Fair Trade: SXSW Preview

Even Devo’s hitting SXSW. Stay tuned for David Coggins’ diary.

The venerable music festival South by Southwest (March 18–22) is so magnetic and diverse it manages to bring Devo and Quincy Jones to perform in the heart of Texas. It attracts more than 1900 bands and countless reporters, industry personnel, fan boys, roadies and barmaids and packs them into 80 clubs over five days. Some of the acts involved are established, or even resurrected (PJ Harvey, Echo and the Bunnymen); most are emerging or indie (Ida Maria, Camera Obscura).  We couldn’t resist the music and the charm of the highway strip any longer, so Interview is road tripping to Texas for our first trip to SXSW.

We’re looking forward to Jason Lytle, former front man of Granddaddy, who moved from Philadelphia to Montana, and is releasing his first solo album in April. Beach House, the duo from Baltimore specializing in lush melancholic pop, is another highlight. But there are enough options for everyone: From Au Revoir Simone, the infectious Brooklyn-based synth pop band best known for its good looks and a remix by the Teenagers, to Futurecop! a colorful, arresting young electronica duo from Manchester. For local flavor there are The Thrift Store Cowboys, an alt-country outfit from West Texas, and Austin’s own Voxtrot.

Then there are bands we’re curious about just for their names: Dikes of Holland, Modern Skirts, Lick Lick, Dear Tick, Fat Pimp, and General Fiasco. There are panel discussions, including one by club owners titled “Annoying Things That Bands Do.” When you’ve had enough networking at industry parties, take your cue from perhaps the most anticipated and useful panel: “BBQ the Texas Way.”
More than anything, SXSW remains a trade fair: With all that’s going on—you have to pick your battles, and that involves painful choices. We’re dreading (in a good way) Wednesday, the festival’s first night, when there’s a 10pm show at the Central Presbyterian Church by the Department of Eagles, who share band members and a brooding temperament with Grizzly Bear.  Meanwhile Dosh, the musical polymath from Minneapolis who’s been touring with Andrew Bird is playing over at the Mohawk.

We’re looking forward to an intimate set from Tricky (especially after re-watching the incredible Steve McQueen video of him in the studio) but he’s facing up against the Swedish singer-songwriter Loney Dear.  Most clubs start music at 6 PM, with acts going on every hour until 2am. There’s an entire evening devoted to the pioneering independent label 4AD, which includes sets by the talented misanthrope M Ward, and the haunting St. Vincent (Annie Clark). But if you stay in one place all night, where’s the fun in that? 

That’s too much music for any mortal to hear but with enough beer we’re ready for all comers, and we’ll be posting daily with the best of what we see and hear.