Saturday at SXSW is usually the lightest day. A lot of brands are done with their showcases, a lot of bands travel back to where they came from other the weekend. But there is still a lot of focus on the smaller bands waiting to be discovered, which is what Saturday at SXSW 2018 turned out to be for me.
I had never actually checked out one of the Radio Day Stage shows at the Convention Center and saw that New York-based indie pop band Kitten had a 1 PM show there. They are always consistently delivering intense live shows on the strengths of lead singer Chloe Chaidez’s skills and charisma as a frontwoman. But it was weird seeing them play in a big meeting room amongst convention attendees. They still delivered a really fun show, but it was more tempered than any Kitten gig I’ve seen.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, so I did my best to stay away from Sixth Street for the first time all week. People are already drunk during SXSW, compound that with a top-three drinking holiday and you had people looking for trouble. I headed out to South Congress where there were a couple of cool showcases happening.
First I stopped at Hotel San Jose for Soccer Mommy, who I had been trying to see all week long. The Nashville singer-songwriter delivered her raw and heartfelt tunes to a welcoming crowd, even as she sang “I don’t want to be your fucking dog” to a mostly family crowd (from the song “Your Dog”). Her tunes would have fit perfectly in the ’90s scene, on the soundtrack to Reality Bites.
I was able to walk across the street to check out the Girl School showcase at TOM’S, which had free tequila and Skinny Pop, as well as some pretty dope female artists. I first saw Anna Wise come out on stage during a SZA set at Bonnaroo a few years ago and my interest was piqued. I was surprised by how experimental her music sounded live, as she live layered loops of her vocals as backing tracks. It was a pretty mood-driven performance that fit my six-days-at-SXSW temperament.
Next was a high-energy set from TT The Artist, an explosive MC from Baltimore. She really got the crowd involved, imploring some of them to join her as backup dancers. One such dancer was a lady probably in her sixties that had more energy than anyone I saw at all of SXSW.
I caught another set from Sunflower Bean, this being their 12th and final show of the festival. You could sense a bit of relief on their faces as they made it to the finish line. The songs sounded just as fresh as they did on Monday when I caught them for the first time this week.
I wasn’t intending for that to be my final show of SXSW but the festival had other plans for me. I was hoping to close things out with the famed The Roots Jam Session that has been a staple of the festival in recent years. However, a bomb threat forced the cancellation of the show, meaning I was among many that never got to see The Roots backup people like Ludacris and other special guests. But safety matters most, especially in times like these.
It was a wild six days in Austin and I’m happy I managed to make it to the end. My neck is in all sorts of pain but if I had to do it all over again I would. Until next year.