First things first: Despite its connections to the famous festival, SXSW V2V isn’t about music. It’s about entrepreneurs coming together to talk innovation—the kind that kick-started the Austin, Texas, fest that has become synonymous with the world’s best up and coming musical talent. So the expectation that V2V might foster appreciation of music is understandable. It was disappointing, then, that there were only 50 or so people at Backstage Bar & Billiards during the busiest parts of the conference’s 5-hour showcase Tuesday night.
The first band, Tashaki Miyaki, went on at 9:30 p.m., playing lo-fi beach-gaze to a scattered crowd of about 20 that casually listened at its convenience. Similar to the likes of Beach House and Yuck, Miyaki’s set was a dreamy-pop pleasure disguised by grungy effects—their sound driven by the multi-talented lead singer/drummer’s smoky vocals and rhythmic pounding. Later in the set, she subtly commented on the empty room, thanking the few who were actually listening.
The next band was Nightmare Air, a Silversun Pickups-meets-Joy Division experiment, which brought in the largest crowd of the night. “Are we loud enough?” lead singer Dave Dupuis asked, joking. Unfortunately, the band was so loud that the audience cleared out by the end of the set.
And the volume issues continued with Chain Gang of 1974. I’m not sure why lead singer Kamtin Mohager insisted during sound check that the volume verge on maxed-out, but the sound was so loud it made the synth heavy, new wave-rockers’ set almost un-listenable. Thankfully, Kisses, the final three piece of the night took us all down a notch with their cheeky and tropical Euro-pop. Whether singer/guitarist Jesse Kivel’s humor is really that dry or his lackadaisical banter was the result of having to play to a near-empty venue after midnight, I’m still unsure. “I really appreciate you guys coming out tonight,” he said to a small, enthusiastic group of fans gathered in the front. “I can see you. I’m not blind. Start the song.” Still, Kisses stuck out as one of the best of the evening.
Closing the night at 1:30 a.m. was the only band not from LA, locals Rusty Maples, who were joined by Chani Riiell Leavitt and Summer Soll of Vegas-based Dusty Sunshine for the night’s final number. Musically, the SXSW V2V showcase was diverse and generally enjoyable, but sound issues and poor planning made a night that should have been about discovering new music drag on for way too long—not just for the few attendees but the bands, as well, who probably expected something of a crowd for a show with SXSW in its title.
This is the first time the V2V conference has been held in Vegas, and organizers still have kinks to work out. Perhaps the evening would have faired better if the show had been at the Cosmopolitan, where V2V was held. Had attendees been able to stay on property, rather than take a shuttle Downtown, everyone might have had a better night.