Monday, March 25, 2013

My SXSW 2013

Austin from the Bat bridge
It's the craziest few days of music bookended by excitement and anxiety.  I've only been to SXSW twice - but am convinced it's the greatest Music Festival & Conference in the world.  

There's some things about Austin that suck, like late at nights on 6th street as the police are clearing the streets of crazy, but it's vital that industry folk continue to flock to Austin for the music.  It's the best place to learn about NEW music and re-live some classic names that help remind them why they got into this business in the first place.  SXSW is something everyone should go to at least once in their musical careers.   

Leake & the Police on Horseback at 2AM
SXSW is a place where new bands go with big dreams of being discovered.  It's where old bands go to reinvent themselves.  It's where massive artists go to create a buzz by playing a small venue.  It's a music city where you can see everything and the atmosphere is fantastic.

The impact is rarely immediate for artists showcasing at South By.  It takes a while and sometimes it never even comes to light - BUT if and when it does you can trace the roots back to SXSW showcases. 

2 years ago I saw The Naked and Famous, The Sheepdogs, Matt Nathanson, Tinie Tempah and Jamie Woon.  Not all became superstars - but I bet you know of at least one of these acts now.  The same goes for a wee ginger headed fella named Ed Sheeran that played at last year's festival.  

18 year old Jake Bugg from the UK
It's taken me a week and a half to write down all the bands I saw at this year's festival simply because there were so many.  Also because it was Canadian Music Week in Toronto this past week and the madness continued here.

Life's tough sometimes but I'm up for it.  I can't complain.

Here's a list of acts I had the pleasure of seeing this time around and hope to see again soon.  I hope you check out a few of them as well.

I'm going to start with the New Artists because SXSW truly is about music discovery.  

Jake Bugg:  I was dying to see this youngster since I first heard his name about a year ago. Props once again to Ashley Moore in my office for introducing me to his music.  He's 18 and a true rock star with the voice and sound of Buddy Holly meets Bob Dylan.  I sat with my jaw on the floor for his whole set as I watched him switch guitars on just about every song.  He didn't say one thing to the crowd - just sang the tunes with a serious face on.  It was perfect and exactly how I'd hope it would be.  I can't wait for North America to see him this summer.  He's that good I am sticking 2 song on here...

Frightened Rabbit:  I caught these guys at Rachel Ray's BBQ in the middle of the day at Stubbs.  It was the side stage and it was frickin hot outside.  Thankfully Rachel was handing out Blue Moons to cool the crowd as this Scottish band was about to slay them.  They're sonically fantastic and I'm pissed that I'll be missing them in Toronto this coming Sunday.  This video is one of the best things I've seen in a long time...

The 1975:  Well if you like perfect pop with a twist of 80s magic then this band are for you.  I loved seeing them at 'Red Eyed Fly'.  It was the perfect outdoor spot to catch these guys as the sun went down.  The best stage banter all week came from this lead singer as he introduced the first song.  "We locked ourselves in a house last summer and watched every John Hughes film - then recorded this album.  We hope you like it."  That says it all and if you work in television or advertising  - and are looking for the perfect songs for right now then you've found them.

Pickwick:  I stumbled across these guys by accident at first and had never heard their name before.  They were playing at the Virgin Mobile day party and they captured the attention of that whole house party and passers by on the street. It reminded me of The Flaming Lips meets Black Keys - and I loved it.  I caught them again at the festival conference when they performed at the radio day stage.  This song is killer...

Honourable mentions in the new artist category go to Jam Master Jay's son, Little Green Cars, Darwin Deez, Monster Truck, Sky Ferreira, Michael Kiwanuka and Hanna Georgas.

There were many Established Artists to be seen and it was interesting to learn of the options at SXSW.  Some classics I had even forgotten about.  I checked out Diplo, Billy Bragg, The Sheepdogs, Pharcyde, City and Colour and these guys below...

Eagles of Death Metal

Ed Kawalchuck of Live

Third Eye Blind

Kenny Loggins

The other category is that of the Massive Artist.  These days it's very much about brands and big bands making a huge splash in Austin when the streets are packed with taste makers and industry people.  With that comes the bonus of having the chance to see some of the biggest names in the smallest of clubs.  These are stadium acts that may have not done a small venue for many many many years.  This year saw the likes of A Tribe Called Quest opening for Price, The Roots opening for Justin Timberlake and The Yeah Yeahs closing out the night for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  

I was lucky enough to catch 2 big names including Dave Grohl's Sound City Players.  This is a super group comprised of artists that appeared in Dave's recent documentary film entitled 'Sound City'.  It was long and chalk full of hits.  Everyone from Stevie Nicks, Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Rick Springfield, Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) and John Fogerty were on stage.  Hearing some classic CCR at Stubbs was pretty epic.  

Dave Grohl was also the festival's keynote speaker that same day.  I was lucky enough to be in the room for his monumental address.  It gave me goosebumps and I've gone through the whole Nirvana catalogue since that morning.  Give it a listen here.  Inspired indeed.

My personal favourite moment was seeing Depeche Mode in a club.  This was the first band I'd ever seen in concert and so to see them 23 years later - as they re-introduce themselves to the world - was special.  I enjoyed the new material and the latest album is great.  But when they played 'Try Walking In My Shoes', 'Personal Jesus' and one of my all time favourite songs 'Enjoy The Silence' - I was in heaven.

It's now time to rest for 2014.  I hope you can make it down to Austin for this amazing cultural experience at one point in your lives.  Oh yeah don't forget to bring an appetite for Texas BBQ, Tacos, Bloody Marys and Beer.  

Thanks for reading/listening.


Sunday, March 10, 2013


Nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.  

I had a few nostalgic moments like this today.  They  were triggered by a songs on the radio while driving. 

It's not often I drive these days but I needed to rent one for a few hours today.  I really only miss driving for one reason - and that is the ability to play music really loud flying down the highway.  It doesn't matter if it's the cheesiest pop track of all time or the most sentimental slow jam - it all sounds that much better when you have your hands on the wheel and foot on the gas peddle.

I chose to scan the radio for the first 5 minutes and stumbled across The 80s show on Boom FM.  I also lucked out because it wasn't just Duran Duran and your typical stuff.  I heard Kim Mitchell's 'All We Are' into Gino Vanelli's 'Wild Horses'.  These 2 songs transported me back to the mid 80s in the back of our family Buick driving along the 401 on a Sunday night.  The family was usually on our way back from an out of town hockey tournament and my Dad had the radio cranked to whatever station you could pick-up along the way.  The only song missing was Chicago's 'You're The Inspiration'.  Man I love that track.  These are fond memories I'll cherish forever.

On my return trip I heard Faith No More's classic song 'Epic'.  Wow was this song amazing the first time I heard it in 1990.  I remember buying the cassette for 'The Real Thing' at A&M Records in the Pickering mall in that summer.  It was on sale so I also grabbed Billy Idol's 'Charmed Life'.  I skateboarded to the mall and then went directly to my friend Patrick's house to hang out and listen to them both.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It wasn't yesterday - that was 23 year's ago.

Peter Cetera - 'The Glory of Love'

Faith No More - 'Epic'

Billy Idol - 'Cradle of Love'