Music at SXSW in Austin, Texas

It is that time of year again when all the TV and film award shows are coming to an end and it is nearly time for the music festival summer circuit in the northern hemisphere of the world. All of this is preempted by South by Southwest (SXSW) (7 - 16 March 2014) in Austin, Texas which started out as a conference for the music industry in 1987 that has grown so big that it is now has three elements - interactive, film and music.  That is not counting the offshoots like SWSWedu, SXSW Eco and SXSW V2V, that take place at different times in the year. So it is a bit of an industry unto itself. SXSW Music is the biggest music festival in the world with over 2000 official performers playing at over 100 venues over 10 days.

If you are like me and not attending this year, you can catch up on what is showcasing or happening at SXSW through the various social media apps and the huge amount of coverage on music blogs, radio stations in the US, movie and TV blogs and publications. I always go to the experts to cut through the huge amount of information coming at me on occasions like these and listen to recommendations from National Public Radio (NPR) in the US and radio shows like Sound Opinions. If you want a place to start go to NPR.org and look for the Austin 100: a SXSW 2014 Mix. You can download 100 songs from 100 performers that will be at SXSW for free until the end of SXSW from the NPR website. This mix has been narrowed down by Stephen Thompson at NPR Music from over 3000 songs sent out by SXSW. It is a great snapshot of what is available as it compiles songs from all music genres.  

The keynote at SXSW Music this year will be by Neil Young. This will be on Tuesday 11 March and it usually gets posted onto youtube. Last year it was Dave Grohl, who did a great job (see below), and the year before it was Bruce Springsteen, who was equally as good as Dave Grohl. No disrespect, but here is hoping that next year it will be someone who is not a white middle aged man.

There are many many headliners this year, from 50 Cent, Jack White, Broken Bells, Imagine Dragons to Kurt Vile and I am sure they will get the coverage, but what is great about SXSW is that you always discover something new. Try it, you may find you new favourite artist or band.

Update 9 March 2014
I have to eat my words. The news is out that Lady Gaga is giving the keynote at SXSW Music this year. I guess Neil Young was a red herring. Outstanding work SXSW.

Big Star's Third at the Sydney Festival

Big Star is a band that I have written about before and you can get an idea about their story here.  If you haven't clicked through, they were a Memphis based band from the early 1970s who created three albums and, through a series of mishaps and bad business, were never distributed or promoted. Their three albums became a cult amongst musicians and musos.

In the last couple of years a series of one-off or limited run concerts have been taking place around the world where an all-star cast of musicians both local and international gather to perform Big Star’s third album, called Third or in some cases Sister Lovers. The base group of musicians who do these concerts are the only remaining founding member of Big Star, Jody Stephens, R.E.M’s Mike Mills, The dB’s Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter (Let’s Active).  

From the 2011 Concert in the USA, this is Brett Harris doing Kangaroo

Last night it was Australia's turn, as the Sydney Festival brought these musicians to the Enmore Theatre in Sydney to put on this concert for one night. The core group of musicians were joined by The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow, guest vocalists Skylar Gudasz, Brett Harris, Kurt Vile, Cat Power, Edwyn Collins, and Aussie singers Tim Rogers (You Am I), Kim Salmon (The Scientists) and Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus) along with a Sydney-based 12-piece ensemble of strings and brass.

This concert emphasised how important live music is. This tight knit group of musicians come together on stage and created a wonderful night full with big personalities, great songs, and moments of joy and sorrow that can only happen at a live show. All the guest vocalists did a fantastic job of evoking the original song and simultaneously making it their own. I for one, was very happy to see the music played live especially as we had the added bonus of most of the songs from the other two albums and some of the solo work of members of Big Star being played. If you want to sample some of Big Star's music listen to a couple of the clips below.

Thirteen off the album, #1 Record.

O My Soul from the album Radio City

Stroke It Noel off the album Third/Sister Lovers


In The Streets off the album, #1 Record