When you invite some of the world’s greatest talents in music, theater and tech to town for a 10-day span, you’re bound to get some memorable moments.
This year’s SXSW brought with it a slew of those moments. But after wading through everything from crews of semi-naked young men and women repping a new Bravo show to the bow ties and lab coats out in full force at Bill Nye’s book signing, we’ve managed to narrow down these five most unforgettable SXSW moments.
Garth Brooks’ surprise show at the Broken Spoke
By late last week, we knew SXSW keynote speaker Garth Brooks was planning to take the stage for a free show on Auditorium Shores on Saturday. What we didn’t know, however, is that the lucky crowd at the Broken Spoke on Friday night — St. Patrick’s Day, no less — would be treated to a surprise acoustic show as well. Strolling on the stage promptly at 11 p.m. wearing a Lone Star Beer T-Shirt, the country superstar launched into “Friends in Low Places” and went on to dazzle the audience with a 40-minute set that included 17 songs.
Hanson returns to where it all began
Many SXSWers got to see the all-grown-up former kid pop stars at various high-profile shows downtown, but our Statesman video team got the special treat of hearing them dig up an old a cappella tune for a trip down memory lane filmed out at the Krieg Softball Complex, where they had a fateful encounter in 1994 that helped change their career.
Lizzo takes Austin by storm
Lizzo, the 28-year-old rapper and queen of body positivity, ruled the stage at SXSW this year. The Minneapolis rapper was all over the fest, proving why she has long been one of our critic’s faves. Bonus points for her Lone Star ties: Her family moved to Texas from Detroit when she was 10, and elements of the H-Town sound mark her music.
Ryan Adams cancels show, then Tweets at haters
After Ryan Adams cancelled his Friday night show at ACL Live, it wasn’t long before the haters took to Twitter. But it also wasn’t long before the singer fought back, putting a few #meantweeters on blast with hashtag #TOPMEANTWEETS.
Joe Biden gives emotional talk centered on cancer research
In an emotional and much-anticipated talk at SXSW, the former vice president described his frustration with government silos preventing cancer research from moving forward and detailed the work he and his wife, Jill Biden, are doing with the Biden Foundation cancer initiative. He was even named “speaker of the event” at the SXSW Innovation Awards.