5 days, 34 shows

After attending SXSW, I reflected on my experience a lot. I thought about what it meant for me personally and me as a music blogger. My biggest takeaway from the festival was that music is the biggest connection that we share with other people. My experience at SXSW was completely different from any other musical event  I’ve attended. The crowd and the artists were much more accessible, relatable, and humble than I’m used to. Since the majority of concerts I go to are in Philadelphia or New York City, I’m used to a certain type of audience. Here, the audience and artists are usually unresponsive and just there to perform or listen. SXSW had a completely different vibe where people were willing to bond over the music and actually talk to each other. I met so many people that were super kind and open and it was all because of music. SXSW is really incredible because it brings so many people from all over the world come together for a few days of music. It didn’t matter where people came from, what they looked like, what presidential candidate they wanted to vote  for. In a time where everyone is divided and categorized, music still has the power to unite everyone. SXSW encouraged me to continue finding ways to connect with others through music.

As a music blogger, I was amazed by the talent that I saw. There were so many artists showcasing tons of genres over the 5 days. It was impossible to get to every concert, but I was very happy with the 34 bands I did see. I was assigned to write a ‘8 best discoveries’ piece after SXSW, which is exactly what I did. It was surprisingly difficult to narrow down my list to 8 artists, but I wrote the article pretty easily after that. It is up now and it can be read here.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Austin and I will always keep it in the back of my mind as I continue my love of music and my music blogging. I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to experience SXSW and I’ll definitely try to go back.

The Musical Connection

I’m continuously astounded by how much music there is in this city. It’s impossible to walk out into the streets without hearing something. There’s bands playing on rooftop restaurants, restaurant patios, pop up venues in parking lots, and in the streets. It’s really incredible to be surrounded by so much live music. This trip has been really eye opening to me because it has solidified the idea that music is the only thing that can connect people so deeply and viscerally. People have come from all over the world to Austin for a week of music and I find that really incredible. Nobody cares what the artists look like or where they’re from, it’s all about the art they’re creating. If the music is good, everyone is happy and if it’s not so good, people just move onto the next venue.

Something that really highlighted this for me happened last night. I went to a showcase to see a girl called CLOVES perform and after she finished her set I started talking to her. She lives in England and most of the people who write for WTGR also live in England. I mentioned to her that I write for WTGR and we’ve covered her a few times she immediately brightened and said, “Oh yeah I know Matthew, he’s wonderful!” Matthew is another writer for the blog and he lives in Cambridge and I thought it was so cool that the three of us were all connected by music, despite never meeting in person before.

She was one of the many incredible acts I was able to see yesterday. I went to a daytime IMG_9574.JPG
party where I saw Declan McKenna, a 17 year old guy from England, and he was so impressive. It was just him, his guitar, a keyboard, and a vocal looper on the stage and he was able to create a fully fleshed out sound all by himself. I also saw KLOE from Scotland and her set was very nice too. In the nighttime I saw Roo Panes in the same church I saw Clara-Nova and he was absolutely incredible. It was a very intimate show with just him, his guitar, and an audience of maybe 20 people. Later I saw KYTES, a four-piece band from Munich that makes upbeat indie pop, and The Young Wild, a Californian band that draws influence from their sunny state. I’m sad that there’s only two days left of SXSW, but I’m so glad that I’ve had this experience.


So Much to See, So Little Time

The second day here was full swing and full of music. I went to an unofficial showcase IMG_9553.JPGtoday called The Yard and it was fantastic. I heard some new music and some music that I’ve been listening to and dying to hear live. There was a great variety of bands and the atmosphere was very laid back. The highlight of that showcase was Fickle Friends, a band from the UK. I got to chat with the lead singer, who was very nice. She’s friends with Andrew, the editor/founder of WTGR, and we had a short and sweet conversation about their friendship and other shows they’re playing this week.

IMG_9558.JPGI just saw Clara-Nova play in a beautiful church and it was quite the experience. Clara-Nova have a really great electronic sound
and I’m so glad I got to see them. It was a lady and a man who played about 6 instruments between the two of them and it was a
wonderful spectacle. The lady did the lead vocals and she was absolutely mesmerizing, despite the distraction constantly switching instruments. The setting of the church made the whole thing very ethereal and atmospheric. I doubt there will be another set that lives up to that one this week!

