SXSW Festival Wrap-Up: The End.

I hesitated, spun around on the spot and snapped a couple quick photos. Almost immediately his focus changed as he stared into the camera lens, the slightest smirk hardly visible under his hedge-like beard.

“Do you want a hug?”
I lowered the camera, “Absolutely” I grinned.

He was a good hugger, surely from experience, and with a hearty chuckle and a couple pats on the back I felt the loneliness wash away, if only for a moment.

It was at this point I realized I’d spent the entire festival taking shots of artists and venues, while completely ignoring the most quintessential element of SXSW. The people. The majority of my time was spent people watching and navigating the massive crowds. Groups of friends stood on every street corner, laughing and slapping shoulders, retelling the events of the night before. Old friends stumbled into one another, eager to share their experiences and compare them to previous years. Droves of fantastical lunatics dressed like peacocks wore vibrant displays of colors and clothes, desperate to attract the attention of a suitable mate. While street performers garnered small crowds as they put on eclectic pop-up shows. The streets were constantly abuzz with life, laughter, and of course, music, and the city of Austin was undoubtedly alive.

I decided on the final day to drink in the atmosphere and turn my lens to the people and places of Austin. As such this post wound up being something a little different, and is more akin to a photojournal than a blog post.

Despite the clouds, it was another warm day at South By, and everyone was in good spirits in the early afternoon, eagerly anticipating the inebriated evening events that were only hours away. This was the scene at East 6th, the heart of SXSW.

The city of Austin was bursting at the seams, and high-end apartment complexes were in construction all over downtown. This particular high-rise was on the west end, on my way to the Quantum Collective Day Party on top of Whole Foods.

At first I had no idea who this woman was, until she played the iconic song “Tom’s Diner”. It was none other than singer/songwriting legend and the “Mother of the MP3″ Suzanne Vega. The song she wrote back in ’81 was about Tom’s Restaurant in New York, famously known as ‘Monks’, the frequent meeting place of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer on Seinfeld. It was a bit of an eerie moment for me as she shot a look into my eyes.

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Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner

The scene atop the Whole Foods was very mellow; kids ran about in the background while soccer mom’s mingled with the peaceful, yet strinkingly alternative music crowd. There was free soda pop and coconut water abound, and it was the most serene moment of the festival. Eventually, by will of the sheer good vibrations, the sun poked out of the clouds, and as I sat in the mulch behind the stage I began to deal with another wave of nostalgia from my time at the Calgary Folk Fest last August. This was the closest atmosphere to the Folk Fest, and a much needed afternoon of calm, musical therapy.

From Suzanne Vega in ’81 to electro-vets from 2001, the scene suddenly jumped twenty years as Dirty Vegas showed up to play an energetic set consisting of old hits and new material. Once again, I wasn’t even sure I recognized the English duo until they busted out their smash-hit “Days Go By”, a song that garnered a huge following more than a decade earlier.

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Dirty Vegas – Days Go By

The feature performance of the Quantum Collective Day Party was one of my favorites, We Were Promised Jetpacks. After missing the first few songs of their set the other day, I elected to go out of my way to catch them play in their entirety. I also took the opportunity to approach Adam Thompson, shake his hand, and introduce myself as equal-parts blogger and rabid fan.

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We Were Promised Jetpacks – Moving Clocks Run Slow

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We Were Promised Jetpacks – Roll Up Your Sleeves

It was an energetic set in front of the free-spirited, peaceful afternoon crowd. Kids bounced on their parents shoulders and late-twenty-somethings stood misty-eyed as they recalled their infatuation with indie-rock before their iPod’s took a dramatic turn towards Jack Johnson and the like. The performance was capped off by a rare, yet hilarious mistake, as Adam fumbled his chords several times and proclaimed “Whoops” mid-verse. The band was still busting a gut as the song ended, mouthing “Whoops” to one-another and enjoying a full-bodied chuckle.

The sun began to sink as I started the long walk back to the heart of SXSW.

One thing I noticed about the street culture of South By was that it was very difficult to discern between the homeless man and the street performer. This gentleman was accepting donations in the form of phone numbers, and surely had stable housing considering his twitter account.

The value of social networking was very evident, as street performers often broadcasted their twitter and instagram profiles. Charles drew a modest crowd as he plucked the neck of his guitar with great finesse.

The crowds became much more viscous as the sun began to set on Austin, one last time. Although the majority of festival-goers weren’t stumbling just yet, there was certainly a buzz that proliferated throughout the crowd.

I caught this gentleman in the middle of a very intense “guitar” solo. He actually had a pretty sizable stack of cash in his “tip box”, and was generous enough to pose as I strolled by.

