Northside vs SXSW

There has been plenty of SXSW talk already, the talent/brain drain from the city this week has been noticeable, but that’s ok, we’ll all be hitting 3 or 4 shows a week again before you know it.

Whilst the circus in Austin comes to a climax this weekend, as winter coughs out its last dying breath over here, our thoughts will slowly start turning towards the Summer, and that includes our own sort-of-SXSW, the Northside Festival.

SXSW strikes me as too much of everything: 2000+ bands, 800+ interactive sessions, who-knows-how-many-films. Not to mention crossing a line of decency by having Coldplay… Cold-fucking-play, in Austin this year. I need a defibrillator and 50ml of adrenaline STAT just for writing those words (I digress, they can have whoever, they want, of course). The headlines and buzz parties set against the myriad of tiny showcases on paper seem more akin to the economic inequality gap that runs through the country. The haves and have nots. The army of roadies and plush backstage vs the 15-minute set without soundcheck and a wilted taco. To a certain extent, this analogy is reflected in the price of attending each festival, with SXSW music badges starting at $625 and wristbands costing $225, you can pick up a Northside music badge for $65, or you can go a la carte if you like.

Northside better understands the balance between bands and artists at various stages in their careers without alienating anyone (including fans). Whilst it’s early doors for the lineup this year, a quick browse through their 2013 lineup speaks for itself in that regard. They’re shooting for bands that will maybe go on to fill venues with a couple of thousand, not playing host to bands who can already command ernomo-domes. It feels like a magnification of Brooklyn, a month squeezed into a week. Yes there is sponsorship, of course, and SXSW already rode that gravy train into next week, and who knows, maybe Northside will outgrow itself in a few years and we’ll be complaining about it, but right now it certainly retains its mostly DIY cred, almost embarrassed to be visible at all for most events.

SXSW is a bloated monster that takes over Austin once a year, Northside is smack bang in the middle of summer, competing against a myriad of other things happening across the boroughs at the same time, maybe that’s why it’s a bit more relaxed. There’s an air of normality for New Yorkers and you can play the game at your own pace, especially as the whole festival is concentrated into what is, for all intents and purposes, a walkable area of Brooklyn (even though it’s an hour commute there and back for me, and I live in Brooklyn!).

There will no doubt be more bands announced to play Northside that were also at SXSW, but the initial lineup of bands shows only four: Big UpsEagulls, MAS YSA and White Mystery. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, too many festivals and events seem to regurgitate the same bands over and over again.

There’s a danger of becoming too insular and having a “why would you ever leave New York?” attitude, but when it comes to shows… we got this.

We’ll be updating our dedicated Northside page regularly, so be sure to pay attention!

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