Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform with special guests at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. // © 2012 Brian Birzer
The South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in downtown Austin, Texas, had one of its biggest years to date. During the 26th edition of the festival, which took place in mid-March, more than 2,000 music acts converged in the “Live Music Capital of the World” to share their music with industry insiders, journalists and fans. Sixth Street’s venues were packed with performances and, at the Austin Convention Center, badge holders had access to more than 190 presentations and panels, including the keynote address by Bruce Springsteen.
Springsteen also took to the stage with the E Street Band and special guests, Arcade Fire and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame. But they weren’t the only superstars to play SXSW this year. Snoop Dog, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, Jay-Z, The Shins, Mumford and Sons, Skrillex and Eminem were among the celebrity musicians that performed, sometimes unannounced, at various venues downtown. The majority of performances, however, were given by lesser-known, up-and-coming artists — which has always been a core intention of the festival.
“We see South by Southwest as a platform to show off the best music our record label is generating and to attract new fans,” said Drew Best of Smog, a label and promotion company specializing in dubstep music. “We set our sights on producing the best show we can and see what ripples it creates.”
Emerging artists who had breakout shows this year were Southern blues rockers, Alabama Shakes; U.K. indie band, Clock Opera; Los Angeles-based dubstep producer/DJ 12th Planet; French rock band, Trust; and electro-pop four piece, Reptar, from Athens, Georgia — just to name a few.
“My favorite shows this year were newcomers Icky Blossoms, Reptar and Milo Greene, a young band out of Los Angeles with beautiful songs and amazing chemistry among all of the band members,” said four-time SXSW panelist, Season Kent of Clearsongs, Inc.
Natalie Baartz, music director of marketing company Ignition Creative, said her favorite discoveries this year were Choir of Young Believers, Reptar and Clock Opera.
“Clock Opera seemed so sincere and fresh, making you feel invigorated and uplifted,” said Baartz. “Their songs are powerful and huge — they just build and build.”
Those who missed out on this year’s festival might want to consider traveling northeast this summer. SXSW, Inc. is also involved in the North by Northeast (NXNE) music, film and interactive festival, which takes place from June 11-17. Held in Toronto, Canada, NXNE will feature 650 bands, 40 films and 50 panels.