Freshly returned from Texas and with his ears still ringing, picks out the bands and acts that shone the brightest at SXSW 2015
ZZ All is quiet in Austin on the day after South By Southwest 2015 has come to a close. The visitors are heading home; the locals are getting back to keeping Austin weird.
This bout of Lone Star state March madness may have highly regarded interactive and film strands, but it’s the music festival that is still at the heart of the SXSW experience.
Music is the biggest contributor to the stats that make the event look so impressive to the world at large. In the space of five days, you’ve more than 2,000 bands in town to play to around 300,000 people – ensuring a bonanza of $315 million for the city.
SXSW is big business. You can see it in the number of brands jostling for a toehold in Austin . Some got traction for all the wrong reasons. McDonald’s landed here for the first time this year, but faced criticism for initially planning to not pay acts who played its events. Every time we cycled past its stage on Red River & 5th, it was largely deserted, save for a forlorn looking Ronald McDonald.
The McDonald’s marketing team’s post-mortem won’t be the only glum one from this year’s event. It would seem that all the bad press around SXSW 2014 – from the tragic car crash during the festival to the corporate heavy handedness that was particularly striking last year – has had a knock-on effect.
Crowds appeared down over the course of the music festival, judging by the ease of getting into daytime shows, while a lot of music-industry folks clearly decided to give Austin a miss this year. There was a dearth of crowd-pulling talent, with a lot of marquee bands deciding not to play the branded shows and grab a big pay cheque. While there were some well-known acts in town (from Future Islands to D’Angelo to Flaming Lips), it wasn’t a patch on previous years.
But we weren’t here to see acts everyone already knows about. The best thing about SXSW Music is that it’s still a magnet for the best new bands around. You could spend all day every day, from mid-morning to the wee small hours, checking out wannabes, will-bes and, inevitably, never-gonna-bes on stages in bars, venues, clubs, backyards, car parks and other makeshift spaces all over the city.
Here, then, are 20 acts from this year’s SXSW draft that we reckon are going to hang around.
You could spend all day every day, from mid-morning to the wee small hours, checking out wannabes, will-bes and, inevitably, never-gonna-bes
Madisen Ward & Mama Bear