More than 2,000 bands converged on Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW festival; naturally, Jim Carroll was there to separate the merely great from the must-hear-nows. Here’s his SXSW 2012 list
IT WAS BRUCE Springsteen who had the wisest advice of all for the thousands of new bands in Austin, Texas last week. “Rumble, young musicians, rumble,” the Boss told them at the end of a fascinating, rumbunctious, funny and heartening keynote speech during South By Southwest 2012. Not that many of the acts needed Springsteen’s encouragement to rumble. Not, indeed, that many of the acts were probably around for Springsteen’s high-noon presentation. They were either in bed or playing yet another gig somewhere else around town.
For new acts and fans of new music alike, SXSW in March has become an annual pilgrimage. More than 2,000 bands from all points north, south, east and west descend on Austin for a musical jamboree that’s bigger, brasher and better than anything else on the planet.
But the new acts seeking to make a name for themselves are just part of the SXSW musical pie.
The festival’s huge success and profile means more established acts now arrive in town to grab some headlines and traction for themselves and their new album or tour. Thus you had secret and not-so-secret shows all week by such big-name acts as Springsteen, Jay-z, Eminem, The Roots, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nas, Erykah Badu, Rick Ross and others.
Competing with those marquee names for attention is difficult, yet the beauty of SXSW is that there is room for all. Not everyone can get to see Jay-z shilling for a credit card company in a 2,000-capacity venue, for instance, but those who don’t get in can go off to find other bands to check out. It works, after a fashion: we’ve yet to hear of any band who played a SXSW show to absolutely no one.
A noticeable aspect of this year’s event was that it featured a lot of repeat bookings from 2011, which is an indication and acknowledgement of the fact that it takes time for a new band to develop. It also meant that those of us who’d raved about acts like Grimes, Oberhofer and Reptar last year could say “I told you so”. We’ll hopefully be saying the same thing about many of the names on our list in 2013.