Welcome to the South By Southwest edition of TEN. The annual music, film, comedy, and technology festival happened almost a month ago (March 7th-16th), so I realize I’m a little slow with this. But, it took me several weeks to recover from the amount of tacos and Lone Star beers I consumed. Besides Cleveland, Austin, Texas is easily the raddest city in America. I fall in love with it more and more, each time I go to SXSW. In fact, I could easily just fill this list with stuff about the city. The food. The beer. The weather. The insane amount of music venues. The history. The inspiring atmosphere of creativity that surrounds you. Torchy’s Tacos. I could go on forever. Instead, I’m going to focus on the amazing music I heard, as well as some film, comedy, and synthesizer nerd-out moments. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to make the trek, you can live vicariously through me. Here are ten awesome things I saw at SXSW 2014.
Thud Rumble Showcase at Kingdom Austin Night Club
I was at another show when someone casually said “I think QBert is playing around the corner tonight.” I immediately Googled it and made my way out the door. There was no way in hell I was going to miss a chance to see the legendary scratch DJ. His performance was everything I’d dreamed it would be, especially the second half, where he completely blew my mind with his wizardry. I can cross that off my concert bucket list now.
Someone caught the entire set on video. Check it out below:
Resident Advisor Showcase at Elysium Nightclub
Switching between guitars and MIDI controllers, Travis Stewart, a.ka. Machinedrum, took the crowd on a trippy journey that paired chill, hypnotic electronic music, with a backdrop of incredible visuals. For this particular show, he also had a live drummer, which really took things to the next level. He just dropped a new EP on Ninja Tune called Fenris District, that I highly recommend. I also did an interview with Travis the day before he played. You can look for that soon on DJ TechTools, the electronic music site I freelance for.
I couldn’t find any good clips of this performance online. Instead, check out the official video for his single, “Gunshotta”:
Pandora Discovery Den
I was lucky enough to see the amazing Lucinda Williams, but I had to watch it from afar. The Pandora Discovery Den was at full capacity, and I couldn’t get in. I was pretty bummed until I realized that I could still see and hear the concert from a little bridge that went across the creek next to the venue. Williams was fantastic, and her cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” was perfect.
This video below is not of the performance I saw. It’s of her performing a cover of “Pale Blue Eyes” at the Lou Reed SXSW Tribute.
Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton: This Is Stones Throw Screening
SXSW Film Festival at The State Theatre
I’ve been a fan of Stones Throw Records for a long time. They’re one of the best indie hip-hop labels around. Started by Chris Manak (Peanut Butter Wolf) in 1996, after the death of his musical partner, Charizma, the imprint quickly became known in the underground for it’s dedication to left-of-center artists. This wasn’t the rap you were hearing on the radio. It wasn’t even the rap you were hearing in the indie circuits. It was unique and original, and it showed that Manak wasn’t doing it for the money. He just wanted to put out music he liked. That eventually extended beyond hip-hop too. Over the years, they’ve put out records by people like J. Dilla, Madlib, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Mayer Hawthorne, and Aloe Blacc, who is now enjoying mainstream success. The documentary matches the style and creativity of the label well, and does a terrific job of telling their story.
Here’s a trailer for the film:
Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib, and Prince Paul (Tagteam DJ Set)
Stones Throw Showcase at The North Door
Stones Throw also threw a party to celebrate the screening of Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton, and it was amazing. A good chunk of the label’s roster played (including rad newbie, Jonwayne) but the highlight was definitely seeing Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib, and the legendary Prince Paul, doing a DJ set together. It’s something that would only happen at SXSW.
Here’s a video of the performance on YouTube. It’s pretty short. But, just seeing the three of them on stage together is rad enough.
Resident Advisor Showcase at Elysium Nightclub
I had never heard of Jessy Lanza before seeing her in Austin. That’s the great thing about SXSW, though. You find out about all kinds of new and exciting music. Lanza is a singer and producer from Canada who originally was a backup singer for Junior Boys. She’s heavily influenced by ’90s r&b artists like Jodeci and Mariah Carey. That definitely spills into her vocals, but her sound also incorporates a lot of moody electronic elements too. It’s sexy, dark, and funky. Be ready to dance.
Here’s a YouTube video of her song, “Keep Moving”:
Pandory Discovery Den
If you’re not familiar with The Coup, please stop reading this and Google them instead. Boots Riley and crew were in full effect for their appearance at the Pandora Discovery Den. It was definitely the most energetic set I saw at SXSW. The highlight for me was their performance of “5 Million Ways To Kill A C.E.O.,” which brought down the house. Boots Riley, you’re the man.
Here’s a short clip of their energetic performance that I found on YouTube:
1111 East 11th St.
If you’re a vintage music gear nerd like me, then Austin’s Switched On is your heaven. This place is filled with classic synthesizers and old drum machines that you can play with. Well, I suppose the point is for you to buy them, but I’m broke. I spent a good hour rocking out, though. I got to touch an original Roland TR-808, and play a Sequential Circuits Prophet VS. I can die happy now.
Here’s a great video about the store:
On The Patio Of Some Bar
I was roaming around the streets of Austin one night and randomly stumbled across Sinbad, chatting with fans on the patio of a bar. I don’t remember which one. You can blame the margaritas for that. But, he was in town for the comedy portion of SXSW, and was doing a Q&A. Sinbad. Where else would that happen? I really should have asked him when the First Kid sequel is coming out.
Here’s a quick picture I snapped, for proof.
Random Musicians Playing On The Street
Lastly, one of the best things about SXSW is that music is EVERYWHERE. But, it’s not just in bars and music venues. It’s also all over the streets. And, it attracts some big crowds too. I saw everything from bluegrass bands, a weird guy with marionettes, rappers, guys playing drums made out of buckets, to dance routines and dudes on a street corner with samplers and drum machines. Having creativity around you at all times is very inspiring. These people deserve some serious props too.