Downtown Funk…

SXSW fills downtown Austin with sound of music

by SERGIO MADRID/Staff Writer

AUSTIN — No need for anything other than open ears, an empty stomach, and possibly an extra pair of shoes. We’re going to South by Southwest Music Fest.

Annual festival SXSW is a week-and-a-half-long event featuring film, gaming, and music expos highlighted by guest speakers, upcoming technology, video games, and instruments from several manufacturers. The music portion of SXSW showcases more than 2,000 acts, some of which are not very well known, along with household names such as “Drake” and “Blue October.”

From the time you check into your hotel to when you hit 6th Street, you’ve already seen so much of what Austin has to offer. No, I’m not including the traffic on Interstate 35.

Chances are you were smart and had nothing to eat while traveling. That way you show up ready to scarf down a few of those famous tacos from “Juan and a Million” before you get to the actual festival.

Parking spots are scarce, so get up bright and early so you don’t spend all day stuck in traffic looking for a decent parking place. Unless you plan on spending a fortune on petty cabs, you will be doing a lot of walking. Thankfully, every venue has coolers full of water to help with exhaustion.

The walks are not all bad. In fact, you might just stumble upon a sound you like and discover a band or artist you like. That’s what I did around 12 a.m. on March 18 at Friends Bar on 6th Street, as I stumbled upon a very creative Canadian three-piece band, “Close Talker.” The band features Will Quiring (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Morien (drums, vocals), and, most impressively, Matthew Kopperud (lead guitar, keys).

Kopperud was very active on stage, changing his FX levels and playing his leads using a tabbing technique with his left hand and keeping a smooth melody on the keys with the right. All while singing back-up to Quiring. The band produces a sound that captivates the ears into a soothing trance.

Music is alive, no note goes unheard, and melodies stretch across the downtown Austin area. Whether it be street performers or festival attendees blaring their stereos, currents of sound are moving in all directions.

Later that morning, on the way to Whole Foods Markets for breakfast, we came across Bear Mountain outside of Grove’s Wine Bar on 6th Street. Another band out of Canada, Bear Mountain pulls you in with their sound and makes you want to move and jump around. After their set, I was sold and went to talk to lead singer Ian Beavis. He was a very gracious man who humbly thanked everyone for coming out to their show that went unscheduled. He gave me an awkward and sweaty handshake, adding “Thank you so much for coming to the show. We’re Bear Mountain, and my name is Ian Beavis, like Beavis and Butthead.”

The historic Waterloo Records was the site of a big showcase featuring The Heavy, a British indie rock band that will make you jump along with their upfront-and-personal lyrics. After sitting through half an hour of a dreadful Lady Gaga impersonator called Peaches, I got to enjoy good music. They played fan favorites “How You like Me Now” and “What Makes a Good Man.” I was intoxicated with energy due to Monster Energy giving out free Monster drinks.

Almost every street had tents giving out free stuff, such as Monster drinks, cup warmers, pain medicine, key chains and shirts. There is no excuse for not taking home any souvenirs.

For me, the night to really rock out was March 19, as “The People the Poet” and “Emily Wolfe” headlined venues and played what I thought to be two of the best showings. Behind Lucille’s Bar on Rainey Street, “The People the Poet” came roaring out of the gates as they started off with their most popular song, “Matchday.” During the set and after playing “Take,” lead singer Leon Stanford says, “You know, every time people hear this song, they ask us things like, so, are you a Christian rock band or something? To that we just say. Well, you see how much we drink, so I think that should answer your question right there.”

Emily Wolfe played at the Old School Bar on the corner of Trinity and 6th Street. She came on around midnight and blew me away with her impressive guitar skills. A Singer-songwriter and possibly a great stand-alone guitarist, Wolfe began her set at level 10 and ended at 12. The energy was so high within the crowd that fed off the powerful efforts put forth by Wolfe’s three-piece band.

