Seattle's THEESatisfaction poised to wow crowds at SXSW
Special to The Seattle Times
South by SouthwestTuesday-March 18 at various venues in Austin, Texas (512-467-7979 or sxsw.com).
South by Southwest is upon us, aka "spring break for the music industry."
The annual festival/conference blankets a few square miles of flat, wide city blocks Tuesday through March 18 in downtown Austin, Tex., with thousands of musicians, fans and industry insiders. It's a celebration of music in a city constantly celebrating music anyway, where a cover band greets you in the airport first thing off the plane, and downtown, every other building is a concert venue.
This year is SXSW's 25th anniversary. Bruce Springsteen is the keynote speaker and performer and, as usual, there will be day-time panel discussions about music, ideas and commerce held in the Austin Convention Center. But despite the star power and intellectual component, the main draw of SXSW remains Sixth Street, the pumping heart of the downtown music scene, with its plethora of clubs housing many potential next-big-things.
Navigating that afternoon/nighttime scene means trekking through cigarette butts and beer cans into sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder bars where musicians play 20-minute sets. Along the way, energy drink hawkers and aspiring social media entrepreneurs have a card for you, which you don't want, and which ends up littering the street when you don't take it. The whole situation's not everybody's idea of a good time. But Seattle always has a strong showing at SXSW, musically, and if you can stand the sensory overload and rouse your spirit of discovery, it can be a lot of fun.
Local heroes Fleet Foxes and Shabazz Palaces hit Sixth Street hard in recent years and emerged with a healthy national buzz. This year, local duo THEESatisfaction is poised to do the same thing. THEESatisfaction singer Catherine Harris-White and rapper/producer Stasia Irons are headed to Austin with an engaging live show that most of the world hasn't seen yet, plus the full support of Seattle's Sub Pop Records, which helped propel Fleet Foxes and Shabazz Palaces. THEESatisfaction's outstanding debut album "awE naturalE" comes out on the label March 27. The band gets the prime-time 11p.m. slot at Sub Pop's showcase Friday night.
Catching fire with critical and industry bigshots at SXSW can make or break a career. THEESatisfaction's manager Jonathan Moore thinks once anyone hears the band their interest will be piqued, and seeing their high-energy live show will take that impression to another level.
"The music is strong enough that it stands on its own, but once you experience them live it seals the deal."
Almost all the music at SXSW is divided into showcases — long, multi-act events that happen at a single stage over an extended period of time. For Seattle music, three of these rise above the rest two presented by Seattle labels Sub Pop and Hardly Art and SXSeattle.
Two Fleet Foxes spinoff bands recently signed to Sub Pop — Father John Misty and Poor Moon play the Sub Pop showcase March 16. Sub Pop sister label Hardly Art presents local rising rock stars Grave Babies and TacocaT, among other bands, March 14 and 15.
The only exclusively Seattle showcase, SXSeattle (March 16) is one of many unaffiliated with SXSW, which means you don't need an expensive wristband to hang out there At five years running, it has its best lineup yet, featuring blue-eyed soul acts Pickwick and Allen Stone, '80s-inspired dance-rockers Craft Spells and punk-influenced rap group Don't Talk to the Cops!, with others.
Also on tap is SiiickXSW (March 15 and 16), a messy tangle of garage, punk and psychedelic rock bands organized by Seattle design firm and record label CMRTYZ. Like SXSeattle, it is unaffiliated with SXSW proper. The most famous name there is San Francisco garage rock royalty Thee Oh Sees, but tons of bands are playing and lots of the best ones are Seattle locals: My Goodness, The Pharmacy, Detective Agency, Unnatural Helpers and Ziskis, to name a few.
I'll be in Austin for a few days checking in on local stars and other acts from SXSW's international field, blogging my experiences at seattletimes.com/matsononmusic. Check the blog and follow me at twitter.com/andrewmatson for updates. I'm especially keen to check out some of acts I love but have not yet seen live: piano-wrecker Fiona Apple, R&B hitmaker The-Dream and Bay Area "cloud rap" progenitors Main Attrakionz.
But word of mouth is crucial at SXSW, where artists commonly arrange new performances on the spur of the moment. I'm open to hot tips directed to my twitter and matsononmusic at gmail dot com.