Funny thing about flying 1,500 miles to Austin, Texas, last week for the South by Southwest music festival: local journalist Jonathan Zwickel ended up seeing a lot of faces from around here. It’s the convenience that’s key. Sixth Street, the main drag of SXSW, runs straight through downtown Austin. Fifty-some venues are clustered there in a 10-block radius, so catching snippets of three sets amid several hundred in an hour is not only possible but natural. Such a smorgasbord format is a thrill for fans but tough on performers.
Check out the New Faces playing at this years SxSeattle Party at SXSW!
The house was packed to capacity at 3 p.m. for local buzz-of-the-moment Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, who turned in a sweaty, spazzy set of dance pop and had the crowd in a frenzy. The stage was back dropped by familiar Seattle logos: Café Vita, Vera Project, a “City of Music” banner. Inside was hot and humid and not so comfortable; on the breezy back deck, Seattle music industry luminaries lingered in the shade and sipped light beers.
The Sonics took the stage at Emo’s after an embarrassingly hyperbolic introduction (“Has anyone else been waiting 30 years for this? These guys are the foundation of garage rock ‘n’ roll! They are the godfathers of garage rock ‘n’ roll!,” etc.), and proved that their musical DNA is ingrained in a majority of bands at SXSW. Looking like your dad and playing like your nephew, the Tacoma natives aren’t a very animated group, but the music and its pedigree are impressive enough. This might be the band that first introduced the saxophone as an instrument of rock, back in their mid-’60s heyday.
Quincy Jones delivered the festival’s keynote address at 2 p.m. Thursday. The Garfield High graduate’s resume is perhaps the most impressive in the entire entertainment industry: he arranged Sinatra’s big-band recordings; produced “Thriller,” still the top-selling record of all time; produced “The Color Purple,” essentially discovering Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in the process; and produced “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He counted Ray Charles among his earliest friends and during the talk, referred to Willie Nelson as his “homie” and Michael Caine as his “celestial brother.” He spoke for over two hours, describing a career that’s spanned 60 years. And even with all the name dropping, Jones never came off as self-aggrandizing. To close the address, he asked the audience to hold hands and repeat a litany of affirmations that, if spoken by a lesser figure, would’ve sounded trite. Instead, the act left the room beaming with inspiration.
Check out this funny interview with the cast of The Imaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, who took a few minutes to speak with Ewan Spencer in Austin at the SXSW film and music festival. The interview comes on at 8:23.
Congratulations to Seattle’s Sean Pecknold, Noel Paul, and Stefan Moore! Paul and Moore, also known as That Go, won the music video category for Thunderheist’s “Jerk It” at the prestigious Austin film festival this week. Sean Pecknold won a Special Jury Award for the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal.” Out of the 24 music videos screened at SXSW this year, only three were honored with awards. Watch all the Seattle music videos at SXSW here.
Sound on the Sound:
Once again KEXP is taking their multimedia loving ways on the road again to SXSW this year and once again they’ve done themselves one better by agreeing to broadcast all the performances on the ME channel as well as on KEXP.org itself, throughout SXSW. Taking place in the ME Television Studios in Austin, as always this year’s performances are open to the public, but unlike previous years, this year there is no need to RSVP. Find the complete details of all the fun at KEXP.org.