SXSW is over. It took me an eternity to get home. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. But — what an amazing 5 days of music! It’s rare that I get to be in a time and place where my only obligation (in between radio shows) is to see as much music as possible.
SXSW is a remarkable music festival because its key is community and enthusiasm. Being together with thousands of people who just want to immerse themselves in music is quite remarkable. Yes, there were music highlights (those coming), but there were also the non-music highlights that made the music better.
- Arturo’s (17th b/w Guadeloupe and Lavaca) – the best breakfast tacos on the planet and the entire reason we had any energy or coherence at all on the air.
- Tequila Mockingbird Studio – the staff and facilities made broadcasting Morning Becomes Eclectic live with Jason a pure pleasure.
- The Last Word – possibly the best drink I’ve ever had by a master mixologist (Rob, owner of Cedar Street). FYI, The Last Word had the last word.
- The venues – In Austin, musicians play music anywhere that people will stop and listen. A pizza joint, a bike shop, a hotel lobby, the trunk of my car (not really). Sound quality doesn’t necessarily matter when I can still hear the songs, the passion and the humanity.
- March Madness – Austin is a sports town and when SXSW starts, March Madness isn’t far behind (apologies to everyone at whom I took a swing if they mentioned the Tarheel’s season). Watching games and seeing music together is a March tradition in Austin.
- My KCRW family – If you ever get a chance to go to SXSW, make sure the most happening team of folks is guiding your way: Jason, Rachel, Ariana, Gemma, Chris, Dan, Gary, Betsy, Jessamyn
Oh yes, and the bands:
- Local Natives – from right here in L.A. They were sharp, tight, and raised a ruckus.
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Their acoustic set was more raucous than most bands plugged in.
- Rogue Wave – not only the nicest guys on the planet, but great songwriters.
- The Middle East – A subtle, intricate, soft spoken 7-piece, including when they are blowing your mind.
- The xx – if at all possible wear headphones at their live show and stand next to them so that you can feel like you are inside their instruments.
- Washed Out – Yes, they had twinges of frat-boy, laptop-psychedelia but I’m including them here on my faves list, so something got me.
- Carolina Chocolate Drops – old timey, fiddle playing genius.
- Minus the Bear – I had never heard of them until 2 weeks ago and they blew me away.
- Fanfarlo – Feel good set of the conference.
- Fitz and the Tantrums – You must see them live. Fitz and Noelle on stage are a little slice of heaven.
- Ozomatli – When the soundman pulls the plug, they just keep playing and marched straight out into the place they love best — the middle of the crowd.
- Fool’s Gold – ditto Ozomatli.
Too many honorable mentions to mention but much love to every band I saw in every nook and cranny Austin had to offer.
One final note. I was on my way into KCRW’s showcase Wednesday night when I heard the news that Alex Chilton had died from a heart attack. I mentioned this when I was on the air with Jason during Morning Becomes Eclectic but I want to share it here as well. There are a small handful of people in music who are the reason I do what I do and have followed the path that I have.
Alex Chilton, and the music he made with Big Star, is one of those. Back in my Chapel Hill days, I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him. He was irreverent, funny, sloppy, smart and well-read. A true Southern gentleman. Once again, I want to connect you to Ann Power’s beautifully written appreciation of Alex in her LA Times blog post. RIP Alex Chilton. I will miss you.
– Anne Litt