Surprisingly, not every show in the middle of the street was allowed to continue. Officer Beck shakes hands with these unknown artists as they are forced to pack up their performance. In all fairness, they had a full band playing in the middle of the road, but the attitudes of the police were still quite accommodating throughout the run of the festival. I took note of the artist wristband on the bearded gentleman, and wondered who they were.

Pedicabs were the only logical way to get around town. For a modest fee of ten dollars, you could enjoy the serenity of a quick ride from one end of town to the other. The driver’s themselves were often quite eclectic, and at times would wear outlandish costumes and dress up their cabs with flashing lights and booming speakers in order to attract potential clients. The few pedicab drivers I spoke to were quite annoyed with this practice, and although business was booming for South By, both Manny and Ian had informed me that it was extremely difficult to make money due to the sheer volume of pedicab drivers.

They would park at the end of Red River Street near Rainey, and wait upwards to an hour to catch a fare. Despite appearances, the pedicabbies were quite organized, and fare’s would be doled out based on which driver had been waiting the longest.

This was my home away from home, The Art of Tacos on Rainey Street. I ate here every day, sometimes twice, and was always greeted with a smile and a laugh from the people running the small food truck. They were very hospitable during my stay, and served up a generous amount of meat and toppings every time I ordered. I absolutely loved these guys, and I made sure to shake some hands and say goodbye before they packed up in the morning.

I went back to my hotel for one final recharge before heading out into the night. Lady Bird Lake was a most gracious host, and I sat in the park overlooking the water on several occasions throughout the week. I was always struck by the juxtaposition between the madness of the festival and the park I had to walk through to head home.

The garbage, much like every festival I’d ever attended, had reached a critical mass in the evening. However, as a testament to the spirit of SXSW, people did whatever they could to avoid actually littering, including precariously setting their garbage on the edge of the bin. Although I made note of the ecological impact, when I awoke the next morning I rather shockingly discovered that every trace of the festival had been removed. Apparently, teams of garbage disposal men are sent out on the last night around 4 in the morning and they swept the streets from top to bottom. It was quite incredible, and aside from the odd poster here and there, it was a completely different city only a few hours after the last artist played the last set.

My other second home, The Hype Hotel, played host to an extremely bizarre performance by Sophie and A.G Cook. It was a strange piece to witness after the show by UK’s Miley Cyrus, Chloe Howl. Their unique electro-set nearly tore the roof down while a hired model stood in a blow-up pool full of beach balls. With each song she moved on to another menial activity, playing with her hair, laying down and reading a magazine, or simply staring off into the crowd in no particular direction. I exchanged a lot of “What the fucks” with at least ten different attendees, and scribbled frantically in my notepad as I awaited for the final show of the festival.

This was not the bedroom chillwave I fell in love with. Ernest Greene took the stage sometime around one, and my curiosity about his live performance was immediately quashed upon the first song. It was upbeat, energetic, and every bit at place with a summer festival. I was completely blown away. The presence of actual instruments had a massive influence of the sheer sound and relentless positivity erupting from the stage. Ernest was flanked by a handful of talented musicians, including his wife, and his performance was one of the most energetic and exciting shows of the entire week.

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Washed Out – All I Know

I first heard “Feel It All Around” back in July of 2009. It was the start of my beautiful relationship with The Hype Machine just after I signed up for an account, and an inspiration for me to open up my world to the ever-expanding universe of new music. “Feel It All Around” was the definition of chillwave, an emerging subgenre of tranquilized synthetic bedroom pop, and audio-therapy for anyone prone to stress and anxiety. In many ways, my musical career is the result of this song, and even five years later it sits atop my “Most Played List”, still as fresh and as poignant as ever. To hear it live on this day, at the Hype Hotel, was poetic justice, and although the pace was quickened and the sound wasn’t the same song I’d heard over 250 times, hot, fierce emotion pumped through my veins. In that moment, I lost myself. I was music.

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Washed Out – Feel It All Around

“I hope you’re not all sick of live music” an out-of-breath Ernest Greene quipped to the crowd.

After seeing somewhere between 30-50 bands (I lost count quickly), in many ways, I was becoming a bit jaded with the performances. However, Washed Out was at the top of my “Must-see” bucket-list, and despite the exhaustion of a week-long beer and taco binge, I was bouncing on my heels the whole set. Seeing an artist live can yield a number of different results, but sometimes, the live set transcends the music you know and love, and becomes something wholly larger than the mp3′s you loop in your iPod. This was one of those shows, and Washed Out had uncorked pure, emotional bliss.

It was the only performance I’d seen all week that had an encore, and unfortunately one of the negatives of being at the very front-and-center of a set is that you have access to the set-list taped to the floor in front of each musician. Although I wasn’t surprised, I was thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy an elongated performance by one of my favorite bands. Ernest was constantly working at his craft, and throughout the night he delved into every EP and LP he ever released, adding new layers and fine-tuning instrumental elements of some of his oldest songs. It was as if his music was constantly evolving, and the emotional peak of the performance hit with his last song, “Eyes Be Closed” from 2011′s widely successful album, “Within and Without”. It was a full-blown sensory overload, and I let the atmosphere completely overwhelm me.

