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  South By Southwest 2011  

Austin, TX

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:

The Minions attended SxSW again this year, after taking a year off. They have composed a rather lengthy narrative of the event. This is more of an attempt to describe the festival in broad terms, instead of just a series of reviews of live performances. There is more to the SxSW experience than just seeing music, and this is what the Minions have tried to portray. You will have to judge for yourself how well they achieved their goal.

In this Introduction, they describe the Festival in broad terms, to help place it into context.


2011 was EvilSponge’s sixth venture to Austin, TX for South By South West. SxSW is arguably the most significant music event in North America, if not the planet. It is like the haj for music geeks, and every serious music fan should make the trek to Austin in March at least once in their life.

SxSW is a giant party that lasts for five days or more. There is music playing constantly 24 hours a day somewhere in Austin, and you have to decide between sleep and, say, going to see Moby spin ambient at 3 AM.

The two of us who run EvilSponge, and who keep going to SxSW, are not your typical SxSW participants. We are not there to schmooze, or attempt to pick up a random partner. We do not wander around trying to figure out which show is giving away the coolest free stuff, be it barbecue, booze, or t-shirts. We go there for one reason only: during that week we can catch more music that we can in the rest of the year at home. EvilSponge goes to Austin to see bands we don’t have the chance to see in Atlanta, and thus expand our musical horizons. There are lots more acts in the world than we can ever know, and Austin gives us the chance to check out unheard bands.

However, it often seems that everyone else at the festival is there to talk to people. Conversation is, for the most point, useless. It takes time to come up with the words to say what you really mean, which is why we write these things down. It is also why it takes us a rather long time to get the reviews posted. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, and these people seem to think that blabbing on and on in an unfocused and not thought-out fashion about some show they saw earlier is useful to others. It’s not, so just shut your yob and try and experience the music without the running commentary. Sheesh.

You see, in the end, EvilSponge is run by introverts. We like to sit at home and listen to music, and we like to go to clubs where we can actually hear the band. Standing in a crowded club (and Austin clubs get hot when they get crowded) listening to people babble about cool bands and celebrity sightings over the music is not our idea of a good time.

Usually at SxSW we reach a point where we have to leave or start punching people. Normally there is one event where the general rudeness and self-absorbedness of the other fans just becomes too much to bear, and it pushes me over the edge and i get extremely tense. SxSW is full of people who only care about themselves, staggering through the streets drunk, sloshing their beer in clubs, stomping on feet, and shoving people aside.

This is one thing that I have learned, being an introvert in a society that values extroversion. Basically, an introvert is more aware of their place in the world than an extrovert, and that includes other humans. Put another way, an extrovert is someone who puts themselves first, broadcasting every pointless little thought that pops into their heads, with no real regard for the other people around them. Introverts are usually seen as being too self-aware, but if you play attention, they are actually more aware of other people, more aware of the various relations between people. We are aware that the other people out there are doing different things, and just as we don’t want to be intruded on when we are enjoying something, we seek to not intrude on others. Extroverts are self-aware to the point of being oblivious to the very existence of other humans, they blather on self-importantly not really aware that they might be irritating others. It’s just plain rude, but, sadly, most people are extroverted (about 2/3 according to this very typical article).

Eventually, the rudeness of the crowd gets to me, but knowing this, in 2011 EvilSponge went out of its way to avoid situations that would bring on the urge to kill. It’s a simple three step plan, really:

EvilSponge’s Three Point Plan to a Better SxSW Experience
  1. Avoid buzz bands. Every year there are a few acts that everyone is talking about, and we usually miss them. That is actually on purpose -- we read The Austin Chronicle and various blogs to figure out which shows are going to be packed beyond capacity, and then we schedule something else at that time. Which means, gentle reader, that what you are about to read is not like the SxSW reviews that other sites have provided. In a way, that is an added service to you, because do you really need yet another online site raving about the White Flag performance at Merge Night?
  2. Avoid Sixth Street the longer the festival goes on. Sixth Street is the main drag through the festival, five blocks that are closed off to traffic and are full of people stumbling around, drunk and texting, while yelling to one another. The street party aspect grows as the festival continues, until on Saturday you can barely walk between venues. That is really problematic when you have 20 minutes to walk three blocks and fight a line to get in to see a show. The solution: go to Sixth early on, and then on the later nights go to venues off the strip.
  3. Eat regularly, and pace yourself. SxSW is a marathon, and if you wait thinking you can get free BBQ at the next party, then you will be royally screwed when you get there to find it is all gone. We see too many people looking sickly from the combination of too much booze and not enough food. Although, and this is unusual, i did not witness anyone actually vomiting in the streets this year, i did see plenty of evidence that such activity was going on. So eat when you can, rather than push yourself to catch the next act. The rest of us will be grateful to not have to step over your vomit puddle.

To this list of three, I would add one last thing: Take it easy. It seems like the more you try to accomplish or see at SxSW, the more frustrating and completely aggravating the entire process becomes. This year, we didn't try to schedule any too many day shows or any forced marches during the evening showcases. This made it so that we weren't ever in a hurry, which means that we weren't overwhelmed with the mass of humanity normally encountered between points A & B.


Good point. If you rush around like mad all of the time, will you ever really have the chance to enjoy anything?

We followed those four principles this year (for the most part, although there was one late lunch that came just in time, i have to admit), and avoided getting sick and/or despising the rest of humanity anymore than we already do.

So even though i think that everyone who really loves music should go to SxSW at least once, there are some caveats about the other people there. If you stand back and watch, the amount of ego that other human beings posses is rather amazing. For example, one morning at coffee, there was The World’s Greatest Sound Engineer, who could do everything from hip-hop to jazz to Mastodon, trying to sell his services to some label guy at the next table. I never caught the name of The World’s Greatest Sound Engineer, but i am impressed by the sheer weight of ego he had. "Humility" was not in this guy’s vocabulary. And most people in Austin are like that. Granted, most people in the world are like that, but Austin seems to bring out the worst in people.

This is a large part of why EvilSponge took the 2010 year off from SxSW. At the end of the 2009 event, specifically at the time i had to wait in a long line to get in to Emo’s Jr. to see Efterklang, i just snapped. I had it with the damned place and the self-absorbed people. Losing my job in 2010 also contributed to need to take a year off, which was probably a good thing as i was able to return to SxSW with a fresh perspective.

I hope that helps to put the rest of this review into context for you and that it helps you to understand where EvilSponge are coming from.

Related Links:

General Links:
    South By SouthWest Organization:
    Austin Visitor and Convention Bureau:

Read our entire SxSW11 review:
     The Introduction.
     Tuesday, 15 March.
     Wednesday, 16 March, featuring Judgement Day, Rah Rah, King David, Gold Motel, Ólöf Arnalds, Summer Camp, Dry the River, Eisley, Sun Airway, Small Black, and Parts & Labor.
     Thursday, 17 March, featuring Rah Rah, Little Tybee, Sealions, Simon Says No, Resplandor, Magic Bullets, Royal Thunder, The Wooden Birds, Say Hi, and Maps and Atlases.
Friday, 18 March, featuring The Fling, The Dears, Eulogies, Gold Motel, Pontiak, Shimmering Stars, Los Impostors, Class Actress, Santah, Oh No, Oh My, and Elizabeth and the Catapult.
Saturday, 19 March, featuring Matthew and the Atlas, Reptar, Dry the River, Venice Is Sinking, Cheap Girls, Colin Stetson, Wires Under Tension, and Balmorhea.


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