Yowza. I know it’s terribly clichéd to call a music festival a whirlwind of an experience, but it’s just so applicable. If you think SXSW is exhausting, try getting there. No, I didn’t have a 32-hour drive. Instead, it was a 2:50 am alarm, an early trip to the airport (that somehow involved no less than 6 trains and a bus – no exaggeration), and 4-hour drive from Austin.
By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was already fairly out of it, but after just a few minutes, I headed downtown on my rented bicycle. (“So you ride bikes regularly, right?” “Oh… sure.”) As I approached the scene, congestion started to build – and so did my excitement.
Then somehow, there I was on a beautiful green lawn in lovely 75-degree weather, surrounded by the moody/mesmerizing music of Still Corners. It was like a dream. Small children darted in and out of groups of well-dressed festival goers and their free cans of PBR. A light breeze sent women’s skirts gently billowing.
Still Corners clip:
It was the perfect introduction to the festival: a beautiful setting and a new artist. I stayed for a few songs from Vetiver before heading out in search of some much needed hydration and nourishment. (Sonic had been the fast food of choice earlier in the day.)
Not having a badge or a wristband for the festival is both nerve-wracking and freeing. Since these passes don’t actually guarantee you a spot inside anyway, it was kind of nice to not feel the need to camp out in lines early enough to get into the hot showcases. Instead, getting in anywhere feels like an accomplishment.
I lucked out last night by getting on the guest list at the beautiful Central Presbyterian Church, which had quite a good line-up. First up were three artists I had never heard before about a week ago: BOBBY (a Mountain Man side project), Bell Gardens (who I recently blogged about), and the Texan singer-songwriter Josh T. Pearson (formally of the band Lift to Experience).
It was a nice treat to see three relatively unfamiliar artists. BOBBY was especially delightful. The natural reverb of the large, wood-paneled space seemed perfectly suited for their music.
Up next was one of my recent favorites, the Brooklyn group The Loom. It’s always a good thing when nice people make decent music. It makes everything seem right. The Loom is both incredibly talented and sweet. (See more about them here.)
After The Loom, I darted over to Swan Dive to catch a few songs from Sam Amidon, another one of my favorite banjo-wielding artists. Though I only had time to stay for a few minutes, I was rewarded for my trek by hearing Sam cover Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine.” (Ólöf Arnalds even joined in on the violin!)
“Walking on Sunshine:”
After I had had my Sam fix, I ran back over to the Presbyterian church for the last couple of sets of the evening: the incredibly delightful Sea of Bees (soo good!) and Americana act Strand of Oaks.
Sea of Bees clip:
Daily band count: 9