Thursday, March 23, 2017

South by Southwest Music Festival 2017 Final Thoughts

Once again, I'm going to do a brief overview of my South by Southwest experience this year. Here's a complete list of everyone I saw:

Day 1 (Monday): RF Shannon / Hot Nut Riveters / The Kraken Quartet / Fragile Rock / Hard Proof / Holladay Brothers / Madame Gandhi / Suzanne Ciani
Day 2 (Tuesday): Dude York / IAN SWEET / Diet Cig / Creepoid / Little Simz
Day 3 (Wednesday): Tim Darcy / Forth Wanderers / Aldous Harding / Merchandise / One Week Wonder / Sylvan Esso / Chastity Belt / Albin Lee Meldau / Die Heiterkeit
Day 4 (Thursday): Cosmonauts / No Joy / Free Mint / Merchandise / Death Valley Girls / Boogarins / The Blind Suns / Vedett / Frankie Rose / Ringo Deathstarr / Tempers / Indrajit Banerjee / Golden Dawn Arkestra / Matt Hollywood & the Bad Feelings / Survive
Day 5 (Friday): Let's Eat Grandma / Middle Kids / Spoon / Perera Elsewhere / Agnes Obel / Robyn Hitchcock / Ela Minus / Priests
Day 6 (Saturday): Khruangbin / Ray Wylie Hubbard / Survive / Anna Meredith / The Living Hour / The Dumplings

This was the first year in which I was (mostly) free from work for the whole week. Hence, I took my time and saw more bands than I had in any previous year. I could've seen even more, but tried not to overdo it nor stay up too late. I saw a lot of really good music, and this may have been my best year yet.

After two years of seeing and hearing about less hype, fewer big names, and a general (relative) lack of excitement at SXSW, this year seemed to put rumors to rest that the festival was losing its edge. There's still plenty of room to complain about corporate takeover, but the selection of performers was strong. On the other hand, the police presence this year was more intense than ever before, and even more than last year, I frequently heard talk of fire marshals and venues at capacity.

Correspondingly, there were many shows I wasn't able to see. Part of this may have been because film and interactive badge holders were allowed into music showcases, or it may have been that the strong lineup and increased hype meant there were simply more people at the festival, or it may have been that venue capacity limits were being enforced more strictly.

As always, there were more bands that I wanted to see than I had time for. I would've liked to see Real Estate, Jay Som, Weaves, and plenty others, but it just didn't work out. As always, there were several interesting bands that canceled after being announced (Anna von Hausswolff, Yemen Blues, Imarhan, etc.) and a few that I was planning on seeing that canceled at the last minute (Trementina and Soviet Soviet) because of visa problems that seemed to stem from the recent political shitstorm in the USA. Then there was Mammút, who canceled last-minute due to weather and travel delays, and James Chance & The Contortions, who canceled last minute without any sort of explanation that I could find.

Lastly, I will share one anecdote. While at the Levitation showcase at Hotel Vegas on Thursday, I got fairly close to the stage during Golden Dawn Arkestra's set. (I've never hidden my adoration of that band.) However, whenever I am able, I take notes and try to write down the setlist. Well, on this occasion, while looking down and writing a lyric to help me remember the name of "Dimensions", the lead singer stage dove in my general direction. Thankfully, the people around me caught him, but you can see the effect on my notes:

Pardon my bad handwriting; I could hardly see what I was writing. Anyway, that was supposed to say "Come and Join Us"...

P.S. Thanks to Jacob, Mustafa, Peter, Andrew, and Eric!

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