And now we return to normal life in Austin, when the hour-plus wait in line is for a barbecue trailer, a "special guest" is the competitive beard your neighbor is growing out, and the Boss wants you to get back to work.
But we are not quite done with South by Southwest 2012. Our music team put off their post-fest naps and laundry long enough to come up with their favorite moments from five days of music, parties and spectacle.
— Sharon Chapman
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at ACL Live. The biggest set of the week was a raucous, nearly three-hour show from Springsteen with guest appearances from Jimmy Cliff, Eric Burdon, the Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely, as well as an emotional tribute to late sax player Clarence Clemons.
The Alabama Shakes "Austin City Limits" taping. The rock and soul outfit lived up to the wild amount of hype trailing them into the festival. Led by super-charismatic lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, the Shakes delivered an emotional set that left the crowd shocked by what they had just seen.
2:54 at the British Music Embassy. British sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow, who play a moody brand of rock that draws on British shoegaze and American underground rock, weren't complete unknowns going into the fest, but they will definitely have more fans going out.
The Roots at Mohawk. The Philadelphia hip-hop group launched a full-on assault of funk, soul and rock 'n' roll, with outstanding versions of their original material, knock-you-on-the-ground covers including Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" and wild tuba solos.
Matthew Dear at Club DeVille. A revelation and a great example of listening when a friend says, "You need to see this." With a full band, Dear blends the most immediate aspects of LCD Soundsystem's rock/dance fusion with vintage acid house — a blast.
Sharon Van Etten at Mohawk. Overwhelming, powerful, intimate and rockin'. She is a star of a very refined order.
Unholy Two and Puffy (deleted) at Beerland. Two blasts of Midwestern noise rock. Excellent bands that don't tour ‘round the these parts enough.
Deerhoof at Mess With Texas. I have seen this band live many times. They have been bad none of them. Not once. A punk institution we take for granted.
Panels. Being on a great panel on the importance of regional music scenes reminded me that the SXSW panels are still deeply valuable and a little underused with so much stuff to do during the day.
Deborah Sengupta Stith
Blitz the Ambassador. Backed by an incredible six-piece band that includes a bombastic horn section, the rapper from Ghana via Brooklyn drops complex, rapid-fire word science with the passion of a man on a mission. It's as if he's convinced that by spreading the wisdom of his transcontinental journey he can somehow change the world. He makes you want to believe he's right.
Spoek Mathambo. Like some kind of new school George Clinton conjuring the coming of a second, significantly more sinister mothership, the South African DJ/producer/rapper makes music that's unlike anything out there. He creates a terrifying vortex of noise — a saxophone groans through an eerie feedback loop, a keytar wails unsettlingly, Mathambo raps maniacally in the midst of it, a mad scientist of sound. It's disorienting. It's baffling. It's weirdly irresistable.
Kosha Dillz Oy Vey day party. Tucked away on a small patio next to a high-dollar, radio-sponsored hip-hop bash, this low-key party featured a bill of great indie artists and an awesome vibe. Kosha himself was an affable host, A couple cats from North Carolina threw down a throwback jam while rocking the Gumby hairdos and San Francisco trip-hop artist Ducky was downright adorable, performing in a strapless bikini top and singing while a pair of interpretive dancers moved behind her. No attitude. No braggadocio. Just fun. Loved it.
The Heavy. Mean-spirited, snarling rock and soul firmly planted on the wrong side of redemption, their music makes you want to do bad things. And sometimes that feels good.
GZA featuring Grupo Fantasma and Brownout. Who was the genius who thought of this perfect combination? Grupo's horn section brought GZA's beats to life, creating a funky new hybrid act. GZA even told the enthusiastic crowd at the Haven, "The chemistry is lovely." Saturday's performance was a testament to what happens when artists take risks. It was a prime way to bid farewell to SXSW. Some magic was created with this collaboration, and GZA promised future shows together.
La Vida Bohème. Watching these Venezuelan rockers on stage does something good for the spirit. Their shows throughout the week — including at Maggie Mae's, an NPR show and at Soho Lounge — had festivalgoers buzzing. They gained fans, too, with their rock anthems, ingenuity and energizing stage presence. Let's hope their first time in Austin is not this dance punk rock band's last.
Juanes. From his official SXSW interview (where he played two acoustic songs) to his show at ACL Live, Juanes treated festgoers to a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience. This Colombian rock legend pours his heart out on stage every time and charms fans with his humility and thoughtful musical approach. His presence at this year's SXSW marks an important step forward for the presence of Latin music at the festival.
Astro. I knew these Chilean electro rockers were going to be good during their live shows because the rumors had swirled around Latin alternative circles. But I wasn't expecting such a hig-quality live performance. They shot up to the top of my SXSW favorites, with creative, bold and fresh music. Before they left town, I told lead singer Andrés Nusser not to forget about Austin when they start touring more in the U.S. He humbly said they would not.
