Monday , May 20 2024
The Zombies at SXSW 2023 (photo: Tan The Man)
The Zombies at SXSW 2023

SXSW Music Festival 2023: Friday-Saturday, March 17-18 (Austin, TX)

The biggest source of anxiety when attending any festival such as the SXSW Music Festival 2023 is FOMO – fear of missing out. There is only so much time in the day, and quite frankly it would be impossible for anyone to try to schedule an ideal lineup. You would have to align your schedule that revolves around the set times of hundreds of artists and dozens of venues that avoids the schedules of thousands of other people.

It’s impractical, and almost insane. The best you can do is make a list with one or two backups in case someone cancels, the venue is full, or you’re suddenly stuck in the bathroom for longer than you care to admit (i.e., hungover) and have to cut your travel time.

My FOMO moment at the SXSW Music Festival 2023 was Irish singer-songwriter Sorcha Richardson. I passed on seeing her Thursday night because I thought I would be able to see her Friday morning at an Irish Breakfast event. WRONG. I should have realized a free event that advertised free food would be popular and seeing the long line broke my spirit.

Rock Legends The Zombies at SXSW Music Festival 2023

I was more than disappointed. I settled on recovering from my disappointment with aimless wandering, lots of beer, and a long walk to Lady Bird Lake to see Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Zombies perform a mix of new and classic songs in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Lead vocalist Colin Blunstone sprinkled in many fun stories throughout the band’s delayed set, which featured some new tracks (“Different Game” and “Merry-Go-Round”) from their recently released album, Different Game. However, the crowd understandably reserved its best reaction for the band’s performance of “Care of Cell 44” and “Time of the Season” from their legendary 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle.

As an aside, the Lady Bird Stage always seems like a scheduling afterthought. Seems like a missed opportunity with the amount of available space, which could be the best place for a festival-within-a-festival vibe. It would still have to be a free community event, but there’s no reason more music, comedy, or other live entertainment can’t be staged there.

Alien Tango at SXSW 2023
Alien Tango at SXSW 2023

The International Day Stage, Parker Jazz Club, and the Chess Club became my go-to venues where I spent most of my time on Friday and Saturday.

Even though I disliked the location of the International Day Stage, it was a very casual place where I knew I could catch good music like alternative rock quartet The Scratch, whose eclectic blend of metal and traditional Irish melodies (“Excuse”) proved refreshing. Despite being on another music spectrum, Spanish multi-instrumentalist Alien Tango (Alberto Garcia Roca) was fascinating. It’s hard to describe how eclectic the music is unless you can picture a trippier version of The Polyphonic Spree. Check out “1000 Years” if you get a chance; otherwise he’s got a debut album due out later this year.

Eydís Evensen at SXSW 2023 (Photo: Tan The Man)
Eydís Evensen at SXSW 2023

I hope I’m not spilling a secret, but a great place of respite in such a chaotic atmosphere is the Parker Jazz Club. It can be a lively place but also a place to listen and absorb. Icelandic pianist Eydís Evensen essentially hypnotized the audience with her beautiful compositions (“Dawn Is Near” and “Tephra Horizon”), while Brazilian-American singer-songwriter Alexia Bomtempo wooed with her sultry jazz numbers (“Even Now” and “Suspiro”).

SXSW 2023: Foyer Red and Glass Mansions at the Chess Club

I ended both nights at the Chess Club. I’ve never heard of art-punk before, but that genre perfectly describes New York-based Foyer Red. It felt like the band rushed through its set a bit, as lead vocalist Elana Riordan never seemed to skip a beat and slowed in any way. The surreal “Gorgeous” might be the best of their tunes, but you have to wait for the debut album Yarn the House Away to be released later in May for more.

I didn’t think I’d say this, but Austin-based alt-pop duo Glass Mansions provided a satisfying end to my SXSW. With synth, rhythm, and attitude, the duo brought the head-bopping beats that people other than me could dance to (“Standing O” and “Nightswimming”). I anticipate a new album is forthcoming since most of what I heard was not findable on Spotify, but I haven’t been able to confirm this. Regardless, I didn’t seek to prolong my evening, as I walked down East 6th Street one last time before I headed to bed.

SXSW, goodnight.

[Photos via Tan The Man]

About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, and Wizard World Comic Con.

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