AUSTIN, Texas — Over the years, South by Southwest has grown.
From hundreds of registered attendees to tens of thousands and from hundreds of bands to more than 2,000, it has gotten bigger and bigger in its 27 years.
It has also grown in length. For a long time, it started on a Wednesday, but over the past few years it started spilling out into Tuesday.
This year, the music part of SXSW began officially on Tuesday. It wasn't as packed with music as the following days will be, but there have still been some can't-miss moments from punk to pop.
Take, for example, the biggest show Tuesday night. Rapper-producer duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (you may have heard their song “Thrift Shop” or saw them perform on “Saturday Night Live”) performed at an Austin venue called the Main along with indie rock sister duo Tegan and Sara and rock band Atlas Genius.
Hours before the showcase was set to begin, hundreds of people gathered in two lines to get into the venue. Not all of them would fit.
I couldn't, either. I decided to head to a party, Viceland, thrown by Vice magazine that featured bands such as Wavves, Japandroids and Team Spirit.
Wavves delivered a highly anticipated set that featured several new songs from the surfer punk band's coming album.
“Afraid of Heights” will be released on March 26.
The band played several songs from the album, but “Beat Me Up” and “Afraid of Heights” were my favorites.
“Nobody's heard this one yet,” singer Nathan Williams said of “Beat Me Up,” which featured a chorus of “I really want to spend some time with you/beat me up/beat me up.”
“Afraid of Heights” had lines including “I think I'm dying/or maybe I'm thirsty/I think I must be drunk/I'll always be on my own.”
Fans of the band threw beer and moshed so much that several of us had to leave the area in front of the stage. Only a couple of hundred of the thousands at the showcase went quite that wild, but the band brought an electric energy.
Fans popped up onstage and knocked out cables, killing the band's microphones more than once, but the rest of the audience sang along without Williams' voice.
“You guys are wild,” Williams said. “Keep doing what you're doing.”
Team Spirit was a fun band that played power pop with a hard, garage rock-style edge. So far, the band has been my favorite SXSW discovery.
Earlier in the day, I caught up with two wildly different bands. Japanther is a punk project that played a 15-minute set, and the Polyphonic Spree is an orchestral-sounding pop band that played one 15-minute song and quite a few others.
All curly hair and wild energy, Japanther's Matt Reilly led the band through a very fast set of punk tunes that built quickly and stopped suddenly.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Polyphonic Spree led by Tim DeLaughter. Formerly of Tripping Daisy, DeLaughter was a happy frontman for his 18-piece band full of bouncing horns, soaring choruses and inspiring lyrics.
The band, which gained attention in 2004 for its song “Light and Day/Reach for the Sun,” played several songs from its forthcoming album, and it is already building a buzz here after the first day.
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In a story previewing SXSW, I mentioned Omaha and Lincoln artists performing at the festival as well as others with Nebraska ties, including several on Saddle Creek Records.
I wasn't able to mention everyone, partly because I wasn't made aware of some of them until I hit the festival.
Sam Gidley is one. Gidley is the drummer for the Lonely Biscuits, a band selected by MTV to play at SXSW. The cable network gave the band a “College Artist” version of its independent-focused Woodie Awards.
Ezra and Adeev Potash, 19-year-old twins from Omaha who recently graduated from Westside High School, recently moved to New York City to play jazz. Adeev Potash plays and studies with Jon Faddis, and Ezra Potash studies with Dave Taylor. As the Potash Twins, they're performing together here.
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