I’m actually not awake — I’m sleeping with my eyes open,” MUNA guitarist Josette Maskin told Billboard the day after the trio arrived in Austin for SXSW 2022 around 3 o’clock in the morning, then headlined the Saddest Factory Records showcase at 1 a.m. that night. “But that’s just South By,” lead singer Katie Gavin shrugged.
After two years without SXSW due to the pandemic, artists like MUNA descended upon the Lone Star State for a week of multiple performances (four shows in three days for the indie-pop trio) and little sleep, in exchange for some extra buzz ahead of busy runs. In fact, the first SXSW since 2019 functioned as something of a hard reset for the long-running fest, as indie artists claimed the spotlight instead of the mainstream party-crashers.
Along with MUNA, who were toting their new single “Anything But Me” ahead of their June debut album on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory imprint, sardonic British duo Wet Leg played to packed rooms, including the Domino Records showcase at Half-Step, and were the word-of-mouth hit of the week. Shows by established indie vets like Perfume Genius and Japanese Breakfast were hot tickets, but so were sets by Brooklyn post-punk band Geese, Texas singer-songwriter Katy Kirby and Chicago noise-rock upstarts Horsegirl, whose guitar fuzz was soaked up by Spoon’s Britt Daniel in the audience of their show at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
Horsegirl, a 2022 priority for Matador Records, took home SXSW’s Grulke Prize for Developing U.S. Act, while British rockers Yard Act earned the Developing Non-U.S. Act trophy after playing a whopping 10 shows in Austin — their first ever in the States. “The hospitality has been extremely welcoming,” said Yard Act frontman James Smith. “Everything is bigger in Texas.” —Jason Lipshutz
Charity Shows to Benefit Ukraine
Almost four weeks after Russia first invaded Ukraine, with more than 900 civilian deaths reported, star-studded benefit concerts are arriving to help support the millions of refugees who have been fleeing the country and those who have stayed.
On Monday (March 21), British television network ITV announced a two-hour “Concert for Ukraine” special which will be held March 29 at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England, with performances from Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello, Emeli Sandé, Gregory Porter and Snow Patrol. Now, according to a one-sheet obtained by Billboard, acclaimed promoter Rob Hallett — founder of AEG UK, current CEO of Robomagic — is planning another benefit broadcast to air March 27 across a handful of European networks.
The Save Ukraine broadcast will run March 27 at 4:30 p.m. GMT, according to the artist deck, with a main broadcast in English from Polish network TVP that will be rebroadcast across a dozen other channels throughout different European countries. The show is also supposed to be broadcast on big screens in “main European squares.”
So far, Imagine Dragons, Fatboy Slim and Yungblud are among the confirmed acts, the deck says. Hallett most recently produced the Ye and Drake “Free Larry Hoover” concert at the LA Coliseum on Dec. 9.
Jane Beese of Roundhouse and Manchester International Factory is also helping recruit talent with an open call for submissions until Wednesday at 8 p.m. GMT. Musicians have options to either record and send in their own performance or to send in a video message to express their support and “encourage people to act and donate.” Other artists, celebrities and influencers are also being asked to submit videos. “If you have any other ideas — please let us know and we will discuss them and help you in any way we can,” the deck says.
The deck lists two main goals: “Show people the reality of what is happening right now in Ukraine, raise awareness and urge people to act and support Ukraine in its most difficult hour,” as well as to “raise funds for humanitarian needs of Ukrainian citizens currently suffering from war.” All donations from the broadcast will be made to the official fundraising account created by the National Bank of Ukraine for the Ministry of Social Policy.
These are just some of the latest of many Ukraine benefit events that the music industry has produced or participated in as of late. On March 11, Riot Fest put two t-shirt designs up for sale, with all proceeds going to the organizations Razom for Ukraine and Revived Soldiers Ukraine. On March 13, Beatport’s livestream fundraiser ReConnect mounted a 20-hour electronic-music livestream benefitting Choose Love’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal. The following evening, Arcade Fire held a last-minute benefit concert at the Toulouse Theatre in New Orleans, with proceeds going to the Plus 1 Ukraine relief fund. And on March 26, stars including Billy Porter, Audra McDonald and Steve Martin are slated to participate in the 10-hour Stars in the House telethon to raise money for victims of the conflict via the International Rescue Committee.
As for the U.K.-focused, March 29 ITV Concert for Ukraine benefit, according to another pitch deck obtained by Billboard, the show is being produced for TV by Livewire Production and directed by Richard Valentine; Chris Vaughan is the live event director of production and Phil Bowdery is the live event promoter. The event lists similar goals as Save Ukraine, acknowledging “whilst there are many things that the entertainment industry is not remotely qualified to help with,” it can still help by raising awareness and to “reinforce simple messages of compassion, solidarity and hope, direct to the people of Ukraine.” The event will also raise funds for the DEC Humanitarian Appeal for Ukraine from ticket revenue and viewer donations, as well as donating “all revenue generated by the ad breaks within the programme,” according to the pitch.
“We believe that this is the first time our industries have come together in this exceptional way,” the pitch says, “and we very much hope that in the spirit of this unique occasion, more and more people and companies will be happy to support everyone’s supreme efforts in trying to make this the most powerful statement of unity with and support for the people of Ukraine, to date.” —Dave Brooks