Category: SXSW

Tweets That Pop: SXSW festival goers

Tweets That Pop: SXSW festival goers
Those who made the trek to Austin for the South by Southwest festival indulged in five days of nonstop music from more than 2,000 acts and likely attended one of the many (aggressively branded) parties. Big names (Jay-Z, Springsteen), breakouts and booze kept Twitter popping:

“Been at SXSW for four days and the best music I've heard was a ska cover of Poison's “Nothing But A Good Time” playing at Chipotle.” -- @kylekinane

“Sounds like up and comers Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen got a nice buzz boost from SXSW” -- @donewaiting

“Excited for #SXSW! See you at the Taco Bell™ RealPlayer™ Blogger™ Underground™ Super Chill Lounge Fort Showcase Party Tent! ☮♥▲ #KONY2012” -- @yacht

“Trying to figure out what's worse at SXSW. Being drunk or being sober.” -- @pbwolf

“Can't figure out how to dress for both Al Gore & Jay-Z?! #sxsw” -- @txrocks75


Pete Seeger sings 'Forever Young' for 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan's debut

SXSW 2012: the artists, stories that made an impression

SXSW 2012: artists, you have 42 different ways to make money

--Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Bruce Springsteen during the SXSW Music Festival in Austin. Credit: Jack Plunkett / Associated Press

6 ways to catch an onstage beat down from your favorite artist

A$AP Rocky

In every large concert crowd there’s at least one one fan who is dead set on customizing his or her concert experience by testing an artists’ patience and maybe his right jab. Even in today’s world of social media and Internet streams that allow us to view concerts from afar, watching an artist dole out a bruising 15 minutes of fame to a belligerent heckler or overzealous fan elicits a certain amount of real-time excitement you can’t get from a computer screen. (Warning: Video links below contain violence and/or explicit language.)

Fans of A$AP Rocky got a taste of that this past weekend at SXSW, when an all-out brawl ensued at the Vice Kills Texas party on Sunday, where the Harlem rapper and his onstage entourage reacted with their fists after audience members chucked cans of beer at them. Check out the video here. According to reports from the festival, it all started when a member of Rocky’s crew allegedly had his do-rag swiped by an audience member 15 minutes into their super-late-night set. Rocky made some efforts to peacefully defuse the situation, but soon after, a rogue audience member decided to get some extra attention from the bristling posse by throwing beer at them. As video of the incident indicates, Rocky and company gave the audience member exactly what he wanted, at the expense of shutting down the show early.

Of course there are myriad ways to earn a beat down from your favorite artist that plenty of music-loving masochists might want to take note of. Here are a few off the top of our heads.

1) Standing in the wrong place at the wrong time:

First off, if you’re going stand in the front row at a concert, you have to know there are certain risk factors involved. One of them just might be a flying mike stand. In 2009, Beyoncé Knowles’ little sister, Solange, taught that lesson to an unlucky fan the hard way after she threw the equivalent of a weighted javelin just a little too hard at the end of one of her shows. To her credit, the apology she gave the fan after she ran off stage seemed 100% sincere, didn’t it?


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SXSW 2012: The artists, the stories that made an impression

As the hour passed midnight on the final night of the South by Southwest festival and conference in Austin, Texas, country firebrand Lydia Loveless may not have known it, but she was echoing the blues that had been sung by the industry the last five days: "Why don't I get paid to feel this way?"

When Loveless sings the line, she does so with traces of scorn and bitterness. Her voice is sweet, but there's some damage around the edges, either from sleeping too little, smoking too often or drinking too much. When business executives sang the blues at SXSW, their frustration was pointed at the diminishing returns of new business models. 

Someone, of course, is footing the bill for this.

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

SXSW is five days of near 24-7 music, with nightly showcases and full-day parties sponsored by shoe companies and snack chip outfits. For the more than 2,000 acts that made the trek to perform at one of more than 90 venues, the hope was to gain a little momentum, maybe score a bit of press and, if lucky, play an afternoon or evening party that had corporate expense accounts to drain. Acts, at least of the non-superstar Jay-Z-level variety, are said to be able to command as much as $50,000 for headlining shots at some of SXSW's parties.

