Unofficial SXSW Review: Thoughts on How a Changing City Has Changed Its Iconic Music Scene

A few weeks ago was the annual music festival, South By South West (SXSW), in Austin, Texas. Austin is sometimes known as the live music capital of the world, but Austin has also changed a lot in the past few years. A lot of people think that the changes happening to the city have also changed SXSW and that it’s no longer that good or the same. You can certainly tell things have changed, especially since it feels like all that people are talking about this year in terms of the festival involves new technology and NFTs. So I was curious to check the live music scene this week, keeping everything that I’ve heard and seen in mind (I had gone to the city for the festival once a few years ago). 

Official South By Southwest Music Festival

I actually was not planning on going to the festival, nor did I have passes to the official festival. But due to an unfortunate set of events, I happened to be in Austin at the beginning of this week, so I took advantage of my time here. Honestly, when trying to find free events to go to, I was a little disappointed. Maybe, it was the fact that it was a Monday, but it didn’t feel like there was actually that much going on. 

My friend and I randomly saw a poster for a Cheetos pop-up which we thought seemed fun, so we decided to check it out. We ended up not going to the pop-up, but it did lead us to E 6th St. While walking around we came across Hotel Vegas, a multi-stage music venue that seemed to have some good vibes and some good music. It was definitely the move. When we got there the band Van Mary was finishing their set. My friend found the setlist and recognized a few of the bands so we decided to stay for most of the day. 

The next band that played on the patio stage was Billy Glitter, a seemingly new band (we couldn’t find them on Spotify) that honestly was really good. Their original songs were good, but admittedly my favorite part was their cover of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years”. After them was the band, Tele Novella. They were definitely a “weirder” band; each of the members was wearing red clown collars. 

Tele Novella

After grabbing a bite to eat, my friend and I returned to the venue — which was now charging a ten dollar cover charge, I assume because it had got significantly more crowded and popular since we had got left. We came right in time for Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band’s set. My friend was particularly excited about this performance as she had listened to their music before.

We actually recognized the guitarist, as he was the lead singer and guitarist in Billy Glitter. I was super impressed with their set; it was such a good time and Nolan Potter actually pulled out his flute and played it throughout several of his songs. I don’t know, I just love when artists play instruments that wouldn’t normally be played or heard in rock songs. 

Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band

After having a jam with their set, we headed indoors and experienced Die Spritz’s performance. Die Spritz is an all-girl punk rock band who knew how to give a good performance. Just about everyone in the room was dancing and jumping and having a good time; it was hard not to. 

We left shortly after this because we were pretty tired, but we left with a really good experience. Honestly, I do think Austin and SXSW have their flaws. It’s hard to how much they have changed, as I’m not an Austin native, nor have do I have that much experience with the festival. However, what I can say is that out of all the shows we watched, I didn’t see a single performer of color. Not to say they don’t exist, but they weren’t present, at least while we were there.

The thing is that Austin as a city has become unaffordable and unlivable for lower-income individuals and people of color. I think the city and festival still have a lot to offer in terms of the underground music scene, I had a really good time and heard some artists that I will definitely be following in the future. However, at what point does the music scene essentially become exclusive to white people who can afford to live in Austin? Only time will tell for a city that continues to change and get more expensive every day.

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