What does an online music festival look like? I wonder how South by Southwest organizers are going to pull off SXSW Online, but I think any SXSW is better than no SXSW after last year’s last-minute cancellation due to COVID-19.
This year will be different, with Music Festival Showcases occurring in the afternoon and evening hours of March 16-20, 2021. These will be live performances with no subsequent on-demand viewing options, but several re-runs seem to be scheduled throughout the week. That’s convenient and elevates those particular artists in a similar fashion that having double-digit scheduled performances provided – still a badge of honor.
Over 280 artists are featured this year, and up to six artists will perform at each hour-long showcase from numerous record labels, media outlets, export offices (yay, the British Music Embassy is back), and lifestyle brands. Some artists I plan to see:
- A Place to Bury Strangers
- Alexander Biggs
- Jade Jackson & Aubrie Sellers
- Say Sue Me
- TV Priest
In a way, the smaller number of invited artists provides respite from the stress of having to cherry-pick among the thousands of artists who graced SXSW in years past, as well as from hustling between the various venues in order to be on time for the next show. (As an aside, I am freed by not having to carry a couple of Digital SLR cameras and detachable lenses, but I wonder if I could actually take screenshots and/or whether they would be good enough to post in my concert reviews.)
The smaller music footprint also affords time to attend a keynote from speakers like Willie Nelson or Queen Latifah; a music-related film screening like Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free; or a music event like the Q&A with Charlie XCX. I’ve always prioritized live performances at SXSW, so I welcome the opportunity to listen to insight from artists and other music industry leaders.
However, attending live SXSW performances is a unique experience, especially in those legendary Austin spaces like Antone’s and Stubbs. Despite a more intimate feel, I suspect this year’s showcases will be not too different than many videos found on YouTube.
For those who miss Austin and still decided to travel to the Texas state capital, there will be several namesake SXSW venues, such as Mohawk and the Paramount Theatre, offering SXSW Online viewing parties – with appropriate social distancing, of course. Many bars and restaurants are probably open as well if you want to experience that amazing Austin nightlife.
But for those who can’t travel, SXSW Online VR allows a glimpse of that immersive interaction SXSW was known for sans the sweat and beer smell.
Please make sure to download the new SXSW Online app as SXSW Go is no longer the preferred smartphone app. Also, check the SXSW Schedule regularly, and please enjoy the online show!