Pacing yourself at this live music marathon is key, and by Saturday night it's easy to spot those who probably should have traded the Pabst Blue Ribbon for bottled water days ago. That's not to say that people weren't getting sloppy before Saturday Night, as I saw plenty of face-plants leading up to our two shows on Friday.
Numerous musicians I talked to have decided that this year's SXSW will be the last of it's kind, largely due to the drunk driving accident that killed at least two people and injured 23 more. On Wednesday night around midnight, Rashad Charjuan Owens drove through police barricades and onto Red River Street before running over multiple concert goers. Imagine a car going 70 mph down Beale Street during Memphis in May. Then multiply the crowd by 5 times. A rumor started circulating on Saturday that two additional people who were hit in the accident had died, and that authorities had elected to keep the news quiet to avoid any rioting by festival-goers.
This terrible tragedy began to raise the question that performers have been quietly asking themselves for years: "Has SXSW gotten too rowdy and too big for it's own good?" The answer is yes. Each year I've been, the crowds get bigger, the antics get more ridiculous (Lady Gaga got paid $3 million dollars to play SXSW and have someone puke on her) and the charm gets watered down. Even if this may be the last year before a drastic change at SXSW, there were many memorable moments, and many moments I'll never remember. Here's my top ten for SXSW 2014.
1. The Secret Prostitutes at Beerland, Thursday, March 13th.
2. JC Satan at Spiderhouse, Saturday March 15th.
3. Ty Segall at Street Legal Guitars, Thursday, March 14th.
4. Zig Zags at Spiderhouse, Saturday, March 15th.
5. Burnt Skull at Trailor Space Records, Saturday, March 15th.
6. Tyvek at Beerland, Thursday, March 13th.
7. Destruction Unit at Spiderhouse, Saturday March 15th.
8. La Luz at Street Legal Guitars, Thursday, March 13th.
9. Not seeing Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Jay Z or any other mainstream artist at SXSW all weekend.
10. Entrance Band at Spiderhouse, Saturday March 15th.
Ex-Cult hit the road for SXSW at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and thanks to our smart phones we avoided the horrendous traffic on I-40 west and took a state highway through beautiful rural Arkansas. Why are all the lakes around Forrest City, Arkansas the color of Mountain Dew Baja Blast? Other than a few minor traffic setbacks, we made really good time and got into Austin around 12:30 a.m..
Because we had no desire to get into the chaos that was happening downtown (and because they stop serving booze at 2 a.m.), our first stop was The Grand, a nice pool hall that seemed like more of a local hangout than a hipster haven. However our server assured us there would be live music at The Grand for the rest of the weekend. There's probably 30 bands playing there right now. I suppose I should take this time to give some background on SXSW for those who are unfamiliar. What started out as a festival to get unsigned bands attention (and record deals) has turned into a full-blown shit show, with 1000's of bands playing anywhere they can plug a power strip into.
Seriously, there are so many shows going on 24/7 that businesses actually have signs that say NO LIVE BANDS HERE. Yes, its gotten to the point where its rare for a band NOT to be playing. SXSW is also an energy vortex. Because there are roughly 891735 people trying to Instagram their experience, cell phone coverage is almost non-existent. I left the house we were staying at with a full charge and by 2 p.m. my phone was dead. I've got a charger in my pocket and a camera in my hand, so I promise tomorrow's recap will be HEAVY on the pictures. Until then, enjoy these two photos of La Luz and Ty Segall playing Street Legal Guitars, a new guitar store with a warehouse space for shows.