After having to cancel in both 2020 (one of the first things to do so) and 2021, South-by-Southwest thankfully returned to Austin last year (QRO recap), but it was a decidedly smaller affair. And if it didn’t reach the ‘Drake & Lady Gaga’ ridiculous heights of the last decade, SXSW ’23 was bigger & better than the year before, with more acts, more sponsors, more places, and more drink tickets, Monday-Saturday, March 13th-18th.
After having more energy than opportunities the first few days of SXSW, Thursday is when the grind first starts to get to you. At least it was a beautiful day out (which wouldn’t last…).
Sounds Australia showcase @ Lucille
After New Zealand started Wednesday, fellow Down Under dominion Australia began Thursday, at a decked-out Lucille. And the music ran the gamut, from an eighties Aussie icon in Andrew Farriss of INXS, going country with both his new material and even twanged versions of classics such as “Never Tear Us Apart” & “One of My Kind”, but also Aussie hip-hop with Jesswar.
Qobuz showcase at KMFA Event Space
A bit off the beaten track (but still within walking distance) was the headquarters of classical music station KMFA, where Qobuz was holding its own daytime showcases – indoors and air conditioned. The quiet recording space was a major change of pace at SXSW, “It’s so nice and peaceful here,” said Barrie. The buzzed about musician was a perfect fit for the space (whereas had likely suffered at Mohawk indoors, competing with Superchunk outdoors there the night before – QRO recap), just vocals and keys, but included back-up singers and choreography. Her beautiful music included, “Trying to write a gay Carole King song…”
Paste Magazine party @ High Noon
The Bad Ends
Earlier this year, none other than Bill Berry of R.E.M. announced his return to music after decades out on his farm, as part of The Bad Ends. So, like seeing R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills with The Baseball Project at SXSW ‘14 (QRO photos), had to try to see Berry and his eyebrows in ’23.
And of course, he wasn’t with The Bad Ends and their fun indie-country/rock. The elusiveness of Berry is part of his mystique.
Also caught Esther Rose soundchecking.
Justin Bua NFT Launch party @ Native Hostel
Like ads on the Super Bowl, there are a lot less NFT & crypto sponsors at this year’s SXSW, but one still launching was Justin Bua, whose hip-hop art at Native Hostel was dubbed the “BUAverse”. Not sure if it’s the “future of hip-hop” as was claimed, but certainly interesting, and featured DJ Qbert on the decks.
Montreal showcases @ Swan Dive
While hitting up the most desirable element of SXSW – free food – at the Montreal cocktail hour at Swan Dive, caught the smooth solo sounds of Patrick Holland (though he was kind of drowned out by the cocktail chatter).
SPIN Magazine showcase @ Stubb’s
While veteran music magazine SPIN doesn’t bring its big Friday daytime party to Stubb’s anymore at SXSW, there is still an official evening showcase with some names you want to see. One of the most notable returns at SXSW was Austin’s own Voxtrot, who made an indie-pop name for themselves in the aughts, only to disappear. Now they’ve returned, with this their own SXSW appearance, the band’s first SXSW since “some [year] with one digit in it…” Their cheery sounds are very much of that era, when Vampire Weekend brought ‘Ivy League pop’, and thankfully the bassist looks the exact same (QRO photos from ‘last ever tour’ in ’10).
Threat of rain and worse pushed up the outdoor Stubb’s showcase and rejiggered the indoor line-up, so instead of catching Sunny War, your correspondent saw As You Were, an unremarkable hard rock act from guys who not only wear their own band t-shirts (maybe understandable at SXSW), but also started with their own band name anthem. But apparently they’re a band of veterans, so give them a pass
As You Were
Focus Wales showcase @ The Creek and The Cave
It was sweet, sad sounds from Wales at The Creek and The Cave in Edie Bens, but the weather was threatening (lightning, but ominously no sound of thunder, making for a light show).
~ The Zombies @ GSD&M Backyard, 1:30 PM. One SXSW, will get up early enough for Austin City Limits’ ‘Bloody Mary Morning’.
~ Killer Mike @ Stubb’s, 10:00 PM.