We have let some time pass after the end of SXSW to write an impassioned diary of what this magical festival has meant. Big emotions take time to process properly. And it is that for ten days we have experienced intense cold, heat, good vibes, the reunion of great stars with their audience, the emergence of emerging talents and nostalgia. Although, we have also walked through the future of technology, cinema and sound while the films and series that everyone will be talking about in 2023 were projected throughout the city.
Austin has been a melting pot for alternative culture and actors involved in positive change in the world. In short, everything that’s cool. We’re going to condense all of that into this vibrant journal.
Rarely does a festival allow you to rediscover yesterday with as much intensity as this SXSW has done. It’s part of his magic. A lineup with 2,000 bands let each attendee form their own headliner. Legends coexist with rising stars and artists unknown to the public. Everything has a special and individual meaning. My journey begins with a memorable concert by Robby Krieger, the guitarist for The Doors. The repertoire of the Los Angeles band opens the mind of anyone who pays attention to them and for that reason, it is fair to start this story here.
Krieger showed up in Austin supporting a beautiful cause; raising funds for the musical education of underprivileged youth. He arrived accompanied by a handful of talented musicians from the Los Angeles jam scene and his son as Jim Morrison. The night burned with notes of talent, experience, the 60s and many stories to tell. Suddenly, Dennis Quaid took the lead and fulfilled everyone’s dream, to be Morrison during a couple of songs and at that moment, the wait to see the last active Doors was worth it. Inspirations, songs and afternoons trying to fix the world joined hands in our minds to open our eyes and see the old Krieger being an ideal master of ceremonies to start our dream SXSW.
The 60s Never Die
We checked it out with Robby Krieger. The ideals, aesthetics and sounds of the 60s are immortal. Against the backdrop of the skyscrapers of Downtown Austin and a pristine blue sky, the Zombies met us. The founding songs of the 60s like Time Of The Season and She’s Not There rang in our hearts with the same intensity and freshness as when they were composed. The years do not pass in vain by the creators, their themes do not age, but they are revitalized. We verified it on a Friday afternoon in that city that cradled many of the lost dreams of the dreamiest decade.
Another of the icons of that era visited Austin to prove its validity. At the Hotel Vegas, where the most urban and alternative audience mixes, there was no room for anyone else. Leather jackets, crests and cool people flocked to see the band whose blend of tropicalism and psychedelia changed the sound of the ’60s forever and impressed musicians of all eras, including Kurt Cobain. Os Mutantes continues to sound as forceful and fascinating as in the days when Sergio Dias and Caetano Veloso traveled the world with their songs. Sergio no longer has the same mobility. He waits patiently and playfully in a chair for the notes to run wild on his guitar. His sounds play with us and leaves us a piece of his heart in an evening to remember.
Trips to the Future
Yesterday and tomorrow live together in Austin. During the Interactive Festival we were able to meet the future of technology, music, sound, cinema or television. Many incredible installations, speakers, exhibitions and presentations competed to fill our eyes and our minds with the benefits of a utopian future. Porsche attracted a lot of attention with its spectacular installation in which it paid off the new Transformers movie, exhibiting different transformers and iconic cars of the brand. At night, they served as a setting for pleasant parties with delicious cocktails and concerts as unexpected as Big Boi, one half of the mythical duo OutKast.
An immersion into the future of sound could be enjoyed at the Dolby exhibit. We also greatly enjoyed immersing ourselves in the immersive experiences of Roku and Paramount+ and in the incredible Hotel Prime where we were able to get closer to the universe of such incredible series as Daisy Jones & The Six, The Boys or Swarm. We also enjoyed the Yellowjackets’ VIP party where we were able to enter their dangerous camp in the company of the real actors from the series. In this edition it has been latent that immersive experiences and VR are here to stay. A new world came to Austin and we were there to experience it. We could also see that street experiences are still magical. This is how we were able to experience it at the Museum of Graffiti, which for a few days paid homage to 50 years of Hip Hop culture. Its exhibition of great icons and pioneers of urban art, its cocktails and the rappers who took the stage representing their culture gave us one of the most special nights of SXSW.
Myths and Legends at SXSW
Cold Monday in Austin. Climate and day of the week conducive to nostalgia. The Austin City Limits Theatre, which has seen so many myths pass by, is packed. Manchester visits Austin and its friendly mayor tells us the similarities and links between the two cities and their musical cultures. It gives way to the electrifying punk of Loose Articles and the sophisticated and melancholic pop of The Orielles. Finally, we meet the legend. New Order appears with music by the Strokes, impressive visuals and an incredible play of lights. Not even two minutes go by and we are hooked on what is happening on stage. Also amazed by the validity and modernity shown by those gentlemen who have been transforming and influencing music from all over the world for more than 40 years. New Order in concert is a heavenly communion with an audience of different generations and origins through generational songs that unite us all.
A homily that feels special, unique, embodied in New Order that steals our hearts until we inevitably begin to say goodbye with its mythical Blue Monday. In the encores another band returns. Joy Division makes an appearance, with Ian in the visuals, in our hearts, in theirs. Those songs, so sad, so necessary, so awesome by Ian are sinking into the bones of everyone present. With Love Will Tear Us Apart, a part of our soul is gone. Although, the concert will stay in our mind for the rest of our lives.
