Everyone has their opinions about SXSW, an annual music festival and conference in Austin, TX every March. Some long for the glory days when the festival was more focused on music discovery, and others are happy they got to see Drake for the first time outside a large arena. Hate it or love it, SXSW is an experience you just can't afford to miss if you make or enjoy music. I'd like to say you have to make the trek to Austin at least once in your lifetime, but you probably won't get it right for a few years.
The three week festival and conference dedicates a week to film, a week to interactive, and wraps up with music. Unless you're plugged or willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for the proper credentials, the conference portion of the event and many parties will be near impossible to get into. That is unless your finesse game is extra strong, then by all means do your thing! Even if you manage to acquire a badge, there are several exclusive invite only parties like Fader Fort and the Illmore (RIP), that you'll still have to go above and beyond to get in the door. Don't let me discourage the ambitious concert goers that are low on bread and juice, there is still plenty of fun to be had going the free route. Just be on top of those RSVP's during the weeks leading up to the festival and plan on dedicating a day to collecting wristbands and waiting in lines to get into the more popular showcases.
For myself and most of the These Days crew, we've dedicated three plus years of paying our dues to the South By gods, but this past year was worth any prior disappointment. Did we get to do everything we wanted? No, not all of us at least, but we thoroughly enjoyed every moment in Austin. For some it was about making a schedule and sticking to it, but for me, this year was about living in the moment and rolling with the punches. Here are some of artists and showcase that impressed us most this year. - Brent Butcher
Chicago Made Showcase: Like years past, Chicago cliqued up any chance it got, but especially at the city's own showcase featuring performances from Saba, Mick Jenkins, Dreezy, Mike Golden and more. While Golden may be an honorary Chicagoan, hailing from Hammond, IN originally, his performance just may have been the most special of the night as it marked the coming out party of his new backing "& Friends" band which impressed everyone in attendance.
Smino: St Louis bred and current Chicago resident Smino made his rounds performing on more than a handful of stages with the addition of a new band that brought a whole new dimension to the crooner's performance. We finally caught him at The Sidewinder, a venue that housed plenty of great performances over the week including some from These Days favorites Twin Peaks, Mainland Webster X & Allan Kingdom. Backed by vocalists Anthony White, Loona Dae & Drea Smith as well as a Chris Classick and Elton Chueng behind the boards we loved everything going on on stage.
Illmore: With its legacy preceding it, the Illmore put the final touches on what they've described to be an art piece six years in the making. The collaborative event formed by founders of Illroots and Scoremore has been the arguably the most coveted event of SXSW since its inception, and there are endless legendary stories to back up (like Chance The Rapper nearly throwing up on Kendrick Lamar in 2013). This year they continued their winning combination of established fan favorites (2 Chainz and Lil B), rising stars (Kehlani and Tory Lanez) and a slew of buzzworthy new acts (Jazz Cartier, Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti) to fill out the bill. On top of all that, The Cool Kids got back together to perform which we of course appreciated.
House of Vans: This year the House of Vans was made up of 10 great mini-showcases, and even saw the great Erykah Badu take the stage. With brands like Hypetrak, Windish & Smokers Club each responsible for a day or night slot over the course of the five days, the event proved to be one of the strongest we made it out to. While our travel schedule kept us from catching the wonderful female only lineup our friends at Cliche put together, we did manage to see a few favorites at the Hypetrak showcase including Jimi Tents, Towkio and Kelechi to name a few.
Anderson .Paak: The man behind what's arguably the best album in 2016 so far, touched nearly every stage in Austin over the course of the week. Despite that, it took all of the These Days representatives down in Austin until the very last day to catch him live. While Eric saw him at Fader Fort backed by his band The Free Nationals, Ben, Brent & Westley caught him at the Fool's Gold showcase alongside Knxwledge as the pair performed under their collaborative NxWorries moniker.
Fader Fort: Always a staple of SXSW, Fader Fort once again impressed this year. Rae Sremmurd, Metro Boomin, Gallant, GoldLink and Stormzy were just some of the awesome acts to deliver performances. However, topping it all was a surprise set from Drake & OVO which was as epic as you might imagine.
Brownies & Lemonade: For the instrumental obsessed neonpajamas, this LA-crafted showcase was a godsend. Producers Louis the Child, Oshi, Medasin, Deffie, Taja, Y2K, Cavalier, Dave Luxe, and other provided one of the more high-energy showcases of 2016. Almost all of the performers at this showcase had the Sharpie marker X on their hand for being under 21, as most of these talents are the future of hip-hop, trap, and electronica.
If you didn't make it this year, we'll refrain from continuing to rub it in your face, but we highly recommend making it a priority to experience SXSW in some capacity or another in the near future. With the festival growing at lightening fast pace, who knows how long it will continue in its current form. In the meantime, take a peek at a few photos from our good friend Katrina Tarzian and some of our Instagram highlights.