SXSW Recap Part 1: Nick Cave, Macklemore, Billy Bragg and more

South by Southwest in Austin is a whirlwind of musicians, filmmakers, geeks and fans all vying for attention. At any given moment, there are 10 parties, some “secret” show and an amazing panel going on, plus free food and beer. CU Independent‘s Editor-In-Chief Isa Jones is down in Texas for the festivities, and we’ll be posting her updates from the SXSW 2013. 


Tuesday was the last day of the interactive portion and the first day of music. Downtown was a mix of exhausted techies, bright-eyed musicians and fans ready to take over. The festivities started with a “Conversation with Nick Cave” with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a longtime figure in the indie music scene, and Larry Ratso Sloman.

The conversation followed the typical biographical approach, as Cave touched on his beginnings in rural Australia to his move to London and Berlin to began a music career. He discussed his heroin addiction, his bouncing around from place to place and the characters in his songs.

More about the Nick Cave talk can be found here.

The SXSW-ers soon came out and by 7 p.m., 6th Street was packed.

It was the IHeartRadio Party where Macklemore, Atlas Genius and Tegan and Sara provided the perfect kick-off to a week of music.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were billed as the headliners, but played early — around 9:30 p.m. — before heading to another venue (most musicians play over two shows a day). In this intimate setting and the general intimidation of playing at a festival so famous, Macklemore was able to shine. He threw all his energy into his rhymes and had the crowd dancing and singing along, especially to the rowdy “Thrift Shop,” and heart-felt “Same Love.” For his last song, “Cant Hold Us,” both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis jumped into the audience, and Macklemore even swung from the rafters.

After them was Australian new-comers Atlas Genius. The crowd was less kind to them as they had the unfortunate timing of being billed as the middle act. SXSW is a proving-ground, and it seems at least at this show, Atlas Genius fell flat. After a technical delay, the band began, but poor sound and a lack of energy plagued their set and most partiers just seemed anxious for Tegan and Sara to come on stage.

After another delay, Tegan and Sara came on and apologized by bursting straight into fan favorite and big hit, “In Your Head.” The duo’s music is so poppy and adorable, just as are they, that almost instantly all grievances were forgotten and the inebriated crowd fell in love.

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Wednesday began with a panel about Amanda Palmer entitled, “The Anatomy of Amanda F**king Palmer: An Inside Look.”

Palmer discussed her desire to better connect with fans and be part of the community. She said she went out on her own due to constant fights with the record industry and to prove that things like running websites and online community was worth their money.

“I remember having outstandingly confusing arguments with Road Runner Records,” Palmer said.

She said she loves the direction music is going, and even though it requires work, like producing and distributing a record in the three months after her Kickstarter campaign ended plus planning a tour, she is amazed by funding possibilites in music now.

“It is a fucking zeitgeist what is happening now with art and funding,” she said.

The talk ended with a Q&A and Palmer treating the crowd with a performance of her “The Ukelele Anthem.”

After Palmer was the Canadian Blast BBQ kick-off, which was both delightful and odd. With free barbecue, shade and music, the event was ideal. Somehow, the idea of eating barbecue provided by Canadians while a Toronto musician named Daniel Romano did his best Johnny Cash impression just seemed confusing — but then again, the food was good, the live music wasn’t bad, and that’s really all one could want at SXSW.

The first stop of Wednesday evening was Japandroids at Mohawk’s who were opening for Iggy and The Stooges. The Canadian punk-rock duo ripped through their short set with blasting guitar and deafening drums. They were one of the best bands of 2012, and it showed. They even provided comic relief to the crowd, as their sound guy was actually missing for the first 10 minutes.

“Hey Louis, remember when we said we were gonna get to play with The Stooges like six months ago and everyone freaked out?” guitarist Brian King said through a mic. “That’s happening, like, now. So if you could come do sound for us…”

After Japandroids it was over to a church where Billy Bragg was playing. With no line outside, there was no indication that a concert was happening there, but after some exploring,  a room of little old ladies serving beer to badge holders who were waiting to enter the chapel was found. Billy Bragg and church may seem like opposities, but there was something amazing and surreal about Bragg standing where a priest does while the crowd watched seated in pews. He played a lot of newer political folk songs, delved back into his youth, and ended with “the most religious” song he knew, a cover of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’ Changin.”

Post this borderline-religious experience, it was down to 6th street to see another great band from the last year, Diamond Rugs. Composed of members from The Black Lips, Dead Confederates and Deer Tick, this band is all about rock n’ roll and having a good time, which is exactly what they did. The crowd was dancing and hollering while the band was chugging beer and pounding out guitar solos in what was one of the funnest, rowdiest sets of the trip thus far.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Contact CU Independent Editor in Chief Isa Jones at

Isa Jones

This is Isa's third year at CUI. She has served as a news reporter, entertainment reporter and Breaking News Editor. She is a senior news-editorial and English major. She has a fear of contracting scurvy and being trapped in walk-in freezers, but that rarely interferes with her reporting. Isa enjoys morning runs, whiskey sours, baseball and avoiding homework at all costs. Her goal is to be able to write and travel frequently and never work somewhere involving cubicles, synergy meetings or the phrase "9 to 5." (@theisajones)

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