The biggest casualty of this year’s South by Southwest layout change was the moving of the SXSW Registration Lounge from an outdoor Brush Square, which is adjacent north to the Austin Convention Center (ACC), to an indoor hangar (99 Trinity Street) that is adjacent south to ACC. It’s closer to Rainey Street Historic District, but a construction project and closed sidewalk along East Cesar Chavez Street prevent you from walking directly to Rainey Street from the Lounge. It wasn’t the extra steps that were an inconvenience – it was the wait to cross not one but two traffic signals to ultimately cross the same road twice.
The SXSW International Day Stage
If I wasn’t promised a free drink I probably wouldn’t even bother, but Wednesday, March 15 marked the start of artists performing on the International Day Stage, which was located at the Lounge. So live music and a free drink made it a worthwhile trip; however, the venue was not as pleasant nor more inviting than an outdoor park setting. But live music and a free drink made it a worthwhile trip.
Norwegian folk quartet Darling West was my first show at the Lounge. Theirs turned out to be a fairly chill performance. The quartet mixed the right afternoon folk blend of positivity (“Light Ahead”), love (“Still Here”), and life (“Will I Ever Know”). Many of the songs played were off the band’s now-released fifth album Cosmos, which the four bandmates wrote in seclusion on the west coast of Norway. Lead vocalist Mari Kreken made it seem so glamorous by the way she told a story about how the band wrote the quasi-psychedelic “Wild Dreams” while relaxing in a jacuzzi together.
“But it wasn’t like that,” Kreken quickly clarified with a laugh and smile.
A German Singer-Songwriter, a Guatemalan Indie Pop Artist and More
At Las Perlas, Ava Vegas performed a very intimate set that showcased the German singer-songwriter’s upcoming sophomore album Desert Songs. A couple of brief set-up delays and a drunk man’s loud snide remark didn’t rattle her as she weaved through personal memories of road-tripping with her dad (“Highway”) and romance (“Swimming Pool”). The highlight was the mellow tropical house jam “Club 23,” which wasn’t typical of Ava’s art-pop style, but seemed so right.
Next door, Guatemalan indie pop singer-songwriter Tita (Mariana Moreno) rocked Seven Grand with her infectious and unbothered energy, despite this writer’s lack of Spanish – Moreno seemed to just want to sing and play her music. It was all good, especially on the hyperpop title track of her 2022 debut Mundo Cruel, and even more so when she closed her set with the refreshing pop-punk throwback “Where Do We Go.”
For the record, Creek and the Cave has the best outdoor space of all the small Austin music venues. It has trees, shade, and a very cozy backyard atmosphere, which all fit for an evening set from indie folk singer-songwriter Scout Gillett. Those who have listened to only her recorded music are missing out, as hearing her live is quite something, especially with a full band behind her. Songs like the title track to her full-length debut No Roof No Floor and “Slow Dancin'” sound richer that way, but Gillett’s music only benefited on the uptempo songs and not the ballads which is a shame.
My favorite performance of the night was Swedish indie pop duo 7ebra who took me back to La Perlas for their second SXSW and second United States Show ever. The twin sisters were promoting their upcoming debut album Bird Hour (5 May) with a music set filled with youthful angst and hopeful ambition (“If I Ask Her”). They were a great complement to North Carolina-native Indigo De Souza whose set captivated a packed audience at Central Presbyterian Church. The anthemic “Younger & Dumber” was quite striking, but the raucous “Take Off Ur Pants” really lifted my spirits. I mean, when would you ever get the chance to hear such a song at church?[photos via Tan The Man]