Curtis Killian, Web Content Producer for Berklee’s Office of Alumni Affairs and Institutional Advancement, spent a few days at SXSW in Austin to capture the Berklee experience there, including performances from alumni and student bands.
Day 1, Wednesday March 16
Caught Mexican pop sensation Jesse & Joy at The Spotify House . The brother/sister duo’s album ¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro? and its songs won four 2012 Latin Grammys, including awards for Berklee alumni Gustavo Borner ’89 (Engineer/mixer/mastering) for album of the year and songwriter Tommy Torres ’93 for song of the year on behalf of the group.
At my hotel afterward, bumped into Nardwuar the Human Surviette, Canadian and perhaps the most thorough and quirkiest music journalist in existence, with wacky video interviews everyone from Nirvana to Snoop Dogg. Big fan of his work.
Later, had a feel-good time at J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen and Lounge for the Berklee Alumni Austin hang. Met a number of cool local and visiting alumni and students, including Dallas country singer Troy Cartwright.
Day 2, Berklee Alumni SXSW Showcase
The main event! Great eclectic array of bands comprised of Berklee alumni and current students put together by Berklee Alumni, Heavy Rotation Records and Vanyaland (see their coverage here.)
RANN (Brooklyn, NY)
Rann kicked off the event… nothing like some in-your-face rock and roll to start off the day! Really dug their sound, reminded me a bit of Self and Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots.
Rann vocalist and bassist Apoena Frota ’14: “This band is kind of young– we met in Boston but started playing together in Brooklyn. I’m really thankful to Berklee, it was a big part of my musicianship and life and everything.”
M+E (Boston, MA)
Fun group comprised of current students and recent alumni. Moments before this photo I witnessed a chance meeting between some new Australian fans in the audience and fellow Aussies in the band, bassist (center) and guitarist (right).
Singer/guitarist Luke Niccoli, Berklee student: “We were a last minute addition– pretty awesome but stressful! We’re putting out an E.P. on Friday and playing more shows this summer. ” Check out their new E.P. here.
MAR|CO (Boston, MA)
Electronic duo comprised of Berklee seniors Mary Lang (Performance and music business) and Alex Cohen (EPD and music business), Mar|Co (a portmanteau of their two names) are self-described futurepop.
Alex Cohen (percussion, production): “A lot of people are like, Where are the guitars, where’s the band? Sorry, it’s just us!”
Lady Pills (Boston, MA)
Comprised of current Berklee students, Lady Pills is a trio offering light-hearted, melodic alternative/garage rock.
Alison Dooley (vocals/bass, right): “We’re super grateful and feel extremely honored to be here, playing on a really sick block in the middle of the city. Awesome.”
Claire Duhrig (drums/vocals, center): “There’s so much beauty here. Wonderful weather, wonderful people.”
Ella Boissonnault (vocals/guitar, left): “I hate it, I can’t wait to go home. [laughs]”
Plastic Waves (Boston, MA)
Berklee band mostly majoring in MP&E, exploratory psychedelic DIY rock vibe in the Tame Impala/Pond vein, replete with vocal delay and lush sonic explorations.
Singer/guitarist Andre Bellido: “I record mostly myself in my room. You get really involved in the production– songwriting needs to be there too, but I think production adds an element to it.”
IAN (Los Angeles, CA)
IAN had a very interesting set and distinct style. Vocal style in particular reminded me of fellow Berklee alumni band Railbird (now called Lip Talk). Very rock and roll stage presence and chemistry. While still at Berklee the band was already in talks signing with Sub Pop sister label Hardly Art, who plan to release their debut record in August. Singer/guitarist Julian Medford ’15: “The goal is meeting with booking people, we want to tour a lot this coming year. And breakfast tacos.” Bassist Damien Scalise: “This is like band camp for band camps.”
Here they are dancing me how they feel about Austin:
Great Grandpa (Seattle, Washington)
Sound and vibe straight out of the 90’s, garage rock grunge vibe, even repping Seattle with the Sub Pop shirt!
The event was emceed by alumnus Zach Singer ’06: “I was in L.A. for 9 years since school, and I’ve been in Austin for the last year or so– it is my favorite place in the world. Easiest place I’ve ever played music, anyone can find a stage any night they want to, and it is the best food I ever had.”
While at the showcase I met drummer Rachel Fuhrer ’00, who played in a band that got accepted to SXSW 8 or 9 years ago, and “fell in love with the city right away.” She now serves as community Liason/Music Instructor at Beyond the Grade, a non-profit with the goal of helping young minds develop self worth through enrichment opportunities beyond the classroom.
Fuhrer also started Movin and Groovin, weeklong summer camps targeted to students who never touched an instrument in their lives. “I found my calling in life, which is a really great feeling.”
Later wandered around soaking up the sights and sounds of SXSW: scenes of hipsters, street musicians, BBQ and grackles galore!
Holiday Mountain at Arlyn Studios
Made up for my lack of a pass by seeking out shows off the beaten path, like psych-pop-dance duo Holiday Mountain at Arlyn Studios, formerly owned by Honorary-Berklee doctorate Willie Nelson.
I’ve been a fan of Holiday Mountain since hearing their set at last year’s Berklee Alumni SXSW showcase courtesy of Vanyaland. When I arrived toward the end of their show at Arlyn, the band and audience were in full psychedelic-freakout mode, replete with dancing models in neon regalia encased in display cases.
Arlyn was a cool venue to say the least, and I was impressed with the sets from Brooklyn band Dreamers and especially the fuzzy Hendrix-inspired blues of Emily Wolfe.
Day 3, Snarky Puppy
On the last day of my action-packed trip, I caught Snarky Puppy at their SXSW debut at the Marriott, sponsored by Universal Music Group. While not a Berklee band, Snarky Puppy lineup has included some Berklee Alumni over the years, including Saxophonist Bob Reynolds, percussionist/drummer Marcelo Woloski and percussionist/drummer Keita Ogawa, and obviously through collaborations with the likes of Lalah Hathaway.
This was my first time catching these pups and my mind was thoroughly blown throughout their half hour set, and was a great way to wrap up an eventful few days in Austin.
- Berklee and Beyond at SXSW 2016 - March 28, 2016
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