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Posted Mar 21st, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Staff
Berkshire Hounds
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Twenty eight years ago South by Southwest started as a small festival that was focused on highlighting local musicians and bringing the music industry together for ten days. The major hurdle for Austin musicians in those early days was the geographic isolation from the rest of the country (Austin is pretty much in the middle of nowhere surrounded by flat land, longhorns and Ford F-150s). No internet distribution meant that local artists required a national radio presence, something relatively hard to achieve, or else they would remain in Austin and surrounding cities. SXSW made it easier for local Austin artists to reach a national and international audience. On the flipside, as the festival has grown larger over the years, the focus has shifted increasingly to host big name artists sponsored by big brands. This year, the festival has made an effort to return to its roots, highlighting many local and underground artists in highly billed events and venues.

One of the most notable local newcomers showcased many times this week was the post-punk band, Institute. I saw them for the first time last year in a punk co-op living community after the band released their first EP. The show featured deafening volume, a piñata filled with dirt, and the subsequent dirt moshing after the piñata burst. Following that fantastic set, Institute hit somewhat of touring silence, which was (THANKFULLY) abruptly disturbed by SXSW. Six shows, many of which were billed very high compared to better known out of town bands, rocked the festival. Institute may well singlehandedly revive a genre that’s been long pronounced dead. Curator’s practice of giving bands with potential a big chance will hopefully allow Institute to be well received by national music audiences.

The Berkshire Hounds are another up and coming SXSW act who also have a firm footing in the local music scene. These guys have one of the best work ethics in the Austin music scene, playing multiple sets per week throughout the year. That didn’t change this week, when they played six shows overall, four in one day. Their infectious blend of blues, rock, punk and soul is a broadly appealing sound that will hopefully move beyond the Austin borders thanks to South By Southwest.

While SXSW is providing an important platform for Austin based artists to reach out to the industry and gain wider audiences, the festival also provides an opportunity for smaller, more unknown artists based in other cities. Many venues in Austin have three to four stages, so at any given event you have the potential to see many artists simply by following your ears. By walking around a multiple stage event I stumbled upon the And The Kids set. And The Kids is a band from Northampton, MA that traveled all the way to Texas to get their music heard. Their glittery indie rock features beautiful multiphonic vocals, fantastic guitars and pounding drumming.

Hopefully this trend of featuring great local talent at SXSW will continue in the future. Great music can only exist and grow when new talent is appreciated and heard by others. This year’s SXSW has been a great success for the newcomers.

Alfred Lentzsch

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