South By Southwest version 2016: Welcome to another year of High Voltage making you feel as if you are here with us in Austin, TX!
The rules are simple: Every day we give you a snapshot of the day’s highlights as seen through our various High Voltage eyes. We arrived in Austin on Monday which, technically, was still during Interactive Week and meant the musical offerings would be fairly light. So as Interactive people began to fade away and the Music Week folks began to filter in, Tuesday’s dial moved in the direction we were here for: towards the music.
The Spotify House is a highly attended location where, even when the venue is at capacity, people will – literally – stand in line for hours waiting to get in despite never being conveniently located and always something of a haul to get to as walking is the primary method for getting from point A to point B. This year, Spotify House moved even farther away from the SXSW central downtown area: approximately one mile from our hotel. But Copenhagen’s Lukas Graham was first up on the Spotify House line up at noon, so after fueling up on breakfast, we committed ourselves to the walk west and the waiting in line.
And, yes, Lukas Graham was worth every minute of it. The persona that you glean from his self-aware and autobiographical songs is every bit as present on stage among him and his bandmates. There were jokes about playing early in the day affording them the opportunity to get drunk as soon as possible, moms who wear pink and a stripper named Megan. You see, Graham is one of our 20 Artists You Can’t Miss at SXSW in 2016 for a reason.
Graham set the bar pretty damned high and would be a tough act to follow but good things did follow like Leon Stanford from Welsh band The People the Poet who showed off his incredibly powerful and resonant voice during an acoustic set on the trade show floor at the Austin Convention Center. Because every artist must make their way to the ACC at some point, just as I was leaving the ACC, I ran directly into ANOTHER one of our 20 Artists You Can’t Miss at SXSW 2016: The Soft White Sixties who had just arrived in town and were heading to pick up their credentials.
Over at the Jackalope, both Down and Outlaws and The Soft White Sixties played sets rock and roll raw and rock dance rhythm bold, respectively, as part of the San Francisco Presents Bay Area Showcase.
Then there was Ben Hazelwood who may not be a household name, but the 25-year young New Zealand native and The Voice Australia contestant was beyond impressive flexing his soulful pop prowess at the Sounds Australia showcase. But look at that sidewalk art found randomly spray painted on the sidewalk: We get the feeling that someone really wants folks to check out Lukas Graham as much as we do…
Hey, McDonald’s Loft: Free custom ice cream sundaes, french fries, fresh fruit and the Western indie rock of Jared & the Mill? Now that was a genius idea. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us this week.
Over at the British Embassy, young up-and-comer Declan McKenna (and at 17 he’s the youngest SXSW artist I’ve ever seen, he’s also pictured above in the header photo) was the one to watch with his one-man-band of loops, voice and guitar and his ability to multi-task…or not. He’s charming and charmingly talented work of musicianship. But as one-man-bands go, currently the man to beat is Jack Garratt. His midnight set at Hype Hotel also required a healthy trek west but no way in hell were we missing our current On The Rise Artist’s show. We saw him for the first time at last year’s SXSW when he played in a church and we knew. Since then he’s released a stunning debut album (Phase), won a Brit Award, blown minds live (the guy to my left at tonight’s show had never heard of Garratt before and was dumbstruck by how dynamic he was) and can’t seem to not sell out shows.
Yes, it’s been a long day and a late night with miles walked in the high sunshine but we’ve got many more miles to go before we can get a good night’s sleep (again). So this wraps up this installment of our SXSW recaps (check out our video recap HERE featuring BØRNS and more) and stay tuned for more of our High Voltage adventures.
Let’s get this party started…