Standing out amid the din is an increasingly tougher task. Los Angeles groups that can make a racket, such as FIDLAR and Bleached, drew high marks all week and left Austin with a greater national awareness, but Rich Bengloff, of the indie label trade group the American Assn. of Independent Music, made it clear that "getting access and getting noticed is harder, because everyone has access." 

Rising above the heap isn't going to get any easier, thanks largely to the proliferation of home and digital recording techniques. "In 2016,"  said Alex Asseily, founder of the audio company Jawbone, "everyone will have their own studio for $29.95."

Artists didn't necessarily come to SXSW with any answers. Brad Oberhofer, who leads the high-speed, frenzied melodic pop of his namesake Brooklyn band Oberhofer, declared Austin his second favorite city as audience members raised free fast-food tacos in the air.  Brittany Howard of rock 'n' roll scorchers the Alabama Shakes went a more humble route. "I come from Alabama," she said. "I don't know much more than you. I just know that this is something I enjoy."

To be sure, there's plenty of money in Howard's passion. Jeff Price, who runs online distribution company Tunecore, said that in the fall of 2011, his distributor alone earned $200,000 for on-demand online streaming services, a group that includes Spotify, Rhapsody and Rdio. That's a more than tenfold increase in one year.

"It's money. It's shifting. It's happening," Price said.

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SXSW 2012: Best Coast debuts new songs; Rustic offers Chinese punk

Best Coast at Hype Hotel
What a difference a couple of years make. This time in 2010, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, who record as Best Coast, were working on their debut album, "Crazy for You," and were at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, trudging among countless day parties and showcases and trying to make an impact.

Jump forward two years, and the band, now a four piece, offered evidence of its success: Best Coast  played a select handful of SXSW shows, the biggest being at the aptly named Hype Hotel, where on Saturday  they were one of the hottest tickets of the night and the line stretched down the block. 

Cosentino, whose stage presence has grown exponentially over the years, was in the enviable position of building on the grand success of "Crazy for You" by teasing new songs from the band's eagerly anticipated follow-up, "The Only Place," due May 15. There's a chance the record will debut near the top of the Billboard charts.

At the Hype Hotel, Best Coast interjected four of those new songs during its set, and each highlighted Cosentino's increasing vocal and onstage confidence. Where on earlier songs such as "Boyfriend," she hid her voice beneath layers of Bruno's distorted guitar, on the catchy, chunky-but-intricate melodies of new songs "Mean Girls" and "Last Year," she hit bigger notes with assurance, as though she'd spent her time between albums working on her delivery.

And as she bantered with audience members, she pleaded with them to be better than the other crowds had been during the band's Austin experience, complaining with salty honesty about how they behaved. This was indeed an improvement, she finally concluded, especially while Cosentino was holding a cup of whiskey. "Chug, chug, chug, chug!," the crowd commanded, and she did. 

Rustic at the 512
Earlier, along 6th Street (one of the most drunken strips in the entire world that night), every door exploded with rhythms, and they competed with the various street bands blowing tubas and banging drums. At a club called 512 at the heart of the chaos, a young, charismatic Chinese punk band called Rustic tore through 1977-style snarling punk rock. With a vocalist who spit words like Johnny Rotten and a bassist with a Skrillex-style assymetrical haircut, the group delivered cocky rebel rock that offered proof of the genre's reach and durability. (A few years ago in Myanmar, I was pleased to see graffiti on a Yangon wall that read, "Punk's not dead." Indeed.)

A few blocks away at the Mohawk, San Francisco singer and guitarist Mikal Cronin, whose music had been highly recommended by a few reliable sources earlier in the week, tossed off ridiculously confident and catchy garage rock songs. "I don't want apathy, I don't want empathy," he sang during a song called "Apathy," strumming on an amplified and distorted acoustic guitar. He finally concluded, "I don't want everything -- I don't want anything," while bass, drums and a second guitarist locked into a groove.

