Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SXSW 2012 Media Coverage Recap

Another SXSW has is now in the books. The festival celebrated 25 years with a ten-fold increase in size -- 2000 musical acts descended on Austin to play in 90 venues or even on the street until last call at 2 a.m. on Saturday (St. Patrick's Day no less!)  It's interesting to follow the coverage before and during, especially with more gigs streaming live online.  There was definitely a larger rap and hip hop presence this year, plus electronic dance music continues to enjoy its higher profile in the music industry.  In the process, I heard bands I barely knew get a nice mention and learned about countless new bands, which is exactly the point of this annual gathering.

A good point of introduction is the mix, "SPIN Presents Austin Power: Best SXSW Acts" 2012, available as a free download after handing over your email address.  (They already had mine so it was no big deal.  I enjoy their monthly playlists anyway, however the horrendous redesign of their print issues are another nail in the print publication coffin.)  With 36 songs lasting two and a half hours, there's bound to be something to catch your ear although I found myself skipping ahead more than a few times.  I'm always curious just to peruse listed band names: from the mundane (White Fence, The Coathangers) to witty (Class Actress) and extremely descriptive (Screaming Females).

NPR music also had a "All Songs Considered" preview show which listed my recent interview/review band Bright Moments as one to watch.  During the festival, the site offered a live feed to Bruce Springsteen's keynote speech which is here for those still wanting to bask in the glow of the rock star's presence online.  Basically he was brought in as the member of the old guard to inspire the new guard, reminding everyone that "There is no right way, no pure way of doing.  There is just doing."  Sounds more like a tag line for a sports company, but Mr. Bruce can do no wrong in this beleaguered industry.  I'm sure it was a thrill just to have him in town for a bit. 

Both the LA Times and the NY Times provided nice wrap up articles as stalwart news organizations in the traditional sense.  LA cited Bear In Heaven as the stand out newcomer along with the crowd pleasing honky tonk of Alabama Shakes, and there were props to Grimes for a heightened stage presence.  NY decided to shine a spotlight on the folksy sound of Colorado band The Lumineers as well as Georgia's Reptar (who I saw in a supporting slot last year and maybe I should revisit).  Although the write up by the Associated Press proclaimed that the entire festival show was stolen by the Austin High School marching band, appearing in an outdoor stadium at the University of Texas with Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show on the final night.  

Consequence of Sound (COS) required each writer to return with two new fave bands, making for an interesting list. One band chosen for this is Chairlift, who begins the latest Early Spring Playlist here. COS also provided an overabundance of photos which I find is like looking through another high school's yearbook, one that is way cooler than your school could ever be. The voluminous LATimes photo gallery is also way beyond necessary. My favorite photo actually came from blog brand PopMatters, where there is someone literally climbing the walls during Day 2's Burgerstock showcase presented by Burger Records.  Rolling Stone has a nice mix of videos and photos on their website, as does Pitchfork -- although obligated to assert their taste maker cred by anointing bands as "The Best (and Worst)."  Stereogum took it one step closer to high school behavior by listing "SXSW Superlatives 2012," from Best Beard and Best Wailer, to Longest Setup Time.

My fave online radio stations were also at the festival to broadcast live and provide coverage through their online blogs: KCRW, KEXP and WFUV's The Alternate Side.  These links will offer me plenty of new music sustenance going forward, along with the upcoming NPR music wrap up show.  NPR has already submitted some wrap up coverage, including a nice shout out to women rockers.  And for those who actually care about the latest fashions at such festivals, check out the scene via New York Magazine for shoes, eyewear and other trends.