Sound: The annual South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, has earned a name for being a launching pad for some of the hottest up-and-coming bands, with thousands making a pilgrimage there to get a glimpse. The new DVD SXSW Live 2007 features just a handful of the bands among the over-1, 400 bands that played at this year's event, and there is a little bit of something for every taste. The mix is extremely eclectic, and the DVD does accurately represent the wild mish-mesh of band that show up every year in Austin. While all 18 performances included on the 125-minute SXSW Live 2007 are solid, only a few truly jump out at you.
Two clubs (The Bat Bar and The Lone Star Lounge) are the main focus of SXSW Live 2007, but there was no specific musical theme to each. The Bravery, Ozomatli, and Bowling For Soup are among the standout performances at The Bat Bar, but for very different reasons. The Bravery added a nice dose of '80s New Wave with it's radio hit An Honest Mistake, while the 9-piece Ozomatli played City Of Angels with an enthusiasm (not to mention incredible musical chemistry) that was missing from some of the other bands that took the stage. Bowling For Soup was the most at ease, even stopping right in the middle of theirs set to declare that they loved an audience member's shirt that read I Heart Lesbians. Polyphonic Spree took the stage donning their eye-catching new military outfits, but the gigantic group disappointed by delivering what could possibly be one of the most repetitive songs of all time.
The acts at The Lone Star Lounge were even more diverse, covering everything from blues to reggae to straightforward rock. Mando Diao delivered both the best song and performance of the entire DVD with Long Before Rock N' Roll. Between the catchy hook, the dual vocals, and gritty charisma, the Swedish natives know exactly what a good song needs. A lot of the other acts on the DVD were not the most enthralling, but Marc Broussard's blues-tinged rock and Lee Scratch Perry's stripped-down dub reggae were pretty hypnotizing. Sure, Perry is older and doesn't do that much physically, but seeing him in his bejeweled outfit (check out the monstrous crystal ball ring) made up for any of that. // 8
Content: The 18 performances were the main feature, and it rightfully takes up most of the DVD's content. It's all one disc, with 2 separate menus for the coinciding clubs. There could have been a lot more behind-the-scenes content that could have been included, but the performances are what attract most people to Austin in the first place. The bonus section includes several artists' interviews, with the fantastic Andrew W.K. conducting them all. While some of the bands weren't the chattiest and didn't reveal anything astounding, Andrew W.K. still did a credible job as the reporter and kept things moving along nicely. // 7
Production Quality: If you've seen the show Austin City Limits, then you'll have a good idea of the camera style used on the DVD. It's thorough if anything, covering everything from bass close-ups to fans' expressions to wide group angles. The crew did offer a well-rounded perspective of each performance on SXSW Live 2007, giving the spotlight to every single bandmember rather than just the frontman. The only time that things went awry was in the Bowling For Soup song, during which time the cameras kept showing one particular lip-syncing fan every 10 seconds or so. It's cool to show the same fan a few times, but after the 5th or 6th time, it just gets tired. // 9
Overall Impression: There is a lot of music on the DVD in the end, and if you appreciate a little diversity, you'll love it. There are some stars in the making, with Marc Broussard almost possessing an earthy Stevie Ray Vaughn vibe. Pete Townshend of The Who even makes an appearance with vocalist Rachel Fuller, although the performance is more of an unplugged one. But for many out there, watching Pete play anything on the guitar is life-changing. The DVD offers a nice look at 2 particular locations during SXSW, and in general the package is an interesting overview. There is so much going on during the festival, however, that it would have been worthwhile to travel to a few more places. Considering there are dozens of venues attached to the event, it would at least have been worthwhile to get a glimpse of a bit of the action elsewhere. There was a decided lack of harder-edged bands at The Bat Bar and The Lone Star, and that's exactly why the crew should have added at least one more venue. Just adding a few more bands like The Stooges or Buzzcocks (who both did perform this year) would have been a plus for a lot of rock lovers out there. // 7