For many, the theme for SXSW ’14 was the massive tipping point of huge corporate entities using even bigger pop stars to sell their products, pushing the 99% of artists out into the margins.
So, what better place to find the real goods than on those exact fringes of this fine TX city? Let’s start with:
BEST SXSW VENUE: Hotel Vegas. With one stage in the backyard and two indoor “clubs” in the first floor of a 19th century hotel, Hotel Vegas had all the charms of a great neighborhood BBQ.
Merch tables selling vinyl, burgers with fixings, plenty of bars — it’s definitely the Williamsburg to Downtown Austin’s Manhattan. Old cigarette machines still have inventory. That’s all you need to know.
BEST SHOWCASE: Continuing on with the theme here, I came back to Hotel Vegas for another go ’round without any expectations only to have one of the most eclectic evenings of the week. Starting with Tokyo Japan’s Buffalo Daughter, a funk rockabilly quartet with a DJ who scratches and makes all the weird faces in the world, played a dance set with animated buffalos projected onto a street.
Up next was solo act Mark McGuire, who filled the Vegas club space with ambient loops, haunting and striking vocals accompanied by straight up shred-time guitar work. He played old timey propaganda PSA’s which was really apropos of all that I had been experiencing at SX up until then.
I dipped out into the backyard for a burger and Lone Star only to see that the last band had finished for the night. Sensing the vibe of the evening, the house DJ put on a Patsy Cline “Best Of” record and it was a good old-fashioned dance hall moment. Literally every boy grabbed a gal and we could have danced all night.
Not to be out done, finishing that up was a three piece dance-art southern rap artist name Vockah Redu. Below is a clip I found from one of his recent live shows and I looked for it because, honestly I cannot describe it –you have to watch the video. And oh, yeah… an impromptu Twerk battle happened on stage because, Vockah Redu.
BEST PERFORMANCE: St. Vincent and it’s not even close. Going second to last but basically headlining the NPR Showcase at Stubbs, St. Vincent held the crowd in her porcelain hands from beginning to end. Playing mostly new songs from her latest release, the Texas native crafted finely produced beats with some amazing performance art choreography, sprinkled with some Shred-mastery. It was fantastic.
BEST EATS: Toss up here between the Pork Ribs and Burrata from East Side Show Room, or the Fried Chicken basket at Lucy’s on South Congress. The nod goes to Lucy’s because it was Sunday, I was tired, they had the perfect Folk bands and their Bloody Mary’s were damn good too.
BEST ARTIST INTERVIEW: A new category here but, what the hell, it was that good. I’ve been a fan of Shakey Graves since his “Roll The Bones“ album came out and when I knew he was playing nearby I was excited and hesitant to get an interview. That album reveals that there are probably some interesting layers within that artist and that doesn’t always translate into good interviews. Anne Litt spoke to him about being a SX artist, his musical progression and his future… we could have talked about a lot more.
Shakey Graves talks with Anne Litt
BEST ARTIST DISCOVERY: Oil Boom. This Dallas, TX trio delivers hard-charging garage rock with tight rhythms and clear, witty lyrics. Check out their EP from 2012 titled Gold Yeller & their song “One-Time Used-To-Be“
Check out my photos from Austin and don’t forget: When something changes for the worst, you can always help to change it back again.