With a much smaller fest this year (100 fewer permits issued for events), fewer attendees, last minute additions, an immigration controversy and fewer A-list bands attending (Weezer was a headliner), we found new venues and artists to focus on. Long gone are the heydays of SXSW with Blondie, Soundgarden, Greenday, Deftones, Drake, LL Cool J, Gaga, Justin Timberlake & Prince (played the small La Zona Rosa in 2013), With notably absent Spotify House, Perez Hilton’s Party, Hype Hotel and smaller Fader Fort and a different venue for Spin Magazine Showcase (Spin at Stubb’s has been a staple and our fave party of past fests), the main events became Waterloo Records, Rachael Ray’s Feedback Party, Empire Control Room, Music is Universal (UMG) at Antones, Apple Music, Pandora Music, Garth Brooks, YouTube with Solange, T.I., Lil Wayne, Gary Clark Jr. and the Music Awards. The result is making SXSW as it was originally intended- discovering great new music. See our full music photo gallery here
The SXSW music festival portion kicked off with a great opening night party at Maggie Mae’s where we caught buzz-worthy band Chk Chk Chk. This pop-funk duo reminded us of Fitz & the Tantrums and were all over the fest and ‘the band to see’. The biggest names and “must see shows” were Gary Clark Jr., Weezer, Avett Brothers, Polica, Wu Tang Clan, Jimmy Eat World, Mastodon, The Chainsmokers, Third Eye Blind, Lil Wayne, Asap Ferg, and Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s sister). See Solange photos here.
Austin’s own Gary Clark Jr. closed out Friday night at Levi’s Outpost on a tiny stage with a small but enthusiastic crowd- “It’s great to be home” Clark said. Austin had other great showings at the fest from Spoon, Hard Proof, Bob Schneider, Tameka Jones, Octopus Project, and Gina Chavez.
Best new music we saw: Maggie Rogers, TeiShe, Ocean Park Standoff, Cloves (UK), Hamilton Leithauser, The Drums, The Skins, Chk Chk Chk, PWR BTM, Diet Cig, Girlpool
Shows we’re bummed we missed: Prince Tribute (Prince’s band The Revolution w/ Wyclef Jean), Grandmaster Flash, The Lemon Twigs, Lana Del Ray (private Apple party), Erika Badou, Thievery Corp, De la Soul, Oshun (NYC), Margo Price, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Garth Brooks, The Roots, Dreezy (at UMG at Antones), Chainsmokers (at Sony), Joey Bada$$ (at NPR), Polica, Sylvan Esso, Cherry Glazerr, No Name, The New Pornographers, Lizzo, Benjamin Booker, K-Pop, Modern English, Emily Estefan (Gloria’s kid), Hooray For The Riff Raff, Valerie June & Elle King (Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion), Ryan Adams (canceled due to illness), Flatstock, KUTX show, MTV Woodies, The Shins (rumor only) and British Music Embassy
The annual SXSW Austin Music Awards , which moved to ACL Live this year, are always a highlight as they honor the best of the local music scene. Huge performances by legends Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Kat Edmonson, Steve Earle, Charlie Sexton, and more. The biggest surprise was a visit by Chrissie Hynde who just came from opening for Stevie Nicks at Frank Erwin Center that night. For a full list of winners including Hayes Carll, Warren Hood, Gina Chavez, Shinyribs go HERE.
The SXSW Music Conference Keynotes were very interesting this year: Nile Rogers, Zane Lowe, & Garth Brooks. First, music legend & multi-Grammy winner Nile Rodgers told stories of working with everyone from Prince to Madonna to Sister Sledge and Bowie and collaborations with Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”). He continues to re-invent himself. He even got his guitar during his talk and played riffs of his popular songs describing their creation-awesome and unconventional. His past is epic- from Sesame Street to meeting Joe Jackson, Timothy Leary, Prince,
Most notable was Brooks (a late addition) and a highlight with a packed room of fans and musicians listening intently to his every word as he talked music, family, the bible, good manners, and giving back. Garth was on a panel with Amazon Music’s VP Steve Boom (Brooks waited until now to partner with any streaming agency and requires only full album sales/streaming so that people can discover new music). They discussed the popularity and evolution of ‘Alexa’, music statistics (Brooks has an MBA) helping songwriters and what inspires him.
He’s so passionate about the music industry needing to bow down to songwriters that he advocates the creation of a union. He said Nashville has lost most of its songwriters because they can’t make a living anymore and how wrong that is (Austin is the same). He gave a shout-out to pal Stephanie Davis who lives in Austin and was in the audience. Davis who wrote/co-wrote many of Brooks’ songs including the political “We Shall Be Free” (which he recently re-released to combat racism in America today here). He also discussed writing meaningful songs about important topics that will never sell as a single, just so that they can be heard and affect people. We love that he listens to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jason Aldean (& his muscles), and our fave Bruno Mars.
For a moment, the full-bearded Brooks was a regular guy (a cowboy), dressed in old jeans, boots (of course), t-shirt, ball cap and plaid shirt. Brooks often took the lead, standing up and talking directly to the audience- he was super engaged, polite, and really connected with people and always asked for their name when asking him a question. The biggest take-away was not his exclusive deal with Amazon but his realness, his humility, his coolness, & his desire to bring people together and heal the world through music-and of course the fact he chuckles about being Mrs. Yearwood. One of the biggest bangs of the fest was his last minute free concert at Auditorium Shores- a huge success with tickets selling out instantly to fans excited to see the country music legend.
The Music keynote with Zane Lowe, a New Zealand DJ/producer & Apple’s Beats1 DJ, was interesting and had mixed reviews but famous interviewer Nardwuar helped end on a high note showering Lowe with gifts and an impromptu interview.
Other highlights of the music conference were sessions with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), Sammy Hagar, Darryl McDaniels (DMC of Run-DMC), & Rachael Ray. Some could say there was a connection to promoting products (new book release etc.) but we truly felt inspired and the most inspiring & emotional story had many in the room near tears. McDaniels talked candidly about the days when he wanted to commit suicide and how he discovered therapy and how it saved his life (and where he rediscovered his love of comicbooks which is a new passionate second career (DMC comics). He even rapped here and there-old school.
Novoselic who with Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and the band, pioneered the ‘grunge’ music scene in Seattle. Fans were somewhat disappointed that most of the talk was political as Novoselic has been tackling the huge topic of civic involvement, voting reform and FairVote– a proposed new way of creating voting districts that include more than two parties (there were flyers showing proposed Texas Districts). Sessions we were bummed we missed: Mike Posner, Kesha & the songwriters panel.