SXSW 2015 – Running Jewels and fighting feels


Well hello there!

I haven’t posted any musical musings on this blog in a long, long time. I chalk it up to a full-time job that has become much more involved over the past year, an impending wedding (2 months and counting!), regular contribution to a publication with a much larger audience than I could hope for, and a general focus on my own self-care rather than hobbies. But I realize that my hobbies are a part of my self-care, since they make me feel tied to the person I want to be – passionate and creative and imaginative.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past week, because 1. I turned 28 on March 16 and 2. I only saw 27 acts during this year’s South by Southwest Music Conference. I realize that to many people, that would seem impressive, and I don’t want to downplay the accomplishment. But I struggled this year, and in a different way than years past where I’d basically just collapse after two days of going really, really hard. This year, I struggled with a depression that took hold halfway through the week, and never fully let go.

Without getting too deep into the inner-workings of my mind (because I’m sure that sounds like fun to about zero people), for clarity I’ll reveal that depression is something I’ve struggled with off and on for years, coupled with a more constant anxiety. About half a year ago, I started to take some medication for this, and it has seemed to help, but because I have to take it with food it is difficult for me to be consistent in taking my pills on the weekends, and especially during SXSW, when I’ll often run out the door after inhaling 3 crackers with peanut butter on them. Perhaps because of this inconsistency, perhaps because of my birthday, perhaps because of a humongous life change staring me in the face — maybe because of a little bit of all of this — I found myself really struggling this week. Music used to be the thing that I’d find solace in, and live music was usually the setting I’d use to forget my troubles for an hour or two. When I first started attending SXSW in 2006, then, it was like a year’s worth of therapy jam-packed into one week. And I didn’t even know about day parties back then!

In the last few years, however, the conference has turned for me. Not completely, mind you — I don’t want to get called out by the SXSWhine Police here. But because I *do* know about day parties now, and because I take my own fashion much more seriously, and because of this damn FOMO revolution, I find that SXSW amps up my anxiety tenfold every year. What if I miss the surprise Prince concert (AGAIN??) or the Kanye + Jay-Z super secret show (AGAIN??) or Ryan Gosling taking one look at me and falling in love and proposing on the spot only to have me say, “Oh, so sorry Ry, I’m engaged!” (AGAI — oh wait this one hasn’t happened at all). What if I don’t look good enough to be used as a “street fashion” person in some trendy magazine? (This has resolutely never happened.) What if it’s raining and I slip on my bike and get hurt or killed? Or what if I just stand next to loud talking douchebags at a show that means a lot to me? (This happens almost always.)

Where I used to be able to transcend these anxieties and just go for it, this year was just a lot more difficult. The rainy weather coupled with the lack of my partner in crime due to his re-broken foot (let’s just not even get into that) sapped me of much of my energy and self-confidence, so that I ended up doing half-days of the conference, and spending the other half in baths or on my couch, trying to distract myself from what I might be missing.

This isn’t in the spirit of what music is for me, and so I want to do my level best to combat it moving forward. I want to accept the new parts of myself that obsess over fashion and try to look #sodope, #sofly, but I want to marry them with the root of myself that can be moved to tears (runny purple mascara be damned!) when the perfect song plays at the perfect moment.

And so, with all of that ado, I want to share with you the best moments of my South By Southwest 2015. Rainy, messy, and crazy though it was, it also gave me some classic unforgettable musical experiences that I’ll be looking back at through rose-colored glasses next year, when I hope to prepare a little earlier and dig a little deeper to get out to more shows. Or not, because sometimes self care is the best thing you can pair with your musical discoveries.


SXSW Interviews at The Horn


Hey Austin Writes Music friends,

I wanted to drop a quick line and let you know that I’ve been doing loads of SXSW preview coverage for the Horn via some incredible band interviews I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. Click on the links to read up on amazing artists from around the world.

