SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The picture left shows 6th street which is one of the main bar/venue streets for sxsw. They close it off to traffic and as you can see it's busy all the time. Come midnight it will be jam packed with people hopping from venue to venue, trying to see as many different bands as possible.
Yesterday when I was wandering around trying to get my bearings I kept seeing signs on bars and restaurants saying "Best Brunch in town" & "Cheapest Brunch" and I wondered what the fascination with brunch was. I now understand! After a late night (or early morning) finish it's very unlikely that many people will require breakfast. I finally had mine at about midday. I then mosied on down to the Convention centre to the stage there and spent a good chunk of the afternoon watching a succession of different bands and performers there. It's a good place to see an eclectic mix of genres, with the added bonus of a cafe to keep the stomach happy, and plenty of chairs to sit on (a very important factor at my advanced age and general state of relaxation).
I had better record who I saw while the memories are still fresh: a female singer songwriter by the name of St Vincent (nothing really stood out for me), a large group called Oakley Hall who performed understated lo-fi pop songs, a rapper call Busdriver, who had great stage presence and energy, but totally incomprehensible lyrics (my application to be a High Court Judge is in the post), the commercially suicidally named Holy Fuck, who I only went back to watch because of their name, and who turned out to be a great mainly instrumental synth based band who also had a guitarist and drummer. They played really fast stuff that I really enjoyed. Then came Stars of Track and Field (who I may have heard of before, I'm not sure) who were very good as well - fast guitar based songs with good hooks, and finally, just before I left, Martha Wainwright (any relation to Rufus? I don't know), another acoustic singer songwriter, with no backing band, who attracted a large crowd.
I also spent a bit of time wandering around the Trade Show part of the Convention centre - loads of stands with people either promoting bands from their particular region or country (there were stands from UK, Australia, New Zealand & Canada, among others), who all gave away free CD samplers of the bands they had at the festival. There were also music industry stands - everything from instruments and gear to CD recording companies, and loads of websites that will manage your material and sell it online for you (be warned Smyth, I've got loads of ideas for you to think about!). Generally a real freeby fest. I now have enough CDs of unknown bands to keep me interested for months.
It really is amazing how many bands are here - as well as the official venues (there are 1300 official bands) there are other bars and places having their own lineups of artists, mostly local or US bands, and a lot of the venues have afternoon shows as well - you could watch non-stop music from about 12 midday until 2am the next morning if you so desired. Obviously the quality can leave a bit to be desired in the afternoon, but the quantity is still impressive.
While I was watching and listening this afternoon I managed to find a couple of free papers with all the listings in, and reviews of a lot of the bands, so tonight I have a bit better idea of what's on where and when so I should be able to hop between venues a bit more. As the bands have to take down their gear and the new one has to set up and tune up, there tends to be a reasonable gap between acts so it's quite possible to nip out, see a bit of someone else and return to the first bar in time to see the next act you wanted to see. Maximising your viewing capacity. Among the bands/artists I will try and see tonight are Thomas Dolby (mainly because I heard a rumour when I was a kid that he went to my old school), Amy Winehouse, Badly Drawn Boy, Albert Hammond jr (he of the Strokes) and The Fratellis. I also have a list of unknowns that sounded like stuff I might like as well.
Just to annoy Faz, as he wasn't able to come, I should point out that Ian McLagan of the Small Faces lives out here now and has been performing stuff of theirs, and was joined on stage by Pete Townshend last night as well (he's here as a keynote speaker). Also Donovan (yes the original one off the 60's) was here as well playing in a Church hall of all places opposite my hotel. I saw the name but assumed it was someone else. I saw the review today that said he saw so many canes and crutches among the audience that he thought it could be a faith healing service!
Anyway that's enough for now. A shower and change of clothes & I will be ready for the fray. More later - or should I say tomorrow?


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