Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Paramore's Hayley Williams during SXSW's Warner Sound Captured by Nikon Showcase.
photo by picksysticks

In a week that saw surprise performances by Prince, Justin Timberlake, Willie Nelson and The Smashing Pumpkins snatch up all the headlines at this years’ South By Southwest, it was the ever presence of girl power that stole the spotlight at this years’ annual music festival.  From fan favorites like Paramore and Tegan and Sara to up-and-coming bands like Chvrches, Bleached and Charlie XCX, women-fronted bands were in no short supply.

But of course, SXSW is unlike any other music festival in the world.  Bands can play as much as 13 times in a week; sometimes 4 times in a day jumping from venue to venue, lugging their equipment across town and back.  It can be grueling for musicians as well as fans. 

Already in its 27th year, SXSW is a haven for unsigned bands looking to gain exposure and with over 300,000 music lovers in a given day flocking to Austin to enjoy music’s version of Comic-Con, musicians see this opportunity to reach more fans.   And with bands playing, literally 24-7, all around downtown Austin, seeing a band, or bands for that matter, requires careful planning.  Whether it be having fun and drinking with friends or catching your favorite bands,  experiencing SXSW demands military precision in mapping out your day’s schedule.


SXSW is overwhelming to say the least for a first-timer like myself.  After my first day getting my barrings straight; the lay of the land so to speak and the understanding the South By way, day 2 was my biggest day of the week concerning the bands that I HAD to see; Paramore, Tegan and Sara and Kitten - all playing at the Warner Sound showcase at The Belmont on Tuesday night. 

Day shows are the secret to SXSW. They're mostly free and often times the band you want to see can play 3 times a day for five days so it's safe to say that, if you really wanted to and put the effort, anyone can watch their favorite band.  For instance, I watched Sky Ferreira perform twice; both day shows and I caught the much buzzed about band Chvrches twice - also day shows. 

Waterloo Records
Fans line-up for for Waterloo Records' Day Party with Tegan and Sara.
photo by picksysticks
Luckily, Tegan and Sara were playing a day show on the other side of town with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at Waterloo Records and judging by the previous night, lines were going to be trouble. I figured I walk over the 12 or so blocks, catch an early show of Tegan and Sara (maybe sneak in Macklemore's "Thrift Shop") and then head back, grab lunch and mosey on over to The Belmont.  Gradually, I realized it was bad news when I kept seeing a stream, which gradually turned into a flood of people walking in the same direction as I.  Waterloo Records was THE ONLY venue out West past Guadalupe Street so it was fairly obvious where everyone was headed.  I was right and when security shut the gates, hundreds of people made camp across the street to get a glimpse and even listen ( a couple was even spotted on the rooftop of Waterloo Records).

Tegan and Sara during SXSW
Tegan and Sara during SXSW at The Belmont's Warner Sound/Nikon Showcase.
photo by picksysticks
Having missed my first chance to watch Tegan and Sara, I didn't want to miss another so when I walked back, towards The Belmont for the Nikon Warner Sound showcase where a handful of fans had already started forming a line.  I did have a wristband which gave me entrance after Badge holders were let in but it doesn't gaurantee you entry into the venue. Let's be serious; these venues are small and if every wristband and badge holder decided they wanted to watch this particular show this night, it'd be impossible.  So lining up early enough, even for badge and wristband holders, was the only way to get into the show you wanted to see; for me it was this.  

KITTEN's Chloe ChaidezThe time was spent chatting up and making friends with people who shared my love for either Tegan and Sara and Paramore and also trying to sell them and pump up my other favorite band Kitten, from Los Angeles.  They in turn got me excited about Twenty One Pilots and  Skaters who were also on this night's bill which got me excited even more about the show.  

First of all, I must credit SXSW for turning me onto Kitten.  It was actually Kitten's show at SXSW way back back in 2010 that I first read about them; a bunch of teens who sound much older than they really seem, not playing the typical teen pop/rock one would expect from kids their age.  Their single "Kill the Light" was all the buzz in the blogosphere.  And since then, I've seen them at least a dozen times in Los Angeles, each time with more energy than the next.  But this night has got to be THE best performance I've seen from them even though it seemed Chloe caught the crowd off gaurd.  

Chloe Chaidez of Kitten climbs atop a speaker at The Belmont during SXSW 2013.
photos by picksysticks

KITTEN, hailing from Los Angeles is fronted by Chloe Chaidez, the firecracker of a lead singer who still can't find a stage that can cage her; climbing on tall speakers, rafters and then jumping off them without out abandon.  It's a wonder she hasn't broken any bones but she's no stranger to bruises.  Kitten's sound is like a blast from the past, swirling through a futuristic electric-neon cloud.  And what comes out is  fresh and aggressively addictive - a sound which has since become their trademark calling card which has gained them the honor of supporting some of the biggest bands in music today.  Next month, Kitten will join Joy Formidable on tour and right after that, they'll open up for Paramore in twelve cities.  

Paramore performs during SXSW's Warner Sound/Nikon Showcase at The Belmont.
photos by picksysticks
Held in the open air courtyard,  The Belmont was such a great venue that had the feel of intimacy when Tegan and Sara performed.  Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara's latest studio album and probably their most mainstream to date is infectious in it's poppiness in songs like "Closer" and "I'm Not Your Hero" but still captures their vulnerable and heart-wrenching melodies in songs like "How Come You Don't Want Me" and "I Was a Fool" that fans have come to expect from the twin sisters.  The crowd also sang along to old songs and fan favorites like "The Con" and "Back In Your Head" peppered their set They played a handful of day and night shows but unfortunately, this was the only time I was able to watch them during the week long fest.

Hayley Williams of ParamoreHayley Williams of Paramore

Paramore, the headliner of the night and only performance at this years' SXSW was what every single person in attendance was waiting for.  Even the photographer's pit was so packed, photogs were only granted one song each in order to get the every shooter a chance to shoot Paramore.  If Kitten's Chloe Chaidez was the firecracker on stage, Hayley Williams was certainly the TNT that lit the packed house into a frenzy.  And you understand why; Paramore hasn't released an album in four years; not since brothers and founding members Zac and Josh Farro left the group in 2010.   Painted in white were the words "Grow Up" on the back of her jean jacket which is coincidently a track title on their upcoming album.  It's also, probably the mantra the group has had to go through making this record and the trials and tribulations they experienced along the way.  Their new self-titled record  drops April 9th  and Hayley debuted "Still Into You" a new song for her loyal fans in attendance and for the millions watching live via free streaming video provided by Warner Sound.   They begin their tour this April in support of the new album.  The first block of dates has already been announced with Los Angeles' The Wiltern theater already sold out. Bummer.  

Check out more photos from SXSW 2013  HERE on our Flickr page.

Warner Sound Nikon Showcase @ The Belmont
photos by picksysticks

Also see:
Girls Rock SXSW - Day 1
Girls Rock SXSW - Day 3
Girls Rock SXSW - Day 4
Girls Rock SXSW - Day 5