I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that South By Southwest (SXSW) had children’s music, but thoroughly delighted when I went and discovered just how kid-friendly those events were. My family and I were only down for two days (Friday and Saturday) so we were unable to catch everything but absolutely loved what we were able to attend.
On Friday we attended All the Children Boogie, the second of three Spare the Rock concerts (the other two being Wednesday and Sunday.) These were not officially part of SXSW but tangential, requiring no wristbands or special passes. In fact they were completely free! Friday’s concert was a David Bowie tribute, each band playing at least one Bowie song in addition to their original works. The concert was held at the Scottish Rite Theatre and had ample seating in the theatre and in the surrounding lounge areas as well as trampoline fun set up in the parking lot and some food trucks (it is Austin, after all.)
With an easy come-and-go atmosphere and plenty of food options and entertainment it was easy to spend the day with the kids at the theatre. It was so child-friendly, in fact, that the back of the program was a colouring sheet and there were tables with extra colouring pages and crayons and snack bars in the lobby and lounge areas. The lineup of performers was as varied as you can imagine, proving that there’s something for everyone within the kindie genre. We enjoyed our old favourites, including The Pop Ups and Lucky Diaz, but found some new favourites as well: my 11 year old can’t wait to check out Rockaroni and Cheese’s youtube channel, and he has a newly reignited interest in picking up his Dad’s drum sticks.
After a quick walk around the State Capitol building, which was walking distance from the theatre, we had a fantastic supper at Chi’lantro and went to sleep early. We were wiped out! We had left Dallas early that morning and once we got to Austin we didn’t stop moving!
Saturday was just as fun. After breakfast from Gourdough’s truck we headed over to Thinkery, Austin’s children’s museum and home to the SXSW children’s events for that day. This was an official SXSW event, Think About Music, hosted by Amazon Music, but to keep it family-friendly they did not require any wrist-bands or SXSW passes, you just had to pay admission to the museum. (Pro tip: your local children’s museum probably has reciprocity with children’s museums all across the country, allowing you free access when you travel.) The museum filled to capacity within twenty minutes of opening, and for the rest of the day they monitored attendance carefully, letting people in on a staggered basis so despite it being a Saturday, and spring break, and SXSW, the museum never felt so full that you couldn’t do anything.
The day was full of multiple events geared toward children of all ages and interests. There was live music, of course, as well as a puppet-making class, two instrument-making classes, a song-writing workshop (those children who participated and stuck around for the show later in the afternoon were invited to help perform it on stage), a tour bus, and so much more. Even when my children were dismantling an old computer in one of the science events of the day Lisa Loeb was conducting an interview in the same room and the Pop Ups were packing up their gear in the back.
We caught The Pop Ups on stage first thing in the morning. Their albums are fun but their live show is better. Their Saturday show was completely different from their Friday show and I was absolutely thrilled to see them bringing back the flannel board! I hope it catches on. Flannel boards are awesome storytelling. They sang songs from their new album, they sang old stand-bys, and they had an underlying story tying the whole show together.
We caught The Not-Its! on stage later in the day. The energy in their shows is legendary and Saturday’s event did not disappoint. They had all the kids dancing and some of the parents, too. It didn’t matter how tired everyone was, their music was powerful enough to get everyone up, moving, and happy.
We chatted with Lucky Diaz during the final concert, who was there to watch his friends perform, and I was struck by how amiable these professional musicians all are. There’s a camaraderie among these performers that is just so endearing. As a classical pianist myself, I see professionals as a bit austere and serious, but there is none of that with kindie musicians. They’re all varied in style, approach, performance, and music, but then so is their target audience, so are all of us.
I spent much of the drive home and the rest of the weekend thinking about my experiences in Austin. (Fortunately returning home from a trip includes lots of laundry and other tasks that are conducive to thinking.) I loved the music, sure, but the benefits of a music festival are so much more than the music itself. After years of listening to disembodied voices coming out of my car’s speaker, it was so great to see the artists in their element again: working it, loving it, and interacting with the children. Kindie artists are soulful, they’re folksy, they’re rock ‘n’ roll. They’re hustling to share their passion with you and to enrich the lives of your children. They’re giant kids themselves who want to be silly and play all day. They’re wiser adults with a message to share. Their concerts include puppets, dancing, improv. They’re so darn endearing you just can’t help but love them. Your kids do, too.
It had been years since I had been to a live concert with my children and it has reminded me of how profound a live experience can be. I think I’m going to have to write an entirely separate post just on why live concerts are important for kids. Until next time, have a little dance party in your living room with your little ones, and check out some of the SXSW music.
I received no compensation in exchange for this post.
Anything I received free was free for the public.