Infinite Shuffle

March 21, 2011

SXSW 2011: The recap

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 6:32 pm

As I sit here on my couch early Monday evening, my fever is totally gone, but my head cold still persists to a certain degree. Also, several days of shouting in order to be heard over the din, coupled with an already sore throat, has left my vocal chords in need of some rest.

Thankfully, I’m by myself for the first time in about 10 days and don’t have to talk to anyone. Instead, I can relax, collect my thoughts and provide a postscript to what was an awesome musical experience.


To start, I wanted to rank all the bands I saw, but then it quickly became clear that process would be riddled with hemming and hawing and probably take me forever.

Instead, I sorted the groups into three categories — bands I had a working knowledge of beforehand; bands I’d only discovered through the torrents; and bands I had never heard or before actually seeing them.

As it turns out, that last group was the most enjoyable part of the whole festival. Just as I had heard from countless sources, the best aspect of SXSW is walking into an unfamiliar venue and discovering a new favorite band.

It was an experience that repeated itself several times during my few days in town. My favorite discoveries, in no particular order, included Zookeeper, Lord Huron, The Civil Wars, The Lemurs, Sundelles and The Mighty Stef.

To a lesser extent, I also liked O’Death, Speak, Dear Lions and Hi Ho Silver Oh. And while Pulled Apart By Horses put on a fun show, I don’t need to ever hear them again. Same with Inspired Flight.

As for the bands I first heard on the torrent, by far the best was Family of the Year. I’ll definitely be looking into more of their stuff. In-Flight Safety was also solid. I could have done without Cowboy & Indian, Screaming Females and Trampled By Turtles.

Most of the bands I was really looking forward to did not disappoint. The Boxer Rebellion and Kopecky Family Band both put on great shows. Seeing Wye Oak in person has officially made me a convert. And while I didn’t pay very close attention to their sets, Deer Tick and The Dodos both have great sounds and will require more listening from me in the future.

I was forced to watch them from the street, but Cold War Kids still put on a great show. And Great Lake Swimmers sounded as good as always, despite missing a band member who was stuck in traffic.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit sounded solid from what I could tell, but they didn’t really knock my socks off enough for me to track down their catalog. Same with John Vanderslice.

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead were rather disappointing. Maybe I’ll seek out their older stuff, which is supposed to be better — and actually have vocals.


If I ever make the trek to SXSW again — and I certainly hope to — there probably isn’t a lot I’d change, but there are definitely a few things I might tweak.

  • I don’t know if I’d want to drive all the way there again, but if I did, I’d want to do it in a car the next time. Loading stuff in a truck was certainly easy, but it became a chore to move everything into the cab every time we stopped off for some food or something. And there was always the fear that it would rain, so we had to put most of our stuff in garbage bags.
    Also, as occurred with us, we left Austin with more passengers than we arrived with. While stuffing three people in the cab of my truck wasn’t the worst thing in the world, having a car would have been a lot more comfortable. And it would’ve been a lot easier to lock stuff in the trunk.
  • Lodging worked out really well for us as we stayed with one of Sean’s Peace Corps friends at her parents’ house not too far from downtown. I am very grateful to Laura and her family for letting us crash there for the better part of a week.
    Unfortunately, she’ll likely be out of the country for the next year or two. I’ve got a friend in town, but I don’t know if he’d want us there for that long a period. So we’d probably have to shell out for a proper hotel or something, which would increase our expenses considerably.
  • Parking was never really an issue. The three days we got to downtown early in the day, we just headed east of the highway and found spots in the residential area between 8th and 10th streets. It was occasionally a bit of a hike, but it sure beat searching/paying for parking.
  • As far as food and drink, we managed to get a lot of cheap and free stuff at the shows. Other than that, I hardly remember having too many meals downtown, so we must have done a decent job of saving money on that. I will note that I ate a lot more tacos than I ever thought I would. In the future, I’d probably try to diversify my diet a little more, maybe splurge on some food off the beaten path.
  • Speaking of the beaten path, one thing we did a really good job of was exploring different parts of the city — at least the downtown portion — without much use of a vehicle. We hit up the campus area for brunch at the start of one day, and we closed out the same day hanging out in the more family oriented South Congress area.
    Meanwhile, we seemed to cover the entire downtown well, making it to venues all over the place. In fact, I never repeated a site during the four days that I watched concerts.
  • Of course, all of that walking and endless amounts of awesomeness made for a great deal of exhaustion. So the one thing I might change the most is making sure I get plenty of sleep each night and maybe work a few more breaks into my daily schedule.
    Just as I had read multiple times while planning for this trip, take a nap any time you get a chance. If I had actually done that, maybe I would’ve stayed in town as long as I had originally set out to.


  1. I used to like Trail of Dead quite a bit. Their vocals are probably the weakest element.

    The new Dodos album is pretty solid from what I’ve heard so far. One Neko Case guests.

    Comment by Drew — March 21, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  2. […] The Civil Wars – “Barton Hollow” […]

    Pingback by Best of 2011 – My list « Infinite Shuffle — January 1, 2012 @ 12:02 am

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