The other notable show for me on the final night of South by Southwest was by an L.A. band called Soft Metals; a male-female synthesizer duo composed of Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall, the pair crafted heavy-duty Kraftwerk-suggestive mantras via the deep hum of analog synths. It recalled early Depeche Mode and Human League, but with more heft and intensity, like synth pop on steroids. Over these deep and danceable beats, vocalist Hall offered phrases and lines with a certain detached dryness, but it was a wonderful contrast with the warmth of the synth tones.  


SXSW 2012: Peaking Lights illuminates Urban Outfitters party 

SXSW 2012: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at ACL-Live

SXSW: Ditching the hype to chase the music of Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa

-- Randall Roberts

Top photo: Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino plays the Hype Hotel on Saturday at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Credit: Hype Hotel

Bottom photo: Chinese punk band Rustic plays at 512 in Austin as part of the South by Southwest music conference. Credit: Randall Roberts / Los Angeles Times


SXSW 2012: Peaking Lights illuminates Urban Outfitters party

Peaking Lights at the Urban Outfitters day party in Austin, Texas
One of the most illuminating, and best sounding, shows of my South by Southwest experience so far was Saturday afternoon's gig by Los Angeles' (by way of Wisconsin) Peaking Lights. The group, comprised of duo of Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, has been bouncing around Austin over the past few days, and landed in the parking lot of Urban Outfitters to play beneath a crowded tent.

The pair released their full length debut, 936, on Los Angeles-based label Not Not Fun, and have since signed to hot Brooklyn label Mexican Summer, home of Best Coast. They play a strange blend of electronic music and Jamaican dub, with Coyes, who has a wild mishmash of tattoos on his arms, torso and neck, crafting echoey blips and thumps that he fuses with deep reggae bass-lines and Fender guitar tones. He uses cheap equalizers, cassette machines, a mixing board and lots of effects to create a portable, rumbling sound system. You can hear echoes of dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's defining production work, and the rhythmic hum of Portishead.

Singer/keyboard player Dunis sang and delivered pretty vocal mantras, more focused on the sound of word repetition than on conveying deliberate meaning. On the transcendent "All the Sun that Shines," she repeated the title words over and over while plunking out a hollow keyboard line to accompany Coyes' Casiotone rhythms. Throughout the 40-minute set Peaking Lights moved from rhythm to rhythm, diving deep into the space within the beats to weave through layers of reverb and echo. It was perhaps the most entrancing afternoon ever spent in an Urban Outfitters parking lot.


SXSW 2012: Meet the busiest man in Austin, Texas

SXSW 2012: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at ACL-Live

SXSW: Ditching the hype to chase the music of Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Peaking Lights at the Urban Outfitters day party in Austin, Texas as part of the South by Southwest music festival. Credit: Randall Roberts / Los Angeles Times

SXSW 2012: Artists, you have 42 different ways to make money

Image: A screenshot of Nicolas Jaar's prism album, courtesy of Clown & Sunset Records.
The music industry in 2012 was characterized as one of "micro-pennies" at this year's South by Southwest festival and conference. The phrase was used by Rich Bengloff, who heads indie label trade group the American Assn. of Independent Music. "Access and getting noticed is harder because everyone has access," he said.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Austin, Texas, this week. More than 76,000 albums were released in 2011, Bengloff said, and more than 2,000 artists are in Texas this week. The five-day-and-night event was winding down Saturday afternoon, as industry heavyweights stood in line not for concerts but for that rare Austin cab.

There was still music and business to be had, of course. Jazzy chanteuse Norah Jones and noisemakers Sleigh Bells were the name acts among those slated to play at Austin's more than 90 venues Saturday, and plenty of revelers still hadn't had their party fill. 

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

Celebrity chef and TV personality (maybe not in that order) Rachael Ray threw her annual party  Saturday, and fancy sloppy-joes and mini-corn dogs were as big a draw as the artists. In an old-fashioned bit of promotion, reps from Warner Music Group stalked the line handing out CD samplers for newcomer LP, who has the kind of show-stopping, booming voice that draws standing ovations on TV singing competitions. 

