SXSW 2011: The Heady Highlights of Music's Biggest Bash
The music industry has sung a sad song for the past decade or so, but every March the tune changes as musicians, labels, journalists and fans descend upon Austin for the South by Southwest music festival. This year's SXSW, however, was even more celebratory than usual –- in fact, it felt downright triumphant.
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After the tight squeeze of Great Recession downsizing, the fest's 25th anniversary surged back in size, with performances spilling out all over the city, from every bar, parking lot, back alley and rooftop. It was hard to walk a block downtown without bumping into a New Orleans brass band, sidewalk rap battle, indie rock icon or a Snoop Dogg parking lot tribute to Nate Dogg, who passed away on the festival's first night.
SXSW has always positioned itself as a place to discover new music -- and in 2011 it maintained its rep as a place where hype becomes buzz, be it anthemic Brit rockers the Vaccines, Toronto electro-goth trio Austra and glam-popper Diamond Rings, southern-fried piano rockers J-Roddy Walston and the Business, the Michael Cera-assisted Mister Heavenly, or hotly tipped indie-rappers Odd Future.
But it's now more about rediscovering a love of music, period.
The numerous newbies were joined by the likes of '80s icons Duran Duran, the Bangles and OMD (with an assist from Moby), leading ladies Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, aging soul shouter Charles Bradley and keynote speaker and Bob Geldof, who dazzled with his own stellar set.
Then there was post-millennial rock stars like TV on the