On the ground at SXSW, day one: Colorado Music Party, Twin Peaks and more

Photo: SXSW 2015 day one rainbow

The term “buzz” gets thrown around quite a bit when discussing music festivals, but after my first day in Austin, I feel it has a different connotation at SXSW.

Bands are “buzzed” about at different stages to varying degrees, but here the “buzz” comes from the streets itself. Chatter, laughter and bursts of music and noise coalesce onto the streets and give it a vibrant, pulsing and shambolic energy, something I have yet to encounter elsewhere.

My first stop of the day was at The 512 around 3 p.m. for the Colorado Music Party, a lovingly-curated local showcase sponsored by several Colorado organizations. In it’s third year, the 2015 Colorado Music Party promises to be the largest yet, featuring over 110 bands on two stages for five straight days.

Upon arriving, I caught a few songs from Maxwell Hughes as he regaled a small yet attentive crowd with his rustic finger-picking stylings. An assembly of local talent both new and well-known, the Colorado Music Party will be a frequent haunt of mine over the next four days.

Photo: Maxwell Hughes at Colorado Music Party SXSW 2015
Maxwell Hughes at the Colorado Music Party at SXSW 2015

After hanging out at the 512, I wandered down 6th Street and inadvertently caught a chunk of Chicago band Twin Peaks’ set at Buffalo Billiards. With a festival as diverse and dispersed as SXSW, one’s expectations need to be reasonably low. An impossible number of bands are performing at any given time, but simply bar-hopping can yield some surprising results.

From my brief stint on 6th Street, I ventured in a packed shuttle bus to the 3Barreled Dulce Vida Party (11310 Hwy 290 W. Austin, 78737). Though highlighting several Austin-based establishments, Colorado was also well represented, including sponsors Illegal Pete’s and Upslope Brewing. As music, libations and food flowed freely at the remote headquarters for Dulce Vida tequila, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stumbled upon some utopia-inspired compound, offering good times as its only form of currency.

As the night wound down, I learned first-hand a very important lesson: always have a back-up plan. Then, have a back-up plan for that back-up plan.

I attempted to wait in line to see Waxahatchee, Speedy Ortiz, and Angel Olsen at Mohawk’s, but a daunting line spurred me to head elsewhere. I tried to return to Buffalo Billiards to watch Songhoy Blues, but having no badge I was also turned away.

Photo: Shilpa Ray at SXSW 2015
Shilpa Ray

Undettered, I wound up watching Shilpa Ray perform a passionate set at 12:30 a.m., offering a blend of dreamy harmonium, sultry vocals and throbbing percussion. Exhausted but happy, I walked back to my hotel room in the wee hours of the morning and while content, I couldn’t help but think this is only the beginning.