LP was something of an anomaly among SXSW's more than 2,000 acts. Her rootsy rockers -- she has an arsenal of ukuleles -- build to the kind of big, old-fashioned choruses that were once a major label's stock in trade. While no one will debate her ability to command a stage, one can easily picture the tiny, curly haired singer rocking out with Sheryl Crow.

While she has the support of one of the world's largest music corporations, LP didn't appear to have any noticeable leg up in Austin. At Ray's party, she was tucked into the tiniest of stages, and despite the WMG reps circulating in the crowd and nodding their approval, she's entering an industry that appeared in Austin to be as uncertain as ever.

"You're not going to make a living on touring and albums and merchandise," Bengloff bluntly told SXSW attendees. "You need to be much more diversified." 

Indeed. Why not try selling Prisms?

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SXSW: Ditching the hype to chase music of Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa


The hype machine at South by Southwest is a powerful, and expensive, instrument, an engine of promotion that drives otherwise rational music lovers to panic in Austin. On Saturday night that machine was running on overdrive: Jack White on 6th Street, Skrillex a few blocks away at the Mohawk, Eminem and 50 Cent at the Shady party, all of which were relentlessly pushing otherwise adventurous souls to feel guilty about resisting. After all, isn't this what South by Southwest has become -- a place where you can say you saw an platinum artist on a small stage?

Well, no, and considering that I'd seen all three of the above numerous times, a decision was made to watch another kind of musical story unfold, so for part of my night I chased a few international artists from around the world who are removed from the hype, and it was the perfect head-clearer for a listener overwhelmed by so many media blitzes.

Grupo Canalon is a traditional Colombian rhythm band that performed on Friday at Copa. The group is centered around the magnetic sound of the marimba, a wooden xylophone that when struck with mallets puts forth gentle, melodic tones, and made up of a dozen players/instrumentalists, including congas, an amazing marimba player named Jesús Javier Ardila and five female vocalists/percussionists. Led by Nidia Sofía Góngora, the ladies sang and danced while keeping time with shakers.

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SXSW 2012: Tanlines anchor a night of revelations


When Tanlines' Jesse Cohen told South by Southwest attendees Friday night that his Brooklyn's band's debut album would be out on Tuesday, he wanted to make sure there was no misunderstanding. "America Tuesday," he emphasized. Like the annual music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, Tanlines takes a global approach. 

The five-day mix of industry powwows and musical revelry is entering its homestretch. Only one full day remains, and Friday in Austin brought another injection of star power. Eminem appeared at the showcase for his Shady Records, and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" star Rooney Mara was in town filming scenes for her Terrence Malick-directed "Lawless." Among other performances, the director and star were seen shooting during an afternoon performance by Cults.

Rock stars and movie starlets may deflect some attention, yet SXSW's core mission of exposing the industry and media to artists from around the globe remains. Tanlines were born and bred right here in the U.S. of A, but the duo of keyboardist/percussionist Cohen and guitarist/singer Eric Emm take recent rock and dance trends and blow them out to incorporate influences from the world over. 

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

The songs performed Friday, largely from the duo's debut for Matador-affiliated True Panther Sounds, "Mixed Emotions," gradually grew in sound and scope. The synth-aided beats of "Yes Way" clattered as if they were fashioned out of wooden sticks and planks, a globe-trotting beat that had the groove of LCD Soundsystem and the international step of Yeasayer. 

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SXSW 2012: Converse goes hard-core with Ceremony at Thrasher party


Austin, Texas -- On Friday afternoon in deep Texas humidity, the San Francisco punk band Ceremony gigged the Thrasher magazine tent and offered brutal, fast hardcore punk to a sweating scrum of twentysomethings. Menacing vocalist Ross Farrar -- clad in a torn tank tap and baking in the heat -- barked out indecipherable aggression while an afternoon mosh pit propelled kids onto shoulders, random feet sticking into the air while the band went hard and loud.

