It's taken us a week, but we have finally recovered from our recent trip to SXSW. The ever-growing madness that was once a conference for industry types has exploded into a month-long, mayhem-filled festival that tackles interactive, film, and of course, music. As the festival has grown exponentially year after year, leading companies to try and capitalize on the thousands of tourist flocking to the city in droves. This mass push for inclusion by major corporations has changed the face of the festival, making the brands presenting each showcase almost as important as the bands performing. With big corporations like Spotify, Spin, IFC, Fader Fort, and even McDonald's (yes as in the makers of the Big Mac) giving SXSW a try, we thought it might be interesting to focus on the specific events we covered. Which brands got it right? Which ones left us wanting more? Which ones really got the mix of marketing-meets-music just right? We might love the idea of a free Big Mac in the middle of the day, but no matter how many french fries are involved, SXSW will always be about music more than anything else. Let's take a look at some of the highlights from our trip.
Spotify House | March 15-20
Since it's conception in 2012, the Spotify House has become a "must go" to showcase. A company branded around "music discovery", the Spotify House has successfully showcased a wide variety of "up and coming" mid-level artists on their stage year after year. This year's lineup was no different, hosting Big Data, Run The Jewels, Misterwives, Speedy Ortiz, Ryn Weaver, Houndmouth, BØRNS, James Bay, Stromae, Twin Shadow among others. We started our week at the Spotify House on Monday and were treated to a variety of genres including a rather enjoyable Spanish-Cumbia-Electro mashup courtesy of MLKMN and El Dusty. We were quick to realize that the Spotify House would act like a small sanctuary to showcase goers throughout SXSW: free booze from Deep Eddy Vodka, snacks from Kind, seating, and a different food truck each day, fans could easily camp out at this one showcase all day without becoming bored. You also had a chance to win some free shwag and charge your mobile device all while testing your musical knowledge playing Spotify's trivia challenges. The event did not go without its hiccups as a small altercation between an overzealous fan and Run The Jewels took place during their set on Monday night. Word to the wise? Don't f**k with Run The Jewels, but certainly don't skip out on The Spotify House during your SXSW adventures.
IFC Fairgrounds | March 19-21
This was our second go at The IFC Fairgrounds since it's innagural stint last spring. A welcome difference from the crowded bars of 6th Street, the "one part music fest, one part carnival, one part state fair" vibe from this event reminded us of Riot Fest - which is always a good thing. IFC had plenty of room to walk around, carnival rides throughout the grounds, a food truck gallery, and even a mechanical bull (ask Maddie about her four seconds of fame). Although the grounds became a muddy mess after Friday's rain, IFC remained one of our favorite venues of the week. Standout artists included Robert DeLong, Odesza, K-Flay, Rubblebucket, Colony House and more.
The Fader Fort | March 18-21
The Fader Fort has always been one of the best parties year in and year out. This year the format was a little different as it was technically an "invite only" event compared to it's previous years being open to the public. Despite their attempts to minimize the crowds, it still seemed like everybody in Austin had an invite judging by the massive crowds lining the compound each day. We stopped by a few days throughout the week, and saw some awesome installations by Converse, a crazy flying drone, an abundance of Jack Daniel cocktails and plenty of great music. Higlights included amazing sets from Stromae, Sam Hunt, Chance the Rapper, Hudson Mohawke, Migos, surprise performances from T-Pain, Twista and even Miley Cyrus showed up to party. Fader Fort continues to be one of the best parties during SXSW; showcasing some of the best new talent while being known as the party that always has the best "surprise guests".
Rachael Ray's Feedback | March 21
Tradition's are important, and on our last day of SXSW always ends up at Stubb's for the annual Rachael Ray Feedback showcase. Besides being one of our favorite chefs, Rachel Ray has been curating an awesome lineup of music every year since 2008. This year included great performances from Surfer Blood, Raekwon (a chef himself), Big Data, Reptar, Jeff The Brotherhood and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. With an abundance of great food and bottomless Blue Moon's, a little rain wasn't going to ruin a great time for us!
Pandora Discovery Den | March 18-21
In it's now fourth year, the Pandora Discovery Den is quite possibly the biggest branded showcase to take place on 6th Street. While Fader Fort, Spotify House, and Hype Hotel have ditched the insanity of Austin's downtown for the east side, Pandora is holding out, and I think it's paying off. Their close proximity to the rest of the action made Pandora an easy stop off throughout the week, which led to us discovering quite a few new acts - the precise goal of the event. Highlighted by daytimes performances by Elliphant, Joywave, and Palma Violets, and night time shows from Robert DeLong, Cazzette and Jamestown Revival, Pandora's venue had great lighting and sound - a welcome difference to the rest of the bars on 6th Street. Complete with hanging lounge bubbles from Bausch & Lomb, a tented seating area, and an activation for Disney's upcoming release "Inside Out", we gave Pandora's Discovery Den a big "thumbs up".
Spin at Stubb's | March 21
Another one of our favorite events is the annual Spin Magazine party that takes place at Stubb's. Some of the biggest names to ever appear at SXSW have graced this stage in the past including Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Courtney Love, and many more. This year brought out festival favorites Run The Jewels, Twin Shadow, Aussie darling Courtney Barnett, Will Butler of Arcade Fire, Kate Boy, and Earl Sweatshirt. This event has always given us a chance to catch some of the most emotional performances during SXSW. It's safe to say that we always love covering this event.
Colorado Music Party | March 17-21
What would a week celebrating music be without us celebrating some of our favorite Colorado Musicians?! Presented by Spokesbuzz, Westword, Open Air CPR, New Belgium Brewery, Illegal Pete's and more, this showcase really feels like a home away from home while in Austin. Featuring both an indoor stage downstairs, and a rooftop stage atop the 512 Bar, folks from all across the world were able to see just how talented our local scene is. Featuring shows from CRL CRRLL, Rob Drabkin, Edison, NeW bEAt FUNd, Poor Me, Maxwell Hughes (formally of The Lumineers), Eldren, The Royal, Jilly.fm, AMZY, Wheelchair Sports Camp, and our rowdiest friends, In The Whale, the Colorado Music Party did a fabulous job of showcasing the wide variety of music our beloved state has to offer. We saw a lot of familiar faces throughout the week, but it was great to see new faces in the crowds as well (including the drunk girl with an AMZY sticker on her boobs), and even a quick visit from Kevin Lyman, the founder and promoter of the Vans Warped Tour. Pretty neat!
SXSW is an animal that can't be tamed. Long days, sore feet, lots of loud, and far too many people in one 10x10 block radius, South By Southwest is not for the faint of heart. Despite the treacherous conditions, this festival is one of our team's favorite annual events by a landslide. We're thankful to the city of Austin for continuing to have us back year after year, even though we do some serious work to attempt to deplete their taco, barbecue, and vodka levels. It may have taken us a full week to recuperate from all of this year's fun, but it's safe to assume that we're already ready to go back, cameras in hand, and a love of music discovery in our hearts.
Thanks for all the fun, SXSW. We'll see you again next March!
- Maddie, Castro, Ashley and Andrew