The cluster of venues, houses, parks, empty lots under bridges, random balcony’s and every corner that house the thousands of bands and the endless music are between Cesar Chavez and 8th street from Rio Grande street and beyond Red River. There are a few venues outside of this, for example the Levi’s purpose built stage over the east side of the bridge on and the Stout Inn, the Lustre Pearle which is the biggest ‘badge’ only party, and on the other side of town Stubbs is one of the biggest public venues, acts like Sharon Jones, Broken Social Scene, Spoon and I hear Muse is playing there too. It’s all ages too which is really cool for the under 21ers around town. (see photo, this was when Spoon played on Wednesday night).
The streets of Austin are full to the brim with people running to and from gigs, in and out of hotels, or just walking around singing a tune, literally there are hundreds of cats just cruising along singing outloud, sometimes someone joins in but they just keep walkin’ and talkin’. There were even a bunch of kids rockin’ a renegade set up with a collection of mis-matched speakers and what can only be described as an all in jam and a sound that was unlike anything I’ve heard before, think garage punk but in an empty lot and times it by a million.
By the time I fly in, check in and claim my ‘badge’ I stop in at the Trade Show. The Trade Show is one of the least attended things, normally, this year they moved it down to the first level and by the time I got there all state associations and Sounds Australia (who are running the Australian stand) were all scampering about looking for more stuff to give away. So obviously this year was much more effective.
Finally I eat and then the night time gigs are happening, every artist invited to showcase at SXSW gets an official gig, then they do another hundred more during the week. Tomorrow Dappled Cities are doing two shows, for example, one straight after the other. During the day label, magazines, clothing and sound wears all put on random parties enticing people with free shoes, jeans, beers and with free food being the kicker.
Remember the streets I spoke about that create this box of all-the-time music? Well at night, this is a whole new kettle of fish. The streets are packed, there are thousands of people that come to see the music at SXSW, fans of music. They all hang out on 6th street at night. By the time I figured out what was where and who, Pivot had already played to a massive and very attentive crowd at The Phoenix and Darren Hanlon performed at the Velveeta Room.
I found myself in the Beauty Bar Back Yard to see Danielson, a group from the east coast of the states, and an awesome collective of bands I’ve never heard of but will probably go and see again. By the time I got home the 21 hour long day felt like a week and that humble plane that flew me to Austin was all but a distant memory. And the start of SXSW, bearings laid.