SXSW Music Fest Highlights 2014

It was an eventful year at SXSW Music Fest 2014. Lady Gaga made headlines for being vomited on; Neil Young challenged young people to get excited about better quality music; and rapper Tyler, The Creator was arrested for provoking a riot. It was also a sombre year due to a horrific drink-drive accident that took the lives of two young music lovers and injured 23 others. Donations for the victims began pouring in from SXSWers, and as of now, over $62,000 has been raised. 


Thankfully, musicians like Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Soundgarden, Kanye West and Jay-Z raised morale and gave stellar, buzzworthy performances that helped to lift the spirits of music fans and festivalgoers.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


Neil Young spoke at a panel this year about his idea for a new, high quality music player called Pono. Young, who dislikes the sound of MP3s and is a fan of records, has created a device that will play music the way the artist intended it to sound. The Kickstarter campaign for the device has already surpassed its $800,000 goal – at the time of writing, the amount was $3.8 million.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Rachel Ray

Rachel Ray SXSW Feedback Party: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


Lady Gaga is never one to shy away from the press, and during her Doritos-sponsored show, she called on artist Millie Brown to vomit green and black paint on her chest – this occurred just minutes after Gaga was pushed onto stage hog-tied to a BBQ spit. In addition to her typical antics, Gaga was a keynote speaker at SXSW, where she defended her concert with the sound bite: “Don’t sell out. Sell in.” She also advised aspiring rockers to stop taking selfies. 


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Kesington Kross

Kesington Kross: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


SXSW Music Fest 2014 also saw Austinite Willie Nelson’s third annual Heartbreaker Banquet take place on his “Luck, Texas” ranch. This year’s all-star line-up included: Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Shakey Graves, Father John Misty, The Wild Feathers, Gary Clark Jr. and Lucius. Nelson’s ranch, located roughly 30 miles outside of Austin, offered a reprieve from the hectic downtown epicentre of SXSW. Partygoers brought their children and danced throughout the country landscape with fellow music lovers.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Cee Lo

CeeLo: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


Sponsorship from large corporations was a hot topic at this year’s fest. As well as Doritos’ Lady Gaga concert, Samsung also hosted a show for its users featuring two hip hop heavyweights: Jay-Z and Kanye West. The duo performed for two hours at The Austin Music Hall, and thousands of fans lined the block for a chance to see the show. Other Samsung concerts included Janelle Monae, Broken Bells and Cut Copy, and Apple also hosted a mega line-up at their iTunes stage, which included: Coldplay, Keith Urban, Pitbull, Imagine Dragons, Soundgarden, and Kendrick Lamar.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Liz

LIZ: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


But remember when SXSW was about the bands outside of the Top 40? The exciting acts caught at small venues without the long lines? Now with well over two thousand musicians playing SXSW, it can be hard to discover new talent, and news of breakout stars is still trickling in. All-female bands September Girls (Ireland) and Charli XCX (England) have been receiving a lot of early buzz, as have Chicago artist Chance The Rapper and British trip-hop trio London Grammar.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Snoop Dog

Snoop Dog: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro


For those looking for a little 80s nostalgia, both Gary Numan and Spandau Ballet performed, the latter showcasing their talents in the U.S. for the first time since 1985. The group also premiered a documentary about themselves, titled Soul Boys of the Western World.


Other noteworthy performances included CeeLo and Blondie at Rachael Ray’s SXSW Feedback Party and Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Snoop Dogg and De La Soul at Fader Fort.


SXSW 2014: Music Highlights | Blondie

Deborah Harry, aka Blondie: SXSW Music, 2014 © Suzanne Cordeiro



Visiting Austin has never been easier with our partnership with Delta with daily flights across the Atlantic.


Were you at SXSW Music Fest 2014? What did you make of this year’s music? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Written by Lauren Modery

About Lauren Modery

Lauren is a blogger, writer and screenwriter from Austin, Texas. Her film, Loves Her Gun, premiered at SXSW 2013 and won the Louis Black Lone Star Award. She writes about her life in Austin at
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