In a little bit I’ll be setting out again to see Alice on the Roof, ELEL, and Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes play a showcase. It should be an interesting show since it’s a bit of a mix of genres.

I’m loving Austin so far. I feel like SXSW is the American version of Carnival in Rio because it’s one giant street party with all sorts of performers and food trucks. It’s a lot of fun, but also a great opportunity to talk with musicians. Something that has stuck out to me is how everybody here is so friendly and open to conversation. I feel like music drops the pretense here and everyone is just here to enjoy the tunes, not use it as a chance to brag about which musicians they know and what they listen to. Everyone is very genuine and it really is all about the m
usic here. Musicians are super open to talking to everyone and nobody in the audience is rude or pushy. It’s a great reminder of why live music is so important. It brings people together in the most enjoyable way possible and it connects us through the shared experience.



Live from Austin, It’s South by Southwest!

It’s a hot day here in Austin! The city is crazy with all the shows, expos, and film screenings happening. It’s incredible to see so much going on at once and so many different people gathered for their shared interests. We’re lucky enough to be staying one street away from 6th St, which is where almost all of the SXSW official showcase venues are located. It’s basically one huge avenue that has tons of bars, restaurants, and concert venues. Clearly Austin is a music city because there are tons of official street signs that say “No parking, musician loading 7 pm – 3 am” all down the avenue, which I find awesome.

It’s the very first day of the music portion of the festival, so not much is going on in that department except for a few showcases tonight and the talks held in the Austin Convention Center. I attended two talks today, “Building the Galleries of the Future” and “Rotten Tomatoes: Your Opinion Sucks” . The first one was super interesting because it talked about how we have the technology to essentially map out a cultural landmark (like Mt. Rushmore or Mayan Ruins) by using 3D lasers to plot points on an XYZ graph, then project those data points into an exhibition space so people can interact with the site as if they were there. It was a panel of 3 people who are involved in this work, a representative IMG_9524.JPGfrom CyArk (the non-profit organization that goes and gets the data with lasers, drones, cameras, etc), a representative from Seagate (a data storage company that holds the large files CyArk and other companies have), and a representative from Ars Electronica (an Austrian ‘museum’ that exhibits digital and electronic arts). They talked about how critical it is to save this information, especially for places like Palmyra that are being destroyed because of the political landscape, and add the human aspect to it. These new technologies will allow us to not only understand the sites themselves, but the human stories and history behind them. The second talk was a very interactive one. People would say a movie or tv show that they thought was “fresh” or “rotten”, defend their opinion, then professional critics would give their opinion. There were 3 critics, Alonso Duralde, Meredith Borders, and Scott Mantz. IMG_9528.JPG
The most argued about movies were Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. This talk was more entertaining than informative, but it was interesting to see people dissect movies from a consumer/viewer point of view versus a critic’s view. The audience was more interested in the general feeling the movie/show gave them and how entertaining it was, but the critics focused more on the artistic parts of the movie like the score, the direction, the costumes/accuracy.

Tonight I will be heading to an official SXSW showcase that focuses on artists from Austin. It’s going to be a huge mix of styles, but I love the idea of showcasing Austin artists on the first night of SXSW. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting up the unofficial party at The Yard to see some acts that I’ve been following and blogging about on WTGR, like Hunny, Fickle Friends, and Flor. I’m excited to see the city tonight and explore some more tomorrow!


Twitter Takeover

It’s Women Only Week over at When the Gramophone Rings! I had one of my pieces posted on Wednesday (which can be read here) and today I am managing the Twitter account for the blog. Women Only Week has been quite a treat to see unfold. All of the ladies that write for the blog are incredibly talented and we all have our own approach to choosing music and writingXYLO-wow-900x540.jpg about it. It’s also really neat to see all of the wonderful female artists who are out there right now and uplift them. This week we have two types of posts. The first type is just the standard write up we do, but this week they’re all about songs from women. The second type is very special. We have guest posts where female musicians talk about a female inspiration, either musical or otherwise. We had a great piece from LOOP talking about why pop queen Christina Aguilera is her musical inspiration and I loved seeing how women can encourage and help each other. We’ve also got a piece from Amber Bain of The Japanese House coming and that will be something spectacular. Bain is one of the most gifted females working in music right now and it will be the perfect ending to a girl power week!
Taking over the Twitter account is a lot of fun. People really like to interact with the blog and it’s nice to see how they enjoy reading what we post. A lot of artists even give feedback about what we write about them. I think Twitter is a great vehicle for sharing music. It’s easy to interact with people and it’s always short and sweet because of the character limit on tweets.