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Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed

The walk home was a high like I’d never experienced. The drunkards were in great spirits as they wandered back to their hotels, and the entire week began to flash through my memory. From the nervous first few hours and the conflict with the hotel, to the Mel Gibson look-a-like and the tragedy only a few days ago; it was all capped off with one of the most energetic, emphatic shows of the festival. The feeling was bittersweet; my time at South By had come to an end, and I was met with mixed emotions as the reality began to set in. I had one more full day in Austin before my flight back home, and I knew the view from the very top had come to an end. Until next time Austin, you were a most gracious host.

(Much love to the volunteers and festival organizers who surely endured more stress than they deserved. Thanks to Elizabeth Derczo and the Press team for the opportunity, thanks to Anthony V of the Hype Machine for the last-minute VIP ticket, and a special thanks to all the people I met, and those who may or may not have read my massive wrap-ups.

And of course, thanks to James and Damon, without whom none of this would have been possible)

———————-

Stay tuned for my final word, coming up in the SXSW Epilogue.


Soulection + Tom Misch

Two fantastic discoveries for you today. First up is the Soulection White Label series. The series highlights short 2 to 4 track EP’s from some of the most forward-thinking artists worldwide with a new release every Friday (#WhiteLabelFriday). The series is only available on Soundcloud; a digital source that embraces new music as it becomes available almost daily now. And if that doesn’t sweeten up your weekend enough, every release has a sexy album cover designed by the very talented Andre Power to accompany each artist.

Last week saw the addition of Tom Misch to the series. He’s an 18 year-old composer, songwriter, guitarist, singer and violinist that produces all his music in his bedroom in London. He has a fantastic knowledge of obscure jazz and R&B inspired hip-hop beats which help create a very smooth and intelligent sound. His goal is to “make instrumentals that will effect peoples mood in a positive way but also make people think.”

Download his latest release entitled Beat Tape 1 on the Tom Misch Bandcamp page.

Tom Misch - The Journey


Jneiro Jarel


More commonly known as DR. WHO DAT? -has got to be one of the more influential hip hop producers of my era. With a insane traces of abstract thought he’s produced beats and tracks under aliases such as Shape Of Broad Minds and has performed and collaborated with similar experimental artist such as MF DOOM, TV On The Radio and Count Bass D.

Now it seems that Jarel has been workin hard since his latest release as JJDOOM with underground legend MFDOOM titled “Key To The Kuffs“. after takin a good gander around th ethernet i was only able to come up with this teaser of what sounds to be like some newer material that he’s been working on via his instagram.

…and of course thats all he fuckin leaves us with. As the Redbull Music Academy applications get review you can look forward to spotting Jarel as one of the original RBMA Alumini.


Throwback Thursday

Went digging through the old inbox this week and came across another unannounced gem of an artist: I✇KA, a 24 year old producer based in Dresden, Germany. There is no way you can lock this guy down to a specific genre; his sense of sound is extremely vast and his music ends up being incredibly layered because of it. Here are a couple of my favorite selected tracks to give you a taste. Give him some love on Hype Machine if you like what you hear.

Ioka – 2 too many
This is the first track Ioka sent us a little over two years ago now, and I remember ear-marking it way back then. It’s collected a little dust since then, but it’s fitting after readying his original message saying “2 too many is my Next Rough Work inspired by Western Movies! Great Diversity with some really Dusty Vocals and Beats!”

Ioka – Maybe Somewhat Somewhere (feat. Yazzmina)
Definitely one of Ioka’s more chilled out tracks, “Maybe Somewhat Somewhere” transports you into the safety of a Japanese zen garden.

Ioka – Jasmin Wuyuann №8 (feat. Yazzmina)
“Jasmin Wuyuann №8″ is a great example of how Ioka’s music can be quite cinematic. He partners here again with Yazzmina to narrate the track with some incredible vocals.

Ioka – Black and Tan Fantasy
Continuing to show his versatility, here’s Ioka exploring his Blues side.

Ioka – Meine Mama hat eine Kamera im Bad angebracht. Sie sagt ich bade immer viel zu lange.
This was one of the longest and hardest tracks for Ioka had to complete and might have something to do with the title. It’s one of the longest song titles I have ever come across (it means “My mum put a camera in our bathroom. She said my baths are too long” in English). But it is an epic of sorts. With an overture of glitch driving you through a tense soundscape of melody.


