I was in a conversation this week with someone in the music business who was attending SXSW, but was only going for Interactive and Film, not Music. For him, he’d kind of had it. It’s understandable. For those of us that have been going to Sx for a long while, we’ve been able to see it evolve and change over the years.
In 2005 when MTV Real World made Austin their next city to invade, this brought worldwide exposure to the annual gathering. What followed was the influx of the reality-television-watching population, causing even longer lines and an excessive amount of people drunk on free beer by noon and with no idea who any of the bands were on stage.
It’s like that experience when your favorite dive bar is written about in the alternative weekly paper and suddenly becomes popular with the Woo Girls and Chads.
The following few years it got back to ‘normal’, of sorts, but again in 2010 the badges didn’t get you immediate access to nighttime official showcases, which led to reworking plans to add ‘getting there early’ time to the already packed schedule. Plus, it was evident that instead of people living in Austin leaving the city to celebrate spring break, SXSW was now the destination for people around the country (with an added Dallas and Houston element).
Last year, with the devastating accident on Red River, we all knew things would be different for SXSW in 2015. News emerged covering changes in regulations, and no doubt the SXSW organization as a whole had to work with the city on licensing and permits that provided an added level of safety for patrons. Some of those changes can already be seen in the emerging SXSW official celebrations planned for this year.
Yesterday Fader Fort announce their party plans, which have typically been open to the public as one of the free hot tickets for those that choose to forgo a badge or wristband. This year it will be an official SXSW event, which it was in 2013, but is now invite-only, stating, “The FADER launched The FADER FORT 14 years ago. Over that time, we’ve been amazed by how much the event has grown, and how many music fans we’ve been able to let through our doors each year.”
While the complete lineup is still pending, the announced artists thus far includes Migos, Hudson Mohawke, Bleachers, Girlpool, and Vince Staples, with over 30+ acts to be announced to perform March 18 through 21.
Personally, if it makes the event more enjoyable and safer for all, Fader’s invite-only plan is a real positive. The lines for Fader Fort in the past have been massive, and maybe after last year, and because of the East of 35 area where Fader Fort takes place, they want to err on the side of caution.
Another change for SXSW in 2015 is FILTER Magazine’s involvement after its end-of-life of in 2014.
In years past, FILTER owned the area of Cedar Street Courtyard during SXSW with their Showdown showcases. A few years ago Filter expanded into the Rainey area as that bar neighborhood sprung up, partnering with Dickies, DTS, Slacker and other culture brands.
This year Culture Collide, a new online media outlet launched by Alan Miller, a co-founder of FILTER magazine, will host “3 Stages, 5 Days, 100+ Bands” in the Rainey neighborhood. Clive Bar, Bar 96 and and Container have a slew of favorites set to perform, ranging from Peanut Butter Wolf & J. Rocc, Twin Shadow, and Cairo Knife Fight, to The Vaccines, Mew, East India Youth, The Cribs, Future Islands, Circa Waves, and Palma Violets. Beyond SXSW, Culture Collide also produces festivals in the fall in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles while operating their COLLide Agency, born from FILTER Creative Goup.
While the FILTER Showdown is gone at Cedar Street Courtyard, FLOOD Magazine, launched last year by the other FILTER magazine co-founder, Alan Sartirana, will now rule over the East-of-Congress venue during SXSW. FLOOD Fest also has a stellar line up, including Spoon, Frank Turner, Viet Cong, Big Data, Carl Barat and The Jackals, Jacco Gardner, The Vaccines, Geographer, Courtney Barnett, The Ting Tings, and a win-win for Butler in the naming category, DJ Windows 98. The operators of FLOOD have also stayed in the agency game after FILTER Creative with Anthemic.
VICE Media has also gone through significant changes, with two separate infusions of $250 million in investment capital last year and an estimated valuation of $2.5 billion. Back-in-the-day the Vice Saves Texas day parties east of 35 matched the vibe of their original publication, street and punk rock, throwing the after-after party on the last night of SXSW where the likes of David Cross and Carson Daly would show up to drink PBR and mingle with the rest of us.
In 2012, VICE contributor Moe Bishop penned a piece to “Cancel SXSW,” referring to common conversations such as, “What do you mean this pass doesn’t get me into the afterparty, dude, didn’t you see me play?” In the article he rightly pointing out the overblown sponsorship activation from the likes of Doritos and their multi-storied logo placement. Agreed. Size may matter, but that won’t persuade me eat it.
By the next year, VICE Staff informed us all that, “VICELAND crushed Austin this year, you guys. Between our drones, Action Bronson, Bauuer, and Kendrick Lamar, we were a force to reckoned with.”
This was also the year that the VICE party had moved into the main hub of activity on Cesar Chavez within a compound area, decorated with food trucks and lounge areas. The large building resembling an airplane hanger amplified the sound beyond ear-bleeding. Along with Bauuer, an insanely loud set by Black Lips was true to form, involving a dropped-trou moment from the get go.
Through the years SXSW and all its participants have evolved and changed, just like everything else in life.
I for one have learned a lot in the years of attending since 2002, creating my own list of do’s and don’ts. Do go for the smaller, one-off shows, including the daytime gigs where bands that don’t often perform in the states, who typically sell out 10,000 seat venues in their home country, are happy to perform to 50 people on a back porch or converted gas station turned burger place at 3pm in the afternoon.
For fuck sake, don’t spend your precious time standing in line for a band like the Foo Fighters, who are indeed great but will most likely play at a venue near you in a month’s time. Leave that to the spring break crowd.
For me SXSW – Interactive, Film AND Music – is a very unique experience that I look forward to every March. I learn so much, meet amazing people, get a glimpse into technology developments that will become reality in the next 12 months, and have musical experiences that I will cherish forever. I of course have had my own gripes over the years, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
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