Another showstopping year from the Austin, Texas entertainment bonanza.
Another SXSW has come and gone and it has definitely been one to remember. As well as the usual display of all the best music to keep tabs on for the rest of the year, there were some brilliant films being premiered and some particularly interesting speakers at this year's SXSW Interactive. Plus, there were some major surprises which were, ironically, only to be expected.
Drake performed a surprise set at Fader Fort
First off, there were rumours all over the place that Drake was going to appear for a surprise set at SXSW this year and indeed we weren't disappointed. It wasn't long after Yo Gotti left the stage at Fader Fort on Saturday (March 19th) that the 'Hotline Bling' hitmaker appeared for his OVO Sound set. He wasn't the only one to take to the mic though as several other artists from his new label project including DVSN, Wood$, Majid Jordan and PartyNextDoor also joined him to showcase the Toronto based Warner Music Group imprint. Drake himself played six songs (sadly none of which were his aforementioned hit) such as 'Energy' and 'Know Yourself'.
Former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant returned to the Texas festival at the Austin Music Awards last Wednesday (March 16th), paying tribute to the recently deceased KUT radio DJ Paul Ray and joining Charlie Sexton and Jimmie Vaughan in a set which culminated in the theme for Ray's famous show 'Twine Time' and also included such covers as Coasters' 'Youngblood' and Clyde McPhatter's 'Let the Boogie Woogie Roll'.
Making his SXSW debut was President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle Obama, in what was also to be the first time a US president has ever got involved in a keynote discussion with SXSW Interactive. He went to the Long Center to talk openly about the battle waging between the FBI and Apple over digital privacy and his feelings on the popularity of Donald Trump among other things. Meanwhile Michelle was joined by Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Sophia Bush and Diane Warren to talk about her Let Girls Learn campaign and unveil a new song commissioned for the cause entitled 'This Is For My Girls'. She also took the opportunity to categorically insist that she was not planning to run for president.
JJ Abrams spoke at this year's SXSW Interactive
In fact, SXSW Interactive was a particularly massive arrangement this year. Other high profile speakers included 'Star Wars' director JJ Abrams, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and 'Scandal' star Kerry Washington. There were a number of sessions discussing the potential of a robot-driven future and the Startup Village brought more entrepreneurs and funders than ever before.
Probably the best musical surprise of the event (the Drake rumours were too widespread for his set to really be considered a 'surprise') was Willie Nelson's appearance at the pop-up Spotify House venue on March 13th. Among his set gems were the hits 'Always on My Mind' 'On the Road Again' and 'Whiskey River'. He followed that with his own country event, 2016 Luck Reunion, at his Luck, Texas ranch.
Cage The Elephant brought the house down with their set
Cage The Elephant's surprise show is also worth mentioning, given that it was an intimate house party gig. They played their 2013 US Alternative Chart topper 'Come a Little Closer' as well as tracks from their latest album 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' released in December last year to a small but wild crowd that filled the tiny 'venue'.
When it came to SXSW Film, we were treated to the long-awaited return of Pee-wee Herman with his latest movie 'Pee Wee's Big Holiday'. Produced by Judd Apatow and star Paul Reubens, and directed by John Lee, the film was released as a Netflix Original more than thirty years after Tim Burton directed 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'. So far, critics are pleasantly surprised; who knew such a goofy character still had its place in the modern entertainment world.
Richard Linklater also premiered a new film. 'Everybody Wants Some' is the 'spiritual sequel' to his 1993 cult hit 'Dazed and Confused'. Again, it centers on group of friends trying to navigate a new time in their lives, this time the freedom and craziness that comes with starting college. There's a lot of Linklater's own experiences injected into this comedic pilgrimage and its due to hit theaters on April 8th 2016.
As usual, Mazda + Hype Machine's Hype Hotel showcased some world-class talent. The first day was DIY's session and it was a non-stop array of the best up-and-coming artists including Hinds, Diet Cig and BBCSound of 2016 winner Jack Garratt. Throughout the week - which was sponsered by Mazda - there were also sets from the likes of Bleached, Alex G, AlunaGeorge, SBTRKT and POLIÇA.
Brought to you by Mazda, presenting sponsor of Hype Hotel at SXSW. #MazdaSXSW #HypeON
Hinds performed a stellar set at Hype Hotel