SXSW 2012 – Perspectives of a First Timer SXSW 2012 – Perspectives of a First Timer

Editor’s Note: What you are about to read is a first-hand account of SXSW 2012 as related by a first timer. Some of it is confused, erroneous or incomplete. We have elected to present this piece as submitted in order to preserve its authenticity. Charles, our Editor at Large, was present for the better part of what transpires below and has attempted to add what clarity he could through a series of Endnotes. Please enjoy.

This year I decided to join Pinpoint music for SXSW. Coming from Northern Ireland and jetting off to Texas (via L.A.) was kind of a big deal; as was hanging out with a dozen1 guys I’d never met before for two weeks2. The trip was long and the beer was plenty, and over the fortnight I was there I met the most eclectic mix of people, drank from an incredible selection of beers, and tasted some of the greatest BBQ. I decided that this was worth keeping a note of, so since Charles’ video diary idea was rejected flat out (save for a drunken late night stand-up routine) I chronicled the experience via a mix of iPhone notes, actual notes, and memory. The results are below.


Our first day at the festival is actually “Day 0”, since not a lot of bands play and you’re only here to pick up your wristband, but “Day 0” sounds bent. We arrived at the Austin Convention Center to pick up our credentials. I personally was expecting a sea of grumpy people pushing and shoving to get their photo passes and wristbands; what actually ensued were orderly queues looked over by helpful and friendly volunteers, and festival-goers who would take the time to have a chat whilst in line. We got talking to an editor from Wire, or XLR8R, or somewhere3. A volunteer provides us with our first official South-by rumour as we leave: Slayer and Iron Maiden are playing, somewhere, tonight4. If we find out where and tell her, she will get us in. She also offers other services of a distinctly narcotic nature (SHE OFFERS TO GET US WEED).

As it’s the first day, beer is top of the agenda. We find a lovely little bar with a lovely and massive beer menu, before scurrying around to see bands called Bobby Jealousy5 and Barbed Wire Dolls. Both are good fun- solid garage rock. We also see a Swedish death metal band called BULT because Ryan heard that they were Wiz Kalifa performing Motorhead songs. In a toilet. I swear this all made complete sense at the time6. The night brings Future Of The Left, who are one of the standout bands at the festival. Their set is well-oiled and raucous, and whilst lead singer Andy Falkous’ dig about Cardiff goes down like a lead balloon in front of a largely American crowd, ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ more than makes up for it. Back to the house. More beer.


I awake with an incredibly sore head. It might have been down to the alcohol consumption the previous day; we may never know. The bus downtown introduced us to the rapper that will surely have Kanye looking over his shoulder sometime soon- “Jaysmithbiatch”. He scares most of the bus by being loud and crazy, the stickers that he gives us state “I’m gonna beast on you!” It’s our stop.

After catching one and a half songs of Papa, I headed over to Red 7 to see the wishy washy Korrallreven, before Youth Lagoon took to the stage. Despite only having a band of two, Trevor Powers’ songs are as touching in the live setting as they are on a home stereo, and his brief set gets the day off to a good start. The group meets up and we find a party with free beer, which is a win. We use our mandate of free beer to start mouthing off to a group of Spotify executives, and proceed to explain to them how they could improve their service by making relatively small changes. Them being dressed like cool University professors and us like, well, music fans, I’m sure they took us seriously. Ben wants to see Fiona Apple, so we all investigate the queue. It’s really big. The non-hardcore Fiona Apple fans among us decide to go and get food.

Charles and I take off to the Goth Club (as you do) to see the very gothy and terribly mysterious Mirror Mirror, who do actually produce a mirror-like object at one point during the set, so fair enough. This is the only thing that sticks out from their set, though. Next up is the extremely disappointing Sleep ∞ Over, who having taken about half an hour too long to set up, could at least not have been shit. We leave early. I decide to take off to the Ghostly International party7, where I’m able to catch Matthew Dear and Com Truise. Both are excellent; the former sounding massive with two live drummers, the latter also reaping the benefits of a live band. Com Truise’s chillwave actually sounds beefy rather than throwaway, and Matthew Dear’s dark electro comes to life with the help of an enthusiastic crowd. I get complimented on my t-shirt from two separate people. They’re quite nice, Americans. Nothing like what you read about.

