South by Southwest 2014: the complete overview
Grown in the roots of new media and underground music, South by Southwest (SXSW) is known for its musical discoveries, interactive innovations, and offbeat films. However, this year the Texas-based festival has met with cultural outcry at appearances from major (or, if you prefer – as you sip your ecologically, ethically, and ergonomically sourced Chai Mochalatte – more mainstream) acts, such as Lady Gaga and Coldplay, at the Doritos-sponsored festival.
This year’s highlights including a remote appearance from Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, Lady Gaga’s headline-making performance, which featured Millie Brown, a New York regurgitation painter (Google it), keynote sessions with author Austin Kleon and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Damon Albarn collaborative set, the Man Up: Gender and the Work Life Balance Debate, and countless musical gems like Wolf Alice, punk band Against Me!, and noise pop duo Sleigh Bells. As far as the Interactive side of the festival went, it was as innovative and current as ever, featuring sessions with YouTubers Grace Helbig and Tyler Oakley on building an audience online.
Looking at the setlists, the mainstream acts really are few and far between, in a sea of fringe and up and coming performers, but still people are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. But we cannot afford to forget the astronomical price of an event like this, and when coupled with the steady decline of the music industry, is it any wonder that there is a need to include crowd-drawing, well-known acts to support the inclusion of so many niche and startup bands.
Once again, SXSW transformed Austin into a hub of talent, fusing together the famous, infamous, and entirely unknown. The fusion of music, film, and media is what makes this festival as successful as it has been, and should continue to be. It is a shame that some fans are unable to recognise that this kind of event comes with a hefty price tag, and that including well-known acts helps to unify the big and the small. A reminder that everyone comes from somewhere.