Review: SXSW 2023 Festival Highlights

by Austin 101 staff

We saw so much this year that it’s hard to put into a concise summary. From film festival red carpets and amazing film and music conference panels and keynotes, to an array of incredible live music showcases all around Austin, we hit it all. Here are just a few of the top things we witnessed.

BrooksTop 5 Highlights

Camacho (Terry Crews) launched his presidential run at Bangers with middle fingers in the air during the Camacho national anthem. Rapper Armani White kicked things off with a high energy set to a packed bangers courtyard with fans fueled by a special edition Camacho Energy drink. The evening ended with an epic presidential address by Camacho himself and a fire set from Grammy award winning bassist Thundercat!

Rock Legend Robby Krieger of The Doors with special guest Dennis Quaid lit up The Belmont with a full set of Doors songs! Krieger (77 years old) didn’t miss a note on his many electric solos and didn’t seem to want to leave the stage. He even auctioned off a signed guitar to one lucky online bidder!

Back to the Future and Family Ties star Michael J. Fox made an appearance at the Paramount theatre to debut his documentary “Still”. Fans shared their personal connection to loved ones also battling Parkinson’s and often merely shared testimonials and words of appreciation of everything Fox has done to help fight the debilitating disease.

Rays Benson’s Birthday Bash is an annual highlight of SXSW with this year being one of the highest attended, due mainly in part to Austin indie rock titans “Spoon” rounding out the perfect evening put on by HAAM. Happy Birthday Ray!

A SXSW hit list wouldn’t be complete without a music showcase at Hotel Vegas. New York’s Susu played the sexiest set of the fest removing their flannel tops to play with small straw hat pasties which included a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction nip slip halfway through their set. Despite the sex appeal, Susu played an incredible set that had the Eastside crowd singing and dancing along while warming the stage for Austin’s own “A Giant Dog.” If you’ve seen “A Giant Dog” live, you know what kind of energy they bring. With Hotel Vegas being somewhat of a home-base for them, the set couldn’t have been better which included football shoulder pads, mosh pits, and crowd surfing into the wee hours of the morning.

Ursula’s Top Six Standouts
Bottoms: SXSW 2023 held the world premiere of director Emma Seligman (Shiva Baby)’s new film “Bottoms” starring long-time friends Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott. I was thoroughly entertained by this queer ‘Fight-club’ inspired raunchy teen comedy. The casts’ chemistry even showcased itself during the red carpet and after film discussion. I recommend it to fans of Superbad and Booksmart.
Evil Dead Rise: Long time fans of the horror franchise should be pleased with this newest installment. Personally, I will never look at a cheese grater the same way again. Our newest protagonist takes up the chainsaw mantle well. Women in horror films has been one of my favorite things to explore. Here’s hoping that one day they get the recognition they deserve.
Jazz Refreshed: This British jazz-musician showcase was absolutely one of my musical highlights for SXSW. The way the musicians and crowd fed off each other made the experience that much better. I appreciated how even one of the bands, Steam Down, managed to incorporate elements of reggae that added even more texture to their musical tapestry.
Pleasure Venom: Local band Pleasure Venom is known for their outspoken political stands, punk rock stage presence, and talent. Frontwoman, Audrey Campbell held the crowd in the palm of her hand during their performance and after. When the crowd stuck around to hear her opinion on fair pay at SXSW for performers.
Kyle P. Walker: I got a chance to see this classical pianist perform at Esther’s Follies of all places. His skills are obvious, and Kyle’s performance showcased his love of music. I noticed he started off with well-known musical pieces and composers, then gradually moved on to unknown composers from marginalized communities. I had a chance to speak with him and he is truly passionate about his craft. He belongs on the Mount Rushmore of good dudes along with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, and LaVar Burton.
Swarm: From the minds of Donald Glover and Janine Nabers. During the showing, someone threw up about 3 ft away from me between kills. Longer review to come.

Albert’s Top 5

William Shatner keynote interview; he spoke with great passion and energy about his past acting roles, about his flight into space with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and when Tim League asked him what would he say to a person in a movie theater whose phone went off, Shatner responded by saying he would tell that person to “shut the f#ck up” (said in a funny way. Shatner even asked the person doing American Sign Language how to say that phrase, but the interpreter was hesitant to sign it out for Shatner. DJ Jester was playing tunes before Shatner appeared which made it a lively and musical keynote session.

Martina McBride book signing: It was a quiet event with people showing up to get their book signed by her-she has a cooking show and a new cookbook. This country music icon was so personable and spoke with each person to get a little background about them and each person took a photo with her. It was a fun and chill event.

Killer Mike: The audience was enthusiastic about seeing him and he made a statement that he bought 14 lbs of weed with money from the first record contract he got. He said that it took a lot of effort and struggle to make a name for himself in the rap genre.

    Tetris red carpet: when actor Taron Egerton appeared, crowds went wild when his car pulled up in front of the iconic Paramount theater. Eager fans had movie posters for him to sign and he took several selfies with them- he seemed like a very down to Earth person.

    Deadmaus/Billboard showcase: Kx5 concert at Waterloo Park…huge crowds. There were 2 DJs that opened for headliner Deadmaus; DJ Garrett was first and then DJ Soxxi, which didn’t have much of a light show. The Kx5 light show was mind blowin. DJ Soxxi played good sets with lots of Spanish song remixes. He also remixes of songs by Adele, the Killers, Jay Z, Rihanna, Katy Perry, TLC, Gwen Stefani, & more.

    Stacey’s Top 5

    The Chess club hosted the showcase of the recently rebooted Creem magazine bringing young acts everywhere from Chicago to Mexico in what they claimed as “Austin’s only rock and roll party.” It was as unapologetic as the print with standing room only to watch the bands make their debut.

    Rolling Stone Magazine brought a 4 night “Future of Music” showcase to ACL Moody Theater with 20 must-see acts gracing the stage. Macklemore closed out the set with a surprise performance and bit of nostalgia to his own start at SX.

    SPIN took over the Stubb’s Amphitheatre stage, cut short during Renforshort’s set on the second night with a thunderstorm but the party continued for those who were shuffled into the inside stage where the rest of the bill brought an intimate performance to some lucky attendees. This included the night’s headliner, Killer Mike, who returned with a solo performance.

    Netflix’s new dark comedy “Beef” debuted at The Paramount with actress comedian Ali Wong and “The Walking Dead’s” Steven Yeun parading the red carpet alongside creator Lee Sung Jin, director Hikari, actress Ashley Park, and executive producer and director Jake Schreier.

    The Doc Martens showcase moved to the Clive Bar on Rainey Street to join in on the wave of music in the Southtown bar district. With free tattoos and a pop-up shop they continued their vibe of artistic collaboration with international emerging artists from K-pop to drag, continuously unifying artists and alternative culture.

    Check out all the photos, previews, reviews and more on Austin 101.

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