The music part of SXSW starts in earnest this week. While all the coverage can be pretty annoying if you’re not actually at the festival in Austin, Texas – not bitter, honest – it’s become an event that generates ideas and conversation about the state of the music industry as well as a place for exciting new bands to break through. From new acts to keynote speakers, here’s 22 of the main things people will be talking about.
Gripes about SXSW’s increasing levels of corporate branding have grown over the last few years, coming to a head with Doritos' 2014 involvement which included only providing access to Gaga’s gig to those who completed a series of publicity stunts. Doritos won’t be at the festival this year and nor will iTunes – is SXSW going back to its roots and sticking it to The Man?
Last year, two people were killed and 23 injured when a drunk driver drove the wrong way down a one-way street before accelerating through a crowd of people. Rumours circulated that the festival was going to ban all unofficial showcases as a result. These turned out to be unfounded but it’s hard to imagine the festival won’t make some changes to avoid further incidents.
Secret sets: Arcade Fire
Like all festivals these days, there’s always a handful of big bands doing secret sets at SXSW. With Will Butler in Austin to promote his debut solo album and brother Win lined up to DJ under his alias Windows ’98, some are hopeful the rest of the Montreal group will make the trip down south too.
Kanye’s attended SXSW several times in the past and, following his surprise show at London’s KOKO earlier this month, it seems he’s in the mood for spontaneity. Will he turn up in Austin to give American fans a sneak preview of the follow-up to ‘Yeezus’?
Kendrick Lamar dropped his second album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ today (March 16). What better way to celebrate than with a at SXSW?
New bands: Sunflower Bean
Of course, 99% of SXSW is about discovering the bands set to breakout over the rest of the year. New York’s Sunflower Bean are one of the key tips for 2015, employing swirling psych-rock and Julia Cumming’s howling vocals to create something furious, fizzing and totally exciting.
Philadelphia’s Sheer Mag are no strangers to creating some of the most fun, immediately infectious riffs around. ‘What You Want?’ from their debut 7” is case in point, while searing new song ‘Button Up’ takes things to new heights. Expect everyone to return from Austin with the Sheer Mag bug.
The Texas soul singer has been winning over new fans lately with his smooth, blues-y style, as evidenced on singles ‘Lisa Sawyer’ and ‘Coming Home’. Expect his SXSW shows to be rammed as he finds even more new devotees.
Spiky, shrill indie-pop in the vein of Vampire Weekend is Hippo Campus’ thing. The four Minnesotan boys make their case for being Ezra Koenig and co’s heirs in ‘Little Grace’ – sunny, complex and constantly shape-shifting.
On their new album, ‘Golem’, Los Angeles quartet Wand mix sludgy riffs with dark, mind-boggling lyrics. Their weird, surreal humour shines through too so their live shows should be a tantalising combination of brutal and fun.
SXSW is launching its own streaming service. As well as showing what’s going on at the festival in real time – from keynotes and conferences to live music – SXSW On will also feature archive content and original programming. Could this be the future for all festival streaming services?
Much memed actor Ryan Gosling is preparing to release his directorial debut ‘Lost River’. Most of the advance reviews have been less than flattering but he’ll talk about the movie and his lauded career so far in conversation with Guillermo Del Toro.
Montage Of Heck
Montage Of Heck is billed as a “raw and visceral journey through Kurt Cobain’s life and his career with Nirvana through the lens of his home movies, recordings, artwork, photography and journals.” Its screening at SXSW will be the first chance for many to see the film, which is due for release later this year, and will be one of the must-see films of the festival.
The Wu-Tang Clan man has his fingers in many pies outside of hip-hop, from scoring films to appearing in them. He’s one of SXSW Film’s keynote speakers this year, and, having worked with the likes of Ridley Scott, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino amongst others, his lecture should be an eye-opening session.
With artists like Taylor Swift removing their music from Spotify and condemning streaming services as devaluing music as art, it’s up to the services themselves to change the conversation. Vevo Executive Vice President Alex Kisch will attempt to do just that with a conference about the positive impact streaming is having on fans’ experiences.
Ahead of the Danny Boyle-directed biopic of the late Apple man, this documentary gives an insight into his life and work and should highlight how he changed the technology landscape as well as raising questions about how Apple can continue his legacy.
When it was originally screened in the late ‘70s, Tom Huckabee’s The Death of Jim Morrison film caused controversy with its depiction of drugs and violence. It’s unlikely to provoke such a strong reaction this time round but will still get people talking about the last days of the iconic Doors star and how Huckabee depicts them.
In 2013, Wilko Johnson began playing a series of farewell shows, after being told he only had a few months left to live due to pancreatic cancer. Two years later and he’s still going strong – as documented in The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson, a film that charts the extraordinary recent years of his life and looks at mortality, death and surviving against the odds.
One of music’s much disputed questions is 'who started punk?'. The Damned are often cited as the first UK punks to cross the Atlantic and film Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead charts their history and features contributions from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones and Lemmy amongst others.