From Ukraine with Love
We agree that their victory in Eurovision did not seem fair, especially considering Chanel’s great performance. But it is no less true that once you discover Kalush Orchestra in live, your prejudices evaporate. The Ukrainian band, winner of Eurovision, combines fun, color and devilish rhythms on stage. Impossible to resist his combination of antagonistic but irresistible things. The costumes, the mixture of urban rhythms and traditional Ukrainian folk instruments, their dances and the charisma of their singer leave you wanting more. A strange mix of sound elements and a unique stage presence make Kalush Orchestra one of the high points, and unexpected, of the festival.
Satin Electronic Music
The night we were blown away by the Kalush Orchestra closed with Tangerine Dream. The German Electronica pioneer is still in shape and his synths sound as amazing now as they did in the 80s. Cosmic sounds over Austin in an unforgettable live show.
Japanese night is always one of the most anticipated nights of SXSW. Entering the Elysium, one of the most decadent and fascinating bars in Austin and, perhaps, in the world, that night means entering another parallel dimension and much more fun. Once inside the premises you rub shoulders with the Japanese underground scene. A unique opportunity to delve into the unknown and into the future of music. Right off the bat you come across an empowered diva who through dancehall calls for sexual rebellion and self-acceptance.
Yayoi Daimon is a kind of Japanese Bad Gyal who destroys any social or cultural convention. Behind her, we find the futuristic Chameleon Lime Whoopiepie. Her Kimono, her orange hair, her 22nd century glasses, and her guitarists in robotic mascot masks take us into untamed terrain. High-flying music with hints of punk, garage and pop. A host of highly recognizable influences that have never come together but once together they sound damn good. So is this artist and many of the Japanese bands that we meet year after year. Another good example of pop with wild guitars and exquisite references to the Beatles, Britpop or the Strokes is Dygl. This band sounds amazing. Sober but elegant musicians and fascinating influences to close a Japanese night that took us into the musical confines of Asia.
Echoes of Madrid
The Spanish showcase is always a meeting point with homesickness and with the most interesting bands of Spanish alternative music. This year the star of the evening was Caballo Prieto Azabache, who, together with Maestro Espada, were the headliners of The Spanish Wave at the Shangri-La in Austin. Caballo’s rogue pop is electrifying, garagey and defines the most street-oriented Madrid like no one else. The Texan public connected very well with the proposal of the Madrid band, which he ended up embracing, literally, in an incredible communion. And it is that the night of Madrid shares many noises with Austin.
Austin as Movie Screen
As every year, the SXSW Film and TV Festival has turned out to be the best showcase for the premiere of great productions starring the stars of the moment. The festival’s key film event was starred by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon presenting Air, the film that tells the story of the famous sneakers. Tetris, was another of the most anticipated films by inveterate eighties, lovers of the game or spy stories. The film that caught our eye though was the directorial debut of Eva Longoria, who we had the pleasure of hearing about Flamin’ Hot. It might seem like a movie about one more intrepid entrepreneur who achieves the American dream, but the script plunges into Latino discrimination and the lack of opportunities that Hispanic immigrants faced for decades in the United States and that still sees its reflection today. Another of the stellar moments occurred during the meeting of horror movie fans with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell at the highly anticipated premiere of the new reboot of the mythical saga, Evil Dead Rise.
As for series, the hypnotic The Swarm or I am Virgo from Amazon Prime, Ms. Jones, from Peacock and The big door prize from Apple TV were the ones that made the most noise during these days in Austin.
Hello New Talent!
SXSW wouldn’t be South by Southwest without getting lost in Austin’s bars looking for sounds and bands you’ve never heard of. This year has been a good harvest with a diverse selection of more than interesting groups. One of the ones that has impacted us the most has been Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs. The Brits have it all to hook an audience: a hard-hitting punk sound, a crazy front man who connects with your most rebellious self, and a handful of powerful, electric songs designed to make you jump.
Less crazy but with a totally fascinating aggressive and garage sound are the Swedish Tribe Friday. If you are looking to rediscover the garage, we recommend the Welsh James and the Cold Gun. Pure adrenaline. Veterans Sunflower Bean arrived from New York to shower Austin with good pop while more noble bands from England picked up their baton with a lot of class. Moon Kissed, Heartworms, ALASKAALASKA and Voka Gentle demonstrated the power of the British alternative scene. That torrent of pop energy that is Sports Team has also come out of it. Brash, charisma and great music in a Cambridge band destined for the top of the charts.
The Bass Player
One of the most interesting events at SXSW was the one carried out by the NME magazine and the Bosé speakers brand. With the excuse of launching their mixtape C23, they brought together the protagonists of the cassette to introduce us to the new fresh air that is coming to pop. Michele, Jvke, Flo Milli and 070 Shake were part of the claim for this fascinating showcase. There we find a blonde bassist capable of playing a version of Gorillaz with a satin glove to then go down into the mud and plow through the wildest rock without breaking a sweat. Undoubtedly, Blu DeTiger has been one of the great appearances of SXSW.
The countdown is underway for the next edition. See you at SXSW 2024!