Posted on March 19, 2012

The following content was forwarded to Seattle from SXSW by Ana-Them Records Rep Antknee

SXSW 2012 Closing Observations from Antknee

Day 4: The Free (and cheap) Stuff

For those who can’t or don’t want to spend money on an official SXSW badge or wristband, there are several free opportunities to catch shows for free. Here are just a few ways to do it on the cheap:

* Subscribe to @sxswpartylist on Twitter. This gives you access to dozens of parties that are typically sponsored by a music magazine, record company or brand that showcase a variety of artists as well as promoting their products. Free drinks, food and swag are not uncommon, which good or bad, draws a lot of people. When a list goes live to RSVP, you have to be quick about signing up.

* Auditorium Shores shows: Shows this year included free sets by the Shins, Counting Crows and the Cult. Due to their free nature, planning ahead is advised and plan to wait for hours if you want a good seat.

* Street Musicians: If you wander from W. 6th St on down to the main hub of action at E. 6th street, you’ll find many solo and group acts setting up shop on the street. Case in point, check out this video I shot of a funky drummer on 6th and Congress.

* Perez Hilton One Night In Austin Showcase: For the past five years, this showcase has gained credibility for breaking new acts such as Katy Perry and Robyn, as well as hosting some of Hilton’s favorites, ranging from singer-songwriters, dance artists and R&B/Hip-Hop. This year, the party was open to badge holders as well as those who paid $25 for guaranteed entry, all of which went to the VH-1 Save the Music Foundation.

Speaking of Perez Hilton…

Day 5: Perez Hilton’s One Night In Austin Official SXSW 2012 Showcase

You’re probably wondering why someone who loves discovering new music would go to something that is seemingly geared towards promoting acts that are already signed and at various stages of their careers.

The reality is that when SXSW began in 1987, the intent was to do just that: Discover new talent and sign them to a label. The focus has changed from an industry-only focus to promoting new releases from beginners all the way to legends like Bruce Springsteen. The vast majority of artists I saw this week played tracks from their new and forthcoming albums releasing in the next few months.

While one could argue this is a bad thing, the upside is that some of the musicians who have been around for a long time are still struggling to find a wide audience. By showcasing their music at SXSW to potential new buyers, it adds a new dimension to marketing their music.

With that in mind, here’s my review of the good, bad and the downright sad aspects of the showcase last night.

As good intentioned as Hilton is, singer-songwriters often get sandwiched in between dance acts and hip-hop stars. Fortunately, this year’s crop managed to stand out on their own and receive acclaim. The first act, Rosi Golan, managed to captivate the crowd with her three song set of melancholy tunes.

Faring even better was UK solo artist Ed Sheeran, whose uncanny vocal resemblance to Jason Mraz can’t be ignored. He brought his own twist however and managed to gain some new fans during his set.

Vampire Diaries star Kat Graham came on next. After a small technical delay, Graham’s brand of dance pop was on full display with her two back up dancers. The beats were hard and the choreography tight, however I was dismayed with the performance as it relied more on a sex kitten vibe than demonstrating musical talent. It’s a shame that some artists choose to resort to these antics. While it may titillating, I might as well have been watching the Playboy channel music hour. Downright shameful. For those that may be wondering, I’d say the same thing if it were a man doing it.

Washing away all of my grumpiness was Canada’s Dragonette. In full disclosure, this is not a new band for me (my fourth time seeing them), however they have recently gained notice with their contributions to Martin Solveig’s international dance hit “Hello” and Kaskade’s “Fire In Your New Shoes”. They wisely included both of these in their five song set, as well as debuting two brand new tunes from their upcoming album. To round out their set, their electro-rock classic “Fixin’ To Thrill” gave the showcase the kind of energy it needed. This band is poised for a breakthrough and let’s hope their tenaciousness pays off in 2012.

My enthusiasm didn’t last long with the appearance of Kreayshawn. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of hip-hop and rap but this set displayed every bad stereotype, with blatant references to drug use and childlike behavior. Again, it’s sad to see this kind of behavior with attitude and dress that’s simply unnecessary to promote your music.

Hip-Hop master Timbaland finally showcased true talent in the genre by reminding the crowd of his hits with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Keri Hilson as well as previewing two brand new tunes. His heavy beats had the crowd dancing and singing as the night drew to a close.

Playing a brief but well-received set was the duo of DJ Mia Moretti and violinist Caitlin Moe ( and This unique pairing continued the vibe created by Timbaland with old and new dance classics.

Rounding out the night was B.O.B. whose playful attitude added a soft side to the hip-hop breakout star. With only minutes to spare, he blazed through his set and closed out the night at 2 a.m. to a very exhausted crowd that had been there since 6 p.m.

The Wrap-Up

In summary, this year’s SXSW festival provided some new acts to watch and exciting showcases for established artists’ new work. One can’t help but wonder however if festival organizers will take a different approach for future years. This was my second year and I’ve already noticed the surge in attendance. Last year, I rarely waited in lines and never ID’d. This year was completely different, leaving me somewhat concerned that new artists might have a harder time breaking out in a sea of people just looking to see their favorite act perform in a small venue. While I have my pop leanings, my tastes are varied and I love to see new acts give their all, without any of the pretense that comes from knowing you’ve already made it.

I’ll either cross my fingers or write a letter to SXSW organizers because in the end, it’s all about the music. Adele’s record-smashing album “21″ is a recent example of an artist that can sing and is focused on the artistry of music, not a circus sideshow of slick moves and revealing outfits. Let’s hope that spirit can remain alive with SXSW.


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