Syncopated Rhythms

Ever find yourself lost in a journey of the astral variety? Waves of time chilling down your spine. Infinitely searching for perfection in the cosmos? With my heart set on my big move out to the last frontier (Alaska, for all you geographically challenged fools) i found myself tuning into some slower, more “lax” bumps and beats that surely induce you to your own personal lofi setting. (Note to readers: all tracks are best enjoyed with a mug of coffee one of those bagels with onions in ‘em)

El Iqaa
An electronic act from Lebanon? i really haven’t a clue about this band/group/person? but i can promise you that it’ll leave you ears dripping for more. El Iqaa’s later release “circulate Ep” definitely begs for a more serious review and doesn’t quite mesh into the slow-slippin category as maybe Daedalus or Flying Lotus can be thrown into but definitely has influences from both.

Helios
With a few musical aliases (Goldmund & Mint Julep) Helios, performs many well known covers and composes music for films and television. more notably he’s done work for facebook’s “A Look Back” track appropriately named “Years“. Among many other tracks he’s composed or in this case “re”-composed, Boards Of Canada’s infamous Sixtyniner originally released on their Twoism EP back in the groups 2002 reissue.

Calmer
A talented Collin M Palmer from the Brooklyn-area wraps his wave like emotions into a onslaught of loops and mixed drum patterns to create a window of rainbows. influences ranging from Miles Davis to Squarepusher, Calmer does exactly what the moniker beckons; Calmer.

18 Carrat Affair
All the cool kids bother and pester me into listening to Com Truise. I’m down but as for the indie aspect of things i rather dig Denys Parker and his super funk. Almost nostalgic, 18 Carrat Affair layers his sounds using what sounds to be tape machines and no over-dubs. Keep an ear peeled for new stuff regarding (I’d like to think) one of the better one-man lofi acts coming out of Missouri.

Lowercase Noises

This is not elevator music. nor is it baby-making music. But it will in fact make babies break out into a soft sob. You could probably imagine Lowercase Noises being found in a cheese-ridden love story. Like the “Notebook”. or “Blue Valentine”. Fact is, is that you wont and although it DOES sound like it’d fit into any movie starring Ryan Gosling; Lowercase Noises is much more than that. Andy Othling incorporates awesome ambient vocals, soothing guitar effects and well composed pianist skills with a dash of classical strings. One of my favorite multi instrumentalist in the Albuquerque area, Andy continues to treat with sultry sounding albums that convey a sense of sadness and yet simultaneously, hope. You can hear more of his work here

BBNG

As i tuck up my incredibly huge boner for live/jazz performances, i’d like to leave you on a high note/dick tip of BBNG (Bad Bad Not Good) and their musical magic. For all the noobs who haven’t heard of them, they’re a 3-piece jazz set from (who the fuck cares?) the moon and they utterly kill it when it comes to underrated young jazz musicians. After getting their foot in the door so-to-speak by covering and then later producing tracks for the infamous Tyler, The Creator they haven’t slowed down one bit. and i dont blame them. here in this particular live performance they’re heard covering some of James Blakes innocuous dubstep CMYK/Limit To Your Love. Needless to say, unless you’re planning a trip to the (obviously cooler) Europe, you wont be finding these dudes touring anywhere near the US.


X-II

X-II brings an analog element back into music. It’s a new sharing platform centered around physical tapes. With everything being so digital today, it’s easy to forget the time when sharing music meant creating a cleverly made mix-tape cassette. X-II brings that old school mix-tape experience back.

Here’s how it works. You can discover the contents and journey each tape has taken by simply tapping it with your iPhone. You become a part of the tape’s story by adding a track and a picture. Once you share the physical tape with a friend you are linked with the tape forever and can follow its journey.


Theatre Of Delays Remixes

Theatre Of Delays is hard at work again, this time with a brand new compilation EP of the tracks he’s been invited to officially remix. The upcoming EP included six remixes that are going to be released in late April / early May and we’ve be lucky enough to snag the first remix off the EP. The track is called “Lama” and it comes to us from a dreampop shoegaze duo called Ummagma. Ummagma’s vocalist, Shauna McLarnon, has an absolutely ethereal voice that is only amplified by the far reaching synths that Theatre Of Delay’s applies to the track.

Ummagma – Lama (Theatre Of Delays Remix)

Listen to a preview of the remix EP here


Sleazy McQueen

Owner of the Whiskey Disco record label. Pioneer of the “Nu-Disco” genre. Orlando, Florida native.

Sleazy McQueen is one very productive artist with loads of releases under his belt as well as a remarkable amount of re-works and remixes. The Sleazy sound combines the dirty fun of seventies funk with the catchy rhythms of deep house. I came across his track “Mrs. Vanderbilt” last week, and I think it perfectly sums up a relaxing sunny ‘sit-back and enjoy’ Sunday afternoon. Guaranteed you’ll be singing “ho..hey ho” by the end of the track.

Check out Sleazy’s new Crystal Lake LP on Soundcloud.

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Sleazy McQueen – Mrs Vanderbilt