At SXSW Interactive, panels began at 9:30 AM, with some breakfast networking sessions starting even earlier for the extra ambitious folk.
At SXSW Music, on the other hand, panels started at 11AM. During the first few days of the festival, I wished that the mornings started earlier so that I would have more time to learn and explore before clocking in for the evening's photography assignment. But, as I laid in my bed on the morning of Day 7, I was grateful for the extra hours of guilt-free sleep.
I took advantage of the events' later start times by wandering the Austin Convention Centre. I was hoping to satisfy my inner video game nerd by peeking into the "Battle of the Five Gods" Super Smash Bros tournament, but a long lineup deterred me from doing so.
Finally I started off the day's music with one of the artists on my Want To Watch list, Jack Garratt, at the Austin Convention Centre Radio Day Stage. After my failed attempts to see him during his sold out Toronto show, and at The Hype Hotel on DAY FOUR, I was glad to finally have the chance to witness his much raved about set. When Garratt performs, he appears fully engrossed in his music - his eyes closed as he sways to the genre bending collage he creates using layers of guitar, keyboards, electronics and vocals. His set is well deserving of critical acclaim, and was a treat to see.
Next up, I strolled down Rainey Street toward the StubHub BBQ event, where British singer-songwriter Lawrence Taylor was performing. His tune 'Bang Bang' was one of my recent YouTube discoveries, and it was great seeing him play live.
In what was proving to be a very British-music filled day, I made my way to The British Music Embassy for Fickle Friends' set. A chat with fellow audience members revealed that some of the band's previous sets had been plagued with technical difficulties, resulting in much shorter performances than scheduled.
Though SXSW is a great platform for artists to network and gain exposure, many artists I spoke with commented on how the showcases can also be stressful to perform at - sometimes venues don't have the correct gear, minimal time is allotted for soundcheck and set up, and with so many events happening concurrently, it's not uncommon to be performing for a sparse crowd.
Fortunately, Fickle Friend's set at the British Music Embassy, was relatively issue free (they started a bit later that originally slated, but still played a full set), and the audience (some of whom were watching the band for the second or third time) were engaged in the band's summery indie pop.
Immediately following Fickle Friends' set, I sprinted to Empire Garage to catch the tail end of Bloc Party's headlining slot at the Baeble Music showcase. Though returning to this the venue brought back memories of sweaty mosh pits from the Roadrunner showcase the previous evening, I squeezed as close to the stage as I could to snap a few pictures and enjoy the music.
Remember the analogy about SXSW being a marathon? As I sprinted back to The British Music Embassy for Stealing Sheep's set, I realized how apt of a comparison this was. The bouncer at the venue didn't even bother checking my ID, "weren't you just here a few minutes ago?" he questioned, confused as I scurried back inside for the set.
Stealing Sheep is another artist that I became acquainted with thanks to CMJ last year. Their whimsical music, layered vocals, and percussion heavy sound create a memorable performance. Also... those two toned leotards are great.
Having completed my afternoon British music marathon, I hurried back to Rainey for my evening photo assignment at Javelina.
The evening's forecast called for heavy rain, wind, and lightning. Us volunteers were sent frequent 'SXSW SEVERE WEATHER UPDATE' emails (in all caps, for added importance), and the free Coheed and Cambria/Wolfmother show at the SXSW Outdoor stage was cancelled. As such, I was very fortunate that my assignment for the evening was in an indoor venue.
First up - Aussie singer-songwriter, Lo Carmen, who had an especially neat pair of tambourine kicks.
The Javelina is a small bar on Rainey. I'm not certain whether it acts as a full time venue, or if it was simply converted into one for the festival. Its small size made it very easy for me to wander in search of the perfect angle. However, the lighting for the evening consisted of a blue and a red spotlight... which made colour correcting back to natural skin tones basically impossible for me. So - just for your reference, the performers at the evening's events were not wearing heavy red blush or blue Avatar makeup... I tried my best, but sometime's there's only so much that technology can do!
The Dead Ships -
So it's 10PM, I've been marathoning around the city with 2kg of camera equipment in tow, and by now, I'm frankly exhausted. Then, in a mesmerizing flurry of rock 'n roll energy, Capsula takes the stage. And suddenly, I forget how tired I am, and find myself rocking out, camera in hand.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and currently based in Bilbao, Spain, this trio plays an incredibly engaging live set. Their name, Spanish for "capsule" is derived from David Bowie's tune 'Space Oddity'. They finished their set with a few Bowie covers for good measure.
As mentioned earlier, The Javelina is a small space, with a stage that doesn't leave much space for rockstar antics. Instead, Capsula used the entire room. Guitarist Martin Guevara and bassist Coni Duchess often jumped off the raised ledge of the stage. Though the night's audience seemed to be a more reserved crowd, the band interacting with the audience - whether they liked it or not. The trio performs with a trancelike aggression, unapologetically assuming their own rockstar personas throughout the set. The result is absolutely engaging.
At the end of the set, I purchased a copy of their album. The last time I bought a physical album was back in 2012.
If you haven't figured it out by now, you can often tell how much I loved a band's performance by the quality and quantity of pictures that accompany their write up in my blog. I enjoyed this set. A lot.
From the Netherlands, PAUW:
Next up, Heaters:
And finally, the last band of the evening, San Francisco's The Soft White Sixties
The band played an incredibly high energy show, with frontman Octavio Genera bouncing around the stage. They were a great band to close up a great evening, and a ton of fun to shoot.
Want to read about the rest of the adventure?