Musicians, fans flock to SXSW over spring break

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Cheers Elephant performs March 11 at The Thirsty Nickel during SXSW.

Thousands of fans flocked to Austin for the weeklong music portion of SXSW, featuring huge names in entertainment such as Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg and Coldplay.

Hordes of visitors packed Sixth Street, creating shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic over the week as people flocked to see artists across the Austin area. Roughly 100 stages hosted more than 2,200 artists in the festival’s 28th year.

Coldplay played songs from their new album on the second night of the iTunes Festival March 12 to a full crowd at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The iTunes Festival spanned from March 11-15 and was streamed through the online iTunes store around the globe. Three artists were showcased each night and ticket drawings were held for those who did not have SXSW badges or wristbands. Other performers at the festival included Pitbull, Soundgarden and Kendrick Lamar.

Lady Gaga performed at Stubb’s and garnered audience reactions when she was vomited on by a professional “vomit painter” during her rendition of “Swine.”  The shock factor continued as she simulated sexual acts on a mechanical bull.

Gaga’s fans weren’t the only ones riled up during SXSW. Tyler, The Creator, or Tyler Gregory Okonma, was arrested March 15 on a misdemeanor charge for inciting a riot at his show on March 13, according to the affidavit for his arrest. Okonma urged the crowd inside Scoot Inn to chant “push” repeatedly to those outside of the venue. Eventually, the crowd broke through the fence and people flooded the venue. Okonoma was released on  a $25,000 bond.

SXSW is a time to discover new bands, said Tyler Welsh, vocalist and keyboardist, and Andy Lane, vocalist and guitarist of Driver Friendly, a Houston-based band who played multiple SXSW shows.

“For me, South By is now like Wal-Mart,” Welsh said. “You can find anything you want. If you want Coldplay, you can get Coldplay. If you want to find a smaller thing that nobody cares about, it’s there too.”

Unofficial SXSW showcases were in abundance, ranging from big-name stars to impromptu local sets downtown. Justin Bieber reportedly played a surprise set at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on March 9 with Selena Gomez in attendance. Bieber played an acoustic set that included his hits such as the radio single “Boyfriend.”

Altin Sencalar, Texas State performance sophomore, performed for the second time at SXSW with his horn group the Funknasty Horns at Royal Blue Grocery on Congress. He said the group would definitely be back for SXSW 2015 because the experience was so positive.

“It was nice having our own thing in the middle of downtown where everybody was,” Sencalar said. “All of the attention (is great).”

SXSW is a great experience for music listeners and performers alike, Sencalar said.

“Everybody should go to it once,” Sencalar said. “I think it is a great way to support local venues and just being able to be exposed to musicians out there. Everybody needs to go see live music—it’s a way better listening experience than a CD.”