In Review: SXSW Music 2013

This year our city was unbelievably good to us. Weather consistently in the 70’s had Austin flirting with our guests in ways that made these “Welcome to Austin, Please Don’t Move Here” t-shirts a desperate plea rather than a sarcastic quip.

After more than 25 years and in a city full of festivals, SXSW still brings something truly exceptional to the table-an exploration of Austin. Last week I walked eleventy billion miles and saw music in gritty bars, fancy bars, hotels, churches, coffee shops, amphitheaters, parking lots, beer gardens and converted garages. One of my favorites of the week was an accidental stop-by in the backyard of a small Mexican food restaurant on the East Side. Each venue brought something unique; sound design, visual surroundings, lighting, energy, climate or something indefinable. It’s these details that make a music experience complete and it’s this city that makes that possible.

God knows I love ACL Festival. But when I close my eyes at the end of a day there, I see a green field and a blurry flipbook of bands. When I closed my eyes at the end of each day at SXSW, I saw a slideshow of distinctly different moments that were about so much more than just sound coming from a stage.

This is my attempt to share that slideshow in my head. The ratings are completely subjective and are based on a combination of unrelated factors-the band’s performance, the venue, the crowd and my ingoing assumptions. Some experiences, seeing Hey Marseilles and Lord Huron, didn’t quite live up to my expectations based on how much I enjoy their recorded music. I loved others, like Jim James and Natalie Maines, far more than I could have possibly imagined. Tyler Lyle’s 5 stars are, and always will be, dead on. But, more than anything, I based the ratings on my general feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment in time. Those moments were more frequent than I deserve last week.

By Elizabeth Thompson
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