Sounds From SXSW: 4 Hours, 6 Bands, 1 Party

By Lauren White
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For the past week, the small city of Austin has been flooded with techies, film aficionados, musicians, and hipsters for the ultimate media festival know as South by Southwest, or SXSW. Usually people pay the expensive badge price and spend four days bar-hopping in order to see their favorite bands. Of course, you have the people like me that decide to take a chance on the free shows and play Russian Roulette with the music choices. The Buzznet all-ages day party was a surprise for me.

The schedule listed Every Avenue, States, Go Radio, Forever the Sickest Kids, Lights, and The Jane Doze to play from 2 to 6 pm. With the exception of Forever the Sickest Kids during my early high school years, I had not listened to any of the bands on the line-up, despite hearing and seeing their names multiple times in the past. Saying that this particular Friday would be a musical adventure would be an understatement. Each band falls under the umbrella term of pop rock, but presented a different take on the term.  Let's go check out some videos...

After waiting in line for over an hour and a half, the doors finally opened and we were relieved from the muggy Austin weather. The venue, Submerged Martini Lounge, had been transformed into the PureVolume House for the past two days and been the scene for the pop and electronic fans. It appears to not have a lot of space due to the design, but as I would later learn, it was more than capable of holding a great number of people. The stage was situated on a corner and again seemed small, but had enough room for the bands to move around. Throughout the performances, I was really impressed with the lighting and the sound tech. The lights were spot on and the sound was perfectly balanced for most of the performances. It was refreshing to leave and not feel like an eardrum was blown out. The bartenders were kept busy, fueling the music-seekers with Monster and an array of alcoholic drinks during the show. The entire atmosphere looked like an unlikely place for a rock show, but it worked pretty well for an upscale bar.

The doors had opened thirty minutes late, so I was disappointed when I did not hear the mixes that The Jane Doze are known for. They were listed as house djs on the PureVolume website, but as I soon found out, a lot of people were confused about when they would be playing. There was the typical pop punk classics playing in between bands, so it was a bit unclear if they even played because of the late start time. Quite a few people, including myself, were looking forward to hearing the New York based mashup duo, but we were out of luck.

Every Avenue was the band to kick off the day full of music. The five member band from Michigan got the crowd dancing and jumping as they entertained their fans with old and new material. It was clear that they are the updated version of the classic angsty, but danceable formula that makes up pop punk. All the members gave off an aura of rock star swagger mixed with boys-next-door coyness. After they had played the six song set each band was allowed, the crowd was buzzing with excitement at the ability of Every Avenue to start the party off right.


Next up was States, a band that is hard to place genre-wise. Fronted by singer Mindy White, who resembles that one pretty popular girl we all love to hate, she held be own as she belted out the lyrics with a force that does not seem to fit the waifish woman on stage. The only way I can think to describe their sound is melodic, but groovy. The crowd seemed slightly disappointed to not hear that many of the newer songs, but were soothed when the band pulled out a slower, but still staying true to the original cover of the popular Gnarls Barkeley song “Crazy”. It was evident that the entire band truly connected with their music when they played, but it was the drummer, Jonathan Bucklew, that stood out to me during the performance. He made sure to keep everyone grooving and with that, States left an impression on the crowd.

Go Radio came on and added more edge to the line-up. Known for blending pop punk with metalcore, the aggressive, but melodic sound is closer to the type of music I listen to now. I was really surprised that the heavier elements of the instrumentation did not tax out the sound system and all their songs came out pretty clean. They also played a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which is featured on Punk Goes Pop 4. The live version of the song was better than the studio version I had listened to before I left my apartment. Their set satisfies those craving hardcore and metal during SXSW, while appealing to those use to a softer sound.

By the time Forever the Sickest Kids took the stage, the venue was packed with an eclectic mix of people. Now as I mentioned before, Forever the Sickest Kids was the only band officially on the line-up that I actually knew some of their songs. From the first song, I knew that their style had not changed when I had first heard of them. They occupy the poppier sector of pop punk, which can be an issue since all the songs tend to sound the same. However, this did not drag down the show. They were the most interactive out of all the bands, with the vocalist Jonathan Cook’s humorous remarks and touring guitarist Rico Garcia’s dance moves. Forever the Sickest Kids were the first band during the day to suffer from instrument problems, but they played it off pretty well, such as the case with Kyle’s crazy antics as the stage hands attempt to fix the issue with his drum kit. Hearing “Hey Brittany” transported me back to the days when I would jam out to the song before class with my friend named…you guessed it, Brittany. This performance was not enough to put their music back into regular rotation in my playlist, but it was definitely fun.

Finally, the woman of the hour, Lights, came on. I noticed a shift in fan base as more males occupied the area closer to the stage that the teenage girls claimed during Forever the Sickest Kids. As the music began, I did wonder when did synth pop and new wave come back in style. At the end of the first song, it was apparent that this was not the cheesy type of music that ruled the airwaves of the 1980’s. Her music is very synthesizer oriented, but her vocals are very smooth and provide a nice contrast. I’m sure the abundance of purple and blue lighting added to this feeling, but it felt very dreamy and transcendental. There was a good mix of new and old songs, pleasing the attendees of SXSW from a few years back while inducting new listeners into her live music experience. It seemed that the set ended too quickly, like someone singing a lullaby, but stopping abruptly before you are lulled off to sleep.

After the last note rung throughout the venue, the underaged and those without a pass (yes, that included yours truly), stampeded out to allow the night party to take place, as the entire day was already behind schedule. There were a few hiccups throughout the day, but all the bands for the Buzznet Party brought their A-game and showed Austin that the various degrees of pop and rock are here to stay.

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