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Lessons From SXSW 

Wednesday, Mar 25 2015
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• House shows, if you can find 'em, are stronger than official showcases. For one thing, there's a much better chance these performances will make you feel alive and high in the way live music should make you feel. One of my favorite nights involved a suburban backyard with an open bar, and an attic that steamed up with sets from Brooklyn dance party Rubblebucket (which marched down the stairs and into the yard for its final song) followed by a high-energy set from Bay Area indie rockers Panic is Perfect. By the end, confetti was in everyone's hair and someone had thrown jam at the wall. Went to sleep smiling.

• If you have the chance to see Earl Sweatshirt any point in your life, even if you have the schmancy badge to get inside the venue, the best way to see him is away from the hype, surrounded by local 17-year-olds, wherever they're hanging out. In this case, it was on the street, them crowded together, looking down into the venue from outside the official limits, drinking.

• You have to adapt and/or turn your bullshit meter off altogether if you're going to avoid a nervous breakdown. The first time I heard someone say, "I have to get up early to go to SoulCycle at the Spotify House," I wanted to punch him in the face. By about the fourth day I was unfazed.

• For all the hubbub about musicians leaving the Bay Area for cheaper pastures, we sure did represent well this year. More than three dozen local acts played official showcases over five days. And, funny thing: For a scene that can feel splintered and cliquey at time, there's nothing like gathering in a foreign place — one teeming with bands from all over the world — to bring out the local pride and sense of togetherness.

We saw folks from different genres excitedly hugging each other in the street about a half-dozen times. Local artists we or our fellow SF Weekly writers saw killed it: K. Flay, the Stone Foxes, Cathedrals, Thee Oh Sees, Geographer, Con Brio, Deerhoof, Terry Malts, E-40, G-Eazy, Too $hort (who was not happy when the venue owners brought the lights up at last call, but that's what you get for starting at 1:20 a.m.), Iamsu!, Hieroglyphics' Opio with Free the Robots, Green Day's Mike Dirnt, The Seshen, Down and Outlaws, The Dodos, Eyes on the Shore, 8th Grader...we must be forgetting someone.

• Regardless, Bay Area: You did us proud. Whatever SXSW becomes in its next incarnation (it will probably involve virtual reality and wearables and somehow using them to appeal to young Latina women through social media marketing), I left deeply satisfied. Full of tacos, with a few regrets about open bars, but mostly energized to know I was going home in such good musical company, with a solid reminder about what it actually is that makes live music so mystically energizing, the elements that are capable of cutting through cynicism. Hint: It's not corporate sponsorship.

• And while I was gone? Legislation to protect San Francisco's threatened music venues moved forward. News broke that 1-2-3-4 Go! Records is opening a second physical record store on Valencia. I happily cut the multicolored wristbands from my arm Sunday night. There's so much to do here. Let's go out.

Check for more live reviews, photos, and shoutouts from SXSW.

About The Author

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is SF Weekly's former Music Editor.


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