SXSW Music doesn’t officially start until the Tuesday and even then it’s only really a few locations playing music. But with so many bands around, there’s usually music to be found earlier in the week. Latitude – the British Music Embassy, was one such venue that opened early. So on Monday night I managed to catch a few Northern Island bands before heading off to Say Media’s party where the awesome Joy Formidable were playing, made even better by free beer all evening.
My plan for the rest of SXSW Music was to get in as many days parties as possible (hopefully with free beer) and to bounce around venues to catch as many bands as possible. I have a one song rule. I give a band one song to convince me to stay for more. Each day I had a short list of bands to see. These were usually bands I’ve been trying to see or bands I’ve already seen and are good. But I don’t let the list dictate my night. So if there was a queue outside a venue, it was on to the next.
Overall, the plan worked well. With the close proximity of so many venues around 6th Street, it was easy to bounce between venues and I managed to catch some really good bands. But the week didn’t start well, On Tuesday I decided to try and catch the Japandroids at Viceland. This was a temporary venue setup in a parking lot on Caesar Chavez street, over the road from the conference centre. The entrance was through a warehouse. The queue looked short. But we soon found that this was only the queue to get into the warehouse. An hour later, I was still waiting. The venue was at capacity and everyone was staying for Japandroids. It’s not fun listening to the band from inside a warehouse. Eventually I was luck to get into the venue just as they decided to close the queue and kick everyone out. But I’m not sure it was worth it. Japandroids are an excellent band who I’ve seen before. But the venue was far too crowded with most attendees without a SXSW badge. Made worse by a poor sound system. For the rest of the week, I went back to plan A. Sticking in the main to the venues around 6th street.
Last time I was at SXSW, the Foo Fighters played the Interactive closing party and I missed it. So although I’m not the biggest Foo fan, it was still a major disappointment to miss the Foo’s play a small venue like Stubbs. This year Dave Grohl was giving SXSW’s keynote and his documentary, Sound City was playing in the film festival. So there was an expectation that that Sound City Players would be playing and true to form it was announced that there would be a lottery for tickets to see the Sound City Players playing at Stubbs.
Dave Grohl giving a highly enjoyable keynote
Luckily I managed to get a ticket for the gig. I did debate whether it was worth wasting an entire evening watching one band. But there were rumours flying around that Paul McCartney was going to attend. 99% of me didn’t believe this. But the 1% that did, didn’t want a ‘Foo Fighters’ moment where I missed something I would regret.
The Sound City Players lineup is pretty amazing. With the Foo Fighters as the backing band, the lineup changes between each venue. Tonight the ‘Players’ consisted of Alain Johannes (QOSTA & Them Crooked Vultures), Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine), Lee Ving (Feer), Nirvana band mates Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) and finally John Fogerty (Creedance).
With such a varied line-up, the evening was up and down. Rick Springfield was a bit too ‘cheesy rock’ for me and Stevie Nicks’ voice isn’t what it used to be. But that’s not to detract from the evening. There were some real highlights and it was a chance to see some really influential musicians enjoy themselves playing loose with Dave and his band and it was clear that every one of them was thrilled to be part of the project. But the biggest highlight for me was John Fogerty’s Creedance set as they played ‘Born on a Bayoo’, and the fantastic ‘Bad Moon Rising’. So after nearly 3 hours, I wasn’t left disappointed.
For the rest of the week it was back to venue bouncing catching as many bands as possible. It was interesting seeing bands I know well playing their first US gigs and seeing the reaction of the crowds. Some were really well received such as the Savages, others bemusing the audience (and me) such as Paloma Faith. Then there were bands I probably wouldn’t pay to see in the UK such as Reverend and Makers, playing excellent ‘festival’ sessions that buoyed up the small US crowd. There was also the interesting experience of seeing Billy Bragg playing to a US audience in Texas (and getting out alive). Even when a band wasn’t very good, it wasn’t a disappointment, just an opportunity to try a different venue. I really love this music festival. There’s just so much to listen to, that there’s really no excuse for seeing a bad band.
The list below are the bands I have a record of seeing. Overall I recorded that I saw nearly 100 bands, but in reality the list is probably much longer. These are only the bands that I wrote down. A number of these bands I’ll be trying to catch up with over the next few months.
The Majority Says, Skinny Lister, Joy Formidable, St Lucia, Divine Fits, Kiven, Elijah Ford & The Bloom, Y Niwl, Lucy Rose, Tall Ships, Jess Williamson, The Carper Family, You Me & Us, Girl Names, California X, Audacity, The Coathangers, Kassidy, Kodaline, Kid Karate, Squarehead, Mirror Travel, Let’s Buy Happiness, Story Books, Icky Blossoms, North Mississippi Allstars, Japandroids, Deniro Farrar, Anuhea, Josephine, John McCauley & Friends, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, Black Violin, Islet, Catlin Rose, The Savages, Charan Po Rantan, Paper Lions, The Revivalists, Wildlife Control, Boy + Kite, Max Gomez, Walk Off The Earth, Cinnamon Chasers, Toy, Peace, The Bears, Okapi Sun, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds, Holy Balm, Hiatus Kaiyote, The Life Electric, Heavy Rock In Gibson, Iron Tom, Phlos, Wet Nuns, The Trews, Atomic Tom, The Blue Van, Royal Teeth, Tango in the Attic, Great Hip Hop Hoax, Young Fathers, Black Lips, Billy Bragg, Amanda Palmer, Andy Clockwise, The Falls, Summer Flake, Metz, Christopher Smith, The Staves, Paloma Faith, Suburban Living, Fort Lean, Against Grace, Wampire,. White Lung, Teen, Ex Cops, Thermals, Thurston Moore, Reverend and the Maker, Against Grace, Sound City Players, Eagles of Death Metal, Civil Twilight, San Cisco, Rah Rah, Hey Marseilles, Tyler & The Shakedown, Imaginary Cities, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, Funeral Suits, Emma Louise, Blitz Kids, D.A.Calf, Rites Wild, Mary Epworth, Jonathan Boulet, El Vez