SXSW is a festival that tries to beat you down like the drip-drip of acid on the blink-blink of an eyeball, and more times than not it succeeds. But if you're able to come out of it alive, you realize just how revelatory it is as a four-day music festival. It's something that expands the horizons of even the most apathetic music listener; and it makes you realize how impossible it is these days to ignore the greatness of what we have to choose from in terms of genre breadth and scope - even though genres are for the most part, the bane of all our existence. Aftermath has never before seen the festival more well-thought-out than it was this year - the lineup allowed us to get a feel for what's tiny, what's small, what's medium, and what's large (and what's Spoon). What made SXSW so successful this year, though, was the fact that almost every single solitary business in the greater Austin area acted as a makeshift venue - at the very least - giving festival-goers options unavailable to them before this year. And even though traveling around the city can take some hardy getting used to, most showcases lasted four or five hours, so the chance to see something great (and probably original) was always there.
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Aftermath has written extensively this week about the champions of the festival, Local Natives, but there were literally hundreds of bands that could be included in the conversation of must see act of the week, and for that SXSW should be commended. For the previous few years, the lineup has been one of minor-league standards, and we assume that SXSW got a clue this year and decided to try and keep up with the Joneses (those being the other yearly festivals with transcendent lineups, particularly Coachella and Lollapalooza) by including acts that, if missed, brought guilt. And even though we had one day of the shittiest weather a Texas spring has seen in many a year, SXSW 2010 was the most outstanding four days of music Austin has seen in more than a decade. Not only that, but the musicians at this year's festival seemed to Aftermath to be much more accessible to their audiences, hobnobbing with the masses long after their sets were through; and whether that has something to do with a general level of shifting kindness or something driven by the lack of record sales due to the economic turmoil of the music industry - Aftermath doesn't really care. Our idols kind of feel like they're becoming less idol and more person, and we couldn't be happier. SXSW, here's to you.