SXSW: Day 3

The day starts off with Charles having to interview Future Of The Left. Everyone’s nervous; we’ve kept a quick witted and intimidating frontman waiting for 20 minutes8 while we find somewhere to do the interview, and this could go very badly. It doesn’t- Falkous is talkative and even has time to crack a few jokes. Afterwards, me and Charles try our hand at throwing knives. We’re not very good. The evening brings Bass Drum Of Death (Japandroids if they were really grimmed out and had absolutely no sense of optimism, and another guitarist) and Taken By Cars (Sounded like Cansei De Ser Sexy….remember them?!). I decide that I’m seeing Cloud Nothings- never mind the fact that they don’t come on until 1am and it’s now 10, I’m seeing them. I know how this SXSW thing works!

I don’t. I’m at a venue three hours too early where I now have to watch three bands I don’t care about. Assuming my spirit hasn’t broken completely by the time Cloud Nothings come on. In a welcome surprise, Class Actress are very good. The singer makes a compelling frontwoman and I make a note to listen to them again whenever I get back. Unfortunately the next band are Dent May, who were on before Youth Lagoon, and weren’t very good then either. I make a tactical decision to sit down while these guys play, in order to preserve strength. I realise I’m sat next to Mr. Cloud Nothings9. I mumble about the new album, he tells me about the difficulties of getting booze (he’s under age). I feel like there’s something I should say, something that will make me his best mate or make him ask me to join the band. I can’t find it whatever it is, and go and take my place in front of the stage. Their set is immense, and they tear through every number on Attack On Memory (apart from ‘Cut You’- I’m still sore about that…I love that song) with gusto; it sounds even better in a live setting. ‘No Future/No Past’ and ‘Seperation’ get the most pit going; the front row literally has to hold on to each other to stay upright. Success.

SXSW: Day 4

Day 4 ends up being a relatively quiet one. We know we have the Pinpoint house party later on, and the day time pretty much turns into a build up to that. We catch Papa, again, on a swanky rooftop party10. It’s catchy indie of a Cold War Kids nature. After making our way to a metal show and swiftly leaving11, we walk for a while to another venue where a band are playing. IT’S PAPA AGAIN. They sound remarkably similar to the two other times they played. The singer getting up at the end and hugging the entire front row is a nice touch, however12. Next is Dan Deacon, for which the award for best performance must go to. He should consider stand up comedy if the music schtick goes south; he has people in fits of laughter and is a genuinely witty guy, as well as laying on the crowd participation. He makes everyone get down on one knee- I ignore this. He then gets everyone to point at someone who didn’t get down on one knee.

I quickly rethink. After a bite to eat it’s back to the house to clean and purchase more beer. Hi Ho Silver Oh arrive at the house. They’re very nice young people, and once the back garden is set up for them to play we start shooting their performance. It’s inoffensive and the harmonies inevitably recall Fleet Foxes- as with many strange things at the festival it seems to make sense. I discover that Ryan broke ranks to go and see Grimes tonight. I’m not happy- but I’m going to see her tomorrow anyway.

SXSW: Day 5

This could have been called “SXSW: Day Grimes” for all I cared- I was seeing Grimes today. I got up early (ish) and quickly made my plan. Peaking Lights are playing Urban Outfitters at 4, Grimes at 6. Head there for 4, hang out all day. Google maps tells us it’s slightly out of the way, but nothing a bus and a cab can’t cover. It’s St. Patricks Day, however. Every cab in sight already has a small cavalry of green people in it. We aren’t clued up on bus routes. We have to walk.

