Over 2,200 bands played over 100 venues (official and unofficial) at SXSW 2013. It’s quite daunting to sum it up, but one of the best parts of the festival is the “choose your own adventure” nature of things. Everyone has a completely different experience based on chance encounters, flippant decisions, and what their weariness will allow them to accomplish after days and days of hoofing it around the city of Austin.
Here are a few of my favorite moments and reflections after seeing dozens of shows over the last six days:
- Favorite sets overall: Rhye, Caveman, Toro y Moi, Ra Ra Riot, Dan Croll
- Best overall musical moment: KCRW’s night showcase ended in epic fashion – with fans rushing the stage and dancing as DJ duo Flight Facilities played “Stuck in the Middle With You”. It was a moment of pure unadulterated musical joy.
- Bands I’m sad I missed and heard great things about: Disclosure, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Jamie N Commons. Also, Usher and Afghan Whigs!!!
- Unexpected sighting: Pharrell Williams at Haim. And he was ultra excited when they covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”.
- Best serious SXSW conversation: Talking to Wayne Coyne and Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) about people not wanting to pay for music and what do to about it. Wayne has a whole theory – a banana principle – about our expectations to have bananas readily available anywhere in the U.S. for super cheap even though they don’t grow anywhere near us. It’s all about expectation, supply and demand. People still want music, they just don’t expect to pay for it. (Check out Amanda’s recent TED talk about the “Art of Asking”.)
- Worst fashion trend: High-waisted jean shorts (unless you’re the male guitarist in Andrew W.K. with the total 80’s haircut, he can get away with it).
- Tip to bands: Say your name after every song. EVERY song! You never know who might be walking by and dig your sound.
- Tip to bands #2: The people in the audience will judge you more by how you treat the sound guy and what you say on stage when things aren’t going your way. It’s a lasting impression.
- Tip to fans: If you’re going to crowdsurf, keep your feet in the air and DON’T spend the moment videotaping it with your cell phone. Especially if it means kicking a nice young lady in the face.
- Best audience appreciation: Macklemore. I saw him mostly out of curiosity and was pretty blown away. He’s thankful and appreciative of his fans. Most artists should be so gracious (on top of being talented)
- Best trend: People singing along loudly and unabashedly.
- Instrument trend: Keyboards in almost every single rock band I saw.
- Single song I was most excited to see: Shout Out Louds’ “Walking in Your Footsteps” at Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street
- Super poppy song I can’t get out of my head:Fittingly, from a duo called Icona Pop. This is dance around your room like no one’s watching music I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) by Icona Pop
- Favorite band from Norway: Young Dreams. It sounds like just what a band called Young Dreams should sound like. Think Beach Boys/Vampire Weekend/ Fleet Foxes
- Bands with new recordings in the works that I want to hear: Mont Lyons and The Moth and the Flame
- Best random find while walking downtown: The Specials playing “Message to Rudy”. At first I just thought they were playing great music between bands. Then I realized it was live and ran inside!
- Best Cover: There’s a tie for Tom Odell doing the Stones “Honky Tonk Women” and Wildcat! Wildcat! doing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.
Personal rock star moments: meeting Depeche Mode backstage before Jason interviewed them, dancing to an after party playlist put together by Jim James (which included Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me”, Prince’s “Sexy Motherf*cker”, Rob Base’s “It Takes Two”, Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle”, and Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By”, standing side stage during Andrew W.K.’s punk rock party set, and having Devendra Banhart tell try to sneak me into the SXSW Artist Lounge by telling someone I was the singer in his band (his new album “Mala” is fantastic — I WISH I were on it!)
And if you don’t have an armful of wristbands, here’s another way to do it. Rooftop lawn chair party. Thank you SXSW for another great year!