For a music lover who wakes and sleeps surrounded by song, a morning of silence is rare. A quiet Sunday is especially rare, as this is a day I often devote to a special, self-defined genre consisting of songs that are good for doing laundry and lying in hammocks. But not this Sunday. This Sunday my ears and brain need to heal. But mostly, they need some time to cherish everything they’ve just seen and heard without tarnishing it with a return to recorded songs just yet.
This SXSW seemed even more satisfying than year’s past. The breadth of music was remarkable as was the variety of venues and their ability to make me better understand what makes our city so special. Here, an incredibly indulgent look back at the week, complete with links for anyone with the patience or interest.
The week started late night on Sunday with a trip to the Enchanted Forest for Silent Frisco. Enchanted, indeed. All at once feeling not hipster enough and like I fit in perfectly under the most enormous disco ball I had ever seen, the hidden forest off Oltorf was a little piece of Austin I wouldn’t have imagined. Amidst a full-fledged bonfire and laser light show hundreds of people danced with lighted headphones, indicating their preference for the “green” or “blue” dj. The silent community amazed me as I scanned the crowd to see the popularity of blue and green switch back and forth and the dancing get more intense. The energy was something you felt without hearing. There was an indescribable sense of connection to anyone you passed whose headphone light was the color of your own. As the night got later and the djs got better, the lights switched more frequently, the crowd seeming to realize they were missing something great no matter which they chose and the djs battling it out for a silent but enthusiastic audience.
After a day full of interactive panels, Monday night was the Industry Party. I’ve long been aware of our agency’s ability to throw a great party but what made this one particularly special was that the bands featured were on many people’s “must see at SXSW” list and there’s something validating about hearing a band, Apache Relay, interviewed on Sirius radio’s special SXSW show just days after they performed at your office. It was fun to play host at our own venue as the crowds poured in to Austin and Apache Relay along with Motopony and Heartless Bastards were the perfect entertainers.
A very late post-Industry party dinner at 24 Hour Diner made a Tuesday morning 9:30 interactive session improbable, but impossible for me to miss. My favorite music blogger, Heather Browne of Fuel Friends, was participating in a panel about music discovery and I couldn’t pass up a chance to hear the woman who brought me this post and Tyler Lyle talk about how she finds great music. It didn’t disappoint, partially because I learned about sites like wearehunted.com, wahwah.com and the radio station KCRW (which apparently, as a music person, I should have known about long ago) but also because it made me think about music discovery in general and what a big part of my life it plays. The panel made me realize about how much credence and effort I’m willing to give to a personal recommendation versus how quickly I’ll “thumbs down” a song on Pandora and secretly roll my eyes in disgust at how badly the algorithm has misjudged me. It also made me wonder if all of these new tools are helping more people discover music or the same small group of music junkies discover more music? But, mostly, the panel made me feel lucky to live in a time when all of this is happening.
Tuesday afternoon brought the first of serendipitous events, an ACL taping with the Alabama Shakes that I won through the ACL Blog. I don’t remember a band having as much hype as this one in a long time, evidenced by the fact they were asked to perform a legendry ACL taping before they even released their first album. Soulful, all-encompassing blues rock, it took less than one song to understand the hype. Brittany Howard has a voice that is that perfect blend of raspy, elegant and authentic. When she sings, I believe whatever it is that she has to say. The privilege of seeing that band in that venue was undeniable. (more…)