On the SXSW front, I’m finalizing my schedule and starting to pack. The number of bands that are performing for official and unofficial showcases is insane. It’s impossible to see everyone because so many venues have shows at the same time, so I’m having a hard time picking and choosing which artists I want to see. I’ll probably end up running around like a headless chicken between venues, but at least I’ll get to see more artists!




Live Music, Live Passion

Hello! My name is Amanda and I will be going to the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, TX for Senior Projects. I write for a music blog, When the Gramophone Rings, in my spare time (my posts can be found here) and I even dedicated a semester-long independent course to my blogging. In the fall, I did an Independent Seminar in English where I music blogged and researched what makes effective blog posts.

I love music and how it forces emotions upon listeners. In my opinion it’s the only art form that elicits specific emotions from audiences. One of my favorite quotations is, “[Music] has the power to command people how to feel. Imagery, words, they’re very suggestive, whereas music can command somebody how to feel on an emotional level, uncontrollably,” said by Matty Healy of The 1975. I decided to pursue SXSW because I love live music more than any other form of music. It’s much more personal than listening to music digitally, which is what we do on a day to day basis. Live music gives a space for musicians, their music, and their fans so that everyone can feel the same emotions and feel attached.

My personal goal for this project is to soak up as much music and fully live the experience since SXSW is such a unique festival. Other major music festivals like Coachella in California, Bonnaroo in Tennessee, and Glastonbury in England, are held in big open fields with multiple stages where artists play at all times of day. SXSW is different because it happens right in the heart of Austin in the hundreds of music venues that already exist in the city. These venues host showcases, which are basically like any normal concert but with about 4-5 bands playing in a night. During the day, companies and record labels host “unofficial parties” which allow companies to push their product while providing entertainment through the bands that are in Austin for the festival. Since SXSW is so different from other festivals, I want to take advantage of its set up and see as many artists as possible.

My more professional goal is to go see artists that I wouldn’t normally see and to push myself out of my comfort zone with music. I usually review similar songs (usually ambient/dark indie rock or beachy indie pop) for When the Gramophone Rings, so seizing this opportunity to really discover music will be an interesting and challenging change for me. My assignment from my editor at the site is to write something along the lines of a ‘Best Discoveries at SXSW’ piece. I think that works well with my personal goal and it will allow me to see artists I wouldn’t necessarily see if I was going to SXSW on my own, without an assignment from the blog.

One major obstacle that has come up already is that a large amount of venues for showcases and unofficial parties are 21+. I’ve had to narrow down which artists I can see since only some of them are playing venues I can get into. I thought that would limit me a lot, but after looking at the line ups for venues I can go to a little more closely, it looks like there’s a great range of smaller, unheard of bands. I don’t think any other obstacles as big as this will come my way but we shall see…

Going to SXSW is the main part of my project, but I will also be writing for the blog for the first week of Senior Projects before I go to SXSW. Since March 8th is International Women’s Day, When the Gramophone Rings will be doing a women-only week from March 7—March 13. All the female writers will be covering female artists for the whole week, no men allowed. I’m really excited to be writing for that week since I think it’s a great showcase of women in music. That will keep me busy for the first week then I’ll be off to Austin.

I’m really excited to start my project. I think that it will be a great opportunity for me to discover new music in a way that really interests me as well as a way for me to connect with artists and write about what I enjoyed at the festival. The women’s week will be really neat to watch unfold since there’s a ton of women getting involved, both writers and musicians. Writing for this Westtown blog will also help me process what I’m seeing and give me a way to reflect on what I see and do. T minus 16 days to Austin!