I admit it. I was going to be coming to SXSW for the weather -- out of a Montreal winter into the warmth and sunlight. I expected to be exhausted and turned off by the clamoring of egos and skinny jeans (I own a few pairs) and throngs of people everywhere.
I have always had a bad feeling about crowd behaviour/mentality. It always seems disengaged from human feeling, willfully ignorant, and self-aggrandizing. A crowd can be a senseless thing. So yeah, I guess I equated "music festivals" with crowd mentality. SXSW could easily have some of these characteristics as it has arguably evolved for bands into a get-recognized/add 2 extra floor toms on stage/social networking buzz-obsessed crowd-hyping pep rally of a good hair competition. Oh, and because most people there are (happily) drunk. So the thought of a festival with these proportions had me thinking about survival tactics over enjoyment.
We had planned six shows in four days. That I was looking forward to. It is so good to come out of the dark, out of the one-sided conversation of writing and recording, and perform the thing live. The first of YG's six shows was at R7 -- the Forcefield Party.
It started with technical difficulties in our machines, as I like to call them. The crowd waited almost 15 minutes for us to figure our shit out. We fortunately had friends (members of Austra) in the crowd who use similar machines in their live show.
They helped us make them...make sound. (yeah, that is not my department. I like to sing. With my throat. I don't get buttons). So anyway, they got fixed. All I could say to the patiently waiting audience was something about preferring beasts to machines.
But then, we got to play. It was a great reminder for us about what is important about playing live and it was a short set so we had to find the magic fast. The crowd made that happen. The audience speaks a very undeniable language. It didn't feel senseless at all. What the band communicated to the audience, and what the audience communicated back to us was this is me in the music.
With the next five shows each crowd brought a different energy but the same message. There is nothing more intoxicating than being in the music. It informs the way we write, record and perform and it is why we do it. Playing to that crowd, with the sun outside, and all machines and beasts working together, brought the emotional intelligence of the music festival crowd mentality into the room to school me. I am humbled. I love it. Music saves. I'm converted over again every time we play.
So after the show, stepping outside into the first summery day I've had this year, into the pedestrian-ruled streets of Austin (probably the only place that could successfully host this kind of heart-of-a-city festival), into the dancing, the meat-smoke, past the food trucks, the open doors of venues -- some thrashing, some thrumming, all mixing - into the united crowds we all go to get drunk (happily) on 'beergaritas' on the back terrasse of a cantina.