Our last day at SX started off with a lovely, honest conversation with Dutch artist Bea 1991. Not one to give many interviews, Bea had a lot to say in regards to the chaotic festival and didn't hesitate to criticize the way in which showcasing artists are expected to perform.
“You’re confronted with a set of timeframes and deadlines that are so impossible, even for me. My setup is so simple, I just sing to a backing track, imagine being a band with 5 or 6 people, how are you going to do that? Yet everyone is expected to give a perfect performance.”
The best part of the festival, she explained, was the part of the festival going on outside of the venues, the surge of local culture in the streets:
“The streets are lit. People from Austin [that havent been booked to do a showcase] are playing amazing live shows on the corner of the street, but they are the best shows.”
Check out our full conversation with Bea 1991 here:
Photo of Bea 1991 by Lizzie Ritchie
Following our conversation with Bea, we headed to the convention center to see the eccentric and legendary music journalist Nardwuar. He was sharing his favorite interview highlights from his more than 30 year career and offering his wisdom in between.Nardwuar emphasized the importance of taking risks and working hard in journalism. With the hectic energy that his fans know him for he proclaimed, “The moment you stop being afraid is the moment you should stop!” His sincerity and kindness spread across the room of eager rising interviewers and writers. The room was full with a palpable energy that became even more apparent when he opened up for questions during the last ten minutes. Dozens of people rose to their feet, took out their cell phones to take video and began creeping nearer to the stage. As the order of the room dissolved into near chaos, Nardwuar showed no crack in his friendly demeanor shouting, “I will be out in the hallway and I won’t leave until I’ve answered every question and taken every photo,” and then stage diving onto a group of his fans who carried him into the convention center hallway.
Photo of Nardwuar by Lizzie Ritchie
As evening approached we made our way to see Y La Bamba’s final performance at their festival at the Global Local showcase. The lineup of this show aimed to bring together a myriad of different cultures and artists. The crowd reacted eagerly to Y La Bamba’s performance, dancing along to every song. We also caught a set from Miya Folick at the Terrible Records showcase. Her charm and captivating vocals lit up the dark bar, for fans recent or not. During one of her last songs someone in the crowd nudged me and asked “Had you listened to her music before this?” When I nodded he said, “She’s incredible. I feel like I’m watching the next big star right before she blows up.”
Photo of Luz from Y La Bamba by Lizzie Ritchie Photo of Miya Folick by Lizzie Ritchie
After a few days hanging around the epicenter of Southby in downtown Austin, we thought it would be worthwhile to check out the parts of festival occuring outside of the official showcases in order to experience some outsider acts and hear their perspectives on the conference. A group of us made the trek outside the normal range of the lime scooter flock, whose corpses now littered the downtown, to a small single story house alongside the highway in a quiet residential neighborhood of Austin. We heard rumors that two lovely MN bands: The Florists and Products, would be performing. Once at the house we talked with both groups about their experiences at SXSW and got to see some intimate and radical performances. Hearing The Florists play songs from their new album Prayer Starter and Products play from their EP On The Dotted Line was a nice way to alleviate any lumps of homesickness.
Full interview here:
One of the stand out moments at the house show and festival as a whole was a surprise performance from the french duo Faux Real, who seemingly walked in off the street, changed costumes and launched into their dramatic performance, filling in for a band who had dropped out of the showcase. Dressed in matching all white fringe, the duo matched the carpet and background christmas lights exactly, fitting seamlessly into the house environment. Their synchronized dancing along to 70’s disco sounding backing tracks was hilarious and captivating enough; in combination with their playful yet topical lyrics on masculinity and love, Faux Real was one of, if not the most engaging acts of our festival experience.
Speaking to us after their gig, the duo was giddy with energy and offered a more positive outlook on the festival. For them the chaos was full of opportunity as a brand new group trying to carve out a foothold:
“We literally just went around with our briefcase and just knocked on the doors of the venues asking for gigs… we just figured there's going to be so much happening.”
In response to the complaints about the circus the group said:
“At the end of the f***ing day we’re not spending all our days in an office so, ya know, sure this is a bit hectic, but its definitely okay and really fun so like… embrace it.”
Hear the full interview here:
The last stop of the night was at a hip hop showcase in the thick of everything. Outside the streets were packed with people walking about, eating and living it up. Inside the venue was mostly empty except for a few fans awaiting the arrival of Chicago rapper Valee. His performance was about as low key as his music and perhaps only enjoyable to those who are already familiar with his sleek style. The quiet speaker system and awkward dudes who hopped on stage didn't help the vibe much, but thankfully a redeeming moment came at the end of Valee’s set when he addressed the crowd directly, cracking some jokes about the awkward dudes before playing a new song. He forgot most of the lyrics but it was lit, we swear. If anything Valee is fun for the small moments he creates.
