Monday, 31 March 2008


SXSW must be the strangest music festival in the world. Several thousand bands trek to Austin, Texas for five days. In official showcases, bands play in car parks, mexican restaurants, the Hilton hotel and in the odd one or two venues proper. Outside of official showcases bands play on patios, in houses, on bridges and in shops. You can walk up or down 6th Street, the heart of the official festival, and hear approximately forty bands at one time. Most of them sound like "proper" rock bands. You are surrounded by immaculately coiffed and preened wannabe rock stars, corpulent record execs waving their laminated badges (which give you priority entrance to all the shows) and film crews trying to "discover" the next big thing.

Somehow, we were allowed in. And more remarkably, we were able to showcase out artists. Given our pretty blatant diy ethics, it may seem an incongruous fit. But amongst the industry hype, SXSW demonstrates that underground music is alive and well. Not only is this evident in the small labels that are able to showcase, but in the thriving unofficial parties and shows that are everywhere. In this heady mix of bands, labels, promoters, journalists and youth orientated brands trying to make their mark, there was somehow space for some of the most amazing performances I have seen in a long time.

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