SXSW 2015 Wraps On A High (FINAL RECAP)

In a lot of ways SXSW is like making a big meal for the whole family. Whether you’re a band, filmmaker, journalist, official SXSW staffer, or even just a fan of it all trying to make a plan, it feels like we spend months and months preparing for the weeklong event only to devour it up in days. There is little time to stop and savor it all, but that is the beauty of the whole event and, like your fat uncle loosening his belt after eating too much, it’s the days after SXSW when you can finally sit back and reflect on it all.

Between last year’s tragic drunk driving crash on Red River St. and the oversaturation of brands – not to mention its status as a spring break destination – many wondered how the SXSW organizers would pull off the festival without letting it slip into chaos. Changes came in the form of a scaled back presence of both major stars and huge corporate branding (those two things often go hand in hand). Even Kanye West, who was expected to show and would have been the biggest name to play the fest, failed to materialize, which was met with few complaints. The result of all of this made it feel like SXSW was taking a step back to its roots. Compared to previous years, badgeholders and those with wristbands had little if any trouble getting into most venues each night. Maybe it was the rain that hit Friday and Saturday, but even the day parties felt less crowded. Sure, if you were willing to waste your time at the Spotify House or Fader Fort than you may have felt disenfranchised by the lines and big crowds, but anyone who did a little planning and actually focused on discovering lesser-known acts experienced few hassles across the board.

All of this translated to a SXSW of without many musical disappointments. With the exception of Fantastic Negrito, the Oakland band that rode in on a wave of buzz after winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest and whose packed set at Lucky Lounge proved a little hype can make people think a watered down neo-soul act is actually good, every act I caught this year left me not only impressed, but a fan. It was uplifting to see such a variety of talented acts making honest, entertaining music, whether it was the boogie-minded rock and roll of Low Cut Connie or the strangely enticing sounds of Korean duo 숨[suːm].

sxsw 4-8

Fantastic Negrito 

Given the laid back smoothness of the whole week and the multitude of musical discovery that was possible at all moments, it seemed only right that SXSW would culminate with a tribute to one of Austin’s greatest inhabitants, Doug Sahm. Loads of musicians, including Steve Earle, Bill Kirchen, Marcia Ball and too many more to name gathered for a celebration of Doug at the Paramount Theater. Musicians and their bands each played a song or two of Doug’s, whose mix of blues, soul, Tejano and psychedelic may epitomize Texan music. Many of the artists had been there and even played with Doug when he helped put Austin on the map as a musical mecca where hippies and rednecks got together to jam.

sxsw 4-12

Steve Earle

With Doug’s own kids taking part in the festivities, the show took on a communal feel like the Austin of lore where everyone knows each other and grooves together. By the time a cast of what felt like every important Austin musician still living joined in for a massive sing-a-long of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s 1969 hit “She’s About A Mover”, it felt like there was no better way to end a SXSW that somehow managed to re-embrace its roots once again. Like always, it went by too fast, but after 29 years the festival still feels like everyone gathering at the table for one glorious cultural feast.

Photos by Arthur VanRooy. 

Check out our SXSW RECAPS from DAY 1DAY 2, DAY 3, DAY 4!

Related Content

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide