No Badge Necessary: Top 5 Unofficial SXSW Moments
South By South West took the city of Austin by storm last week. The festival has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994, and although it is experiencing some growing pains, it continues to be staple in Austin’s creative community. SXSW is a unique event in many aspects; much like a giant Austin block party, the festival showcases a variety of upcoming talent throughout venues across the entire city. Although the festival has been fairly criticized as a “corporate orgy” when its list of corporate showcases and sponsors are considered; SXSW is still packed with hidden gems and rising talent just waiting to be discovered around every corner, courtesy of the unofficial side.
Top 5 Unofficial SXSW Moments:
1. Vermont Joy Parade’s Gypsy Wagon Performances– As I was wandering the streets of East 6th street, I happened upon a wagon that resembled a 1920’s gypsy mobile. I quickly approached the wagon with automatic intrigue, and discovered a man passionately playing the piano and a woman soulfully singing along. The duo’s sound radiated a charismatic circus-jazz vibe, which guided all by-standers on a musical journey that transcended the boundaries of the everyday musical experience through its integration of performance and raw passion. The inside of the wagon completed the experience as it was decorated in a manner that also resembled a 1920’s circus. The entire experience was beautiful in simplicity. I later learned that this random appearance was part of the Vermont Joy Parade’s seven-piece ensemble, and I truly hope to witness more from the collective in the future.
2. The Air Up There – Banjos to Beats & Gravitas Recordings put on an epic SXSoiree on Friday at 219 West. The party went throughout the entire day as well as late-night hours, while it showcased a plethora of talent from the likes of Psymbionic, Supervision, D.V.S., Wick-it the Instigator and many other impressive names from the EDM scene on its scenic rooftop stage. DYNOHUNTER, Jay Fresh, Henry + The Invisibles and several others rocked the second inside stage as well. In addition to great music, the production level of the event was top-notch, creating an over-all spectacular party.
3. Third Coast Visions Family SXSW Kick Off – This party was entirely unique considering the fact that it took place in a furniture factory, known as Lunar Mattress/Far Out Home Fittings. Originality was definitely the theme of the night; the party was complete with a moon-bounce, euphonic live music and visionary live painters via Third Coast Visions. Austin’s local favorites, Sheer Khan & the Space Case and Cactus Bath were some of the musical talent. Additionally, Austin’s own exotic bass producer Govinda played a super secret set during the late night hours.
4. SXSW Eco Light Garden – This curated exhibit was actually an official part of SXSW, but it was open to the public and didn’t require a badge. Republic Square Park was transformed into a psychedelic, intricately crafted exhibit waiting to be discovered and played in. It possessed the vibe of my favorite Texas festival, Art Outside, as it showcased the Cathedral of Mathgic and The Luminescent Grand (an LED baby grand piano), which were both displayed at AO as well. The Cathedral of Celestial Mathgic is sound interactive musical instillation that is comprised of a Frabjous centerpiece and 30 more pieces that are identical to each other. The two uniquely interactive pieces were accompanied by several other reciprocative installations, creating an unforgettable experience in its outdoor location.
5. Street Ritual X Multi Music Unofficial Showcase – This event was magnificent for a variety of reasons, primarily because of the great music from the likes of PUMPKIN, Nico Luminous, Knowa Lusion, Dov & Sauce and because of the quality venue that hosted it, known as Vinyl. If it wasn’t for this event I probably wouldn’t have discovered Vinyl, which is without a doubt one of my new favorite venues in town. Vinyl possesses a uniquely sexy speakeasy vibe, as it is a bar hidden within the larger bar known as Chicago House; its walls are covered in vinyl records and dim red lighting.
These were my top five experiences at SXSW this year, but there was a plethora of creativity and talent displayed throughout the city every day of the week. It would be impossible to truly capture the extent of sheer talent and kinetic energy of SXSW’s unofficial side. Despite some evident growing pains, I feel blessed enough to have witnessed all of the talent that was brought to my own city this SX.
I can not possibly write about all of the amazing discoveries I made at unofficial SXSW showcases this year without stopping to acknowledge the tragic drunk driving accident that left three people dead and several injured in the midst of chaos Wednesday night. This was the most evident growing pain of the festival to date, and I sincerely ask that our readers party responsibly and take accountability for their actions this festival season.