Like all good things, there’s generally work that has to be done before you can start to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you’re really lucky, you enjoy that “work” part as well. Unfortunately, music-making is no different.
As prestigious as it is to perform at SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas, music-making is still a business. Musicians have to make a living too, which is why I always appreciate artists who don’t shy away from mentioning how they scrape by and try to earn an income in so many various ways to achieve their music goals.
Touring is a grind within itself, but SXSW can feel like a grind within a grind because the 2,000+ showcasing artists perform as many shows as they can within a week basically for free, and all while trying to catch the slightest buzz.
British soul singer-songwriter Yola performed a song called “Love All Night (Work All Day)” about the grind that most people endure, but in an empathetic soulful way. Charleston, South Carolina-based rock band The Artisanals mentioned the band’s struggles, which unsurprisingly manifested their way into the band’s songs. When you blend ’70s heartland and alt-Americana rock, it’d be hard not to capture those emotions (“Country Roads Town”), especially when you’re on the road so much of the year.
Looking back, I didn’t realize my Wednesday (March 13, 2019) would include so much easy listening. Brooklyn-based indie quintet Pavo Pavo performed many pleasant-sounding songs on the Radio Day Stage, including some from the band’s recently released sophomore album, Mystery Hour.
At St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, I received a wonderful surprise from the trio City of the Sun, which wowed with its remarkably moving instrumental stylings that paired perfectly with the hallowed setting.
J.S. Ondara followed with a similarly moving solo set, interweaving folk song and story to give better context to his music. He was inspired to write an entire album about what it’s like to live stateside (Tales of America), which he punctuated with a retelling of a joke by John Mulaney on the Stephen Colbert Show about a horse running around in a hospital. Next, singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham performed songs (“All at Once”) from her recently released EP, For the Sake of the Rhyme.
With so many ballads and downtempo songs, New Orleans native Sweet Crude provided the right change of pace with energetic pop songs such as “Sunset.” Full disclaimer: The band’s lyrics are both in English and Cajun French, so don’t feel obligated to fully understand the words, only the emotion. The performance highlight was the rousing “Mon Espirit” with vocals from the female co-vocalist, Alexis Marceaux.
It was actually the perfect bookend for Wednesday. It started with a high energy performance from Norwegian dream pop band Das Body at the Convention Center’s International Day Stage. Lead singer Ellie Linden sang a brief verse of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” before the band performed its ode to Elvis with “Graceland,” “Boys” was a great retro disco tune.
But my night ended with Sweet Crude’s addicting “Isle Dans La Mer” continuing to play in my head as I headed home: “Marié avec un concept / (7.5x nah nahs) / après coucher avec un sentiment / (7.5x nah nahs).”
- The Artisanals – “First Time”
- Das Body – “Taller Than the Average Man”
- J.S. Ondara – “American Dream”
- Madison Cunningham – “Beauty into Clichés”
- Pavo Pavo – “100 Years”
- Yola – “Faraway Look”