South by Southwest turns twenty

During SXSW, the streets of Austin, TX are alive with the sound of music and rowdy fans.

In our continuing feature, The Metropolitan will be highlighting different music festivals taking place throughout the year. From Snowball to Coachella and Sasquatch, we will be giving you the low-down on the line-ups, as well as any hometown bands that are taking the stage. This week, we present South by Southwest, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States.

Every year since 1992, bands, managers, label executives, bloggers and plenty of die-hard fans descend on Austin, TX for SXSW — the only difference is that this year’s festival is even bigger. Yes, 2012 marks South by Southwest’s twentieth birthday, and a huge roster with more than 5,000 official events, along with countless after-parties and house shows.

With this in mind, South by Southwest isn’t a typical music festival. It’s more like an annual gathering of some musically minded super-community.

Since South by Southwest started, it has drawn a veritable “who’s who” of up-and-coming bands, as well as some of the greatest independent artists. Basically, it allows famous and established musicians to bask in the spotlight for a whole week, while rubbing elbows with future talent.

This year, Denver will be represented well by a strong mix of local artists, including BLKHRTS, Flashlights, Gauntlet Hair, ManCub, A. Tom Collins, The Chain Gang Of 1974 and Wheelchair Sports Camp, among others. And, seeing that both bands signed to major labels this past year, Gauntlet Hair and The Chain Gang of 1974 will receive some major coverage.

Los Angeles-based horror-core rappers, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, were the media darlings of South by Southwest last year, but this year’s “newcomer” title still seems up in the air, much like the direction of the festival itself.

Like the CMJ showcase in New York, South by Southwest started as a hyped-up, underground festival for what was new and hot in music. And, while South by Southwest is still a hype machine, it has certainly grown into a less-independent event. Instead, huge names like Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen and Kanye West can be found playing the main stages, thus making it harder for the little guys to get noticed in the sea of buzz.

At the same time, South by Southwest remains one of the few events where a talented artist can just show up, do what they do and end up jumpstarting their career.

The musical side of the festival, which runs from March 13 to 18, comprises just one of three branches of the festival, which also showcases interactive media and film. The latter two start on March 9 and run until March 13 and 17.

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Wesley Reyna

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