Local Current Blog

‘Play something I can twerk to’: SXSW dispatch, Day One

Photos by Bridget Bennett for MPR

Photographer Bridget Bennett is sharing photos and stories from her first-ever SXSW experience. Watch for more updates from Bridget this week and weekend, and listen to The Current on Friday from noon to 6:00 p.m. for a live broadcast of the Public Radio Day Stage concert at SXSW.

It’s a festival of standing in lines, with unpredictable music and free things. There are food trucks at every corner and tunes blasting continuously as thousands of artists, industry insiders, and fans hop among the dozens of indoor-outdoor music venues that line the downtown streets of Austin, Texas.

I arrived at SXSW with a few friends on Monday afternoon and immediately rushed to the A.V. Club/Onion’s Manic Monday show where artists ranging from Australian garage-pop artist Courtney Barnett to Minnesota’s Hippo Campus were playing. I got to the venue after the show’s start, and before entering, I waited in a line that went around the block for two hours.

By the time I got inside, I had missed Hippo Campus as well as indie-rock standard Real Estate. I was most excited to see Rock the Garden performer Courtney Barnett, who has more than ten SXSW performances scheduled throughout the week. She didn’t disappoint, though the crowd only knew a few of her songs. METZ (above) played an energetic and satisfying show that got the venue’s Triple-Rock-size crowd moshing and crowd surfing. I wrapped up my day with a food-truck burrito.

Tuesday was the first official day of the music festival, and the day’s number of shows were a little light in comparison to the rest of the week. I started my day at indoor-outdoor music venue, Cheer Up Charlies, where Cheerleader, from Philadelphia, played a few poppy but not-too-catchy songs. (Cute boys can only sell so much.) A little bit later, I discovered Susan (above), a female power-pop three-piece from Los Angeles. The group has a sound that would agree with Minneapolis. Next, I took to the streets for some exploring.

I found a pop-up thrift store in an alley and musicians playing on every street corner. On one, I saw a man in a wolf mask jamming with a violin. A girl approached him, asking if he would “play something she could twerk to.” On another corner, multiple street artists were collaborating, while a wannabe-rapper tried to rap on top of the performance.

Considering it was St. Patrick’s Day, there was an abundance of drunk people with green beads dangling from their necks, roaming the streets. This exploring turned into an all-afternoon activity and people watching. In this span of time I also was acquainted with the best veggie burger I have ever had in my life (it might have to due with the fact that the only thing I had eaten all day was the fake eggs from the continental breakfast at my hotel).

By 5:30 p.m., I headed to the House of Vans at Mohawk for Ryley Walker (above), Steve Gunn (below), Waxahatchee, Speedy Ortiz, and Angel Olsen. This time I got in line an hour and a half before doors open, and I had no issue getting in. Chicago’s Ryley Walker played first, followed by Steve Gunn.

Steve Gunn, in the words of a friend of mine, sounded like “an opener for Dawes” and “post-bluegrass rock.” Torres (bottom), with a female lead, were definitely crowd-pleasers with their emotional rock ballads.  We caught the first half of Waxahatchee, but with the combination of the slow, calming vibes from the artists and my lack of a full night’s sleep, I almost fell asleep standing up. When I left, the line to get into the venue was still down the block.

I spent the last hour and a half of my night waiting for my friend outside a venue because they stopped letting people in due to the fact that they broke capacity and a fire marshal shut them down. While I was waiting, I watched a guy taken out of the venue in hand cuffs, a drunken girl repeatedly asking “can I just go pee in there,” and a lot of people try to talk their way in to the venue. Goodnight, Austin.

Bridget Bennett is a photographer at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.