Tuesday, March 17 marked the start of the 29th annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival that runs for six days in Austin, Texas. SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film already had a head start, but it seemed like many festivalgoers were eagerly awaiting for the music to turn on.
Being in Austin for the first time, I arrived a day early to try to get myself acclimated to both the city (mostly downtown where most of the action happens) and the weather (the humidity hit 70% on Tuesday). Downtown Austin is big with some spillover across the freeway to the east, so for those like me that enjoy moving around and checking out as many events, sessions and shows as possible be prepared to hustle and sweat (and please wear deoderant and bring an extra shirt or two, everyone around you will be thankful).
GIS Mapping: Using Technology to Save the Lives of Dogs and Cats
As part of the Social Good Hub Program, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) presented its method of using geographic information systems (GIS) to hopefully end pet homelessness in the United States. GIS allowed ASPCA researchers to use geographic and demographic data to find trends related to stray animal hot spots and develop better strategies to find homes for these animals and, consequently, reduce animal euthanasia rates.
Data and Spoon Benders: Hacked Music and Design
Michael Hendrix, IDEO partner, presented on the convergence of music and design, and the combination’s potential impacts on creating truly innovative and unique experiences. Hendrix argued that we have moved passed the idea of the “mash up” and are now in the “make-up” era where people are actively creating new ideas and physical things.
Related to music and design, these new creations fall under four categories (including examples):
- Data Music – James Murphy teamed up with IBM to create music using tennis data from the U.S. Open.
- New Instruments – Have you heard of touch-sensitive plant instruments?
- Performance – Amon Tobin and Flying Lotus include stunning visuals to their live performances.
- Apps – Bjork recently released an album (Biophilia) as a smartphone app.
To see Hendrix’s music and design examples, please visit https://t.co/Fui0M3xHVp. He finished with a Christine Sun Kim quote: “Let’s listen with our eyes.”
Web Influence on the Future of Music Documentaries
Brian Hernandez, editor at Mashable, moderated this panel about the current state of music documentaries and how this form of storytelling has changed due to the internet and especially social media. In addition to Hernandez, the panel included Thomas Benski, CEO and Co-Founder of Pulse Films/Vimeo on Demand, Lewis Bogach, VP of Program Development and Production at CMT, and Ryan Kroft, SVP of Programming Specials and Events at MTV/Viacom.
This lively session discussed many aspects of music documentaries including who they are made for (the audience and/or the artist), the goals (are they art or promotional tools?), the impact of direct distribution and content creators bypassing networks and other traditional venues entirely (for the most part, the panelists all agree that getting these documentaries seen by fans is most important), the impact of artists using social media to speak to fans directly and somewhat negating the need for the documentary format, and the place for mockumentaries (Benski wished for a return of the playfulness in the medium similar to The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night).
With the seemingly endless number of artists to see in any given day, I decided to sit back and enjoy the Hype Machine’s night showcase Hype Hotel presented by Feed the Beat.
New York-based Parlour Tricks (formerly Lily & The Parlour Tricks) began the showcase with its power pop melodies for the relatively small crowd (venue volunteers were slowly letting people in by the 8pm start time). Tuesday marked the band’s first time at SXSW, and coincidentally lead singer Lily’s birthday that prompted the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. The quick set included “Lovesongs” and “Requiem.”
Swedish band Amason followed. Amason is actually a supergroup of Swedish musicians: Gustav Ejstes (Dungen), Amanda Bergman (Idiot Wind), Nils Törnqvist (Little Majorette), Petter Winnberg (Little Majorette) and Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow). The shared vocals by Ejstes, Bergman and Petter created an interesting bluesy and downtempo sound reminiscent of Cat Power. There were times I had difficulty understanding the lyrics until I realized that the Swedish and English languages were interspersed throughout many of the songs. Unfortunately, this set was even shorter.
New York-based band San Fermin’s baroque pop sound was refreshing that fans of Dengue Fever would dig. Bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s solos provided some great moments that harkened back to old crooner days of Frank Sinatra. The band’s set was not as brisk, but it did manage to play songs from its soon-to-be-released album Jackrabbit like “Reckoning” as well as older favorites (“The Count”).
I was excited to see Los Angeles-based Milo Greene again after catching them for the first time a few years ago at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival. The band’s new music from its sophomore album Control is decidedly moodier and somewhat more upbeat than on the self-titled debut (yay for “1957”).
As soon as Milo Greene exited the stage (who I also saw throwing a football outside the venue), attendees immediately moved toward the stage for the next act which would be Seattle-based electronic music duo Odesza. Few musical acts have been as popular as Odesza for the past year, which Party Ben stated was the top artist on his curated Indie Electronic station (Slacker Radio). This being its first appearnce at SXSW, Odesza took zero time to play, moving from one song to another mostly in support of its In Return album. Fans ate up popular songs like “Say My Name,” “Bloom” and “All We Need.”
Spoon was the last act of the showcase. Having never seen the Austin-native band before, I regretfully hightailed it out before the first song in order to doubletime it to Mohawk in order to catch at least a few minutes of UK Producer SOPHIE. I made it in time to see the male bass pop producer, but the cramped room (maybe 50-person max capacity) at the Mohawk Indoor which made it impossible to actually see him or enjoy the music. So I doubly regretted this move, but left home wiped out.
Note: Originally posted on Blogcritics.