Solo after solo, Wolfe showcased musical talents that would put the best musicians to shame. Her third to last number was her big song, “White Collar Whiskey,” and the crowd went berserk, singing along with the chorus. After being told she only had three minutes left on her set, she announced she had two more songs and played 10 minutes after her set time. I feel bad for those who missed the show.

After a week-and-a-half-long festival, the streets were clear and seemed almost empty on March 20. Driving through downtown Austin the following morning, I was amazed at how only hours ago thousands of people from around the world huddled inside a portion of the city, all for the love of music and entertainment.

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by RILEY GOLDEN/Editorial Assistant

AUSTIN — As you walk the streets of downtown Austin, it’s very obvious that there’s something going on.

Many young people are walking around with artist badges around their neck or a music pass on their wrist. You are constantly in earshot of live music, whether walking right by a concert or even eating in a restaraunt.

South by Southwest is an annual festival of film, video game, and music showcases that takes place all over Downtown Austin.

SXSW began in March of 1987. This year, the festival took place from March 11 to March 20. I arrived on March 17 excited to see Travis Scott, the artist set to headline the showcase I was going to.

Later that night, while my friends and I were standing in line for the show, one of them said that Travis Scott had tweeted that he was not going to make it to Austin for the show. As bummed as we were, we decided to wait in line to see the other artists perform. Lil’ Uzi Vert, Flatbush Zombies and Kevin Gates are all rap artists that I know and wanted to see, though I had been really looking forward to seeing Scott.

Once we got in the show, they announced all the artists that were performing, and they had to have said Scott was going to be there at least five times. I assumed that he had just tweeted what he tweeted to make the show smaller, because it isn’t unheard of for artists to do something like that, or to just make a guest appearance because it makes the show smaller and more exclusive. Sadly, that was not the case, and Scott never showed up because he was sick.

That being said, the show was a blast. DJ Drama came out to play some songs he produced and to hype up the crowd, which he did a really good job of. A while after DJ Drama performed, Lil’ Uzi Vert came out on stage and performed a few songs.

One of my biggest complaints was that there was so much time in between each headlining artist when they were just playing music and lying about Scott making an appearance. But after Uzi performed, Flatbush Zombies came out and the crowd went crazy.

Flatbush Zombies is a rap group that consists of Erick Arc Elliot, Meechy Darko, and Zombie Juice. Flatbush came out performing their hit, “Bounce,” and the crowd loved it. After one more song, some of their sound dropped out. The crowd was trying to tell them that they couldn’t hear them, but it took at least 10 minutes to get their attention. Once they realized what wss being said, they stopped performing to get it fixed.

Once it was fixed, they apologized before performing “This is it,” “Bring ‘Em Out,” and “Bath Salt.”

After they left the stage, an amateur rap artist performed. He was alright, but the crowd was really waiting on Gates to perform.

Gates came out performing “Aight Yeah,” and the crowd got wild. Last year, when Gates was at SXSW, no one knew who he was. This year, people knew his songs and were extremely hyped up to see him. He made a point in between songs to point that out, and give love to Austin. I really liked this because you could hear the sentiment in his voice.

Gates is a genuine person, much like his song “Really Really” points out. Gates performed “Really Really,” one of his most popular songs, and the crowd loved it. Everyone was getting into the chorus, and it was really just a great atmosphere. Gates also performed “2 Phones,” and it was an awesome performance. Gates was the last person we saw that night, and it was an OK way to end the evening.

Even though we didn’t get to see Scott, I really enjoyed watching Gates and Flatbush Zombies. Although I really enjoyed those performances, I did not get to see many other shows, because only those age 21 and older could enter some venues. The 2 Chainz show we tried to go to the next night was also cancelled due to the venue being shut down.

South by Southwest was an incredible first-time experience to explore downtown Austin and have the opportunity to see a lot of big-name artists. I can’t wait to go back next year.

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