SXSW Music Festival 2021: March 17-18

Hachiku at SXSW 2021

Regarding the showcase format, I think my opinion on SXSW Music Festival 2021 has turned more positive since day one. Rather than continue to rant, I decided to relax and simply enjoy the music for a couple days (March 17-18).

In a way, 15-minute sets reduce any boredom that comes with waiting during physical set transitions and other filler. Given how stressful SXSW can be in the middle of a winter/spring tour, you’d be surprised how many artists go on autopilot. Not a criticism, but a contrast to this year’s format that forces artists to give it their best shot. Please wow us. (As an aside, I just found this note on the SXSW website: “Select showcases will be available on demand starting Sunday, March 21.”)

Three or four songs isn’t a lot of material, but I can honestly say I have not been disappointed except for wanting more – and people, that’s why YouTube exists. Although I’ve scratched my head once or twice at an artist’s song choice (Virginia Wing, I’m thinking about that second song), I always chalk it up to artistic license and artists wanting to perform as their true selves.

And the showcase venues certainly have dictated performances a bit – the ’60s throwback set for La Sacred Mountain Showcase was wild, while the Close Encounter Club was more Live on KEXP-esque than otherworldly. Melbourne-based folk soloist Alexander Biggs performed on an empty street, which elevated “Laundromat” to higher levels of melancholy. Bedroom pop band Hachiku literally played outside someone’s house, which gave me ’80s romantic comedy vibes – but not the creepy kind.

Additional thoughts:

  • The eerie confidence of British dream pop trio Drug Store Romeos (“Frame of Reference”) was breathtaking.
  • I wish something stuck after taking four years of French class because electro-pop duo Paupière sounded amazing despite not being able to understand any of the lyrics.
  • R&B and soul are back. Olivia Dean‘s sweet and honest lyrics (“Reason to Stay”) and Kee’Ahn‘s positivity (“Better Things”) were delights.
  • Jovem Dionisio‘s bossa nova stylings were infectious (“Pontos de Exclamação”).
  • The set for Welsh indie pop band The School was criminally short.

[Screenshot via Tan The Man]

NOTE: Article previously published on Blogcritics.

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