Arriving early in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest means you get to sample a bit more of the city and a bit more of the music festival than you probably wouldn’t otherwise experience during the scheduled period (March 12-18, 2018).
Like last year, the music portion started one day earlier on Monday, but that didn’t necessarily provide attendees with an additional full day of music programming. Instead, it encouraged attendees to check out other conference sessions and possibly mingle with interactive portion attendees before they exited.
Similarly, official concerts were few and far between. Fortunately, the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 provided the goods, starting with a free Sunday night show. Singer-songwriter Emme Woods gave a soulful set of blues and rock, including a sassy performance of “I’ve Been Running.”
The range of indie trio Wyldest was quite stunning, as they mixed dreamy ballads (“Wanders”), shoegaze stoner rock (“The Poet”), and dream pop (“Stalking Moon”). LIFE closed out the showcase with your typical Brit punk tunes full of angst and political rage (“Euromillions”). I remember lead singer Mez – I couldn’t find his full name – spent more time singing in the crowd and standing on furniture than performing on stage, which delighted those who were close enough to be perspired on.
Even though Monday was the official start day to the music festival, the number of official concerts only slightly increased from the previous day. The result was long lines for about a dozen venues. I managed to get into Mohawk to catch Field Report, but the indie band performed in the small indoor room which was packed like a sardine can; I decided it wasn’t worth my time to simply listen to the performance from the bar outside the cramped room.
For those in the know, guitar legend Kaki King performed a special rooftop set at Palm Park. It was an adaptation of her multimedia show for her recently released The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body album. With the night sky as her background and light coming only from imagery projected onto her guitar, King dazzled, memorized, and serenaded the crowd all at once.
German psychedelic pop band Fenster had the most engaging set, which never seemed to stand still. That probably sounded silly in describing a show in which no band member danced or moved beyond their “personal space,” but the quartet crafted a sound that was continually engaging. With songs about regret and the universe, Fenster provided more food for the soul than most motivational speakers.
I failed trying to see Emma Elisabeth, Jaguwar, and Lola Tried because of full venues before randomly checking out Taiwanese experimental folk band Prairie WWWW at Elysium for my final show of the night. I couldn’t hear anything folk about the band except for the use of a flute-like instrument in one song. The stage was almost completely dark for what I thought was no reason, but apparently there was a miscue and the band’s renown multimedia act was cut.