SXSW 2019 - Day 1 - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

SXSW 2019 - Day 1

by Howard Scott Rating: Release Date:
SXSW 2019 - Day 1
SXSW 2019 - Day 1

Austin Texas’s annual SXSW (just “South By” to the uninitiated) music festival officially kicked off on Monday, and if Day One is any indication, it should be a week filled with fun, diversity and more musical talent on display than anywhere else on the planet.

Covering the entire event is a physical impossibility since there are over 1700 bands participating on 90 different stages, but hopefully, I can pass along a small taste of what has become the biggest gathering of modern musicians in one place at any given time. 

My day started out with a plane ride from Tampa, Florida to Austin in the middle of the day. Once in town, there was an Airbnb to check into, lunch to be had, and then an Uber ride into the heart of downtown, where multiple streets are closed and waves of people cover the sidewalks in all directions. First stop was the Austin Convention Center to check in and pick up the all-important press credentials. The process was swift and easy, even with more ink-stained wretches in one place than I have surely ever seen.

Since most of the musical events didn’t really begin until the evening, I spent the afternoon touring the endless supply of displays and interactive experiences provided by tech giants, musical equipment manufacturers, and TV and movie companies. There is enough of this form of entertainment to keep you busy for the week if you never ventured into a music venue, and some of the displays, set up temporarily sometimes overnight, are really quite stunning. Everything from life-like robotic dogs that wag their tails and roll over on command to actors dressed as angels and demons hawking new TV shows are impossible to ignore. The amount of free food and drink, as well as swag of all types, also is prevalent. If I actually had an expense account, (Let’s get on that, Bob!) it wouldn’t take too many hits for sustenance. Virtually every building you walk into has an open bar and something to munch on. Tote bags, hats, stickers, and even an impressively nice umbrella were also thrust into my hands while traversing the streets.

Around 8pm, the music starts in earnest. Austin has two main drags, Rainey Street and 6th Street, that consist of numerous bars, clubs, and eateries, and darn near every one of them had multiple bands playing well into the wee hours. The incredible variety offered is somewhat overwhelming. While those two drags are the epicenter, live acts can be found everywhere, from the parking lots of churches to the flatbeds of trucks. 

img 2654In a matter of about three hours, I ventured into club Augustine, whose evening was opened by a band from the hills of Wales, Novo Amor. Their brand of Welsh indie-folk had the packed house enraptured and started the musical journey on a laid back and mellow note. Later in the evening, performers from Australia, Wisconsin, New York, and Boston would grace the same stage. 

A jaunt down the street to Cheer Up Charlie’s provided a venue with both indoor and outdoor stages, Since the indoor environs were packed beyond comfort, I parked next to the open-air venue where local favorite Big Bill had the crowd wound up and energetic with their unique offering of punk laced with a huge helping of comedic lyrics. You don’t often hear punk bands wailing about what they would like on their salads, but that little ditty had the patrons going nuts to the high energy noise. It was easy to see why hometown Austin loves them. 

The cleverly named Pour Choices club hosted the opening night with a collection of talent from the city of Philadelphia. Seven different groups played over six hours on a tiny stage jammed into the upstairs of an ancient Texas structure, but up and coming band Foxtrot and the Get Down blasted through one of the night’s more impressive gigs. The Philly six piece roared through a short but sweet half-hour set that left the patrons sweaty and hungry for more. Frontman Colin Budny provided the vocal energy, helped out by keyboardist Erica Ruiz. It was obvious to even a casual observer that this is a band going places. They played with a tightness and degree of polish that made everyone jump up and take notice. 

img 2649Several of these bands will be playing again at different venues during the week, and sometimes even two different places on the same day. 

That was about it for Day One, since exhaustion had set in and it was still a fairly long trek back to home-for-a-week. I was certainly glad I had purchased new walking shoes recently, as the amount of ground to cover can be rather daunting.

So that barely scratches the surface of the first day of seven, but hopefully, you get the idea. This festival is Mecca for all things audio and should be on the bucket list of anyone who loves musical sound. Stay tuned for coming attractions!

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