SXSW 2013: Day One

I woke up on Wednesday morning at around 8 a.m because I wanted to get a head start on the day. We left the hotel as a group and went to a local breakfast burrito place to get food and plan how the rest of the day would go. I heard there may be lineups at the Convention Center, so Dan and I made our way down to get them early. We had no issues at all and everyone working was extremely nice and very helpful. Once we got our credentials, it was finally time to venture off to take some photos.

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Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs 

The first day showcase I made it to that week was “Rock On’s Sneakers & Speakers”. The event was hosted by Matt Bonner who happens to play professional basketball for the San Antonio Spurs and he would come out before each artists set and announce the next act that was playing. The main reason for making the trek all the way to Club DeVille that day was to photograph the Ontario native Dallas Green, who was a member of the band Alexisonfire but is now becoming well known for his project called City and Colour. Although Dallas didn’t have his full band with him at the showcase, it was great seeing a fellow Canadian perform all the way in a place like Austin, TX.  He played an incredible acoustic set for the packed crowd enjoying their free beer and grub.

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Dallas Green 

After I photographed a few songs of Dallas’ set, I had to make my way to Scoot Inn for the “Thrasher’s Death Match” showcase on the other side of the city. This showcase was very unique in many ways and it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. When you first entered the show, there was a stage in the one corner but directly behind it was a large half-pipe where tons of skateboarders were all taking turns dropping in. The overall vibe at this showcase was awesome and everyone there seemed to be having a blast. I spent some time trying to photograph the action from beside the half-pipe before I had to shoot some of the bands playing but the sun was in a terrible spot during that time and was extremely harsh, so I worked with what I had.

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Thrasher half-pipe

After spending some time shooting the skaters, I made my way back to the outdoor stage to photograph a band called Trash Talk. I have wanted to cover this band for over a year now, but it has never worked out due to weather conditions or other work getting in the way. There is a lot of hype over this band, and for a good reason. They were very energetic throughout the whole set and the crowd there that day was really into it. It was great being able to shoot them in an outdoor setting in the shade because it allowed me to run a much higher shutter speed in order to freeze all the action, which there was most definitely no shortage of.

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Trash Talk 

After Trash Talk finished up, a band called Wavves played. I personally had never heard of them before SXSW, but they had a great surfer rock type of vibe going on throughout the set and I ended up even recognizing a song. I stayed for a few songs with a few staff members from Blare and got some photos from side stage for the feature.

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Wavves

We went back to the hotel and ordered a few pizzas before I had to go and shoot Schoolboy Q at Fader Fort. We could see Fader from our hotel room and it looked like a really awesome venue. It was a massive tent that had a big stage on one end, a massive general admission floor and then a bunch of random seating at the back with lawn chairs and picnic tables. I began to realize just how special SXSW really was after going from shooting an artist like Dallas Green, to Trash Talk, then Wavves, and then Schoolboy Q all in a span of 5 hours? It was truly an incredible experience being able to take photos of this wide of a variety in such a small amount of time.

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Schoolboy Q

The rumour prior to the show was that Schoolboy Q was going to have a special guest come out for part of the set, but due to multiple rumours, there was no saying of who the mystery guest would actually be. About 3 songs into the set, a track by the name of “Backstreet Freestyle” started to play and the crowd went insane almost instantaneously. Little did they all know, that moments later, the man behind the track himself, Kendrick Lamar, would be taking the stage to rap the whole song. Before SXSW, we had to make a decision of whether or not to cover Schoolboy Q or Kendrick Lamar, because Kendrick had a set directly across the street about 15 minutes after Schoolboy began. Due to lines and photo restrictions, making both would have been almost impossible, so I was very fortunate to have still been able to photograph both artists like we originally wanted too.

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Kendrick Lamar

After all of the commotion at Fader Fort ended, I had a pretty far walk to The Belmont. The next showcase I was covering that day was being put on by Nikon and Warner Music called “The Warner Sound” and they had some pretty incredible bands on the bill. The entire show was being streamed live on the web courtesy of Nikon and it was being filmed using only their new D4 DSLR camera system with multiple lenses in different locations. I wanted to get to this showcase in particular rather early because, like most large night showcases, it would most likely fill up pretty quickly. The venue was really well laid out, featuring a good sized stage with terrific production, along with a patio overlooking the crowd and stage that happened to have an open bar, which I have never heard of at a festival before. I happened to get inside at about 8:30 p.m, which was just in time to catch a band called Skaters, who I was not familiar with but enjoyed shooting a lot.

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Skaters

The Rubens played directly after Skaters and put on a great set. It was awesome not only getting to photograph new bands like these two, but also just being exposed to new bands in genre’s I rarely shoot was also pretty cool.

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The Rubens

The band after The Rubens was a group that I have wanted to cover for quite some time now. Although I am personally not into their music all that much, I have been told that Twenty One Pilots put on a great show from start to finish. The people who told me they were a great band to photograph were definitely not kidding, they showed incredible energy and just looked like they were having a blast on stage. At one point during a song, the vocalist scaled the wall with his microphone that lead up to the patio and ran across the side high-fiving everyone as he passed by, then returned to the stage like nothing had happened.

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Twenty One Pilots

The next group to play The Belmont that night was also a group i’ve been interested in photographing due to the fact they are Canadian. Tegan and Sara is a duo of identical twin sisters hailing from Calgary, Alberta and it was awesome to finally be able to photograph such a great Canadian group so far away from home.

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Tegan and Sara

The last band to play that night was definitely the reason I made my way to the venue four hours early. By the time Tegan and Sara had finished up, the place was shoulder to shoulder from wall to wall, ready to see the band fronted by the pink-haired rockstar Hayley Williams that go by the name Paramore. I have photographed them once before at Vans Warped Tour in Toronto, Ontario in 2011 and all I remember is there being WAY too many photographers trying to shoot them. Due to the video crew that were filming from inside the barricade, they could only allow 5-6 photographers inside at a time due to limited space, which sucked considering there were around 35 of us beside the stage all wanting to get in. I had a good talk with the escort that was in charge of who went in the photo pit and asked him very nicely if I could get in for one of the first few songs because I had to walk across the city to another venue directly after. Once the second song began, he asked one of the gentleman shooting to come out and he let me go in for a song to get my shots. Just goes to show that by simply being outgoing and respectful to people working at concerts and festivals as a photographer can really pay off in the end.

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Paramore

I only got to photograph Paramore for a song, but I didn’t mind. There were a lot of other photographers there who wanted the same opportunity and I had to start my trek over to a bar called La Zona Rosa. The final artist I was able to photograph that day was the rising trap music sensation Baauer who is becoming known worldwide for his hit “Harlem Shake”. Usually photographing DJ’s/Producers can be boring and sometimes the lighting is so crazy that it takes a lot of patience in order to capture any great moments. I ended up being able to get on stage because it was such a small club and the crazy strobes/fog machines were kept to a minimum so I was able to walk away with some awesome images.

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Baauer

After a few songs, I left the club and made my way back to the hotel room to crash for the night. I can’t remember the last time I had walked that much in one day, but just taking in the atmosphere of SXSW on each commute from venue to venue made it all worth it. My first day of my first SXSW experience will be something that I won’t forget for a very long time. Keep checking back for the write ups from the rest of my week at this year’s SXSW in Austin, TX.

– Joel

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