I am a huge fan of SXSW. I am the kind of fan of events like this as maybe a teenage girl is of Britney Spears or a young boy is of Adam Lambert. What I am getting at is that I always loved summer camp as a child, so why wouldn’t I enjoy an indie rock, campish situation for adults? I love it so much that the night before I left I couldn’t go to sleep. I actually only got two hours of sleep, which was probably the biggest mistake of my adventure, because that was the beginning of my sleep deprivation, which led to where I am now — but we will get to that later.
First on my agenda was transportation. SXSW takes place in Austin, Texas, mainly in about a four mile radius of the Austin Convention center and if you love music and people and have, like me, a slight case of ADD, the biggest challenge is getting to all the bars and clubs and seeing everything you want to see in the shortest amount of time. So after years of going to SXSW and failing at this, I decided this year to rent a bike. Yep, I got a new bike and I was stoked! This was the best decision I made. I bought a bike and a lock and I was in business.
Then I got on my bike and rode down to the convention center to check in. I decided to stop by the Spotify house, the first of many sponsor-related houses that I encountered that had a million cool shows and fun things to entertain. I heard some acoustic guitar and asked what was going on. Mike Spinella from Rolling Stone told me Kimbra was just playing but that her set was over. Kimbra! Oh man, how did I miss that? Oh well, she was scheduled to play about five thousand more times over the week so I would try to catch another show.
I continued on my journey to the convention center and finally got checked in. The first people I ran into were Girl in a Coma!
It was Nina’s birthday and they were ready to rock. Jenn and Phanie got Nina some new Dr. Martins. So cute.
This is the part of the story where I start telling you about all the amazing bands that were playing at SXSW and all of the ways that I managed to miss their performances. GIAC was scheduled to play at 1 a.m. and I was determined to make it. (Let’s keep in mind that it that was my plan at 5 p.m. Just food for thought.) Anyway, I was pretty high on life at the moment and I then realized that AfterEllen.com favorite Sick of Sarah was playing at midnight, so I got to get prepared. And by getting prepared I mean that I fed myself and decided how many energy drinks I would need to keep me awake.
Did I mention that I have slight case of ADD? Well, this can work to ones advantage at a festival like SXSW because there are so many things to look at and so many places to go. Most of the people who are participating are feeling over-stimulated and stressed out, so I have found that it is really easy for me to just be me. Throw my schedule to the wind and not have to focus on being present, all I have to do is do what I do best — that is trying to be in a million places all at once. I went on a really long bike ride and caught a much-anticipated set by a band called Fidlar, who I know because they are label mates of An Horse, the Australian duo that we all know and love, and Sleigh Bells with that hot former school teacher gone rockstar. I knew this band was not to be missed.
These guys were great, I learned from the drummer that his dad used to play with TSOL, which made me blush and freak out when he told me. TSOL was one of my favorite bands when I was a kid. I first learned of TSOL from Billabong’s Surf Into Summer movie when I was a pre-teen surfer girl. The only music I ever knew of was what I heard in surf movies. Needless to say, I was too shy to ask him to introduce me to his dad and I freaked out inside from afar.
Their set was awesome and after some socializing and eating, I scrambled to get to the first FUN. show of the week. For those of you who are not familiar with FUN., they have the number one single on iTunes at the moment (“We are Young”) and it has been that way for weeks. They are not only an amazing band with brilliant songs, but they are also very active members of the LGBT community as straight allies. They are dedicated to raising awareness and helping to fight for equality for the LGBT community. They have Revel and Riot tabling on their tour and have a shirt that they sell with all proceeds donated to R&R. I am such a big fan of FUN. that I had them on my schedule everyday of my SXSW trip. They did not disappoint! I rocked out so hard I think I may have actually sprained my neck — no, that is a lie. But I did feel extremely tired.
On my way to the GIAC show I realized they were two miles in the opposite direction of where I was going to lay my head, and it was already past their scheduled set time — meaning there was no way that I was going to get there. But I heard from many people that they killed it and I am really sad that I wasn’t there to enjoy.
The next day I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, as my excitement had not diminished — not even a little bit. I was told I should check out this band called Papa at a Filter party at some bar that I had never heard of. Hey, sounds good to me! In the meantime, I rode around the east side, saw a couple rappers and ate a couple more plates of BBQ. Yes, I said a couple. Do not judge me please.
Papa was really great. I have no idea how drummers can drum and sing at the same time. I can barely walk and talk on the phone without tripping. As I watched in awe, some girl caught the corner of my eye. I looked at the schedule and I hit the jackpot. It was Kimbra, sure enough. Kimbra was the girl who just walked in, weighing in at probably one stone (whatever that means). She was a little thing with a big presence. I knew I’d get to see her perform. When she walked out on stage, the crowd lost it. She wore a cute blue ensemble that I wouldn’t have expected. It was like Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse had a baby and that baby is New Zealand pop artist Kimbra. She is unbelievable and has the cutest style. Her music was not what I expected at all, as I really only know her from her video.
Holy moly, it wasn’t even Friday yet! I had big plans for the rest of my Thursday and mostly they involved eating and stuffing my face full of music at the same time. I did what most people come to SXSW to do: I met up with some work friends, took suggestions about food and accidentally missed one of my mustsees — a band called Trust, the drummer from Austra’s second band. After flogging myself for my big mistake, I called it a night.
Friday I had a few shoots that were coordinated before-hand, and after taking care of those I went to Stubbs, the best BBQ place in the world as far as I am concerned! Elle King was set to play there just before FUN. Can you say “no brainer”? So awesome. I had just become aware of Elle King, the banjo and guitar-playing Ohio girl who currently resides in Brooklyn, and I had no idea what I was in for. This lady delivered a solid performance.
When she apologized to her mother, who was in the audience and then preceded to bust out into her cover of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” I just about died. Yep, I was an insta-fan! I wish I had a recording of this absolute genius delivery. However, it is permanently etched into my memory possibly forever. We know mutual people and had a shoot set up for later on in the weekend, so we decided to meet up before at the Thrasher magazine Death Match for Kreyshawn. I don’t have much to say about it except that Elle and her manager, Alan, loved it! They are really big fans.
The details of the next few days start to blend and blur as exhaustion was brought to new levels. I saw band after band and don’t know if I can recall every detail. But to swing this thing around to our AE readership I will highlight with this: I saw Now Now, the queer trio from Minneapolis that I first became aware of last year and Candy Claws, another queer band.
It is so not fair to categorize both of those bands as queer bands, as they have lots of characteristics besides their sexuality. But what I am doing, you see, is making it relevant to this here queer site. The truth of the matter is that there was a lot of awesome and a lot of awesome gay acts taking over Austin, Texas. And this queer loved every second of it.