SXSW 2014, for me, was a blur of mega-brands, toothaches and wearing down the soles of my shoes. I arrived on Wednesday, March 12th with the aforementioned toothache and was not able to really participate in anything the first night I was there other than eating lukewarm soft food and drinking giant cups of milk. Once I got my ailment under control, I was hitting as many venues as I could.

Here’s my recap. Click the links for video from the shows!


Lee Bannon and The Range @ Elysium

The first show I attended was Lee Bannon and The Range at Elysium. Lee Bannon was fresh off his spectacular Ninja Tune album Alternate / Endings, one of my favorites of 2013. The Range also had an amazing release on Donkey Pitch called Nonfiction. Both artists twisted past themes and sub-genres of electronic music on their respective albums and the set they brought as a tag-team reflected this approach. Drum n bass, jungle, ambient, dubby house and even Kanye West remixes cropped up. The set was in no way smooth, but had a vivid chunkiness of splattery breaks and pummeling bass that kept the crowd enthralled.

Jacques Green @ Elysium

Jacques Green took over after Lee Bannon and The Range and, after some minor setup issues, smoothed out the vibes tremendously. Still maintaining a bassy sound, Jacques Green moved meticulously through minimal electronic sounds into almost classically repetitive themes while eventually settling into more propulsive grooves.

Jameszoo @ The Madison

Running over to the Madison to check out Jameszoo’s set, I was greeted with a blacklit environment fitting for a performance by this off-kilter maestro. His set continued on the approach initiated by his EPs on Rwina Records and Kindred Spirits. Loose beyond the norm, but still maintaining a consistent feeling, his set moved from Mr. Oizo slow-jams to funk to bizarre versions of hip-hop and had me hypnotized. Also some guy from Vice/Thump asked for pictures of Jameszoo and after I shot him an email he never responded back…I HAVE THE PICTURES IF YOU WANT THEM!

Swindle @ Barcelona


Machinedrum @ Elysium

Making my way back to Elysium to catch DJ Spinn and Rashad, I caught the last 30 minutes of Hickory, NC native Travis Stewart’s new Vapor City set under his Machinedrum guise. I’d previously seen Machinedrum 7 or 8 years ago when he was pushing a glitch hip-hop take on IDM and more recently under his newer dancey style. This was the first time I’d seen him on his tour for his Vapor City album. Utilizing a computer + live drummer setup and playing in front of sublime visuals, he captivated the audience with a trance-y, breaks laden sound that rolled from theme to theme. Like a more cluttered Kraftwerk, the performance sounded naturally futuristic.

DJ Spinn & Rashad @ Elysium

One of the acts I was most looking forward to at SXSW 2014, DJ Spinn & Rashad brought the Chicago Footwork sound to Austin. Throwing genres, acapellas, Outkast samples and vocal slices into a blender and then spitting that out before moving onto another idea, the set was incredible, hedonistic and full of so much bass I could feel my lungs move when I breathed. Frankly, it was enough to make Jen want to cut hair.


Damon Albarn @ Radio Day Stage

Boring beyond belief, I checked out Damon Albarn on the day stage early (by SXSW standards) on Friday morning. The man partly responsible for Blur and Gorillaz did nothing to wake up the mostly NPR oriented listening audience. Four guitarists, a string section, a pianist and eventually a choir could not conjure any real energy for live versions of his new solo release. Pretty but with no feeling, the set was overall a major letdown.

Mark McGuire @ Red Eyed Fly 

While the venue’s bathroom reeked, Mr. McGuire couldn’t have been more blissful. Bathing the audience in sheets of sound held together by the rhythmic backbone of his MPC1000, he pushed the idea of what “New Age” could be. Melodic and lush by way of his guitar through looping pedals he put on an intimate but at the same time epic show.

Forest Swords @ Central Presbyterian Church

Running from probably the most disgusting venue to the most pristine, I walked in just in time to see Forest Swords setting up for their set in a giant church. Juxtaposition doesn’t do justice to the gothic sounds and dark textures overlaid against the stained glass and reverence of the Central Presbyterian Church. The only sit-down venue of the festival I experienced, it was perfectly comfortable as digital sounds and samples collided with dub-deep electric bass.

Joel Ford @ The Iron Bear

A big fan of his work with Daniel Lopatin under Ford & Lopatin/Games, I really wanted to check out Joel Ford’s set at the Iron Bear. At no point was he too flashy, he segued from slick retro & retro inspired 80’s grooves that sounded like a club from an 8-bit video game mixed with the sonic version of the movie Drive. His set was a great change of pace from the gothic darkness of Forest Swords.

Big Freedia @ Austin Ballroom

Even more of a switch-up, as I was on my way back to the hotel, I heard the familiar sound of Big Freedia coming from a second story stage. I found the venue, made my way through a DJ on the ground floor playing OK techno to then run up stairs to discover a sweat laden patio of bounce and booty. At any given moment there were 5-7 dancers on stage that would move back and forth to the crowd depending on the song. Call and response was the tactic and bass was the delivery method but the overall experience was joy. At one point, a square-ish-music-industry-looking-dad-geek turned to me and spoke out of the side of his mouth that “this was called bounce and it’s really rare”, but in his defense I don’t think the fellow had yet discovered the Internet.


Stones Throw Showcase @ The North Door

After a long wait in line, I was able to get in for the Stones Throw Showcase at the North Door. The night consisted of Stones Throw heavyweights like Madlib, Dam-Funk and Peanut Butter Wolf joined by Prince Paul all spinning 45’s. Rare grooves, cool disco and 80’s funk jams collided with just weirdo, awesome singles throughout. Madlib played an eclectic set that, while mixed poorly, had crazy song selection. Dam-Funk played a set heavy on 80’s synth funk with him singing choruses and generally getting the crowd worked up, while Prince Paul played a classic heavy set with iconic breaks and party anthems mixed in.

Plastician @ Barcelona

The best performance of SXSW 2014, for me, was also the final one I saw. Plastician, who is primarily known as a DJ (though has quite a few releases out), was my first exposure to Grime and Dubstep. Ten+ years ago I remember riding around to one of his mixes in a friend’s truck loaded with sub-woofers while loving every minute. At Barcelona he threw down heavy rhythms and tons of bass. Moving from instrumental grime to breaky electro to genres so new they haven’t been labeled, he controlled and moved the crowd twisting the audience in and out at his whim.

– Submitted by Steven Pilker, Music Design