By Ryan Stephens
Austin always sticks by its motto. The annual festival of South By Southwest carries that weird torch and sprints with it. Eclectic tastes run wild throughout all of downtown Austin; music, movies, and people filled almost every single stage, bar, and restaurant. Bands from all over the world played all over the area, directors, ranging from independents to Hollywood, screened their products of their labor, and the most of interesting of people crowded the busy Austin streets for one hectic week and led to one amazing festival that left attendees craving more of the SXSW experience.
As always, SXSW enlists big name musicians to perform but also fills up the festival with new up and comers. This year’s headliners varied in taste, from aged new wavers Depeche Mode to recently returned Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt. Great performances covered SXSW, especially when Justin Timberlake surprised many with a very atypical performance from the pop singer. With a plethora of genres blanketed the headliner slots, the lesser known performers filled in the gaps left by the bigger names of the festival. Underground hit bands such as Death Grips and Waxahatchee, bands that exist on almost opposite ends of the spectrum, played amazing shows filled with every single emotion under the sun. The well-rounded tastes of SXSW lead to this year’s festival being an absolute blast for anyone who purchased one of the badges which leads to the biggest criticism of SXSW. The festival should appeal to the artist; corporate interests take a backseat and creativity shines. However, with excessive advertising and exclusivity of the shows played, SXSW took a more consumerist approach to the entire event. Frontman of DIIV, Zachary Cole Smith, offers a glimpse into the displeased attitude some held, by mentioning, “Corporate money everywhere but in the hands of the artists, at what is really just a glorified corporate networking party.” However, even a bitter critic such as Smith could look past that, who eventually ended up calling SXSW fun. That attitude perfectly describes the music experience of SXSW, enjoyable, even with all the problems one may face.
On the movie side of South By, films experienced a far different crowd. Instead of the more party oriented music festival, the film drew in a smaller but more dedicated group. However, despite that significant difference, they both share the same division in exhibits. Big Hollywood produced movies get put up next to smaller indie made films. Most of the movies received critical acclaim with one of the biggest winners being The Evil Dead. The negative attitude taken towards reboots in the last few years set up the new Evil Dead reboot for failure, with opinions being drawn already. Despite The Evil Dead’s uphill battle, critics and viewers came out pleasantly surprised. With the hype machine working against Evil Dead, these early reviews will give some hope for those whose uneasy feeling may prevent them from watching this reboot of a classic horror franchise. Ultimately, this feeling and reception Evil Dead received applies to the overall attitude the movie festival experienced for this year’s SXSW; the crowd left satisfied and enjoying the movies they saw.
While SXSW left audiences and crowds amazed and dazzled by all the different spectacles, the crowds themselves left a certain charm on this event. Austinites did not represent the majority of the people at SXSW; instead, people from all over the country and world to take part in this year’s festival. Celebrities intermingle with your average joes all over Austin. Stories of bumping into Snoop Lion on Sixth Street pop up quite frequently. Only during such an event does interactions with celebrities get swept under the carpet, especially with their frequency. Also, despite most SXSW attendees come from out of state and out of city, they uphold Austin’s motto, “Keep Austin Weird”. Costumed individuals, camera crews, and all other sorts of odd people wander the streets, keeping SXSW a truly unique Austin event. Even those who lack the ability to attend much of SXSW’s events still can enjoy the unusual crowd that SXSW draws in.
Well versed in all sorts of festivals, Austin manages to keep SXSW unique and vibrant with up and coming artists. The music portion of the festival highlighted some greatly under appreciated musicians while also satisfying those who wanted to see the bigger name artists perform. Films shown throughout the festival also met great success; smaller directors received much attention while Hollywood-produced movies met acclaim from critics and attendees. Not to mention, the attendees of SXSW themselves added another aspect to the festival, making it truly unique to Austin. All in all, great fun was had at this year’s SXSW, leaving the returning attendees craving more of this festival.