Day Eight! The second last day of SXSW, and the last day of photography assignments. This was the final stretch, and so with a fully charged battery, freshly cleaned lens, and empty memory cards, I ventured out once again.
Back in January, I reached out to the City of Toronto and inquired as to whether they were running any events during SXSW. I was asked to take some photos at the Toronto Meets World Showcase being held at Canada House.
First up - Fast Romantics. The last time I saw these guys was at the (hopefully soon to be reopened) El Mocambo during NXNE 2012.
R&B artist Jahkoy:
Country singer-songwriter, Whitney Rose
And finally, the act I had been anxiously awaiting - The Strumbellas.
The Strumbellas had a jam packed SXSW week, with this being their 11th (and fortunately, final) performance of the festival. They played a special acoustic set, their fist ever, for a packed Canada House audience.
The small venue, and acoustic instrumentation created an intimate atmosphere in the venue. However, frontman, Simon Ward, seemed genuinely concerned about the volume and acoustics of their performance. He continuously addressed the crowd, worried that the audience was unable to hear their unplugged instruments.
The highlight of the performance was 'Shovels & Dirt', a tune off their 3rd album 'Hope', which was just released last week. As the bridge of the song built, Ward and keyboardist Dave Ritter (who opted for a shaker during this set), stepped off stage and into the audience. We, the crowd, sang along to the simple but uplifting words, and one couldn't help but feel like they were part of something very, very special.
It makes me proud to know that such incredible artists are from my hometown. Toronto has been making further strides over the past few months in the hopes of becoming more of a 'Music City'. I really hope that all of the efforts being put forward by the city and its changemakers help grow and support local music so that even more great talent is fostered and showcased on the world stage.
En route to my photo assignment for the night, I overheard a strange and engaging sound - harmonized female voices rapping over an electric cello. Intrigued, I followed the music to the Des Moines Music Embassy, where French trio LEJ was performing.
LEJ, composed of friends Lucie, Elisa, and Juliette (hence the name of their group) gained a following through YouTube. Their mashup Summer 2015 has since amassed millions of views, and with a quick listen, it's easy to hear why. The girls perform eclectic music with confidence, and produce a sound so unique, and so enrapturing.
It took a lot of willpower to leave LEJ's set early, but I needed to head over to Cheer Up Charlie's for my final photo assignment of the festival.
Interestingly, by this time, I was completely and overwhelmingly exhausted. It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I remember very little about the bands that performed at Cheer Up Charlies that night. Their sound may have been amazing, or may have been crap... by this time I was running on fumes, and concentrating only on the photography.
With that said, the lighting at Cheer Up Charlies was significantly better than my assignment the previous night. And while I may have been tired, the bands that performed this set put on lively and engaging sets that were a lot of fun to capture on the camera.
The first band of my last photo assignment was Cold Fronts.
Slothrust. Another band whose sound my exhausted self can't remember for the life of me, but whose show was really fun to shoot.
Drowners. Again... I don't remember too much about set. However, shortly after they performed, a friendly audience member asked me which of the evening's bands I had enjoyed the most so far, and I chose these guys. So apparently I did like them, and should probably look up their music and see why!
Next, Night Moves.
The penultimate performance of the evening was The Mystery Lights, and they, simply put, rocked.
With a small 4,000 person following on Facebook, you wouldn't think they would draw a large crowd - an assumption that would prove completely false. A small but dedicated mosh pit formed in the front few rows. And while they were much more civil than the metal moshers a few nights ago, these guys were engrossed in the music, and rightfully so. The Mystery Lights' debut album is due out in June, and I'll definitely be checking it out!
And finally, the night's headliner, Sean Mathew Tillman, otherwise known as Har Mar Superstar.
Har Mar Superstar, is a performer. His set consisted of costume changes (a.k.a gradually stripping layers of clothing until his shirtless belly hung over a pair of leggings), audience participation (asking - and receiving - tequila shots from the crowd), and even a bit of break dancing. He revels in the absurdity of it all, and the result is just so much fun.
Tillman was great with the cameras, looking directly at them, posing, and even licking them ahaha.
The crowd loved this performance, with several fans overly excited about touched his shirtless stomach and even offering flasks of mystery alcohol to the performer (who politely declined).
A member of the audience obliged to Har Mar Superstar's (half joking) request for shots. It was her birthday that evening.
And so, as a shirtless Har Mar Superstar walked off the stage, my SXSW Photography Crew experience came to an end.
Want to read about the rest of the adventure?