A view of SXSW
By Bree Houlihan
As a first year attendee of South by South West (SXSW), the thought of going to Austin, Texas during Michigan’s polar vortex is enough to get you packing. Then there is the music. For a passionate music lover, working in the music industry, or emerging artist this festival is a must.
SXSW started March 7th with the interactive and film portions of the festival. The interactive showcased digital technologies with highlights on upcoming gaming experiences. Film focused on films of tomorrow celebrating filmmakers, art, and film innovation.
Personally, I’m here for the music festival. Over 3,500 official and unofficial SXSW artists from March 11th-16th. How do they do it? To start, there are almost 100 official SXSW stage’s alone. The thought of the entire downtown Austin and further being turned into a giant festival can be a little overwhelming but SXSW does a great job at helping you through the whole experience from Day 1.
My official Day 1 started Monday, March 10th with early pick-up of my music badge. Plenty of reminders were sent with step-by-step guide and directions on where to get everything you need to start your SXSW. Monday morning started with a cab ride from my hotel to the Austin Convention Center. I was warned upon calling for the cab it could be an hour wait for my cab to arrive. Well…good start to planning the rest of the week. Planning everything early was now my biggest priority. The cab wait was about 25 minutes leaving me thinking that this wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought. I asked to get as close to the convention center as possible as I knew many roads would be shut down. Smooth riding until we hit downtown. Thank goodness for cab drivers. The traffic in front of us looked to go forever without seeing a sign of downtown.
“I get you there, no problem.” my first cab driver Mike said. We were getting off the next exit, weaving down side streets around all the closed roads. He was right, he got me there and faster than I had anticipated when we were stuck on the freeway. He got me as close to the convention center as possible then explained exactly where I had to go. This obviously wasn’t his first time as he pulled up right by the door to Exhibition 1 that I needed to go to.
Easy start to the day. I decided to pick up my pass on the early pick-up day in hopes of getting in and out as fast as possible. After about an hour of waiting, getting my picture taken, questions answered, and set free I had picked up my badge, “big bag” and all the information I needed to get on with my festival. I took a few minutes to look over the content of my ‘SXSW Big Bag’. Maps, pocket guide, ‘big book’ guide, flyers, pins, more flyers, and complimentary drink/food pass.
I then headed for ‘The Next Stage’ to check out the showcase ‘What does the future sound like?’. Speakers Scott Persson, Veronique Larcher, and Gier Skaaden spoke for a little over an hour of music innovations and trending genres over the past 10 years and future 10 years. Their viewpoints were each different but followed the same lead that music will never die out.
By staff recommendation I then headed to the Spotify house. On the way I passed emerging bands peddling their albums, interactive tents promoting everything from Instagram to vapor cigarettes. The street performers brought their A-game. On one corner you had a man swallowing sword and in the opposing corner was the Violin Monster playing classical violin songs in full werewolf costume.
The Spotify House was a nice escape from the characters outside with a modern, sleek interior and yes, air conditioning. I stuck around to catch a couple female artists perform acoustic sets while I checked my schedule for the rest of the day. Seeing as how the music festival didn’t officially start until Tuesday, my schedule was pretty light. I walked around downtown spotting the venues I would be attending the rest of the week while being stopped every couple blocks by people for a picture re-assuring them I wasn’t famous. Again, just kind and friendly people enjoying the experience right along side myself.
Tuesday started at 8 a.m. with continental breakfast and coffee. I spent most of the morning fine-tuning my schedule along side maps and looking up more information for all the artists. The schedules were every changing which left me to messaging artists Facebook’s in hopes of getting some direction back. Tuesday’s agenda: trade show, Black Milk boat party, Mohawk Outdoor stage, and Peelander Z. Again, the wait came for a cab. This time estimates ranged anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours as I should have expected.
The New York group had the Valhallla packed for a show everyone was talking about on the streets of SXSW. Downtown Austin was a buzz for this Japanese punk band from ‘Planet Peelander’. Valhalla was at capacity 45 minutes before they were scheduled to take the stage. The stage dimmed at midnight and Peelander Z took the stage with giant squid, tigers, and colorful costumes.
Immediately, Peelander Yellow grabbed an audience member to join in dancing on stage while Peelander Pink handed out instruments to the crowd. What did I just walk into?
By the second song, the crowd was jumping and banging pots and drumsticks all around. Then the tiger costume was brought out again while Peelander Pink held up ‘Mad Tiger’ sign and asked everyone to follow their move. This catchy band had the moves and lyrics that made you want to dance like no one was watching.
Fans were then chosen to take over the guitar and drums while Peelander Yellow and Peelander Green stage dived into the crowd just to emerge from the middle with a giant jump rope. The insanity ended with Peelander Yellow on the shoulders of a fan singing a song about “TACO TACO TACO TACO.”
Needless to say, this was one of the most energetic and unexpected shows I had probably ever walked into. Peelander Z will be bringing their insanity to The Pike Room in The Crofoot on May 2nd.
White Shag brought the Detroit Rock to Austin. One of Detroit’s finest took the stage at the intimate 04 Lounge Wednesday evening for a rock ‘n roll experience Austin has never seen. The passion and attitude was evident from the moment they walked in but no one was expecting the show they received.
This 3 member band worked up a sweat of everyone in the building and it wasn’t just the Texas heat. Laura Mendoza, singer and bassist, took to the mic and turned heads immediately. Her sweet but sassy voice took control and by the end of the first song she had the rockabilly bikers purring like kittens for more.
The crowd was really showing some true Texas love for their new track ‘Want You’ which they recorded this week in Austin.
The intimate venue really let the crowd get to know how kind and passionate White Shag is that shinned throughout their performance. By the end of their set, even the bartender was shouting “Detroit Rock City”.
Guitarist Jorge Cortez added, “There is no way to fake it whether we are playing to 5 or 500 people.” White Shag brought the Detorit attitude all the way through to show Austin what rock ‘n roll really is about.
White Shag is currently on tour and just were named one of the shows you have to see this week in Forth Worth/Dallas by The Music Enthusiast. They will also be playing ‘The Homeboy Show on the Road” at The Bullfrog on May 22nd.