by Kiel Hames
There is only one true way to see SXSW in Austin. A single speed road bike with a bunch of beautiful people. During the first week the city is a buzz with interactive shows with film and media and a seemingly manageable amount of visitors. When the music week rolls in, everything changes.
On the first night I was only able to people watch as one of our good friends forgot her identification and during SXSW they don’t take any risks with that. It’s an unbelievable sight to see 6th street with that many people on it. There was music spilling out into the street from any space that could fit a band and people lined up outside every venue and food trailer. SXSW has a combination of Official SX events, free official SX shows and then there were the free public shows. Either way there was no shortage of things to do, see or hear.
The second day brought good weather so I had look on the site do512.com to see what events were running for free. I was staying in a house on the west side not far from Waterloo Records and the Whole Foods Market where a lot of free events were being held. A group of 5 people came on bicycles and picked 3 of us up. We rode down by the famous Baylor street graffiti wall where Red Bull were holding an acoustic event with local artists. The entire Waterloo records car park had a stage set up and was all fenced off for their official events but we were off to the Grackle to see a band from small town Alaska. We arrived as the last band were finishing up and had a chance to speak to Haven, the drummer for ‘Animal Eyes’. This was their second SXSW experience and this time they were playing as part of the Portland party, a showcase for bands out of Portland. The band had a nice indie feel, the front man keeping the crowd engaged enough to stick around for the entire set. Animal Eyes is comprised of two guitars, drums, bass and a keyboard player who uses a range of keyboards and percussive instruments to create a good musical foundation for their live show. Though the band had something special about them I think they will find it a little difficult to poke their head out of a crowd of similar sounding bands.
The next night there was only one artist I had planned to see and that was Danny Malone at Shiner’s Saloon. While we were waiting we were treated to some Hip Hop out the side of a van courtesy of Doorway. A collaborative effort of 3 MC’s and their beats as they drive the streets of Austin handing out CD’s and displaying their lyrical skills. We made it upstairs to a full house and a band from Wimberley called ‘Wild Child’ who seemed to have brought along a great crowd of friends and fans. Danny Malone hit the stage after a few technical difficulties with the make-shift sound rig the venue had put together for the week. Armed with a band of 5 handsome gentlemen and suspenders, Danny hit the stage with his new single from an upcoming record of the same name. ‘SpeedDreamer’ is a rolling song with a very catchy hook. Danny has this raw feeling about him, you can’t help but want to watch this man perform. Partly because you feel as though don’t know if you’ll ever see him perform again. It’s all on the line with Danny and it’s very entertaining. The monitors were playing up and he couldn’t hear himself on stage so up on the bar in front of the house speakers it was. He played a couple of great tracks from his current record ‘Balloons’ notably ‘Sugar water’ which is an incredible song and video he released near the end of 2013. His set had to be cut a little short as they had another venue to play at. They finished up with a slower number. Danny lights his cigarette and the band plays their last song to an enthusiastic crowd. Keep an eye on Danny Malone.
My last evening of SXSW was a random one. No plans to see any bands in particular. We rode around between 6th sand the east side trying to find friends, free events, food trailers, and so on. The streets were so energetic that you could have entertained yourself for an evening without once stepping into a venue. Later in the evening we catch word via a close female friend of ours that we could get into a DJ show in a warehouse, VIP, and see a fellow by the name of ‘Just Blaze’. I really had no idea who he was. I was told he produced music for a lot of the great hip hop artists that are popular today. When he got on stage and started playing, I couldn’t believe my ears. Jay-Z, Snoog Dogg, Mariah Carey, Usher, Kanye, Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, Mos Def… I could go on. These weren’t just the no name tracks either, these were the hits. VIP had it’s all you can drink perks and a good time was had by all. Got to say a hello and thank you to Just Blaze after the show and his reply was a sincere hand on the shoulder and a ‘no, thank you.’
The people were beautiful, weird, drunk and high. 6th street was truly chaotic, streets were closed and you could barely move. All in all there was a good vibe around SXSW, a little disorderly behaviour here and there but when you cram 250,000 people into a reasonably small city, add live music across so many different styles, locals and tourists, there’s bound to be the occasional drive through. There are certain tools that one can use to have a successful and amazing time at SXSW. The three most tangible and efficient tools I can think of are of the wheel, preferably with spokes and powered by human effort. The tortilla, preferably full of whatever you would most like put into it and no agenda, preferably with max flexibility. With said tools one can get into some of the most fantastic aspects of SXSW quite easily, no wristband required.