Doomtree. Five MCs, two DJs and two nights of the most exciting performances I've seen in almost two hands worth of SXSW festivals. When hip-hop is done this way — with talent, passion and complete trust between members — it's the most invigorating music there is.
Latyrx. This underground rap pairing has been idle for so long that seeing Sasquatch in the flesh seemed more likely a prospect, but Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truthspeaker were on funky fire the entire time. They've still got it, and after 15 years away, more music is due soon.
Theophilus London. He turned La Zona Rosa into a party pit on the fest's first night, going from straight R&B to rap to electro and doing all of it with loads of theatrical flair and panache. New material has much more bottom end and bounce, which seems to serve him well.
Delta Spirit. A short, mostly acoustic set outside at the Spotify House drove home that these California pop-rockers are first-rate songwriters and have a way with telling stories that connect with universal but personal themes. And new song "California" will crawl inside your head and live there for a month.
1. (Tied for best moments) French band Gush shaking everybody awake at the Bureau Export day party Wednesday with fiery, eclectic rock ‘n' roll and brilliant four-part family vocal harmonies and managing to catch them again the very same night at the Mohawk, where they were even wilder.
2. Chicha Libre's fantastic cumbia version of the Clash's "Guns of Brixton."
3. The dBs' reunion, which didn't sound like a reunion — just a great band playing cool new songs.
4. Hearing Dr. John tell stories and rewrite the English dictionary at the listening party for his fascinating new album.
5. Joe "King" Carrasco & the Crowns making middle-aged people dance as unselfconsciously as 3-year-olds at the Dog & Duck.
6. The Darkside Daddy playing the Flamin' Grooves' "Shake Some Action" on KOOP radio Saturday afternoon, just when I really needed a jolt of inspiration to get me out the door and through the last day of SXSW.
Alabama Shakes. So great to catch a young band on the rise and one that demolishes the expectations surrounding it. The real deal.
‘Big Easy Express.' Who knew the LBJ lawn at the University of Texas was the perfect setting for a mini-festival? The camaraderie between Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show was captured in the documentary that followed their train tour last year. That friendly, hippie musical vibe spilled out from the screen through the 8,000 people gathered Saturday night for what felt like the best backyard party, drive-in and "Austin City Limits Music Festival" rolled into one.
The Boss. I missed the ACl Live show (why, why didn't I get in line for standby?), but it was pretty magical standing about 20 feet from him while he performed with Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely and more at the Austin Music Awards. And I'm telling everyone I know to watch his funny and inspiring keynote from the next day, archived at npr.org.
Woody Guthrie. I showed up early to get a seat for the keynote and did not expect to be so moved by Eliza Gilkyson and Jimmy LaFave singing Guthrie songs in the hour before Springsteen spoke. I wasn't the only one with misty eyes when they were joined by Juanes for "This Land Is Your Land."
John T. Davis
1. Jazz chanteuse Kat Edmonson scat-singing with Asleep At the Wheel frontman Ray Benson in a torrid version of "After You've Gone" at Benson's birthday party show at the Rattle Inn on Tuesday.
2. Bruce Springsteen and Joe Ely sitting in with Alejandro Escovedo at the Austin Music Awards. "Is there another guitar player in the house?"
3. Eric Burdon, of the Animals, romping with Springsteen and the E-Street Band through "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" at ACL-Live ... this, after Springsteen jokingly said Burdon and the band "were considered to be one of the ugliest groups in all of rock ‘n' roll" and during a tribute to the Animals in his keynote speech earlier in the day. They were united on-stage that night through the magic of what the Boss called "The Tweeter-verse." "What are the odds?" he marveled.
4. Tom Morello, the self-appointed "Pied Piper of folk rock," leading the crowd inside the Swan Dive outside to join the activists and protestors on Red River Street watching Morello's set on a makeshift screen, and then rendering a big 2 a.m. singalong alfresco version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
Brian T. Atkinson
1. Terri Hendrix on Friday at G&S Lounge. Hendrix's fierce ("I Found the Lions") and fiery folk ("Slow Down") handily overcame roaring rock ‘n' roll next door. Perfect.
2. Joe "King" Carrasco on Friday at the Dog & Duck. Arrived well early for the Gourds. Lucky break. Carrasco's wild theatrics made for an epic beach party.
3. Lucero on Thursday at Waterloo Records. The Memphis rockers keep elevating their game. Extra points for the Townes Van Zandt nod ("Hey Darlin', Do You Gamble").
4. Matt Harlan on Saturday at Guero's. Harlan's a true rising talent. The Houston-based folk singer absolutely captivated his corner amidst all the South Congress bustle.