They predicted thunderstorms for this year’s SXSW Music Conference. It changed the whole way I was planning my week-long trip. But they never happened. It was overcast and cloudy, but the skies never opened up.
What a relief since one of the best moments of my trip was on Saturday night in a field on the University of Texas campus (where I went to college) watching Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons.
I’ve been a fan of the former since the very beginning, but this was the moment I became a believer in Mumford and Sons, who were undeniably a great live band and even brought out the Austin High marching band for a few songs. It was a triumphant finish to a great trip.
A few scribbles from my notebook:
Least surprising sighting:
Of Monsters and Men in the audience at the above show. The Icelandic indie-folk outfit definitely takes some inspiration from the above bands. The crowds LOVED them at Filter’s Cedar Street showcases, especially during “Little Talks”.
New fashion statement
Surprisingly, tie-dye. But I guess tie-dye tanks are better in humid weather than leather.
New facial hair trend
Lots of it. Moustaches, beards…I don’t think it was festival laziness as a lot of these folks had facial hair “styles” for sure. Also, rat tails are back. Remember those from the 80’s? You can’t really see the rat tail on Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds, but I promise it’s there. I touched it. (At the time I didn’t even know we had the same last name!) They were really good, out of Vegas. Check em out.
Handmade or bust:
Austin’s own Shakey Graves was a one-man hootenanny who had a specially made drum – in a handy suitcase container – that really matched his aesthetic. He also makes his CD covers by hand. Love it.
Band who seemingly worked the hardest:
Delta Spirit. I saw them in the hotel lobby of the Radisson on Sunday morning and found out they had been in town for 2 week and had played 16 shows. 16 shows!
Bands I’m saddest to have missed who I heard great things about:
Django Django, Daughter, Ben Howard, Fiona Apple, Hospitality
Bands I saw for the 1st time that I’m still thinking about:
Cashier No 9, Gary Clark Jr, Quantic & Alice Russell, Tennis, Allah Las, Blood Orange, Kimbra
Sweetest backstage moment:
Watching Zulu Winter, playing one of their first ever shows in the U.S., doing a group hug before they hit the stage.
Weirdest backstage moment:
Athens-based band Reptar are already pretty weird in a funky fun sorta way. But I noticed during their set that singer Graham Ulicny’s feet seemed abnormally large. After the set, I couldn’t help but ask him what size they were, only to find out he was wearing shoes MANY sizes too big. His reason? His other shoes had holes and these were only $7.
Sponsor overload but…
Austin was overwhelmed with companies promoting their products, services and beyond. There was only one I was happy to see – Zico coconut water. I can’t help it, I love that stuff. And I was grabbing boxes of it wherever I could. Thanks for the free hydration in the 80 degree heat and humidity!
Until next year…