South by Southwest (SXSW) is a film and music festival, which takes place in Austin, Texas and was set there for about a week each year since 1987. No doubt, the festival is crucial for this town; it is estimated that SXSW has over a $100 million impact on Austin’s economy making it the highest income producing event in Austin.
The festival grew to become the premier annual music festival for new rising artists. While in 1987 there were only 700 registrants, in 2010 the number escalated to nearly 12,000 registrants! Even more, South by Southwest inspired the appearance of other similar festivals like North by Northeast in Toronto and North by Northwest in Portland, Oregon. The sheer number of musical acts is absolutely phenomenal. In 2010 it reached 1,800 bands that played in about 70 venues. Who knows, maybe next year the festival will crack this record too!
Despite a huge number of rising artists SXSW usually attracts a couple of mature bands like Metallica in 2009. At their first, and so far last appearance, the front man James Hetfield pointed out “Live music is where we’re at”. The band clearly enjoyed the chance to play at a smaller venue rather than at large venues they had to play for years and years. It also helped the interaction between the band and fans during their performance. When closing the show Hetfield cried out to the crowd “Have you seen some good bands here? Hope we're one of them” and was reassured by the crowd that this was a case.
In 2010 rumor had it that firstly The Black Eyed Peas were going to “surprise” the public. Oh no, not them but Justin Timberlake was going to appear on the stage. No, it is Radiohead! Bummer, wrong again. The mysterious guest was the rapper Nas with his companion Damian Marley. Their appearance took place in order to support their collaborative album (which was scheduled for a release even the year before the performance but never was released). That was a dangerous mix of the classic reggae voice of Damian who was singing at the same speed as Nas was rapping, and together with a few female dancers they boosted the energy up to the roof.
British rock band Muse also showed up at SXSW in 2010, supporting their last album “The Resistance”. One of their fans commented on the official confirmation of the Muse show at South by Southwest: “Muse is a band on my must see before I die list. It's official. I can die happy”. He surely was not disappointed, as well as the rest of the crowd, as the show was stunning. Penetrating the listeners with flashing lasers, Muse also demonstrated that they are capable of delivering a phenomenal performance. There was not a song, which the crowd did not accompany that night. The front man of Muse, Matthew Bellamy, at the end of the show said "It's great to be here at South By Southwest. You can feel the good vibes." The show was epic, it surely was.
We simply have to wait and wonder what SXSW has to surprise us with next year.