Friday, March 20 marked the fourth day of the 29th annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
As previously forecasted, there was drizzle and rain during much of the day, forcing many festivalgoers to snap up ponchos and raincoats from happy merchants all across downtown and East Austin. I stayed indoors as much as possible, trying to keep dry, but ventured out on a few occasions when I wanted to see a performance outside of the Austin Convention Center.
SXSW Keynote Conversation: Snoop Dogg
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble provided the opening musical number for the keynote.
Easily one of the most entertaining sessions of SXSW, Snoop Dogg’s keynote in the form of a candid conversation with his longtime manager Ted Chung was funny and informative, giving the capacity crowd an inside look into what drives and motivates the famous Long Beach rapper.
The conversation covered Snoop’s rap battles, getting introduced to Dr. Dre, his leadership qualities that were molded playing point guard (basketball) and quarterback (football), his deep love and respect for his mother, his friendship with Willie Nelson (both love animals and grass), his new soon-to-be-released Pharrell-produced album Bush, painting, and his happiness with helping to send dozens of boys from his Snoop Youth Football League into Division I colleges.
Should Music Mags Survive or Get Killed Off?
The panel’s answer to the session title was a resounding NO, music magazines should persist. However, each panelist lamented how much the industry has changed over the years. Jim DeRogatis, Host of WBEZ Chicago/Sound Opinions, opined about the superiority of music magazines over blogs, saying that the “magazine is a community and resource center” with no comparable substitute.
Although this was not in the session description, a good portion was devoted to gender issues in the industry, with Ann Powers (Critic and Correspondent, NPR Music) and Jann Uhelszki (Co-Founder, Creem) both saying that the current state is better for female writers (Powers even declared this the “golden age”), but more was needed. Seeking advice for being regularly rejected as a female writer, Uhelszki told a woman in the audience to be persistent and not take no for an answer. Powers then suggested the woman join the Facebook group Binders Full of Women Writers as a good resource.
Fest Forward: The Future of Music Festivals
Moderated by Martina Wang, Head of Music and Entertainment at Eventbrite, this session offered insight into the current state and future of music festivals. The panel also included Art Gimbel, Co-Founder of Fest300; Hugh McIntyre, Music Writer for Forbes; and Tom Russell, Founder of the Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York City. One fascinating statistic revealed was that one in five millennials went to a music festival in the past year, which is astounding and supports the reality that many festivals cater to younger audiences.
There was a discussion on expectations and luxuries. Many people expect festivals to have an associated smartphone app (some organizers consider it a luxury given its high development costs). When mentioning his own Governor’s Ball, Russell lamented how little attendees cared for the art displayed all along the festival grounds despite the big art push (i.e., bigger budget). In terms of the future, Gimbel thought that the boutique festival experience would be trending in the next five to ten years (i.e., think more art and wine co-branded events).
I can’t remember where I was walking to in the Convention Center at noontime, but I wandered around near the International Day Stage and caught the latter half of Yorkshire-native Brolin. I didn’t know what to expect from the masked musician, but I found his easygoing house sound quite soothing, from “Lost N Free” to the passionate minimalism of “NYC” to “Swim Deep.” As he tried to persuade the audience to check out his performance later that night at the Swan Dive (which would be just his second American show, he confessed that it’d probably be the exact same set, which reminded him of Groundhog Day. Having a laugh, he dedicated his final song “Reykjavik” to Bill Murray.
Sound problems crept up during Lenka’s intimate performance at the West Tent next to the Convention Center. They didn’t seem to bother the Australian singer-songwriter, who persuaded her guitarist to join her offstage for an acoustic performance of “Long Way Home” surrounded by everyone in the tent. Lenka was playful and surprisingly positive despite the audio feedback issues, bouncing from the dance pop of “Heart Skips a Beat” to her new single “Blue Skies” before ending it with her hit song “The Show.”
I finally caught a performance by critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett who was playing her eighth and final time at SXSW (might that be some sort of record?). I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything negative about Barnett’s music as she seems to be indie rock’s “it” girl.
It was fairly obvious from the large crowd that many people still really wanted to hear her live, cheering wildly as she performed “Dead Fox,” “Avant Gardener” and “Pedestrian at Best.” Since Barnett and her bandmates are from Australia, there was a kangaroo balloon on the stage, which was tossed into the pseudo moshpit and bounced around as the set ended with “History Eraser.”[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00UI240BA][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00SSL4DA6]