Ann Powers of the LA Times looks at the highlights of this year’s ever growing South by Southwest festival.
A stranger wandering into the scene that overtakes downtown Austin, Texas, every year during the music portion of the South by Southwest festival could be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of apocalypse. The din, the trash, the packs of stumblers forming strange clumps of humanity in the middle of each block and then dispersing across the intersections — the total environment emanates disaster. It’s really a party, of course, a packed gathering of fans jumping from club to club in search of the perfect set from the thousand-plus artists playing dozens of showcases in dozens of venues around Austin’s core. Young artists hope to be noticed, older ones renew their connections with fans and one another, and tipsy college kids shove up against music biz moguls in hopes of hearing something unforgettable. The truth is that, though it can feel uncomfortable to the point of hazard, SXSW is one of the few settings in which devoted rock and pop lovers can feel as if the music industry is not in a catastrophic state. The daytime panels, though often notably underattended given the stakes, address the problems facing an art form in transition, but once the music starts — and it really never stops here — all such concerns are forgotten. Nearly every club door offers the chance of a breakthrough, and each new conversation offers hints that the health of grass-roots music might be just fine. – From LA Times