Inside Look at Online Concerts with Some of SXSW 2021’s Musicians

LiLi Xiong, Staff Writer

On a normal year, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an iconic time for musicians and music lovers. This year, however, the festival’s organizers were tasked with recreating the hype of live music in a virtual setting. Through an online platform, attendees could tune in to showcases and events throughout the week of March 12-20. There were networking opportunities and a live chat feature to message other members of the audience, allowing attendees from around the world to share the experience. 

Sydney Wright is a local Austin artist and sound engineer who works on a wide range of pop. Wright’s latest album, “Seiche”, has been out since 2018, and she plans on releasing a new project soon.

“It’s a coming of age, coming into the world collection of songs,” Wright said. “I’m glad that a lot of supporters helped me put that out, and I’m looking forward to the next one because I have this whole new collection of songs.”

Wright was supposed to perform at SXSW last year, but it got cancelled due to COVID-19. During previous years, she worked as a sound engineer and had a few shows as an unofficial artist. 2021 was her first year as an official artist.

“Since almost all of the performances were pre-taped, it gave you a chance to make sure that your sound is good and that you look really nice,” Wright said. “You don’t get that at South By ever. It would usually be rushing band after band on stage and not having anything extra. It’s really hard to do your best when you’re in front of people that might matter. These were different circumstances, and it allowed a lot of freedom for performances.”

Mimi Bay is an 18-year-old pop singer-songwriter from Gothenburg, Sweden. She started recording music in her bedroom studio and posting YouTube videos, and has since released a ukulele-based EP titled “I Will Be Okay” and several other hit singles, including “No Doubt.” This was her first year performing at SXSW.

“I wrote ‘No Doubt’ in the fall of 2020, a few months after graduation,” Bay said. “Fresh out of school spending my days making music in my studio apartment made me feel a little disconnected from the outside world. My friends starting university and new jobs — and this pandemic on top of that — made me doubt where I was going and wondering how I was going to get there…SXSW was fun and interesting. I’ve never attended the festival before, so it’s nice to be able to do it from home, but hopefully, this will be the only year it’s online.”

Ley Line is an Austin-based multilingual folk and soul band made up of Lydia Froncek, Emily Basez, Madeleine Froncek and Kate Robberson. The band has toured through Brazil and finds inspiration through their travels around the world. The result is their 2020 album “We Saw Blue,” which brims with dreamy melodies and harmonies. Madeleine Froncek said that the band will be releasing a visual accompaniment to the album in the future.

“When we did our tour in 2017 through Brazil, we had the intention of filming the whole time and hopefully collaborating with other people in making an album with a visual component,” Froncek said. “We wanted a storytelling piece that brings you along behind the scenes of the adventure to see and feel the influences of the music.”

The band has played at SXSW as official artists twice previously. According to Robberson, this was probably the band’s most attended SXSW show as hundreds of people tuned in to watch their performance.

“It was really cool to be able to watch our performance and be a part of the live chat and see in real time people responding to our music and asking questions,” Robberson said.

According to Basez, it was exciting to be able to see who was in the virtual room, including people from big media companies. However, her favorite part of the festival was connecting with other artists.

“South By has been a big experience,” Basez said. “It’s a great festival, there’s lots of potential, but you can obviously experience the opposite end of it, wondering, ‘Where are all these opportunities and guarantees everyone talks about?’ They are rare, but it’s still amazing, and it’s been such a cool festival to connect us with other artists.”