Photo: Sasha Haagensen/WireImage.com
SXSW 2018: Brandy Clark, Mélat, Grupo Fantasma Rock Texas Chapter Block Party
What could be better than great music, food, drinks, and the chance to mingle with creatives from across the music industry on a warm night under the Texas stars? For hundreds of Recording Academy members and their guests, the annual Block Party presented just this opportunity.
Held at the Four Seasons in downtown Austin, Texas, on March 15, the Recording Academy Texas Chapter Block Party proves year-after-year to be one of the hottest parties during SXSW, and this year it didn't disappoint. The party provided a chance for people in the industry from across the country to come together and get to know each other a little better over drinks, food and live music.
"I come to the Block Party every year, this is my third year," said singer/songwriter Vincent Powell. "I come here because I can network with some really talented people that are part of the music business."
"This is my first time here at the Block Party. … The highlight was the connections that I got while I was here," added Amanda Sapp, publicist and KPFT-FM radio station personality. "It's an amazing experience. I got a chance to meet a lot of great people in the industry. I got a chance to meet governors, attorneys. I got a chance to meet a lot of different people who are making major moves in the industry, so it was a great experience for me."
One of the most magical parts about the evening's networking opportunities for attendees was that making new connections often felt a lot like meeting old friends.
"The highlight for me at the Block Party was the networking and the friendship that I've made over this timeframe," said Love Life In Music blogger Veronica Robertson. "[What] I loved the most about is just how personable everyone was to connect with each other. … I loved every moment of it."
For Recording Academy Texas Chapter President David Messier, this is exactly the vibe he hopes the event captures each year.
"This is always a signature event," said Messier. "Outside of GRAMMY Week, this is the other time that members of the Recording Academy from all over the country can come together and hang out."
And while they were hanging out rubbing elbows with peers across all facets of the industry, like any Recording Academy event, live music was still a central element, which is especially apropos in the heart of Austin, a city that boasts the origins of everything from psychedelic rock to outlaw country.
"Being here in Austin, live music is always that beat and that vibe that always brings anyone and everyone together, " said Robertson. "They really encompassed all of that tonight."
Up-and-coming R&B singer/songwriter Mélat was the first performer of the evening, delivering a soulful set that captured the Austin native's ability to blend genres into a unique alternative R&B sound.
For music executive Christopher Williams, who attended his second Block Party this year, Mélat was the standout moment of the evening for him.
"I think one of my favorite acts was actually the opening act … Mélat," he said. "It was soulful, R&B-ish, kind of international sound. She did awesome."
Of course, being in the heart of country music, what would the evening have been without a little country flare? Enter GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Brandy Clark who kicked her set off by rousing the crowd, taking them on a tour though a wide range of what country's all about, from the heel-clicking romps to the breakup songs.
"Brandy [Clark], the country artist, was amazing," said Curtis Rogers, a transportation consultant. "All the artists were amazing, but she really just killed it. The first song out the gate, everyone was moving and dancing and it was just kind of fun. … We're here for the music industry, we're here for the songwriters, we're here for the technicians, everyone, and she really brought it together and said, 'This is what we're here for.'"
To close out the evening, the nine-piece Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma brought down the house with horn-filled grooves and killer beats that had the whole crowd moving until final call.
"The highlight for tonight was [Grupo] Fantasma," said Powell. "When they started playing, I started [dancing]. I think I actually lost a couple pounds when they were playing. It was so energetic."
For those familiar with Austin and SXSW in particular, there couldn't be a better setting for meeting fellow music professionals while taking in the sounds of a diverse group of artists.
"Austin is special because it has deep roots in music and it has deep roots in music because it has a multitude of people who live here who care about local music and local musicians," said Messier. "SXSW is so special to Austin because another 300,000 from the industry come here to congregate and meet one another and hear new music and experience new things. And they come here because it's Austin."
The annual Block Party is the perfect way to celebrate not only Austin, but the rich musical culture of the entire Texas region.
"Texas Chapter is a region," said Messier. "We have a multitude of genres and a diversity of music that we showed you here tonight on stage. We saw young urban music, we saw country music, we saw Latin music. What's better than this?"