Photo of Valee by Lizzie Ritchie
Written by Nathan Fervoy and Madeline Schwappach
At 9AM on the 15th of March, I was awoken by a blaring trumpet in a nearby hotel room. This is the essence of the SXSW experience. The first showcase we attended on this windy Friday was the “AdHoc Free For All”. At this showcase, we were lucky enough to hear performances from Barrie and Puma Blue. Barrie wowed the crowd with subdued bumpy synthesizers. Their melodies, too, were subdued yet transfixing. After their set we interviewed some of the lovely folks in Barrie (and get this, you can check out that interview lower on the page). The performance by Puma Blue at this showcase was also so wonderful. Their set consisted of their soft jazzy tunes from their 2 records, Blood Loss and Swum Baby. In between songs and long smooth sax solos, the lead singer from the UK, Jacob Allen, made jokes about it being their last show at SXSW because they got banned right before getting up on stage. Their goofy and fun energy paired with the serenity of their music created such a warm and intimate experience for the crowd. Almost everyone there was dancing and swaying with their eyes closed, quite possibly being the most personal moment of SXSW for them.
Barrie photographed by Lizzie Ritchie
Puma Blue photographed by Lizzie Ritchie
Later in the day we met up with our friends in Juniper Douglas and introduced them to our new friends in DISQ. We all climbed on to Juniper Douglas’ converted school bus home and did some experimental interviews. First Juniper Douglas and DISQ tried to interview each other. Next we interviewed them separately. Then Juniper Douglas asked to interview us (useful for thinking about the interviewer-interviewee power dynamic)! It was a strange reversal that we perhaps were not prepared for.
After some much needed espresso shots back at the hotel, we ventured out into the night to track down another interview. Originally based out of Madison Wisconsin with members hailing from across the midwest, the band Slow Pulp felt like a familiar spot amongst the noise of the festival. They’re sound represents some of the best of what midwestern grungy basement rock has to offer with a slow, dripping wall of sound interspersed with bright, intricate guitar leads. Paired with the breathy, somewhat haunting vocals of frontwoman Emily Massey along with her slow motion stage presence, Slow Pulp stands out from most others within their niche. Check out our conversation with the group regarding their favorite acts at southby and future plans.
Slow Pulp photographed by Lizzie Ritchie
We spent most of our evening at the Pigeons & Planes showcase at the Empire Control Room. The event featured an eclectic mix of hip-hop and rock acts, including Minneapolis artist Dua Saleh. It was incredible to see the Austin crowd hundreds of miles from Minnesota swaying to Dua’s soulful tunes. Later in the evening, Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve took the stage with their aggressive jams. Their set was the first one of the week where we witnessed the audience get rowdy. The South By Southwest environment is generally populated by people politely watching the acts and making professional connections, but while Injury Reserve was playing their noisy jams like “All This Money” the crowd opened up in a mosh pit, filled with eager smiles of music fans jostling each other and yelling along. After, we stuck around in the slightly awkward pigeons and planes crowd for a few hours, a bit bored but looking forward to what was expected to be the highlight of the night.
Rico Nasty is a 21 year old rapper out of Maryland whose popularity has swelled in the past year on the back of consistently hard hitting singles like “Smack a B****” and “Roof”. As a rising figure in modern hip-hop with a fresh take on the Sound-Cloud trap sound, we were more than excited to hear Rico live going into southby.
As soon as she blessed the stage, the subdued blogger crowd compressed tight and then expanded out, opening up into a pit of young bodies slamming against one another without direction, bouncing along to each bass hit. Rico herself stood calmly on stage as a conductor of the mass of arms, heads, and phones below. Rico’s music it seems serves as a space for letting out the suppressed and undefined anger of young people in 2019, pissed about working to hold it all together while those in change have gone astray. While knocking against each other for a few moments, this anger can be expressed in a safe-enough space before they reenter the grind of daily life. Once the show ended we were exhausted, but clear headed and ready for tomorrow.
Written by Luke Roberts, Nathan Fervoy, and Madeline Schwappach
The beginning of day 2 was all business. It’s hard to believe we have time to have a great time amidst recording and editing interviews, writing (high quality) blog posts, and trying to keep up with the stream of quality events. Our interview with Luz from Y La Bamba was a lovely way to transition from our hard working mindset into a more relaxed state. I recommend giving the interview a listen to hear about the delights and struggles about being an artist at SXSW.
Y La Bamba, click the above photo to see the whole interview. Photo by Lizzie Ritchie.
