Day one of SXSW started out on such a great note. For the first time in the three years that I’ve been attending SXSW as a volunteer, I found parking immediately. I was so thrilled. Traffic was a little slow going, but the parking luck totally made up for that. My first stop was the Convention Center to pick up my “big bag”. I knew I would need my pocket guide, both for myself, and when I began my volunteer shift. I walked through the Trade Show for a bit. I need to go back though because I didn’t even see a quarter of the show. It’s HUGE!! I wanted to get up to the Day Stage pretty quickly though because I knew the Alabama Shakes show would be packed. Boy, was I right. This band has some ridiculous buzz right now. And I found out pretty quickly why. The act before them, Michael Kiwanuka, was playing when I took my seat (3rd row center). His was an acoustic show. He did also have a bassist sitting in with him. It was fairly mellow, pretty. I enjoyed the few songs I heard by him. He ended his set with a Bill Withers song. That was pretty cool. Alabama Shakes is not a huge band yet, so it was pretty refreshing to see them out there setting up all their own equipment and getting in a quick sound check. Once they got started, they had me grooving.
They’ve been compared to the Muscle Shoals sound of yore. That’s a pretty accurate description. They do down-home soulful rock. The lead singer/guitarist, Brittany, has a voice that gets in your face in such a great way. I swear she’s channeling Janis Joplin. She’s got a very unique singing style and boy is that voice powerful. She gave me the chills several times. The band is made up of a bassist (Zak), drummer, (Steve), and guitarist (Heath). They also have a keyboardist (Ben). I’m not sure if he is just touring with them or is now part of the band. To make a long story short, I am now a huge fan of this band. They definitely deserve every bit of hype that is going around about them. And soon they won’t be able to walk around as easily as they currently are. More about that later. I decided to stay for the next band because I had to start my volunteer shift shortly. The band was called Honeyhoney. Normally it’s a duo, female vocalist/violinist/banjoist and a male guitarist. They had a drummer and a bassist on stage with them today. They took a little longer with their sound check. But their first two songs were pretty impressive. They veer more along the lines of Americana. The two main artists did some really nice harmonizing. And she was pretty bad-ass on the banjo. I had to leave mid-way through their third song, but they were actually pretty good. It’s so great to be introduced to good,new music; One of my favorite parts of SXSW. When I got to my volunteer shift, I was pretty stuck on wanting to work at Stubb’s. If I couldn’t see Fiona Apple, I at least wanted to get to hear her. I did get that chance, thankfully, but when you’re working it’s hard to focus on the music. She did do new songs, but I absolutely recognized several from her older albums. And she actually closed with “Criminal” which was pretty sweet. I wasn’t really familiar with the middle two artists…Sharon Van Etten and Dan Deacon. Sharon seemed pretty mellow and Dan was some kind of quirky electronic music. Again, since I was working I couldn’t really focus on either. Standing right in front of the venue monitoring people going in and out definitely has its perks. Not only did I see every member of Alabama Shakes come in and out (they played a set at Stubb’s that night), but I actually got to talk to Brittany, Zak, and Ben and let them know what a great show they put on. They were all really cool, but Zak was definitely the coolest. He actually introduced himself to me and asked for my name. So nice. John Norris also walked in and was asking for my help since he had forgotten his passport. He was also super nice. I love SXSW!!! By the time Andrew Bird went on, I asked to take my break and luckily I got to see 20 minutes of his lovely performance. He is pretty amazing. His music is just beautiful and so different. I didn’t even know he played the violin. And boy does he know how to whistle! ;0 I loved what I heard and hopefully someday I’ll be able to see a full performance by him. My first day at SXSW was pretty great and I’m really looking forward to the next few days of music.