Vancerts at Luxeartagency during SXSW in Austin Texas
Credit: Julia Mason

SXSW: The Flip Side Part 1 – Vancerts at Luxeart Agency

There is so much more to Austin during SXSW than the official showcases. The unofficial and unaffiliated gigs have grown exponentially since the festival started in 1987. Arguably this gives an opportunity to get a more intimate experience in unusual and quirky venues. This year, quite by accident, I discovered Vancerts at Luxeart Agency on South Congress Avenue. It happened to be on my route into the city so as the music started at 1pm it was an obvious place to break the journey – and I’m so pleased I did.

Luxeart Agency, Austin, Texas
Artist Credit: Sissy Banks

The Backstory
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and as the pandemic took hold casting a shadow over the world of live music David Castro faced the challenge head-on. His response was Vancerts, a mobile production unit. David saw social distancing as an opportunity to harness the energy of innovation. A 2500-watt generator became the heartbeat, pumping life into unconventional stages and transforming ordinary spaces into musical sanctuaries. A van and a mobile stage, equipped with professional-grade audio gear, became the vessel of musical liberation. Every note played, every unconventional venue transformed was a deliberate stroke on the canvas of Austin’s music scene. Vancerts is a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and the visionary spirit of David.

Luxeart Agency is a dynamic artist collective which transformed a building in South Austin into a creative haven that has become a vital part of the city’s artistic landscape. Stepping into this vast warehouse space you knew this was something special. The space was sprinkled with art and combined with Vancerts, a week of sets by all genres of artists were set to perform.

Day One was a take-over by End of the Trail Creative run by Kelly Munroe, including some of the bands he manages. Chavez Cartel, Hollows, Vigilantes and The Peevie Wonders took to the stage in these gloriously quirky surroundings.

I took the opportunity to interview Hollows from Manchester, UK before they took to the stage and began by asking them…

What are your expectations for SXSW?
I think for three of us, it’s just a good opportunity to play out of the UK, to see what shows are like somewhere else. I think we came in with the expectations of the minimum, of just like, do what we can and already since we’ve been over in the States we’ve picked up three more gigs while we’re here, we’re doing two or three a day. We just wanted to get out here and just play as much as possible.  That’s the only thing we wanted to do and we can do, it’s what we’re here for.

And how many how many gigs have you lined up for SXSW?
We’ve got eight! So today we’re doing two, and that was all last minute, then two tomorrow, one Wednesday, two Thursday and one Friday.

What music have you released to date?
We released singles for a long time.  We’re currently working on an EP with Revolver Records, that’s who we’ve signed an EP deal with. We’ve been in the studio quite a bit before coming out. It was a kind of last minute dash before we came out to book some gigs back home so we could air the new songs. So the EP should be coming out in June and the first single ‘Talons‘ will be out 5 April. It’s exciting times as well like recording for us because it’s the first time we’ve ever done an EP, you know, because, you know, nowadays things are expensive. So being able to do that. It’s so exciting.

And when did Hollows form?
Well before Jack joined in 2020, I (frontman Sean) wanted to start a band. But a lot of the time it was just me. I got friends to record some of the early stuff and then early in 2020 we had the proper line-up. It was the worst time to join as well. Jack (bassist) did one gig then everything shut down. He was in the band for nearly two years and only played once!

I think the thing about SXSW is that there is still opportunity, even if you play to a quiet room. I’ve learnt from other bands that it can maybe lead to more gigs as you’ve already learnt.
Yeah, there was The Great Escape Festival last year in Brighton and we played one room that had about five or six people watching. One person was from ASBO magazine and they’ve been amazing. They’ve come up all the way to Manchester from down south to come and watch us play. So here we’re kind of treating it like that, aren’t we? It took us a while, I know everyone gets their head down if you turn up and you’re playing to bar stuff but since we kind of went you know what we are going to play the gig that we came to play, and we’ve really seen a massive positive from that, you don’t know who’s in the room. And, you know, even if there is two people those two people have come to see you so you want to give them everything.

Another band I took the opportunity to speak to on the day was Do Nothing, and the conversation opened with the memory of participating in SXSW during lockdown when they livestreamed from a vast studio in 2021.

Is this the first time playing in the States?
I think we’re been waiting to do it for ages. And I think it was only out of like bad luck with the pandemic and stuff that we haven’t done it sooner, I guess. I hope I think anyway, so. Yeah, it’s always been something we’ve wanted to do. You’ve got to do it if you can. It’s a rite of passage. So yeah, it’s good to be here.

So what is the expectation coming for bands coming to Austin during South by Southwest? How do you approach it?
It’s a good way to showcase your music to a large audience who congregate in one area. We have a lot of city festivals in the UK, which are good for that same reason. Locates everything in a central part of the country so as many people as possible to cram into and the fact that so many bands that play and so many people attend, it’s a great thing for bands in general.  Also Austin is like the live music capital of the world, I heard someone say.

Are there bands that you hope to see here as well?
Humour who are friends of ours, also Divorce, and Chartreuse from the Black Country, just outside Birmingham. They put an album out at the end of last year that’s really great. It’s really well produced kind of art poppy, the sort of stuff that’s really unique for a UK band. We’ll probably go and see Omni as well.

And in terms of Do Nothing, have you new music coming out?
We released our debut album Snake Sideways in June last year and then we toured it in the latter part of the year, so now we’ve been writing, and we’ve started playing some of the new music live. It’s good to figure out how it’s gonna work and it’s coming off pretty well so we’ve got lots of stuff to work. We’ll be getting some stuff out as soon as we can, it’ll be less of a wait than last time.

And when you go back to the UK have you gigs lined up for the summer?
Yes we do! We’re playing Ritual Union in Bristol, and In Colour in Leeds in May. Also Y Not festival and Victorious festival. Really looking forward to them. We love playing those big festivals.

I also dropped into Vancerts at Luxeart Agency on the second day and was rewarded by a thrilling performance by California’s Buzzed Lightbeer. The garage punk trio shredded and this was exactly the way to start the day, getting the energy levels up! They were followed by Teenage Sequence and Strawberry Launch, a gloriously eclectic mix of artists performing in a stunning location supported by professional backline and David on the sound desk. The moral of the story is to hunt out the unusual. You will be rewarded.

Credit: Julia Mason

For more information on Vancerts please check out their website.

For more information Luxeart Agency please check out their website.

Fore more information on End of the Trail Creative please check their website.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.