SXSW's Class of 2008: Where Are They Now? (w/VIDEO)
My first true SXSW with the Houston Press and Rocks Off was way back in March 2008, when I was given a wristband to explore/maraud Austin looking for trouble and new bands. This was a time when Justice and MSTRKRFT were what would be called EDM now, and Israel's Monotonix was flipping every wig in town.
Photo by Craig Hlavaty Monotonix was a monster hit at SXSW '08, beginning a touring career that would include Dumpsters, sweat and minor bone breakage.
R.E.M.'s Stubb's gig that year was more than likely the band's last ever in Texas, and I seem to remember walking in during "Bad Day" and leaving after getting my five minutes with them.
Five years later, we're staring down appearances from Prince (maybe), the Flaming Lips, Iggy & the Stooges, John Fogerty, Green Day, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and other biggies. Honestly, the smaller acts are an afterthought.
The acts that Rolling Stone chose in 2008 as its "ones to watch" that year included Kid Cudi, Los Campesinos!, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, These New Puritans and The Whip. Today only two, Cudi and Campesinos!, are still on anyone's radar.
But a lot of others were gaining steam that year.
Spinner has a great piece on the history of bands breaking big at SXSW, like the time that dude from the Highwaymen, Johnny Cash, got to play Emo's. They even let him hang out backstage with the bands and everything.
Perusing the hefty list of 2008's artists, I picked out some of the notables that stuck around longer than the rest...
Brooklyn's MGMT was just then touring behind their Oracular Spectacular, little knowing that about a million bands would be biting their "ah yeah man gee wiz" sound for the next half-decade. I am pretty sure I was at this little Urban Outfitters showcase because I have a sordid past.
At this point Adele's debut 19 was just over a month old, and the lead single "Chasing Pavements" was still a minor hit. Amy Winehouse had owned SXSW the year before, so Adele seemed to fit that same mold for most critics.
Flash-forward five years, and Adele's follow-up 21 has sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone with minimal touring and touched nearly every demo available. Adele herself has sung the Oscar-winning James Bond theme "Skyfall," had a kid, and is just now working on a third disc. As for Winehouse, she's now a cautionary tale and the newest member of the 27 Club.
The Black Keys
The Keys actually played a SXSW party for Village Voice Media (Rocks Off's parent company at the time) at La Zona Rosa with ...Trail of Dead, The Cribs and Soundtrack of Our Lives. In 2013, you can hear the Keys' music on TV almost every five minutes, they have tons of awards in their cabinets at home and they are easily one of the biggest capital-R rock acts touring these days. Meanwhile, Rocks Off and the Houston Press are part of Voice Media Group.
And to think they were playing day shows in 2008. The video above also presaged the next five frat years of the band's life. WOOOOOOOOO!