Many of those feet were wearing Converse Chuck Taylors, the unofficial punk rock sneaker for close to three decades, whose marketing efforts during South by Southwest seem to expand every year. In 2012, the footwear and apparel company is co-sponsoring the Fader Fort and Thrasher's party, as well as offering free time to five small Texas bands in a pop-up recording studio space.

It's all part of a strategy headed by Converse Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill, who says up front that South by Southwest is by far his favorite event of the year. "The hype machine has come in and made its presence known, but you can still find bands," Cottrill says, adding that on Wednesday night his discovery was Philadelphia group the War on Drugs.

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

"The idea is to do something to contribute to the culture," he explains of the company's SXSW initiatives. "We try and help contribute on some level, versus just borrowing it." He cites the company's recent unveiling of Rubber Tracks Studios in Brooklyn, where Converse offers free studio space to artists with no strings attached (they own the music they make there -- and get free sneakers, to boot), as the company's most prominent commitment. So far the studio has recorded more than 500 tracks by 150 bands.

Critics in recent years have complained about the level of corporate sponsorship that ha's consumed South by Southwest: Chevrolet is offering free shuttle rides in their cars and has even parked a line of vehicles by the convention center for test driving (one hopes that breathalyzers are given beforehand); and Doritos and Taco Bell are giving away their new taco at a number of parties.

FULL COVERAGE: South by Southwest 

Cottrill says that Converse is merely getting its message into its customers' heads, and that by working with musicians and bands, the company spreads the word about Chuck Taylors through the people who wear them. "The hypothesis is, in today's social media world, people are media. They are the carriers of media. And I think that there are experiences that a brand can give to a consumer, and if it's done in a meaningful and genuine way, the consumer -- the artist -- then turns and says, 'I had a great experience there. Converse didn't ask me to sell out.' And when they say those things, that peer-to-peer advocacy is more powerful, more meaningful, than any ad or TV commercial we could possibly make."

Plus, adds Cottrill, "I don't really see it as being too corporate. This is still a place that's a celebration of music on all levels. You can see Bruce Springsteen one night, and then go see the War on Drugs the next night."


SXSW 2012: Fiona Apple at Stubb's

SXSW 2012: Sub Pop's THEESatisfaction keep it personal

SXSW 2012: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at ACL-Live

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Ceremony. Credit: Matador Records



SXSW 2012: Meet the busiest man in Austin, Texas

Yes, South by Southwest is overwhelming. The stats are mentioned in nearly every post on this blog. There are more than 2,000 bands in Austin, Texas, this week, and they're playing at more than 90 venues. And that's just the officially sanctioned events. Plotting and sticking to any sort of schedule with this much happening is nearly impossible. Yet no one, perhaps, has it harder than recent L.A. transplant Tom Windish. 

Owner of the Chicago-based namesake booking firm the Windish Agency, the man suggested seeing hotly tipped local band the Electric Guest early Friday afternoon. The group's debut was produced by Danger Mouse and will be released in April on Downtown Records. It's a jangly mix of indie-pop and soul, and singer Asa Taccone graces the songs with a romantic falsetto. 

"I've never actually seen them," Windish said.

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

Forgive him, though, as the Windish Agency has somewhere between 500 and 1,000 shows at SXSW. Off the top of his head, Windish didn't have a more exact figure. He knew only that he saw more than 20 bands on Thursday night between the hours of 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., all of them Windish Agency groups, and most of them ones he had never seen before. 

He's frank in his assessments. He even talked this writer out of seeing one or two of the acts on his wish list. The Windish Agency, with multiple hundreds of acts and 15 agents in its stable, takes risks on bands "very early." Often, the hope is that they will eventually become good, if not already.

"What am I gonna do?" Windish asked. "Let someone else pick them up?"

The Windish Agency has a mix of the established and the unknown. Atmospheric electronic artist Grimes has one of the most critically lauded albums of 2012, and she's booked through Windish, as are a number of SXSW buzz acts, from the sly retro-pop of L.A.'s Nick Waterhouse to breathless punk rockers Cloud Nothings. Friday marked the first SXSW show from Tanlines, a dancey duo with a world beat. Windish had seen them before -- a few years ago. 

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