What was our day missing at this point? Listening to music! We trekked on over to the Vinyl Me, Please: Rising and caught a set by Portland Post-Punk group Soft Kill. Fog covered the stage and obscured the bodies of the performers. What was not obscured were barbed gloomy melodies. There is a certain ineffable delight in hearing cold music in a hot space.
Along with all the other young internet hip-hop fanboys who couldn't get their hands on a lyrical lemonade ticket, we stopped in at Year 0001 for what was essentially an official “Sadboy” convention. Headed by Yung Lean, the cloud rap collective performance came as a reminder of their online stardom and continued relevance in the genre. Star Sadboys Thaiboy Digital and Bladee made appearances pairing their autotuned hums with super high-def visuals, emphasizing their hyper internet age aesthetic. When Yung Lean took the stage at the end of the night, the crowd swelled with energy as the now 20-some year old fans remembered the youtube hits of their teens.
To close out the night we caught a set from Minneapolis queen Lizzo. From taking the local scene by storm to gaining national buzz for her empowering bops and unbeatable charisma, Lizzo has been drawing bigger and bigger crowds to dance at her shows. Her earnest demeanor captivated the audience at Stubb’s on Thursday night. She opened with the powerhouse title track off her upcoming album “Cuz I Love You,” to much eager fanfare from the crowd. In a sequined cowboy hat and fringed jacket, Lizzo delivered a flawless performance with messages of self love and positivity. Hundreds of people sang along to the hits like “Good as Hell,” “Juice,” and “Truth Hurts,” and songs off the upcoming album were met with eager smiles. It was a pleasure to end the day with a surge of pride for a local favorite.
Lizzo. Photo by Lizzie Ritchie.
Written by Madeline Schwappach, Luke Roberts, and Nathan Fervoy
Day 1 - March 13th, 2019
First we were sleepy. Then we were hot. Electric scooters fly by us at every intersection and cowboy hats seem normal. We got off the plane in Austin around 11AM and by 12:30PM we found ourselves in the thick of it. The first show/party we attended was put on by Stereolab and called“Range Life”. The Black Midi performance was particularly exciting. The UK based band has been getting substantial amounts of buzz despite having minimal music online. They took the stage in the hot afternoon at 3:30 to a healthy group of eager fans. “I’ve already seen them twice this week,” someone eagerly exclaimed over the overblown drone of their entrance music. On stage, their performance was electric. Their frantic vocals complimented their perfectly synchronized hectic breakdowns. Following their set the crowd erupted in tremendous applause, solidifying their place as one of SXSW’s most exciting up and coming acts to watch. After the Black Midi set we got a chance to interview Brooklyn group Charly Bliss. Check out that interview lower on the page.
Charly Bliss. Photo by Lizzie Ritchie.
Check out Real College Podcast's coverage and excerpt of the Charly Bliss interview here.
After some much needed recuperation and a walk to a gas station to get fruit nectar we hit the streets once again. Another excellent performance of the day was Sarah Tandy et al. playing at the Jazz Refreshed UK Jazz Showcase. I wish I knew the names of the each performer because they were all exploding (in the best way).
We also caught a set from Portland based indie folk musician Haley Heynderickx. Last year, Heynderickx and her took SXSW by storm with charming performances off of her album I Need To Start a Garden, this year, at the midpoint of the album cycle she played a simple setup, just her and her guitar. During the performance, the crowd was smiling ear to ear at her charming asides and banter. Before playing one of her last tunes, she encouraged everyone in the audience to introduce themselves to a stranger while she bashfully tuned her vintage guitar. Her final remarks were tips to everyone for getting the most out of their South By experience: “If someone says their business before their name, they want something for you. Humanity is more important that statistics. If someone doesn’t like you before they know what your job is, you deserve better.”
Haley Heynderickx. Photo by Lizzie Ritchie.
Following her performance we bounced to see upcoming pop star Donna Missal. From her first song, the crowd was visibly impressed. Several people looked around asking “Who is she?” obviously impressed by her charisma and powerful vocals. We also stopped by the Polyvinyl / Double Double Whammy showcase to get our daily dose of sad jams with some Radio K favorites like Hovvdy, Lomelda, and Shy Boys.
Donna Missal. Photo by Lizzie Ritchie.
Finishing out the night, we mustered all of our energy to see the French electronic duo Justice perform a surprise DJ set late at night. The crowd was abuzz (and not just because the event was sponsored by Bumble) with anticipation at the unique opportunity to see the group perform live. Their set lasted nearly two hours and included an eclectic mix of songs ranging from their own hit “D.A.N.C.E.” to the 1960’s classic “Be My Baby” by the Ronnettes. The venue was packed and people were dancing enthusiastically until the last note. A fitting ending to an exhausting and exhilarating first day at South By.
Written by Luke Roberts and Madeline Schwappach.