South-by-Southwest returned to Austin, a week earlier this year, but still extended to Monday-Saturday, March 11th-16th. Even without University of Texas teens volunteering or partying during their spring break, there was a strong turnout. Yes, SXSW isn’t the massive sponsored juggernaut it was even just five years ago, but instead there was a diversity of acts playing downtown, often multiple gigs over the week, and you could actually see a lot of what you intended to (and still get free drinks).
SXSW Music heats up as SXSW Interactive winds down. The Interactive portion has grown & grown, from launching apps to this year hosting numerous Democrats running for President. Monday was an odd combo of the two, people leaving, people arriving.
Heard Presents / Prism.fm showcase @ Empire Garage
Empire Garage had the ‘Music & Tech Meet’ evening, with a good line-up for an admittedly weak day. It started with Sego, who had indie-rock with a straight-faced sarcastic attitude, popping the bubble of self-seriousness that SXSW often has.
Adam Melchor, 8:00pm
It’s always tricky to be a solo act on stage, especially doing such an out-of-fashion thing as just playing a guitar & singing (no backing track, no DJ…). Adam Melchor was doing sweet, emotional relax, such as his new song “Real Estate” (which did bring to mind the sweet, emotional band Real Estate), as well as a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life”.
Pierson Saxon, 8:45pm
It’s not SXSW without some alt-country stylings, such as Pierson Saxon, who unlike Melchor had a full band behind him.
Moving Panoramas, 9:30pm
But better country was locals Moving Panoramas. As displayed on their recent In Two (QRO review), they’ve got a fuller, more encompassing rock sound to their country, particularly the times when there was more than one singer, as well as a strong stage presence.
The Bright Light Social Hour, 10:30pm
Locals dominated the line-up, but that happens a good deal at SXSW – Austin does have a lot of bands. Bright Light Social Hour leaned into the disco-dance, an outlier on the evening.
Black Pistol Fire, 11:30pm
The big hit this night was Black Pistol Fire, crushing it with furious blues-rock. Sort of like if Japandroids did Gary Clark Jr., singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen had super energy, with McKeown diving into the photo pit with the VIPs.
The Black Angels, 12:30am
Those VIPs were cleared out of the pit before the headliner, Austin big boys The Black Angels. Known for psychedelic rock, including psych-rock festival Levitation (QRO 2018 recap), they do turn down the lights and turn up the smoke machine, which can turn off if one’s own energy level is crashing (like your correspondent’s…).
-Right next to Empire is Side Bar, which didn’t have any music that night (save for the eighties soundtrack playing on the sound system), but did have cheap & strong drinks.
-Also nearby is one of many groups of food trucks, including Shawarma Point, whose spiciness levels ranged from ‘Brown People Spicy’ to ‘White People Spicy’ to ‘Not Spicy’, but even ‘White People Spicy’ was pretty spicy.
-Donald J Trump Presidential Twitter Library @ The Driskill. The Daily Show brought their museum of our President’s most memorable tweets to Austin for the weekend.
-Amanda Palmer, Cautious Clay, and Zola Jesus @ Augustine, 10:00pm – 1:00am. Bonus points if Palmer’s husband, famed fantasy author Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods), who was in Austin to promote the new TV series based on his Good Omens books, was there.
-Deerhunter @ Mohawk, 10:45pm – 12:00am.
-JUNGLE @ Antone’s, 11:00pm – 12:00am.