SXSW Mantra: More Bands, Less Sleep


SXSW 2010 Diary

Each morning we get up progressively later and slide on down to the hotel breakfast buffet before it closes. Today we notice members of Frightened Rabbit contemplating what kind of omelet they want to have while we try not to look too disheveled. But hell everybody in the hotel at this time of the morning looks disheveled!

At this point, people start to get a little crazy from lack of sleep and overall shock of seeing hundreds of bands. You’ve got bands in bars, bands on the street, bands in churches, bands in peoples’ backyards. Literally everywhere you look is a band or artist. The streets are clogged with more band tour buses, vans and trailers than Madison on UW moving day. SXSW brings in more money to the city of Austin annually than any other event. Local cab drivers and pedicycle operators estimate about 100 – 150,000 additional people in the city for the music festival.

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus at SXSW


Today, Katie and I decide to check out Madison’s Zola Jesus who is playing at the French Legation museum, an outdoor location just off Sixth Street in a more open park-like setting. The weather is again beautiful, upper 70s and sunny. We hop in a cab from the hotel and 10 minutes later we arrive along with a crowd of several hundred. The Line-up is great; The Antlers, Real Estate, Zola Jesus, Yellow Fever and Sharon Van Etten. Later on the Dum Dum Girls and XX are scheduled to play. The beer of choice at this event is a brew called Magic Hat and we befriend an Austin local who gives us pointers on SXSW. “Conserve your Energy and only drink Texas beer. That’s my advice.” he said jokingly. ”No really, just pace yourself. It’s easy to burn-out before the entire event is over.”

Although technically we we’re still downtown, the open green space was very nice and reminded me of the University Heights area in Madison. Two stages have been set up on opposite sides of the grounds to allow bands to play alternate sets. One band plays while the other artist sets-up.

After procuring two free glasses of Magic Hat, we take in the tail end of the Antlers set underneath a large tent situated on the beautiful museum grounds. The enthusiastic crowd saviors the intelligent lyrics and delicate arrangements of The Antlers’ bounty from Hospice along with new material.

Real Estate is up next after the Antlers and I relish their set after missing the Madison show at the UW Memorial Union last fall. “Beach Comber” from their self-titled debut album that came out last year was one of my favorite tracks for several months. The new material from Real Estate’s latest EP “Reality” complemented the crowd’s laid back, but vibrant demeanor. The break between sets allowed me to pick up a veggie burger and secure a place in front of the other stage for Zola Jesus. It was a definite change of pace to see Zola Jesus in the bright sunlight of the French Legation s covered stage as apposed to a cozy, dark club. She opened with a stirring version of “Night” jumping off stage to pace back and forth like a panther ready to strike. Nika’s powerful operatic-trained vocals drove the remaining set with help from her three piece band standing behind a bank of synthesizers.

Heading back to the hotel along an Austin side street we hear some incredibly great music coming from a house perched on top of a hill. At first, I thought it was somebody’s personal home stereo system. Upon further investigation, we find an out-of-the-way unofficial SXSW showcase featuring the Treetop Flyers from England and Chicago’s Joe Pug. All for free. After a couple of songs we decide to head back to the hotel and hale a pedicab, a three wheel bicycle with a large back sear for two passengers. The bicyclist driver is an Austin local who talks about his Cajun music show on the local community radio station and how much SXSW has grown as we take in the sights of Downtown. Once back at our hotel, we take a shower and head back out to Stubbs for Besnard Lakes, The Walkmen, The Soft Pack, Drive-by-Truckers, Band of Horses and Broken Social Scene. You have to admit, that is a great line-up! The weather has cooled off for a fine evening of music under the stars. I’m getting used to seeing a steady stream of great bands at SXSW and there is really no other music event to compare it to.

Sharon Van Etten


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