A Taste of SXSW 2012

South By Southwest 2012: Over 2,000 bands and artists, over 90 venues, 4 nights, hour long slots running 8pm - 2am. Once you figure out who you want to see, that's only half the battle; most bands play four or more times on different nights at different venues, at any given hour of the night there are upwards of 90 shows going on simultaneously. Figuring out your plan is a day by day exercise in logistics and prioritization. And that's only the evening hours which are given over to the official SXSW showcases.

On top of that you have day parties, barbecues, and sponsored showcases, all of which are put on by commercial companies and organizations like NPR and numerous radio stations. This year there were even morning showcase concerts put on by Austin radio station KUT-FM at the Four Seasons Hotel from the unheard of hour of 7am - noon. KUT carried some of them live on the air but broadcast all of them eventually and archived the recordings on their website where you can listen anytime.

The festival is so huge that there is no way to summarize it all in an article like this, so in order to give you a little taste of what it's like, below you will find nicely produced videos from the KUT showcases. But before you check them out, start with the SXSW Keynote Address by Bruce Springsteen if you haven't seen it, and even if you have, you can also see some cool video of Bruce's SXSW performances.

SXSW is not really about seeing major league artists like Springsteen. It's not even really about seeing artists you can easily see at home. The real beauty of SXSW is the opportunity to discover great new artists that you didn't know of before; artists from all over the U.S. and all over the world, artists that you would otherwise never have a chance to see. Just listening to the KUT broadcast, I was delighted to hear Nneka; I was also excited to hear Kat Edmonson, I've heard her on record but I've never seen her live. All the sets represented below are really good and will give you a nice taste of the variety and diversity that is SXSW.

Major thanks to KUT-FM, for putting on the three days of showcase performances with a great variety of quality artists, for broadcasting the full sets and for archiving the full sets on their website, for streaming their signal on the web, and finally for producing the best looking and sounding videos I've ever seen come out of SXSW.

I encourage you to watch all of the videos, especially if you don't know the artist; that is the real essence of SXSW. If you find something you like on video, follow the link and listen to the complete set, they run between 20-40 minutes long. Enjoy.

Kat Edmonson: Austin has such a rich music scene that a great many artists choose to live there. Another great thing about SXSW is the chance to see some of them. Kat Edmonson is a jazz singer and songwriter from Austin who is going to release her second album, Way Down Low, next month, and it's a good one. In this video she does the title track. Listen to her complete set from the Four Seasons here.

Nneka: At SXSW 2009 I saw an amazing singer-songwriter from Columbia, Central America and an awesome band from Spain, just to mention two. In that vein, Nneka is the sort of artist that I would go to Austin hoping to find. She is from Ethiopia and now lives in Germany. Nneka mixes just enough hip-hop into her soul/folk to make it spicy. Friends who saw her last week can't stop raving about it. Listen to her complete set from the Four Seasons here.

Ruthie Foster: Ruthie Foster is an Austin based blues singer, songwriter, and musician whose last album made my top ten list for 2009. She is something of a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Aretha. Her latest album, Let it Burn, was just released, and it's exciting whenever she performs. Listen to her complete set from the Four Seasons here.

Jimmy Cliff: Along with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff has been a pillar of Reggae music for over fifty years. I've always enjoyed his music but I've never had a chance to see him live. Listen to his complete set from the Four Seasons here.

Trampled by Turtles: Like Polica, who made a big splash at this year's SXSW, Trampled by Turtles is from Minnesota. Their name might suggest how hard it is to categorize their music. With banjo, mandolin, and fiddle in the band, the temptation would be to call it folk, but an almost primitive rock and roll energy turns it into something else again. I'll grab a term from Bruce's Keynote and call it alt-alt-folk, but whatever you call it, it's entertaining. Listen to their complete set from the Four Seasons here.


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