South by Southwest Music Week 2013 - Thur 3/14, Fri 3/15 and Sat 3/16
Granted, my SXSW 2013 schedule was pretty light this year compared to previous years. I blame lots of different variables which I won’t go into detail right now but I will say that my schedule was so light that I started planning a completely different trip to Fort Worth instead. I was planning to attend the 2013 Texas Bigfoot Conference where professor and renowned Bigfoot researcher Jeff Meldrum was scheduled to speak along with television personality, SyFy Channel’s Destination Truth host and archaeologist Josh Gates. The opportunity to meet two of my favorite cryptid researchers was too good to pass up, but for whatever reasons, plans for that trip fell through. Instead, I tried to beef up my SXSW schedule and gave the 2013 music portion of the festival a go as I’ve done for the past 14 or 15 years, give or take a few years intermittently. Now historically, I’ve only done Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the music portion of the festival, generally spending all day and all night downtown for 3 solid days. I’m usually able to get the whole week off of work, but not this year. Instead, I was only able to fit in Thursday evening, Friday evening and all of Saturday. Good thing my schedule was really light though, as I was still able to plan out what I wanted to see with nothing that I wanted to catch playing while I was at work. I have to mention what I think are things that need mentioning about the festival, or at least what it has evolved into over the past many years. First of all, this is an event that is growing out of its britches, with the festival having expanded from what felt like just a few streets to exploding all over the city. So much of the festival has grown insanely, that the population has really grown into a problem, at least for me. I’m sure the City of Austin has no problems with it, but when you have to bicycle 2-3 blocks over from 6th street because it’s impossible to get through the crowds of people, then you know there’s a population issue. With the influx of attendees also comes impossible parking, which explains why the last couple of years, I have transitioned from using the shoelace express as my main mode of transport into riding my bike to get around. The method here is to use the last remaining free space for parking (East 11th/East 12th Neighborhoods I.E. The Ghetto) and cycling into the heart of the city. No ridiculous traffic to sit through just to find a parking spot, no criminally high parking rates to pay…..it’s win win all around. Well, save for the possibility of getting carjacked, but considering the shape that my car is in, I would probably consider that a favor. Anyways, for venturing around the I-35 part of town, parking in the ghetto seems to work fine for me so far. When venturing closer to the Lamar part of downtown though, I thank my lucky stars that I have a membership to the YMCA. There’s a Y right next to the train station on Lamar, and only takes a few blocks of a ride to get to 6th street, which brings me to the beginning of my yearly festival trek on Thursday 3/14. Driving into the YMCA, a big sign read, “No SXSW Parking: Violators Will Be Towed”. Once I parked, I walked into the Y to sign in, let them know which car was mine, and took down my bike from the back of my car and headed downtown. No intent to actually work out in the facilities, I am a member so why not use what I pay for? Thursday was going to be a short night for me since I still had to go to work the following day, but also because a band that I had planned on watching later that night (Deathwish records’ Sworn In) unfortunately had the series of shows at the hosting venue shut down by the city, citing possible permit violations. I managed to watch Brooklyn, NY’s Field Mouse, which I had already seen at last years’ festival, and Norwegian Arms. Field Mouse was good but I really liked Norwegian Arms; having never seen them before, I looked forward to seeing them play. A trio with an unconventional setup, their music was slightly reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, but heavy on the synths. I saw an acoustic performance by a guy that I can’t remember, but the main reason for my night trip downtown was to see Laura Stevenson play a solo set at J. Blacks. The idea was to see her play with her full band under the name Laura Stevenson & the Cans, but her two showcases were on Wednesday night, with the earlier showcase being a badge only event and her second show being way too late for my taste. She played an unannounced house party on Friday night, but my Friday was pretty booked so I didn’t have any other choice but to see her bandless on Thursday night. She played a short set of 5 or 6 songs thanks to the sound guy cutting her off early, and the songs were mostly new songs from her upcoming April album or current songs from her record Sit Resist. Sadly, nothing from her first record A Record, but I’m going to see her headline in May with a full band so it wasn’t a total bummer. She played great and it was nice to see her songs stripped down to their rawest form. I’ve been crushing hard on her songs for quite some time now, and this was the first time I have seen her play live so I was nothing but satisfied with her performance. I talked with her for a bit, got my picture taken with her and she even gave me her set list, so it was a success nonetheless. She was super nice, funny and quirky and I can’t wait to see her in May. The only other thing that I wanted to see on Thursday was Sworn In at Hoeke’s, but since those shows had been shut down by the city, I took it as a sign to call Thursday night a wash and headed home instead. Mentally prepared to take on what was to be a more exhausting day, it seemed fitting to call it a night.