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Buzz to the Future: 19 Classic South by Southwest Sets Before Artists Became Stars

on March 11, 2019, 5:48am
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Lisa Loeb

Lisa Loeb

Year at SXSW: 1993

Year of Breakthrough: 1994

Lisa Loeb’s rise to prominence famously came with the help of her apartment’s proximity to Ethan Hawke’s, which helped her land eventual Billboard #1 “Stay (I Missed You)” on the Reality Bites soundtrack in 1994. Before she topped the charts, Loeb was a SXSW regular; according to a 1998 retrospective in the Austin Chronicle, Loeb attended the conference every year from 1991 to 1994 and made her first connection with Geffen A&R rep Jim Barber after one of her showcases in 1993. Loeb summed up her early days at the festival with three words familiar to any would-be rock star: “Shameless self-promotion.”

[Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Lisa Loeb Shows]

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Hanson

Hanson

Year at SXSW: 1994

Year of Breakthrough: 1997

Although they built their reputation on their image as fresh-faced, non-threatening children of the Oklahoma corn, the Hanson brothers weren’t above a little light trespassing in their quest to land a major-label contract. The boys behind “MMMBop” crashed SXSW in 1994, staging an unscheduled a capella performance at the conference’s annual softball game that caught the attention of their soon-to-be-manager, who went on to help them land a contract with Mercury Records. Reflecting on their musical skulduggery with the Austin American-Statesman more than two decades later, eldest brother Isaac Hanson remembered an even more pivotal fact about the day: “One of the other things I think is really, really important to talk about, with regard to the baseball diamond story, is the fact that I had never had proper Texas brisket in my life. And there was free barbecue at the baseball diamond. And I’m like, ‘OK, this is amazing, and I want this, for the rest of my life.’”

[Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Hanson Shows]

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Blink-182

Blink-182

Year at SXSW: 1996

Year of Breakthrough: 1999

The poster for this show featured a deranged rabbit skanking on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol. If that wasn’t already a criterion for inclusion on this list, it should be going forward.

[Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Blink-182 Shows]

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Spoon

spoon ga ga ga ga reissue anniversary Buzz to the Future: 19 Classic South by Southwest Sets Before Artists Became Stars

Year at SXSW: 1996

Year of Breakthrough: 2007

It’s hard to get a do-over in the world of music, but hometown Austin rockers Spoon managed to pull it off. During this early appearance at SXSW, they were a month away from releasing their Matador debut Telephono, a record that helped them get signed to Elektra, where they released A Series of Sneaks, which helped them get … dropped from Elektra. Somehow, they rebounded, though; a fruitful partnership with Merge eventually led them to a run of three Billboard Top 10 albums spanning 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (No. 10), 2010’s Transference (No. 4), and 2014’s They Want My Soul (No. 4). Their return suited their status as unlikely local heroes; the band resurrected the beloved (and bygone) Emo’s for a three-night curation residency in 2017.

[Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Spoon Shows]

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of Montreal

of Montreal

Year at SXSW: 1997

Year of Breakthrough: 2007

Kevin Barnes doesn’t have much use for his band’s early work these days; after the band’s veer towards indie disco in the late aughts, the of Montreal frontman disavowed all material recorded before 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic during a 2011 interview with Pitchfork‘s Larry Fitzmaurice, saying that “what might have attracted somebody in the beginning is not really there anymore” and “I closed the book on that period of my life and moved forward.” Personal growth aside, that remains a real shame, especially given the enduring strength of the ’90s psych found on records like 1999’s The Gay Parade and 1997’s Cherry Peel. Maybe that’s why this particular SXSW set holds such retroactive appeal; we’d give just about anything to hear “In Dreams I Dance with You” live one more time.

[Buy: Tickets to Upcoming of Montreal Shows]

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