A week late, but here’s my fourth day of South By Southwest.
On the Friday of SXSW I started to really feel the weight of the days previous on me. I was slow to get out of bed, but that was okay because the first panel that pertained to my interests was at 12:30pm, so I had some time. Thankfully, other people staying for SXSW at the Lotus House were kind enough to lend me a ride to the Convention Center across the bridge.
The first panel was the first that was directly pointed at the college radio market. I got there late, but the gist of it was administrators from college radio stations were asking other admins from their radio stations how they go about booking concerts. Some stations were talking about how they were booking huge artists like Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar to appeal to more students. They were able to book the bigger acts by charging for tickets, much like how SUBOG throws big shows.
After that panel I ran down the hall to go to a panel about Record Store Day and how record stores are bringing in more people now than in the past 20 years. One record storeowner from Raleigh, NC, was on the panel and he talked about how they just built a bar into his store, increasing attendance and income significantly. The idea of turning record stores and bookstores back into the areas where people can just hang out is such a cool idea to me.
After that I went down to Waterloo Records and picked up a few records to scout out some gems. I ended up picking up Fear of Men’s “Early Fragments,” Marissa Nadler’s “July,” Tim Hecker’s “Virgins” and Bibio’s “Silver Wilkinson.” The task now was to carry around these records for the rest of the day – not an easy feat.
It was about six o’clock at this point, which means I was heading over to the Central Presbyterian Church for the Pitchfork showcase, which featured a ton of my favorite acts like Angel Olsen, Hundred Waters, and Real Estate. The flyer said that doors would open at 6:00pm and the first act would go on at 7:15pm. Doors didn’t end up opening until 7:30pm, and the first act went on at about 7:45pm.
The entire audience was sitting in pews in this medium sized church, so visibility was limited depending on where you sat. Sometimes standing around and waiting for hours is better than sitting in pews for hours. Pews make me really sleepy, so at a certain point I was definitely falling asleep.
EMA was on first and I didn’t really have any expectations coming in. They put out a record in 2011 that I was pretty lukewarm about, but the upcoming album of theirs is supposed to be really good, so I was interested. The church provided for some really interesting acoustics, and with EMA’s digital drum textures and Erika Anderson’s deep, gravelly vocals. They played a quick set but I was really engaged in it the entire time and got me excited for their upcoming record.
Angel Olsen, the musician behind one of my favorite albums of the year so far, was up next. She came with a full band of an extra guitarist, a bassist and drummer. Her set, like her record, was super sleepy and at certain points in the set I was struggling to stay awake. Not that the set was bad or boring, it was that the music was very slow, melodic and I was sitting in a cushioned pew. If that isn’t a recipe for slumber, I don’t know what is.
Third on the roster was probably the artist I was most excited to see all week: Hundred Waters. They released their debut LP in 2012 and it went under the radar for a ton of people, which I thought was a tragedy. They mix electronic and organic textures so beautifully and with the lead singer’s voice, their music is like weaving a magical fairy tale complete with darkened edges and glowing pixies. Anyways, their set was great. It was interesting to see how they incorporated certain sounds in the live setting, but the whole performance was immersive and all that.
The fourth and fifth acts, Mas Ysa and Forest Swords, were primary electronic sets. Mas Ysa has opened for the likes of RZA and Deerhunter, which is pretty impressive. His set was pretty enjoyable – he had really emotional singing in front of a huge deck of electronics, which didn’t really seem necessary but who am I to judge that? Forest Swords’ performance sounded exactly like their record, which was a bit underwhelming to begin with. That was probably my least favorite of the entire week. So sleepy!
After Forest Swords, the night jumped in quality by about ten steps. Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters performed songs off of his new album and boy, can he write a song. He commanded the audience easily and it was so clear that he has been doing this for such a long time. This was also the first time of all SXSW that people in the audience were catcalling the performer. People in the audience were yelling, “We love you!” and “Don’t stop playing!” throughout the entirety of the set. I’m glad I was able to see such a musical legend during my week among all the buzzbands I ended up seeing as well.
The last band of the night was Real Estate, the kings of the laid back chilled out rock music of the ‘10s. They played a generally laid back set primarily of songs from their newest album. However, it was about 1:30am at this point and the entire church was kind of falling asleep, including Real Estate. They looked like they didn’t really want to be there and powered through their set. One song I’m really glad they played was “Suburban Dogs” off of their first album. Other than that it was pretty standard.
Oof. Long day. Saturday, though, was an even longer day.