SXSW 2014 – Quick Thoughts

We had such a blast last year, we headed back to Austin in 2014 for the music portion of the SXSW festival.  Like last year, we got badges.  Unlike last year, we went a day earlier and got a full day of music on Wednesday.  Here’s some quick thoughts, and then I’ll get more into the 51 bands we saw last week.

1. Last year was the year of lead singers going out into the audience.  Not one lead singer we saw went into the crowd this year.  Instead, this was the year of choreographed dance moves by lead singers.  I’m sure there’s some great insight to make about that, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

2.  If you have a badge, take advantage of the “fast pass” option.  Each day, you can go up to the 4th floor near the Radio Day stage and get a pass to one venue that will get you to the front of the line.  We used them Thursday-Saturday for the venue we planned to stay for the night. We got to the front of the line right before they opened for the night and were the first in and got our spot or seat of choice.

3.  The other theme that I noticed this year was the long soundchecks and adjustments that needed to be made after sets started to get the sound right, or at least listenable.  They should have handed out foam fingers to bands because they were constantly pointing index fingers up to get more sound in their monitors.  This culminated in a horrible sound job all night at the Bungalow on Saturday.

4. Seeing new venues is a fun part of the experience.  We did revisit a few places like Mohawk and Stubbs, but hit new places like the aforementioned Bungalow (it’s a nice space but couldn’t recommend because of the bad sound), The North Door, Red7, Parish and Empire Garage.

5.  A few of the shows that I really liked: St. Vincent’s set at Stubbs was probably the best thing I saw over the four days; Little Dragon’s sunny afternoon set at Red7; Hold Steady’s rollicking set at the Radio Day Stage; Angel Olson’s hypnotic performance at the Central Presbyterian Church; Cody ChestnuTT battling through the terrible sound at Bungalow with a fierce performance.

6.  The accident that happened early Thursday morning definitely put a damper on moods on Friday and was the subject of conversation with anyone we talked to during the day.  We were down the block at Stubbs that night and the only inclination anything was wrong was a circling helicopter between sets.  3 people have now died from injuries and there are still several seriously injured.  There was a moment of silence during the show at Parish on Friday night that was repeated at venues throughout the city.  It was a nice gesture that paid respect to the victims as well as announcing a fund to raise money to the victims.

Note that Jenn Wasner read during moment of silence Friday night.

Note that Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak read during moment of silence Friday night.

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