SXSW Music Festival 2021 made its SXSW Online debut on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. In writing that lede, I suddenly had Terminator flashbacks of SkyNet becoming fully self-aware and unleashing Judgment Day on the world; but no, today wasn’t the apocalypse.
After a near-complete day of attending the curated Music Festival Showcases, I still have mixed feelings. Although, I confess that not being on U.S. Central Time impacted my schedule a bit as I missed a few of the early afternoon showcases – shame on me for skipping mimi bay.
I’m also still a bit undecided on how to best “review” these snippet performances. BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland is the closest comparison to how I think these performances feel like watching on a screen.
It’s probably unfair to critique an artist based on a handful of songs, even if they’re pre-recorded. And it’s definitely unfair to critique an artist based on the format that was beyond their control. In a way, SXSW Online’s channel format is akin to switching between MTV, MTV2, and VH1 and trying to find a good music video – and yes, I just dated myself.
Since many of these showcases seem pre-recorded, I appreciated those showcases that had a unique spin. Nothing against British Music Embassy for having its artists perform on various stages – hence the earlier Jools Holland quip. But seeing how record label Dedstrange crafted a ’90s cable access television vibe – complete with a special pedestrian bridge performance by No Age’s Randy Randall (“Pillow Fight”) – better persuaded me to not shift my eyes onto my nearby laptop.
I’ll say the same for the Seitrack Music Showcase, as most of the showcase artists felt empowered to perform in non-stage environments: Ximena Sariñana and Kinky were at home while The Change was on a stool. Shoutout to Magdalena Bay (Luminelle Recordings Music Showcase) for performing behind a green blanket to easily inject those lovely postproduction special effects – and the music was great too.
With a still undecided path forward on a review, I’ll leave with my two favorite performances: Walt Disco and Jealous. Scottish goth-glam band Walt Disco is the kind of band you wish to see live at SXSW, but I’ll settle for its well-choreographed jog-in-place dance during “Cut Your Hair.” Berlin-based punk rock trio Jealous was refreshing with a low-fi confidence that takes your breath away.[Screenshot via Tan The Man]