‘Listen Global, Act Local’: A SXSW 2014 Recap

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SXSW, the music festival that turns Austin, Texas, already dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World” into a musical mecca and media frenzy came and went in the last weeks [Ed Note: this is roughly the amount of time needed to recover from the festival…hence the late recap]. At some point in the past, SXSW was a homegrown festival offering 20 shows for $20, but now the official showcases attract literally thousands of musical acts and multi-billion dollar corporations seeking music festival cred and advertising opportunities. Alongside the official SXSW that requires a music badge costing somewhere between $600 to $800, is an unofficial free scene with venues providing spaces for alternative sounds. Although, even massive unofficial parties like the Fader Fort are super commercialized at this point, providing free entry via limited RSVP tactics, free booze, and superstar acts like Rick Ross and Julian Casablancas. Still, it’s possible to find that ray of underground musical sunshine spotlighting blossoming musicians on the come-up in certain parties. The ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ showcase put on by Sol Collective, Conrazón, Kenny Dorhman’s Backyard, and DiverseArts is one of those covert parties flying low on the SXSW radar but hosting a hotbed of talent.

This backyard party presented by The Sol Collective, an organization that intersects art, community and activism, gives exposure to global artists with unique sounds that challenge the status quo and often get lost amid the mainstream corporate-backed acts dominating SXSW. On March 14th in a beautiful hilly space couched in colorful graffiti and local vendors, the carefully curated mix of artists on the bill for ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ came through with a cosmopolitan blend of international musical artistry.

Photo: Barbara Calderón-Douglass

From 2pm to after midnight, the party maintained a consistent offering of artists on the cusp of new and interesting sounds. I showed up as activist-minded artists ‘Quese’ and ‘Nymasis’ performed their conscious hip hop act that set an energetic and charged tone for the day. Later, Oakland-based Panamanian duo ‘Los Rakas’ got everybody live. Their smooth Cali vibes and plena, dancehall, rap musical blend was on point. Electronic First Nation DJ group ‘A Tribe Called Red’ from Canada “headlined” the event in the middle of the showcase right before ‘Zuzuka Poderosa’, along with ‘El Nego Mozambique,’ gave us an intense Brazilian baile funk performance. DJs from the Austin-based DJ collective ‘Peligrosa’ also injected their personal flavors of cumbia mixes in between acts. Peligrosa DJ ‘King Louie’ fulfilled cumbia dance dreams with a chopped and screwed version of Selena’s ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’ track. Ugh it was just so good. Olmeca, Buscabulla, Las Krudas, Scatter Their Own, El Indio/ World Hood, Dre T, Luke Tailor, GTW, Atropolis, Canyon Cody and Precolumbian were also performers at the event.

Photo via Buscabulla Tumblr

Along with the music, vendors like Flores y Canto vintage clothing and radical bookstore MonkeyWrench perched their tents on the sidelines. The event was free, open to the public and all ages. ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ put a community-minded activist twist on what a music festival event can embody. Human rights activist and rapper Olmeca said, “En la oscuridad that is SXSW, venues like the Sol Collective showcase gives us alternative artists a place to shine.” It brought together members from the activist community, those wanting to hear autonomous music unchained from corporatized brands, and the musical artists themselves who need a space to share their creativity. I really can’t wait to see how this event evolves in terms of providing voice and space for this globalist collection of artists and people who make change. Hope to see you next year in Austin at the unofficial SXSW ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ party!