South by SouthRest aims to bring to your attention things that you may have missed during SXSW 2014. Our remote correspondent, Philip Cosores, is committed to keeping you in the loop.
So, part of this project was meant to collect news stories that break at SXSW. But, really, I just feel like people are too easily impressed and/or searching for something that sounds good in a headline. Like, is the Gaga puke song notable? I have no idea. She might do that at every show. Twin Shadow played in a dumpster? Good for him, he also would surprise me if he could sell a thousand tickets in any city. Watch the Throne toured everywhere like, 18 months ago? Perfect Pussy threw a bass guitar off a bridge and if I hear about it one more time, I will follow the bass guitar’s lead. More legitimate news is new music from Damon Albarn, Coldplay, and Charli XCX, and a ton more will surface, from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to Fucked Up to EMA and on and on. Not saying any of this is bad news, just that I’d hope for more if I travelled accorss the country. I’m kinda disappointed and I’ve literally left the house twice during SXSR.
But this is kind of the heart of SXSW discussions, though usually blanketed in corporate money bad, little bands good rhetoric that is both unrealistic and unoriginal. The corporate aspects can be bad because they try to manufacture grass roots buzz. They make these events look authentic, but are able to push their label’s agenda or preference. This has become so much the norm that it is hard to differentiate what real buzz looks like anymore.And here is the worst part, sometimes the corporate buzz bands are better than the true indie buzz bands.
Still, this year is special, right? Sure, we’ve had big names for a while, but has it ever been this pop oriented? Has the corporate presence ever been worse? Have people ever complained this much? People so negative John Norris broke down.
One thing is for certain: at least one showcase was unforgettable.
New York, NY
They sound like a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with Jon Spencer on xanex and sometimes a girl. The off-kilter arrangements appeal to indie days of yore, but I also think it doesn’t resonate with modern times as much as it sounds like a new nonstlgia. Kind of cool that a band this unusual would get buzz, but still not completely sold. Buzz Questionable.
Goiânia, GO, Brazil
Burger Records as imagined from Brazil. If you aren’t just bored to death with 95% of psych and garage then you might find the Portuguese songs as hard-hitting as SXSW visitors did. The songs don’t really pop as much on record, though. Buzz questionable.
Toronto, ON, Canada
Pup are just the best and should be very popular for good reasons. With a sharp, next-logical-punk-step-sound, Pup is ripe with commercial potential while remaining sonically exciting to fans that shy away from commercial radio hits. Fun music that will sound great when the weather warms. Buzz approved.
Ok, so this is hardly a buzz artist, but I just had to listen because rap isn’t my wheelhouse and everybody has been talking about it. But yeah, YG seems to be a thing happening very much so now, buzzz undeniable.
Fat White Family
Fat White Family are buzzing hard in England and now here based on being dangerous and subversive, kinda like the Libertines. The music proably plays better live, as the album isn’t memorable, but I think the point here is the live show. So, buzz approved.
Did SXSW Just Change?
The idea of a keynote interview is strange to me because I am used to seeing speeches, and even weirder because it wasn’t just a state of the music world interview, it was also plugging her tours and videos. It was, essentially, a long interview.
More troubling, was Gaga’s message. The core of what she brought to the table was putting all the power in the hands of the artists. Good, right? Well, maybe not. Without having labels and critics and supporting businesses, the industry would lose much of their obsessives. More importantly, artists don’t have all the answers and don’t always have a point of view that can remove the creation of the piece from the distribution of it.
Host John Norris asked Gaga point blank how she felt about critics of her coming to SXSW and she responded that they don’t know “fuck all about the music industry.” She goes on to cast corporation as the good guys, Doritos a mom with kids enjoying her show. Bloggers are the bad guys, only motivated by hits to their website to make money. Labels have no money, but corporations do, so that’s why corporations are needed for the music industry.
Gaga isn’t against up and comers, she encouraged integration between the superstars in Austin and getting the buzzy acts bulled before them. In fact, where Gaga goes wrong is assuming that the point of being an artist is being a star, that arena heights are the goal. She says the opposite of this early in te interview, but the whole of it is convoluted. Gaga has done great things for LGBT community and made lots of music that people love. I also don’t doubt the sincerity or empathy that comes when she talks. But she was the wrong person to talk about the music industry, and the keynote has to be seen as a disappointment. Stream it below!