By Bandera Barter
Going to SXSW for the first time I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard about the crazy day parties and I’ve seen the video of Lady Gaga being voluntarily vomited on in the name of art, but this was all through a screen. This would be the first time I would experience SXSW for myself.
I scoured the schedule planning on and hoping to go to just about every event that I saw, specifically Dolly Parton and the Season three screening of “Atlanta.” However, a slight wrench would be thrown in my plans upon realizing these shows would be restricted to platinum badge holders only.
At first, I was slightly discouraged by this and was unsure of what my SXSW plans would be, if any. However, thanks to resources such as Do512 and Eventbrite I was able to find more free events than even possible to attend. Just use Do512 to find the show you want to go to and use Eventbrite to RSVP, a very important step and a lesson I would learn along the way.
Upon entering my first SXSW show at Mohawk, I did notice a pretty clear distinction in myself from platinum badge holders. Namely their ginormous passes with their face on it and then my yellow wristband with the label of “Unimportant” written in bold black lettering. A label I would not have chosen for myself but one that I took in stride and with style.
This event, Soundcloud Next Wav, would feature female rappers Kelow LaTesha, Flores, riela, and Monaleo. Monaleo, the 20-year-old rapper from Houston, would be headlining the event, and within seconds of her coming out on stage, I could see why. During the intermission, it seemed like the crowd was there for networking more than music, but as soon as Monaleo hit the stage all eyes were on her. She rapped her ass off, talked to the crowd as if she knew us, and pulled people up on stage to rap her songs with her bar for bar. Never in my life have I seen someone this young so talented and destined for stardom.
Within walking distance from Mohawk, on 6th street, is another free venue The Blind Pig Pub. Here we saw some of the best live music I’ve ever seen, including Nikk Parr and the Selfless Lovers and Mike and the Moonpies.
As we enter and walk up the stairs the first thing I hear is some of the smoothest a funkiest bass riffs I have ever heard in a country bar, played by Evan Durr. Then you hear the distinct sound of some of the grooviest piano and saxophone you’ve ever heard, both being played at the same time by lead singer Nick Parr. The 26-year-old Parr puts his entire soul on display in such a charismatic and unique way that makes me want to see them perform again and again ASAP.
As for Mike and the Moonpies, I was instantly entranced by the sounds of the pedal steel guitar played by Zachary Moulton. Within seconds I felt like I was back in my childhood listening to the country music my parents would have playing in the car. At times he adds just what is necessary to set the tone and create the ambiance that is Mike and the Moonpies. At other points, he undeniably leads the group, reminiscent of steel guitar legends like Pete Drake, or Don Helms on a Hank Williams track. Mike and the Moonpies are definitely bringing back, keeping alive, or recreating Texas country music, depending on how you look at it.
Lastly, one of the more legendary SXSW free events, Lucy’s 10th Annual South by South Austin Fried Chicken Revival. Now I know this sounds more like a cook-off than a concert, but even if it was the food that made me come it was the music that made me stay.
Upon arrival, it was almost too crowded to hear, let alone see, any of the performers. So, I would eat a delicious meal of loaded tots and chicken and waffles while listening to The John Doe Folk Trio and SUSTO from afar. Thankfully right before the last set, a small hole would open up and I would make my way to the front to see The Dream Syndicate. As soon as the music started I realized why there was an opening, as I was inches from the gigantic deafening speaker, but it was well worth it to hear the psychedelic shredding. Frontman and guitarist Stevie Wynn kept his shades on the entire time and sang and played with the attitude of a living legend. Lead guitarist Jason Victor did things I have never seen in person on the guitar and don’t know if I ever will again. There would be moments of shredding that I couldn’t tell you if they lasted 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Even if I can still barely hear out of my left ear it was worth it to see rockstars like The Dream Syndicate.
Although I did not see Dolly Parton or Donald Glover like I initially hoped, I had an even better experience than I expected at South by Southwest. I did not let my label as “Unimportant” define me or my SXSW journey and went everywhere and did everything I could, often in the same spaces of platinum badge holders. At first, I was intimidated by the scale of SXSW and how much I thought I would have to pay to see good shows, but I now feel like a SXSW veteran ready to go and experience even more next year.
Featured Image by Bandera Barter
Written by: ktsw899