The main lobby bar of the new Fairmont Hotel is a comfortable and inviting space late as afternoon turns to evening, with fading daylight streaming through a towering wall of western windows and lots of cushy couches and chairs scattered about. On Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., around 100 South by Southwest attendees filled the room for performances by a couple of acts taking advantage of SXSW’s Second Play opportunities.
The Second Play series allows SXSW showcasing artists to play an additional gig outside of their primary showcase, this one open to those without badges. It’s a good opportunity for conference registrants and hotel guests to catch some music during the dinner hour, or for curiosity-seekers without badges or wristbands to get a small sample of what SXSW music is like.
On Monday, we caught the second performer at the Fairmont, local singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris. Performing an acoustic set with a trio, Harris played songs from her upcoming debut album, with Jane Ellen Bryant adding harmonies and Brian Patterson playing electric guitar.
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Hotel lobbies can be hit-and-miss for sound quality; of the Second Play shows we’ve seen in recent years, the Fairmont falls in the middle of the pack, with high ceilings that result in some echo but also keep the crowd-chatter somewhat muted. The Fairmont’s acoustics were better than those at the Hilton’s Cannon & Belle and Taco Project rooms, and different from the Hotel Van Zandt bar Geraldine’s, which has a great sound system but tends to suffer a bit from crowd-noise.
The best-sounding Second Play room we’ve found is the Hyatt Regency’s towering atrium; somewhat improbably, music sounds good there even though the ceiling is a dozen-plus stories high. (And the best hotel lobby in town for live music remains the Driskill Bar, which isn’t part of SXSW Second Play but books its own schedule of quality music nightly.)
Having just opened last week, the Fairmont is new at this, and was running a little behind schedule on Monday. Harris’s set started 15 minutes late; not a big deal most of the time, but during SXSW, sticking to the time slots is key, with people moving fast from place to place. That late start meant I caught 15 minutes less of Harris’s music than I would have liked — but I was able to stay just long enough for a special treat, her rendition of Peter Case’s 30-year-old (yet increasingly timely) classic “Put Down the Gun.”
Check out the full schedule of Second Play shows on the SXSW website; in all, 16 hotels are participating. Here are a few select highlights:
6 p.m.: Tony Kamel (of Wood & Wire) at Hyatt Regency
7 p.m.: Christy Hays at Hyatt Regency
7 p.m.: Jeff Plankenhorn at Fairmont
7 p.m.: Gemma Ray at Cannon & Belle (Hilton)
7 p.m.: Wild Now at Hotel Van Zandt
6 p.m.: Canvas People at Embassy Suites
6 p.m.: Billy Strings at W Hotel
7 p.m.: Dunwells at Austin Taco Project (Hilton)
4 p.m.: Anna Burch at Interncontinental Stephen F. Austin
7 p.m.: Liz Cooper & the Stampede at Hotel Van Zandt
6 p.m.: Gabriel Wolfchild & the Northern Light at Hotel Indigo
6 p.m.: Dead South at South Congress Hotel