Sea of Bees performs at the Hotel Driskill for NPR Music.
From everything I hear, SXSW is a completely unique experience. Besides the thousands upon thousands of musicians and industry buffs braving the Texas heat, the festival also features gigs in just about every square inch of space Austin has to offer. This includes everything from Jack White in a parking lot to fireworks courtesy of the Strokes.
The New York Times highlighted one of the most intimate uses of space at the festival: the hotel room. Three singer-songwriters–Holcombe Waller, Jenny O, and the inimitable Alessi’s Ark–took to the Driskill Hotel to play cozy sets for some music insiders and friends. The event was set up by Waller’s manager, Alicia J. Rose. According to the article, Alessi’s addition was a stroke of scheduling luck and chance: “‘They handed me a piece of chocolate and asked if I had any more shows, and I said no,” Ms. Laurent-Marke said. “Then they said they were having this salmon breakfast, and asked if I’d play. I said yes, of course. I love salmon.'” Her soft songs would be a perfect fit for this makeshift ‘venue’, with a bed for its stage and nightstand lamp its only spotlight.
San Francisco-based blog Yours Truly partnered with MTV to produce another intimate session: the appropriately titled In My Room. This Austin edition (previous San Francisco In My Room sessions have included artists such as Memoryhouse and Holly Miranda) featured Cults, Twin Shadow, The Kills, Yuck, and The Head and The Heart.
These events and others like them (see video above) speak not only to the desire for personalized performances (the popularity of Blogotheque-esque video recordings in increasingly eccentric locations is nothing new), but also the coolest part of a festival like SXSW. This massive influx of talent and creativity inspires all manner of seemingly organic maneuvering within the defined structure of the event itself. At least to this outsider, SXSW Music feels like a giant high school reunion, with groups of friends (old and new) coming together for the sake of art and discovery. The result–performances in unique spaces from hotel rooms to bike shops–lets intimacy cut through the din.