Photos provided by the band
In this music column, Eli Enis and Katie Cusack check in with local bands who are currently on the road. They’ll tell stories about life on tour, standout gigs and the tips and tricks that keep them sane between shows. In this installment, the soulful duo turned powerhouse four-piece The Sea The Sea takes us on a journey to a few SXSW showcase stages and one-of-a-kind venues. Let us know who you’d like to hear from: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was not our first SXSW. It’s become somewhat of a tradition over the last few years to be there. From what we’ve been able to gather, SXSW has changed a lot since it began. It started as a grassroots endeavor, a place to discover the truly undiscovered, and while that still goes on, there’s a definite corporate presence now and the attention seems to center around those bands already filling up the bandwidth. The weather is a magical respite in the midst of an always seemingly endless winter & at the risk of sounding predictable, community has a lot to do with why we go. There are only so many times during the year when so many friends congregate in one place. As with any music festival / conference, some of the best songs you hear aren’t on a stage of any kind, but in a late night song circle in a friend’s living room or backyard. This year we did showcase, but we also set out to fill our tanks by hearing as much music as we could—and while most of them were indeed folks we’d already heard of, we will hop up on our soap box here and advocate mightily for going to hear live music—because the live show lives and we were pleasantly surprised with how some of the artists we’ve been hearing about in the digital realm translated in person…
A couple of highlights…
Luck Reunion: We finally made it out to Willie Nelson’s Ranch y’all & it was everything we ever hoped it would be and more. You drive into the gates and there’s a tour bus, a Maserati, and horses. And then it’s a mini festival right there in a little western town (built for a film) on his working ranch. All the drinks are free, there are disco balls in the trees, a tattoo artist in the VIP area (almost did it!), and four very different stages with great staggered lineups.
Finally saw Margo Price there—her rendition of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane” was spiritual (and on the tiny 50-seater chapel stage no less), as was The Preservation Hall Jazz Band—stunningly perfect. Nathaniel Rateliff, Nikki Lane, Ruby Boots, Josh Ritter, Hiss Golden Messenger, Kurt Vile & Willie himself. Next time, we’ll get there right when it starts and kick it for the whole dang day. It was perfect.
Brooklyn Country Cantina: We showcased here, but this has consistently been one of our favorite SX parties. Held at Licha’s Cantina, there are two stages. A couple years ago we saw our two favorite SX performances there: Tall Tall Trees and River Whyless & this year we saw The Deer (insane cover of ‘Walking in Space’) & fellow NY buds The Brother Brothers.
SXSJ: South By San Jose. Venue along South Congress, just a few blocks from the bridge (where all the bats famously live). It’s an outdoor stage with vendors (free Topo Chico yessss). Saw and really enjoyed both Caroline Rose & Mt Joy.
IN CONCLUSION: Wherever you are, go see live music. And go see the artists you’ve heard of, but also the artists you haven’t! The whole reason SXSW started in the first place was because some folks in Austin believed in their music scene and wanted to bring the rest of the world to their city to hear the artists there. The Capital Region is teeming with artists worth your time. Don’t wait for someone else’s stamp of approval.
Love, The Sea The Sea