SXSW 2015: SPIN Magazine Showcase feat. Earl Sweatshirt, Will Butler, Twin Shadow, and Courtney Barnett, Stubb’s 3/20/15

photos by Chad Elder | words by Cassie Purtlebaugh | Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Despite the MTV Woodies on Friday, March 20th, the SXSW theme of long lines and packed venues continued on. SPIN hosted a daytime showcase at Stubb’s BBQ that reached capacity by 2 pm — shame on us for running late again, because we missed METZ and Kate Boy.

Thankfully, security graciously let us slip in and we were welcomed by smells of barbecue and sounds of hip-hop. Earl Sweatshirt — an LA rapper who is part of the ODD Future crew — was deep into his set on the main stage, playing to a pumped crowd. The relaxed beats were simple and the song structures were atypical.

Once Earl ended, the crowd migrated over to the north stage in anticipation to hear Texas native Will Butler of Arcade Fire, accompanied by a percussionist and a trio of backup singers. Initially, his guitar was very low in the mix, which left listeners with a rather empty sound. But once the issue was corrected, the music became distinguishable, and widespread influences could be detected as Butler easily pulled from multiple decades the entire set.

Halfway through Will’s set the party hit a bump as it began to drizzle. Since the crowd was growing, I migrated back to the main stage to get a good vantage point for LA-based electropop act Twin Shadow (George Lewis, Jr.).

As the drizzle started to increase, many people pulled out ponchos — and after 20 minutes, those who did not were drenched. People fled to find coverage, which was essentially nil, and many vacated the venue.

When Twin Shadow took the stage with his guitar and backing band, he immediately graced the audience with a sweet soulful voice that hearkened back to ’80s New Wave. Despite the nonstop rain, the crowd danced enthusiastically, and Lewis capped his set by  thanking and praising the crowd for withstanding the elements.

Courtney Barnett, an indie rocker from Melbourne, soon followed on the north stage with a bassist and drummer. At this point Stubb’s was emptying fast, as drafts of wind kicked in to enhance the discomfort. By this point I was convinced I was going to get sick. I chuckled when Barnett thanked the crowd for weathering the rain, admitting that even she wouldn’t stand in the rain for anyone. Her performance, however, made it worthwhile — the presentation was honest, self-reflective, and equally melancholy and humorous. Despite the rain, I was glad I stuck it out.

Chad Elder is a Los Angeles-based photographer who focuses on live music and band portraits. Cassie Purtlebaugh is a writer and musician in Los Angeles.

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