SXSW 2013 Day One – March 12th

sxsw-2013-logoDay one of SXSW was as chaotic as we expected but was a great experience nonetheless. Here’s our recap of yesterday’s events straight from Austin’s own Thunderbird Coffee.

After a fantastic vegetarian lunch at Bouldin Creek Cafe we arrived at the Austin Convention Center to get our press passes and photo credentials. It was a madhouse. Movers and shakers from across the planet were hustling and bustling all over the convention center. We, like all the other attendees to one of the world’s largest music festivals, were trying to look professional and like we knew what we were doing. We didn’t, of course, and we did not fool anyone. But to be fair, they weren’t fooling anybody either.

Once we got checked in and got our press credentials, schedule and map, we were certifiably lost. There were very few daytime showcases and way too many showcases all at the same time in the evening. We bartered with a bartender at Maggie Mae’s for an order pad and a pen, and we treated the festival not as a romp with buddies in the Texas Capitol, but as a way to bring TBI our best efforts on accurate and expansive media coverage.

David and Scott stopped in briefly to see Indians, a one-man electronic shoegaze band we featured as one of our Top 25 Bands to Watch at SXSW. They didn’t stay long, since he will also be playing an in-store performance at Waterloo Records later this week, and they had to get to the guaranteed-to-sell-out iHeartRadio SXSW Showcase featuring Josh Baze, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Atlas Genius and Tegan and Sara.

The show was packed, as expected. Josh Baze took the stage at about 9 p.m. and crushed it. Doting a Biggie Smalls sweatshirt in honor of one of the most influential rappers in history, Baze and his band, featuring a saxophone, drummer and DJ, wowed the crowd and showed Texas how New York rap is supposed to sound.

[youtube id=FgF5fKfEdMM]

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage at 9:40 p.m. for a full-energy performance. All guest performers appeared for the number one hits “Thrift Store,” “Can’t Hold Us” and Same Love, but unfortunately the quality of the sound was god-awful. Something was wrong in the transition that made the treble absolutely piercing. To be fair, we were right on the fence of the outdoors stage at the old Emo’s and likely assumed the risk of the likely permanent hearing loss we endured. When you go next year, buy earplugs just to be safe.

The show made a bold stylistic transition from the high-energy Macklemore to the heartfelt indie rock of Atlas Genius. Lead singer Keith Jeffery’s voice crooned to an exhausted audience, but the sound issues were pretty much solved, and the show went forward with great success.

IHeartRadio made a huge mistake with its headliner, though. Not only did Tegan and Sara start nearly 20 minutes late (a very unique anomaly for SXSW, a festival so big that it is still dedicated to promptness and schedule accuracy) but the promoter of the show insisted that only its media cover the headliner. Since our photographer was essentially kicked out of the club for not being a corporate elite media representative we had to enjoy Tegan and Sara from the very back row. Still, they sang beautifully and we’d love to be able to say more.

While David and Scott stayed put for the night, Everett traversed Austin, catching great bands all over the place: Ivan and Alyosha, The Lone Bellow, Tall Ships and Youngblood Hawke.

Ivan and Alyosha, a tight, high-energy indie rock band from Seattle, Wash., was at the Feed the Beat Taco Bell stage. Their acoustic instruments accented by electronic elements and paced harmonies that move into faster interludes made them quite a show to see. Their music was beautiful, but reminded us of too many other artists. Still definitely worth checking out, though.

[youtube id=Gsnrzr0Bm80]

The Lone Bellow is an out-of-place country band that will surprise you that they’re from New York; they sound like they are straight off of Tape Alley in Nashville. The Paste Magazine Showcase was full of Yankees talking about moving from Brooklyn to Manhattan while we were all pretty sure The Lone Bellow should relocate to our side of the Mason Dixon.

Tall ships is a three-piece from the other side of the pond. UK hard rock guitar tones coupled with soulful lyrics made them an intense show to witness. The best part was that they were playing at the British Embassy Showcase at Latitude 30, the only showcase that, and we quote, “isn’t sponsored by chips and crackers.”

Youngblood Hawke was at the MTV/VH1 stage, an incredibly poorly organized showcase given the sponsors are supposed to be the leaders of the music television industry. Despite that, the Los Angeles dance-pop quintet was a great show with incredible live presence. The lead singer alone is worth dealing with the ungodly heat of a poorly ventilated room and MTV and VH1’s impossible staff.

As you can imagine, Wi-Fi is highly sought after and ungodly slow in most places, so we had issues getting our Dropbox sent back, but you can expect a full photo gallery from each day here on out.

– David Dorer & Everett Verner