The popular South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival in Austin, TX, logged another successful outing this March 2012, featuring some memorable moments as well as some unexpected ones.
Running from March 9 to March 18, the festival is actually three separate events in one: the well-known music event that features over 2,000 artists playing in over 90 Austin-area venues, a film festival, and “SXSW Interactive,” which is an event that focuses on technological advances.
“SXSW Film” premiered Joss Whedon’s thriller “The Cabin in the Woods” and screened over a hundred other works, including documentaries, shorts, and animations. “SXSW Interactive” focused on location-based technology with presentations including “The Making of Twittamentary,” along with featuring appearances by the likes of Samsung, Google, and Microsoft.
The 2012 Music Festival took over the city, with none other than Bruce Springsteen offering the keynote speech. Springsteen paid tribute to various musical influences including Woody Guthrie, Elvis, and Johnny Rotten, and he had advice for the younger musical artists in the crowd.
“So rumble, young musicians, rumble”, he was quoted by the Associated Press in the conclusion of his speech. “Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself.”
Springsteen and his E Street Band then performed a nearly three hour show at the Austin City Limits Moody Theatre. The set included old favorites as well as cuts off the new “Wrecking Ball” album. The Boss started and ended the show with two Woody Guthrie songs in celebration of the folk legend’s centennial birthday.
In her first performance outside of Los Angeles in several years, Fiona Apple took the stage at National Public Radio’s evening showcase. Her set list included songs from her first three albums as well as her latest, “The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do,” her first release in seven years.
Apple’s comeback was well-received by the crowd and marked the first date in a small spring tour in which the singer-songwriter will play in large metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, D.C.
One of the most attractive aspects for festival fans is the chance to see a favorite artist in an unusual way or in a different arena. For instance, Dallas native Norah Jones eschewed her earlier work to perform only songs from her new “Little Broken Hearts” album in a Saturday, March 17 set at La Zona Rosa. Earlier in the week she had gigged with her country side group, The Little Willies.
Begun as a showcase of indie rockers 25 years ago, the SXSW has matured into one of the premier international cultural events of the year. Taking advantage of the overlap between music and technology, SXSW Interactive has seen immense growth since 2007, having boosted the trajectory of both Twitter and Foursquare in recent years.
At this year’s conference, Viacom’s Music and Logo Group president Van Toffler announced this summer’s launch of a digital platform designed to help artists build audience and revenue.
The Artist.MTV platform, now in beta form, was designed to help bands build up their MTV webpages, stream music and video, sell tickets and merchandise and maintain contact with their fan bases. For fans, the platform promises more direct content from and access to their favorite bands.
The platform’s summer launch is planned to coincide with MTV’s Video Music Awards show in August 2012.