SXSW guitar show for Cultivate PR

SXSW Part 2: The Beat Goes On

It’s hard to believe SXSW has come and gone, yet again. Each year, the festival gets bigger and better and we at Cultivate love every bit of it. What began in 1987 with 700 registrants has grown to nearly 12,000 and the film and interactive portion of the festival have continued to grow and flourish, making SXSW one of the premiere events of the year to launch new products, new startups, premiere films, and well, be discovered. Now that I’m a SXSW three-year veteran, I’ve finally learned that the best plan of action for the 10 day festival is little to no plan at all. This year, SXSW lured in the musical likings of Justin Timberlake, Prince and The Flaming Lips, but a word of advice: skip the headliners and head into some smaller shows in smaller venues with (and this is the real kicker) shorter lines; you won’t regret it. After all, SXSW is all about the underdog getting discovered. And I’m all about supporting an underdog. Here are a couple of highlights from this year’s festival.

Bloody Mary at the W Austin for KGSR's annual SXSW early morning

f you are a morning person (or even if you aren’t) KGSR’s annual SXSW early morning Live broadcast at the W Austin this is a must-do event Wednesday-Saturday of the music portion of south by. With lines wrapping around the W as early as 6:00am, for only $5, you get to see some of the festivals biggest up and coming talents—some that folks have heard of and others that are on the brink of fame. In 2012, I had the good fortune to hear Fun and The Lumineers play at the W. Hardly anyone in the room had heard of these bands that morning and now a year later, well, there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of them. This year, I was thrilled to see Pickwick, a group out of Seattle whose blend of rock, gospel, 60s pop, creates an infectious sound. I feel positive we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the months and years to come. Stay tuned. Another favorite from the live broadcast this year was Divine Fits. In 2007, Spoon’s lead singer (and Austin local), Britt Daniels, attended a Handsome Furs show and met singer, Dan Boeckner, now Divine Fits lead singer. The two hit it off and the rest is music history. Daniels and Boeckner’s effortless and cohesive sound is worth a listen. They gave a fantastic show at the W this year and I can’t wait to hear what they’ll release next.

Punk rock baby at SXSW with Cultivate PR

One of my favorite shows this year is a group I had heard no previous knowledge of. I met a friend I hadn’t seen in some time at a showcase (I had never heard of) at a bar (I had never heard of). It’s the perfect way to discover new music—no prior knowledge = no expectations. Prepare to be seriously impressed or seriously disappointed. I lucked out. I walked into the outdoor venue and was pleasantly surprised, being the Mississippi native that I am, to find that a group out of Memphis was playing. The group, named Star & Micey, were recently listed at No. 1 on Paste magazine’s list of “12 Tennessee Bands You Should Listen to Now” and you can listen to them on NPR’s World Café here. With a folk-pop sound that has clear influence from the Memphis and Mississippi Blues and Rock scene, this band made me feel like I was back at home in the Deep South. I have a feeling they’ll be back to Austin within the year, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

SXSW Crowd at Empire Automotive Athens, GA showcase

Another highlight was the Athens, Georgia showcase held at Empire Automotive in the Red River district. Athens is a music mecca for lovers of southern and alternative rock, with bands such as R.E.M. and The B-52s getting their start in the city. This year’s lineup included Futurebirds, Moon Taxi, Thomas Wynn and the Believers, just to name a few. Despite the fact the showcase took place on day 10 of the 10-day festival, energy levels were remarkably high and the bands delivered performances that did not disappoint their many devoted fans. It was the perfect ending to an exhausting (but totally worth it) SXSW.

Time to start the countdown for SXSW 2014.