The feeling on the final full day of SXSW Music — part of the 30th annual South by Southwest in Austin, Texas — was melancholy; it was effectively the last day of no-regrets drinking and partying while listening to some of the best artists in the world. Given the whirlwind nature of hopping around town looking for the next act to see, with each venue being very unique in its own way, the day felt like being crisscrossed around the world listening to different worldly sounds. You better soak in all the experiences before the next sunrise.
Small Live Music Venues: Who Needs Them Anymore?
While small live venues exist as part of the music industry, many involved with running these places feel the industry as a whole doesn’t care about them which is a shame given their importance to emerging artists to perform and improve. Even though concert attendance is like a zero-sum game (i.e., you can’t see two artists in two different places at the same time), each small venue faces similar challenges like revenue generation, noise complaints, rising costs and regulation.
Steve Lamacq, BBC, cited increased development as the primary pressure on small venues where small business owners can’t afford increasing rents from landowners who get great offers to build large housing complexes. And everyone on the panel lamented the loss of many small venues in their respect cities, which benefited no one in the music industry. Even large concert promoters like Live Nation joined in recent discussions because it recognizes the problem that having fewer venues would have for future artist development. In Austin, there are a few organizations that started to help lobby for these places and like the Red River Cultural District and Austin Music Group.
Sweden’s State Funded Music Development Model
In Sweden, the national government funds study circles and study associations to help citizens participate in many activities and learn about different subjects for free. For music in particular, study circles allow people to learn and train with music equipment and instruments with professionals in safe and structured environments.
Swedish artist Adée highlighted a program she started to help girls with songwriting, providing mentorship, leading workshops and getting recording studio space. The panel, which included Adée, discussed the positives about these types of music development models and how they could be applied in other countries.
Catalan musician Sara Pi roused the small crowd with her blend of soul and funk at the International Day Stage inside the Austin Convention Center. She sang her self-liberation anthem “I Have a Dream” and a colorful rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
You don’t hear rock like that of German singer Laura Carbone anymore. Her sound bordered on new wave with a dark and sensual twist. Carbone’s newest single “Swans” harkened to 80s-era leather and straps, but that description is only part of the imagery that she’s intimating. Please and thank you.
Amsterdam-native Sofie Winterson had the kind of lush electronic dream pop that you imagine play in the background of your fantasies. A sort of soundtrack to your imagination, Winterson’s sound felt appropriate as either sped up montages or slowed down emotional moments; listening to her music just made you pause and reflect. A highlight of her set included “I Only Wanted You” and “Turning.”
Overcoats’ joyful performance at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary was inspiring. The duo of Hana Elion & JJ Mitchell bounced effortlessly between folk and electronic sounds with elegant harmonies and a charming stage presence. Songs like “Nighttime Hunger” and “Smaller Than My Mother” exuded passion reserved for more seasoned songwriters, but the soul could not be ignored.
Katie Crutchfield serenaded the somber crowd at the Central Presbyterian Church as her folk music project Waxahatchee, named after the Waxahatchee Creek in her native Alabama. The American singer-songwriter enchanted the crowd with her lyrics and solo electric guitar on songs like “Summer of Love” and “Half Moon.”
Most listeners would probably recognize Transviolet by the millennial electronic pop anthem “New Bohemia” that was all over the radio a few months ago. But the Los Angeles-band foursome was a lot more than that during their final SXSW performance at the Sidewinder, filling the air with refreshing attitude and soul on “Bloodstream” and “Girls Your Age.”
NOTE: All photos by the author.