SXSW 2017 Day 1: Shiny, Happy Aussies

Although I am now a veteran of 28 South by Southwest Music Conferences and have a long-time love affair with Austin, TX, I am not one of those who stands on 6th Street, deep in the melee, brows furrowed, and a snarl crossing my lips while I hiss about how Austin and SXSW have changed for the worst. Life goes on. Nothing stays the same. Welcome to the real world.

It's 11am on Tuesday morning and already the pints are being emptied at BD Riley's on 6th Street. Good friend and band wrangler extraordinaire Gretchen Barber is hawking CDs and talking up one of her bands, The Heart Collectors from Australia. Thankfully, the quartet of very sweet people—Kymrie, Mobius, Tristan and Reuben, (try saying that fast a couple of times!)—play a very hopeful, sunny brand of folk pop, perfect for a morning before the proverbial SXSW storm.

It seems the band has taken quite a shine to Austin and has made their last two records here, including their latest, Back to the Garden. Again, they're a band with a positive message and the list of tunes, particularly the covers, tells the story. Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," The Youngblood's "Let's Get Together," Peter, Paul and Mary's "Lemon Tree" are part of the new record and so the band's current set list. They lost me, however, with the cover of "Fields of Gold."

The Heart Collectors are genuinely committed musicians. Their harmonies were tight and the musicianship very respectable. Now, if they'd just work on that song list! And again it was morning, 11 o'clock, the veritable crack of dawn in Austin during SXSW. No guitar shredding or thumping electronics 'til the sun goes down if you please.