At other music festivals, waiting around to see a favorite band might be an exception, but at SXSW it most certainly the rule. Milling around is part of the experience and after time it grows less and less tedious.
Much like the start of Day Two, I woke up early on Thursday and spent my morning in line at the Mohawk. The hour-and-a-half lead-time felt like a brisk 20 minutes and before I knew it, I was at the outdoor stage, one of the hundreds of people bulging the venue to capacity.
Hundred Waters performed first, serving up their distinct blend of dreamy electronic pop backed with a thumping beat. Delicate but danceable, the audience took to their music immediately and gave the Gainesville, Fla., band a warm, adoring reception.
Canadian five-piece Alvvays took the stage next and played the majority of their 2014 self-titled album. Like Hundred Waters, the crowd responded heartily to their breezy brand of jangle rock, singing along to their popular closer “Archie, Marry Me.”
Will Butler appeared shortly afterwards, and with his brother Win performing a set at the same venue a few hours later under the moniker DJ Windows 98, there were lots of rumors and speculation that an impromptu Arcade Fire performance was in the works (hey, anything can happen at SXSW, right?). It almost felt like the audience’s hopes were dashed when only Will and his backing band took the stage, but he quickly won them back with a boisterously performance.
Music during SXSW isn’t just contained to the Austin area, and for the afternoon Jessi Whitten and I took a shuttle to the Heartbreaker Banquet, a showcase at Willie Nelson’s private ranch known as Luck, Texas. Used initially as a set for the 1986 western "Red Headed Stranger" (in which Nelson played the titular role), the grounds became deeply personal for Nelson and he currently uses the property to keep and look after his several rescue horses.
The props and sets used for the movie remain intact, so walking through the ranch was like taking an otherworldly trip into the Old West. Heartless Bastards performed songs off their soon to be released album and up-and-coming soul singer Leon Bridges crooned to the vintage sounds of his backing band.
After the ranch, I ventured to the Mohawk yet again. With no badge in hand, I ended up waiting in the general admission line for about 30 minutes. The venue would continuously let in people with badges and wristbands and only after both lines had cleared could GAs be admitted. This process got to be pretty painful when only one or two people were ahead of me but surge after surge of VIPs forced me to wait it out. So close, yet so far away...and yet, once I walked through the doors, it became apparent that the venue was barely half-full. Nevertheless, the Domino showcase was thoroughly enjoyable, featuring a memorable performance from singer-songwriter Matthew E. White.
More to come for Day 4 - stay tuned!