get into Stubbs rapidly grew around the block, twice. Those who got in raved about it: no fanfare, no riots, just straight ahead Foo Fighters rock (and apparently a kick arse light show) to keep the lucky punters happy.
The Strokes, on the other hand, incited a riot at Auditorium Shores, with people climbing over portaloos to crash the free, at-capacity 25,000 pax show – complete with fireworks.
Stories of Kanye West playing until 4am at the VEVO GOOD Music Showcase at an abandoned Austin power plant will haunt me forever, though the crowds outside were double the capacity inside the venue making entry nigh on impossible.