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.
With the last strains of Interactive having left, but Music having not kicked fully into gear, Tuesday at SXSW can often be light (indeed, South-by’s music portion used to start on the Wednesday).
Shell USA showcase @ Antone’s
Last year, it was a surprise when oil major Shell had a showcase at SXSW (QRO recap), where upstairs at Antone’s it displayed their work in renewables and such. If you felt squeamish about going to a Big Oil showcase, you could tell yourself that you were ‘fighting the man’ by hitting that open bar & free food hard.
For ’23, Antone’s returned to not just SXSW but indeed Antone’s, but instead of open bar it was two drink tickets per night, maybe some free donuts. Drink tickets instead of open bar shouldn’t bother but it does, and at least the Tuesday they accepted tickets from the Monday, a small victory. And there was Cas Haley [who your correspondent originally confused for the prior Jackie Vinson], doing a reggae cover of The Commodores’ classic “Easy” (even if there’s an already classic cover of it, Faith No More’s).
SXSW Music Opening Party/Phlote Session showcase @ Empire Control Room
Passing through Empire, Ruby Red had lighting in that color. Their electro-synths were not very remarkable, but are very popular these days.
SXSW showcase @ Shangri-La
If you’re going to SXSW, there should at least be one or two small acts that you intend to see there, preferably foreign, your only chance because they might never play where you’re from. Dublin’s Somebody’s Child put out an awesome self-titled debut full-length earlier this year (QRO review), and their stop in NYC the week after South-by was moved to September thanks to difficulties with the difficult US artist visa process (something one hears about every South-by), making them a must-see.
And worth it to head to the east side of Austin, in a back patio converted to a music stage at a dive bar like Shangri-La. The first gig in America for the young group, they took the final midnight slot at the no-name showcase and make it epic like their album (even if one of the earlier band’s had accidentally taken one of their guitars – after the airline temporarily lost all their gear…). Definitely want to see more of them, whenever & wherever.
~ boygenius @ Austin-Bergstrom Airport. The sad girl supergroup of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus have returned this year, and are popping up all over the place, from Coachella next month to the RE:SET touring festival in the summer, plus the Tibet House US Benefit Concert at the start of March in Carnegie Hall (QRO photos), but they redefined ‘pop up’ by playing for arrivals at Austin’s airport.
~ Andrew McMahon, Circa Wave, and Michigander @ Inn Cahoots, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM.
~ Talib Kweli, Robby Krieger (of The Door) and Bartees Strange @ Stubb’s, 9:30 PM – 1:00 AM. Nothing like SXSW to bring a random line-up to Stubb’s.
~ Julie Doiron and POSTDATA @ Swan Dive Patio, 10:15 PM – 12:15 AM.