SXSW can be about many things: Music, networking, your job, etc. Today, it became mostly about the free food. Breakfast tacos abounded at the BMI Brunch and registrants lounge, the Aussie BBQ featured delicious smelling sausages from Frank’s, and High Voltage was invited to the 101/Team Hans Cookout where we nibbled on pizza, mini-sandwiches, and guacamole. All of this before 1pm.
Rain began to fall in the early afternoon, slightly changing the complexion of the festival. Plastic bags came out en masse to protect stages and gear, as well as all the people (smart thinking on the part of the companies handing out branded ponchos). Some parties were cancelled, others delayed, but what did not change is the enthusiasm of the people dedicated to seeing live music. This was particularly evident at Cheer Up Charlie’s where Jack Garratt played to a cold and wet audience on a stage experiencing some technical issues. This might have stymied another artist so dependent on electronics for their sound, but all of the issues seemed to bring everyone closer, upping the ante for both performer and listeners. It all made for a unique performance. I mean, how often does the musician stop mid-set for an impromptu Q and A?
The weather did encourage staying at one party for multiple sets instead of running around. The UMG Experience Party at Palm Door provided a great respite. The indoor stage had a couple of power house female vocalists back to back with Charlotte OC and Ryn Weaver. In between, you could step outside and rock out with Scott Weiland’s latest project, the Wildabouts (if you were lucky enough to squeeze under the tent).
In the evening, the spot to be was St. David’s Church. The church always brings out something special in the artists that play there. The Communion Showcase (which brought us Hozier, Sam Smith, and Vance Joy last year), was back with a new crop of superior (and incredibly soulful) vocalists including Laura Marling, Leon Bridges, James Bay, and Jack Garratt playing in St. David’s Sanctuary. Bay proved a particular highlight of the evening as when he took the stage, you could feel the energy in the room elevate. The electric vibe remained throughout his way too brief set which concluded in a lengthy and deserved standing ovation.
Over in St. David’s Bethel Hall, someone must have suggested a dress code as the Contenders came out with Jay Nash looking dashing in a suit and tie. The intimate chapel setting was the perfect venue for the duo who charmed with their witty banter and heartfelt songs.
Aside from staying dry, my evening in the church came with several additional benefits. The ability to sit all night in one place was a big one this far into the week, but another unexpected perk was getting to know the people around me beyond a quick, “Hey, what do you do, let’s exchange cards.”
Today might not have been the typical SXSW day, but I guess sometimes it takes a little rain to make you appreciate the other amazing aspects of this festival.