SXSW was a whirlwind of experiences. The city of Austin welcomed the world. As soon as I stepped off the airport bus in the city, I knew SXSW was happening! Music was seeping out of the walls, the signage was everywhere and everyone was wearing lanyards.
Welcome to SXSW 2023.
The best out of town set – You Said Strange
French band You Said Strange played the Sahara Lounge as part of a fringe showcase at this out of town setting. This was also the first showcase I attended and to chat to the band over a beer before they played was pretty surreal. Their set was phenomenal, and they jumped straight into their van to play another set in the city later that same evening.
The best utter mayhem onstage – Plattenbau
What began calmly enough for noise-makers Plattenbau late night set at 13th Note turned into an onstage mosh with members of Jealous and The Pleasure Majenta plus the audience piling onstage. They just kept playing, it was spontaneous chaos and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
The best artist to keep calm and carry on in adversity – Thus Love
The drummer of Vermont trio Thus Love had an accident near the beginning of the festival. With just two hours of rehearsals the drummer of Slow Fiction stepped in and did such a good set at The Far Out Lounge and Stage on the afternoon of the last day that he was invited to play again with the band that night. The music community looking after each other.
The best appearance by a mascot – Sorry Mom
The first time seeing Sorry Mom at SXSW they were joined onstage by Dillon the Pickle. I kid you not. The New York based punksters had a blast at the Idle Hands venue, particularly as Dillon had all the moves!
The best fan participation – English Teacher
Oh the joy when a fan of English Teacher was invited to join them onstage. They had spotted him earlier at the festival as he knew all the words to all the songs. The fan embraced the moment and sang, danced, and smiled through the whole track. As did the rest of the band. The uplifting unifying joy of live music.
The best footwear – Dream Wife
No contest. Guitarist Alice Go from Dream Wife. Utterly fabulous.
The best Australian punk band – CIVIC
On a day when the temperatures dropped significantly, the Melbourne band wondered what the heck was going on at The Far Out Lounge and Stage. Of course it didn’t stop them giving their all.
The best giants onstage – The Black Angels
Some bands just seem to have a presence. The Black Angels felt larger than life at Mohawk for the Marshall Records sponsored showcase. The music adds to their aura – a soundscape to lose yourself in and much loved by the crowd.
The most band members onstage – Balimaya Project
I counted 10 but there may have been more! The Jazz Re:freshed stage at Sellers Underground hosted the Balimaya Project – but only just! This was a late night set and was the perfect way to end a day at SXSW. Yes they had to be pulled off stage as they obviously didn’t want to stop, but who can blame them for that.
The best performance in a last minute venue switch – The Scratch
The Full Irish Breakfast was moved from the original venue as it wasn’t ready in time. But this was St Patrick’s Day so it wasn’t going to stop the celebrations. The Scratch delivered the wild ride of their metal infused folk, alongwith a surprise guest – a top class Irish dancer.
The best iconic reformed punk band – be your own PET
There are some bands you are buzzing to see live for the first time, and this was one of them. And from the excitement in the crowd I wasn’t alone. A pulsating set at Mohawk it was thrilling to see be your own PET. I just hope it’s not too long until the next time.
The best set by a band who played until the plug was pulled – Vlure
Heart-breaking for the artists playing on the outside stages on the Thursday evening when the heavens opened and the lightning across the Austin skies meant they had to be shut down for a couple of hours. At the Scottish showcase technical problems were challenging for the bands once the music resumed but that didn’t stop Vlure who literally played until the plug was pulled. Party time for all who were there.
The best band to end your first SXSW – Panic Shack
By the end of SXSW the emotions are running high. In the early hours at Sellers Undergound Panic Shack played like it was their first set. Raucous, fun and energy fuelled – what a way to close out my first SXSW experience.
Photo credits: Julia Mason
Thank you Austin. You’ve been amazing.