SXSW Preview: Musical March Madness set to begin
Just in time for spring break, the TV is telling us to “spring forward” our clocks this weekend. Great – as if I needed another thing to keep me from sleeping over the next seven days. Well, there’s that South by Southwest thing (referred to as SXSW), which is an insane hurricane of music and activity in Austin, Texas. The interactive and film events are under way this weekend, but the real action begins on Wednesday: around 2,000 musical acts will strain to get attention from thousands more attendees.
SXSW is an industry event where people in the music bidness get together and hear speakers and panels during the day,then attend official showcases at night where a number of acts play shorts sets and hopefully impress the audience. The public can play too, provided they buy a wristband (for about $150 apiece) or pony up a cover charge if they’re lucky enough to find a venue with space available.
And that’s just the “official” part – between Wednesday and Sunday, the “unofficial” side parties will attract even thousands more including musicians willing to play for free. That, really, is where the true heart of SXSW now resides. The festival started 25 years ago as a music industry gathering designed to showcase unknown, unsigned and unheard musical acts but today it’s become an orgy of overload, with well-known names all but obliterating the up-and-comers.
For starters, there’s a big show by the Strokes at Austin’s Auditorium Shores on Thursday night. It’s free to the public, no wristbands needed, and you will surely get to hear the New Yorkers play some of their upcoming album Angles. Other big names playing around town this weekend will include Kanye West, Queens Of The Stone Age, Snoop Dogg, Bob Geldof, the Foo Fighters, Yoko Ono, Cee Lo Green, Lupe Fiasco and god knows who else. Others like the Bangles, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Duran Duran are here to see if people remember ’em.
And hell, I could run down a few names of lesser-known acts to look out for but they would probably mean as little to you as they do to me … so instead I’ll make you a promise – we’ll listen to some of these kids and let you know what we think. And yes, we’ll try to find Bill Murray.
We’re going to virtually none of the “official” showcases (except for the Strokes) but we should find plenty of interest between Wednesday and Sunday. Follow our rants on Twitter or visit this blog each day during the festival. We will crash a few high-profile events and mingle with the common people at some of the better free side parties. Hopefully it will be a good time, and a good one for you too. See you Wednesday.