I think we have finally recovered from SXSW this year. Aside from trying to recall all of our shenanigans and going through all 4,000+ photos we decided we would chime in with our review. This year Castro and Maddie had the distinct honor of getting blisters on our feet, drinking an abundance of watered down free beer, and having one too many slices of pizza on Sixth Street. But of course if it wasn't for those things we wouldn't enjoy ourselves once again this year. We scoured the streets of Austin day and night to find some of the best showcases and parties and without further adieu we present to you our favorites from this years festival. Stay tuned tomorrow for our second part of our SXSW adventures.
Easily one of the most recognizable brand names to host a showcase, Pandora has continued to step up their SXSW experience every year. Taking over The Gatsby on 6th, their venue is big, but not overbearing, allowing fans to have a pleasant experience without waiting for hours - not to mention close to the center of the chaos, and much more easily accessible than other brand showcases. Each day at the Pandora Discovery Den focuses on a different genre, similar to how the Pandora Genome Project works. Pairing artists new and old - legacy acts and new breakthrough artists - Pandora guarantees you at least one “must see” act per day, no matter what your musical preference. The experience was made even better this year thanks to additions to the “Pandora Backyard”: free food every day from Chick-Fil-A, charging stations courtesy of Olay, free filtered water dispensers and water bottles from Scott’s Lawn Care, and a Backyard “recuperation” area where you could sit in lawn chairs in the shade while watching a live stream of the Pandora stage. Did we mention this place was somehow *never* packed? Pandora was like a mirage in the desert, and quickly became our go-to hideaway throughout the week.
Favorite sets from Pandora: Jake Bugg, Bloc Party.
Universal Music Group seems to make the most noise out of all the major record labels each year at SXSW by hosting both private, industry-only showcases paired with major shows for badge holders and non-badge holders alike. Their efforts to involve all music fans in Austin doesn’t go unnoticed, and has quickly become a fan favorite. Taking over the 4th floor ballrooms of the J.W. Marriott in the heart of downtown Austin, the “Music Is Universal” parties featured both day and night showcases, and a diverse lineup to boot. Starting with a “pool party” on Tuesday that featured Mayer Hawthorne, the rest of the week we saw shows like The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, DNCE (Joe Jonas’ new project), Snarky Puppy, Grizfolk, Joseph, and BJ The Chicago Kid all take stage in the Marriott’s ballrooms. While the indoor, hotel setting seemed a bit odd at first, Universal did a great job transforming the space to feel as intimate as a proper venue. Did we mention how insane their lighting was?
Favorite sets from UMG: Joseph, Cloves, The Avett Brothers.
Our tried and true favorite event for years has been FloodFest, which takes over the Cedar Street Courtyard on 4th and Colorado. A unique space squished between two separate 2-story bars, even when FloodFest is packed, it sounds amazing, and you can’t not have fun on the canopy-covered dance floor. Morning showcases focused on international acts, and day showcases sponsored by companies like Red Light Management, Paradigm, and Domino Records ensured a wide array of new, diverse sounds. In the evenings, Flood Magazine curated showcases mixed in new, breaking artists with old favorites. Flood Magazine do what they do very well, and it just wouldn’t be SXSW without an outrageous evening overlooking FloodFest.
Favorite sets: Transviolet, Hinds, Deap Vally, Ra Ra Riot, XYLO.
COLLIDE ON RAINEY
This little, sweet world of Rainey Street has slowly become as big a showcase epicenter as 6th Street is during SXSW. With more unconventional venues, Culture Collide’s diverse lineup fit in perfectly with the diverse array of settings Rainey Street has to offer. Hosting five separate, unique showcases at five different venues, Culture Collide brought the thunder with over 150 bands to the south side of the city. Each venue was sponsored by a different company: Playstation, Avocados from Mexico, Hard Rock, StubHub, and Showtime each played host to a different room down the block. After picking up some sweet swag at Container Bar, then heading to Banger’s Sausage House for free drinks, and then to Clive Bar for a “roadie-style” photoshoot, the experiences at each venue were just as diverse as the artists playing. While Friday night’s weather and lightning delays killed a few of the sets we were most excited to see, we couldn’t have been happier with the ones we did experience.
Favorite sets from Collide on Rainey: Matthew Logan Vasquez at Container Bar, Jack Garratt at Playstation House, Jamestown Revival at Banger’s, and our failed attempt to see X Ambassadors and Ghostland Observatory at Banger’s on Friday.
QUANTUM COLLECTIVE SOUTHWEST INVASION
It might be the farthest away location, but we’ve seen some of our favorite SXSW sets on the Whole Foods rooftop during the Southwest Invasion showcases. Located across the street from the legendary Waterloo Records, the Quantum Collective always has a diverse mix of sets throughout the week, not to mention a unique setting, and tons of free food, snacks, and other cool activations. Previous performers on the Invasion stage include: Imagine Dragons, Air Dubai, The Lumineers, Kongos, G. Love and Big Data - you never know which artist you see on the rooftop might break next. Standout sets this year included Made of Oak (Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso), The Young Wild, Third Eye Blind (pretty sure they’re following us) and Talib Kweli. Could it get more diverse? We doubt it. The Southwest Invasion is one of our favorite spots to grab some grub, and post up for an afternoon full of familiar sounds, and welcome surprises. If you ever find yourself without a plan at SXSW, escape the madness of 6th and retreat to North Lamar, this Quantum Collective showcase will never disappoint.
Favorite sets: Quiet Company, The Young Wild, Into It. Over It.
Photo Slideshow (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)