And walk we do. It takes us roughly 45 minutes; we’ve missed Peaking Lights. A small sacrifice- Grimes is the goal. It’s 4.45 and there’s no queue, so we reward our travels with a beer13. We come back at 5.15- the queue stretches to the end of the street. It is quite literally heartbreaking. We queue until 6.10 to get told that she’s about to come on, and we’re not getting in. We dander around the back to catch a glimpse. I decide to leave before she starts playing in the hope that this will lessen the blow. It really doesn’t14. At this point the evil head of St. Patrick’s day has fully reared its ugly green head. SBTRKT? Queue around the block. Django Django? No chance. We manage to see Breton, who may as well be called “WE REALLY LOVE FOALS AND BOG STANDARD INDIE” – in hindsight it’s not entirely surprising that they didn’t go with that moniker. There’s one last rumour- Trash Talk and Asap Rocky playing in a Warehouse. Morale is very low at this point. It seems that the entire of Austin has heard this ‘rumour’ and the queue for a gig to which the doors don’t open for another two hours already has a big fuck off queue15. It’s unfortunate that the “disappointment” tentacle of SXSW extends itself on the final day, but so it is. We admit defeat and retire home. At least we got to see Breton before they made it big…….pfft.

Things I Learned:

I take really, really stupid notes.

Beer is quite cheap. It’s not really cheap, though. Even when it’s free you’re still expected to tip a dollar or two. Which is fine. But it’s still not ‘free’.

Texas loves her meat and her BBQ. The food really is a treat. Meat wrapped in meat wrapped in hot sauce with deep fried burrito salsa. (Note: this is not an actual recipe)

There’s not as much free stuff at South-By as people say. We got a couple of free t-shirts, some USB sticks, drink holders, and tote bags. All good, but nothing to write home about. Still, free.

I complain a lot.

SXSW is a business. It’s an industry convention. You will hear phrases like “Have you heard the DIY pop-up shop presentation got moved to fifth? Yeah they sent out an email and updated the start time. What? Yeah you need to get the updated version of the app. The convention centre has free wi-fi if you need on the web for that. You have a platinum badge? No man, its diamond-encrusted, adamantium-reinforced, gold-plated badge holders only dude. ” On a serious note, I found this soul crushing. I naively expected a music festival. I got one- but there were also a lot of hard-nosed business types around as well. It knocked the wind out of me somewhat.

Americans don’t drink as much as we do in the UK. That’s probably a good thing16.

Being “Irish” on St. Patrick’s day doesn’t get you quite as much as you would have thought.


1Actually, there were only six guys in our party but seeing double is not an all too uncommon occurrence at SXSW.
2In LA, evidently, you see triple.
3Consequence of Sound
4According to a TOTALLY (his emphasis) not homeless new metalhead friend on a bus some days later, Slayer TOTALLY (again, his) played all of Reign in Blood at a gay bar on the outskirts of town. Maiden, he assures us did not.
5We did? Was that the band we thought would be huge if they were cute?
6Ryan Rowe read us this rumor directly from Wavves’ Twitter feed which only serves to illustrate two points: 1. Wavves are a bunch of goddamn liars and 2. Ryan Rowe follows Wavves on Twitter. Do with that information what you will.
7But not before I dragged you to see The Golden Boys who, evidently, made absolutely no impression.
8Actually, this is one thing that happened to us at SXSW that was not our fault at all.
9In fact, Mr. Dylan Baldi.
10It was more of a hotel balcony but it sure was swanky.
11High on Fire. The two songs we did catch (along with an ICE COLD Lone Star tall boy) manage to remedy my crippling hangover. Didn’t we also go looking for a house party that day?
12This actually happened at the hotel unless it happened at this show as well during the brief period of the day when I realized that a man can not live by beer alone and I took off to procure a fried pork chop sandwich.
13And a brief glimpse of a man performing in a Lewinski wig and a pink dress that read “DON’T CUM ON ME” or did I make that part up?
14Neither, I imagine, does getting lost inside the University of Texas (GO, LONGHORNS!) or being ushered into a Masonic Temple by a “pretty” girl in a wolf/dog mask to see a band I still don’t know the name of despite now being in possession of their CD.
15Unlike the Maiden rumor, this show actually happens. FIDLAR played as well. Evidently, this show degenerated into a riot.

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