White Sea

Band of Skulls

Holiday Mountain

Wye Oak

Carbon Tigers

Lily & the Parlour Tricks

Keep your eye on the Horn and M Music Magazine for more of my SXSW coverage. I’ll return after the madness of March subsides with a round-up of favorite discoveries. Xo, Caitlin

AWM’s Best Albums of 2013


I’ve got plans for Austin Writes Music in the coming year. First, you might notice that the “About Me” page has been updated. I’ve finally decided to declare this my own personal music blog, since I’ve only ever had one other contributor since I founded this thing in 2009 (although she is written into history forever as our fabulous site designer. Thank you, Brittany!) You’ll be getting regular posts once more, with recommendations, reviews, and general music-based musings, and I hope you like all of it. For now, let’s look back at what was truly a stellar year for music, and life in general. I give to you, Austin Writes Music’s Top 10 of 2013. 


AWM is alive! ACL 2013 Preview Post


Hello, my lovelies! I have been absent from Austin Writes Music for far too long, but there”s been good reason. I”ve been spending a lot of time over at my other blog, Rock Love Austin, where we just took a trip to Europe and arrived back just in time for weekend one of the Austin City Limits festival. I”ve also been writing a lot for the Horn, where you can check out an interview I did with ACL Fest band Passion Pit, a preview of my top picks for the festival, and a survival guide I penned, among other things. But Austin Writes Music lives on, and I wanted to make sure I posted up a quick day-by-day artist guide for the acts I think you should see. I kept it very simple this time around – just the artist name, the time they”re playing, the stage, and a video of a song I think best captures their sound. I”ll be back soon with a big festival review; until then, do look over at the Horn because I”ll have rolling daily coverage going up. Thanks for reading, as always, and happy festing!


Maybe I’m Amazed: MACCA in Austin

I don’t know how to write this review. I had five paragraphs written that I trashed, because they had this impersonal sheen to them that didn’t do justice to the glory of a Paul McCartney live show. I’ve been trying to write some heady-but-relatable review that includes anecdotes without being specifically from my perspective, but that’s the thing about absolutely brilliant music. It helps you transcend your everyday filters and the separation you might feel from your core, and really lets you be yourself, in the moment, experiencing all that is happening around you. And when a musician has been performing for 55 years for stadium crowds, it is a safe bet that their live show will reach that transcendence.


Life and Death and Sigur Ros

 Photo from

If you”re a human, which I”ll go ahead and assume you are*, your brain can get kinda funked up with stuff. You can hold strong beliefs that you”re worth something just as you are and then be bombarded with messages from the outside culture that, in fact, no, you need about 100 different products and 6 different diets and even then, you must always strive for perfection and, as Lowe”s has taught us, “never stop improving.” Our standard of “acceptable person” seems to be to basically disappear inside of ourselves like so many black holes while we blind ourselves to the fact that the earth is hurting and we come from it, so we should probably give a shit. Between our high expectations for events and holidays and our own futures, and our crippling self-doubt and anxiety, and some deep-seated guilt thrown in for good measure — it can feel a bit like we”re all just Han Solo trapped in carbonite, but in our own minds. Speaking for myself, I know that every day, I live about 99% of it in a state of distraction. Since mindfulness is hard work and can lead to feeling difficult feelings because, you know, those exist, I just float around outside of myself, barraging myself with criticisms cloaked in the thought that this will be somehow “motivating” when it never, ever is. Turns out, it”s actually self-defeating.

Knowing all of this has freed just a couple of fingers from the carbonite, just enough to hold a tiny pick so I can start escaping my self-imposed prison. The light seems to break through my numbness most of all when I can be in a state of mindfulness, and Sigur Ros takes me to that state every time.


The Recap: SXSW 2013 – Best Year Ever

The goober-est of goobers. Full amazingness here.

When South by Southwest began in 1987 — coincidentally, the year (and week) I was born — it was started as a music industry convention to allow new and up-and-coming artists to be discovered, and to allow journalists and label reps to network. 26 years later, and it has been co-opted by music fans as a giant discovery festival, by college students as a free-drinks-ahoy spring break location, by brands as a cultural capital trade show (giant Dorito’s vending machine stage, anyone?) and by well-established artists as a place to try out new music and simply cause a commotion. Because of this, expectations continue to skyrocket each year, causing many to feel disappointed by their experience. If you want one festival in a wonderful but, admittedly, comparatively small city to be all things to all people, it’s going to get a bit nuts.

