Day Party Highlights – SXSW, TX

Austin’s music-industry event, the South by Southwest Music Conference, is well-noted for fielding more than 2,000 bands at more than 90 official venues during the festival. But in recent years, the real action has shifted to the official and unofficial day parties.

Sponsored by record labels, soda brands, record stores, beer brewers, art galleries, ticket vendors, clothing lines, magazines, websites and more, these day parties give music fans many additional opportunities to see their favorite bands. Sweetening the deal, day parties also often offer free food, open bars and swag to intice people to attend. With hundreds of day parties, music fans end up having to make hard choices on which party to attend.

We were faced with these hard choices, and we have chosen three events to highlight the fine, free musical offerings that were available.

Waterloo Records is Austin’s largest independent record store and was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 25 record stores in the U.S. Waterloo’s line-up for its day parties proved that Rolling Stone’s choice was a wise one. Spanning four days, Waterloo’s in-store appearances were held on a large stage constructed in its parking lot. Two shows were particularly noteworthy. Austin’s Sahara Smith opened the series and confirmed her place as the city’s latest musical sweetheart. The 22-year old performer collected funds for Japan’s recovery effort and then rode off from the concert on her bicycle. During Waterloo’s second day of shows, Jessica Lea Mayfield also charmed the crowd with her dark and sad songs.

MPress Records held their day party, the MPressFest, in a Sixth Street bar. We caught Rachael Sage for a portrait at the bar that took on the feeling of a Wild West Saloon. Amy Speace and Jim Bianco also put on dramatic performances on the club’s tiny stage.

American Songwriter Magazine sponsored a day party at the Swan Dive Bar that had a really impressive line-up. We caught up with the show in time to get a portrait of Hayes Carll outside, and then to squeeze inside the bar for the rest of the performances. Caitlin Rose appeared in support of her debut album, Own Side Now, that was released just before SXSW began. Former Drive-By Trucker, Jason Isbell performed songs from his solo career as well ones from the Drive-By Truckers catalog. Isbell was accompanied by Nashville violinist, Amanda Shires. The duo, Civil Wars, climaxed the day with their hauntingly beautiful arrangements.

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Amanda Shires
Amy Speace
Caitlin Rose
Civil Wars
Hayes Carll
Jason Isbell
Jim Bianco
Rachael Sage
Sahara Smith plays Waterloo Records
Jessica Lea Mayfield

Photos by Steve Hopson

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