Each year, as the festival approaches, I can feel my stress levels rise, getting caught up in the madness with everyone and fearing that I won’t get into the best shows, the most exciting parties. I RSVP to 300 parties (a conservative estimate) and attend about 7. I scramble to listen to as many new bands as possible, and usually end up prioritizing artists I already know I adore.

This year was different. This year, I decided it was time to get in sync with the festival. I managed to scour almost all new artists coming to Austin, and discovered about three dozen I was excited about. As the festival finally arrived, I took a figurative and literal deep breath, and leaned back to ride the wave.


An AWM Guide: SXSW 2013

Gather, my children, and you shall hear — a bunch of really freaking great music in Austin, Texas over the next week. Because I love new music, and because I love my readers, I scoured the SXSW 2013 listings and checked out music clips from over 1,000 bands to pick out my favorites and share them with you. Have a safe, fun, wonderful week, and catch me at the shows below!

Please note: I don’t mention Prince/Daft Punk/Sound City Players (aka Stevie Nicks’ new band) or any of the other huge people, but, duh, read the internet and go to see Prince/Daft Punk/Stevie along with these new favorites.


Free Week Rock – our HAAM benefit review

Because of how wonderful Austin’s community of musicians, photographers, artists, venues and of course music fans are, our Free Week showcase at Swan Dive co-hosted by CoolinAustin went off swimmingly, despite the nasty weather.

From the first note played, y’all filled up the room to make it cozy-warm, and our wonderful representatives from HAAM allowed this Free Week show to stand for something wonderful and give back to the musicians who are devoting their time and artistry to two weeks of face-melting awesome.

The Collection, our only “foreign” band (from Greensboro, NC) kicked things off gorgeously, with haunting harmonies and raucous folk that made me think of some kind of Decemberists-Frightened Rabbit lovechild.

The Baker Family brought incredible energy, pretty melodies and haunting guitar playing, along with their merch table-baby carriage, and were definitely a crowd favorite, as sing/multi-instrumentalist Liz donned her fox(bear? panda?) mask for added theatricality. Plus, they devoted a song to the Collection called “Sharpening the Saw:” “The drive to the mountains seems so far/Making our way back to North Carolina.”

With a lineup change infusing fresh energy into their sound, Your Friendly Ghost sound better than ever, and they treated us to their hits, some new jams, and a killer Radiohead cover that took some guts and a touch of recklessness — exactly what these guys do best. They floored attendees and acquired new fans for their sound and their fury.

Last but never, ever least, the Couch brought fire to a cold and rainy night, and closed things out with a bang. As always, they were raucous, gritty and awesome.

For our silent auction, we raised $200 that will all be going straight to HAAM, and we couldn’t be more thankful. Special thanks go out to Katherine Squier and Pooneh Ghana for donating their gorgeous photos, and to the Alamo Drafthouse for their generous gift card donation.

CoolinAustin and Austin Writes Music Present…FREE WEEK!

While most folks are lamenting the end of the holiday season, Austin gets to stoke itself on another reason it is one of the best cities to live in: two whole weeks of additional gifts in the form of free, awesome live music. This year, we teamed up once again with CoolinAustin to curate a showcase of some of the best local musicians, as well as one group of folksy travelers from Greensboro. We’re back at the Swan Dive for a night of fun, and even more exciting — we’ve teamed up with HAAM to make this a benefit that will give back to the musical community that graces us with their gifts most days of the week.

Since entry is free, we’re hosting a super-cool silent auction with items from the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin photographers Pooneh Ghana and Katherine Squier, and more. All proceeds will go right to HAAM. Doors for the show are at 8:30, with music starting at 9:30. Hope to see you there!

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