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Several folks have asked me for a report on my trip to Austin, so here goes.Last
week, I enjoyed Mimi’s belated gift for my 40th birthday-I spent four days and nights at the South By Southwest Music Festival with my brother and a couple of old friends.South By Southwest (abbreviated SXSW) is an enormous event, it includes a music conference (which I didn’t attend), and has spawned precursor conferences/festivals for film and technology.But the music festival remains the big one.
The local news in Austin said that there were about 2,000 bands at the festival, but I actually think that’s a bit of a low-ball estimate.There are about 80 official venues for the festival, each hosting 5 or 6 acts per night for four nights, and that doesn’t even include the unofficial day parties, and the Austin venues that are unaffiliated with the festival that host live music. With live music available at about a hundred places simultaneously, going to SXSW requires a lot of pre-planning, and studying schedules available on the web to come up with a plan of attack.And even then, you have to be pretty flexible, and resign yourself to missing acts you might want to see.Cell phones and texting are also absolutely vital to coordinate with other people, as it makes it possible to split up and re-unite later.
While in Austin, I’d start my day watching bands by about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and would go till 2 in the morning.I saw 51 acts over the four days.Most of the acts I saw for about 30 or 40 minutes, but it ranged from as little as a song or two to around an hour.The diversity of venues was amazing.I saw bands indoors, outdoors, in bars, in night clubs, in restaurants, on patios, under tents, on a roof, at a pizza parlor, at a barbecue joint, in a fancy hotel bar, in a convention center, in a Presbyterian church, and even in the lobby of a Hilton.The styles of music I heard included country rock, singer-songwriters, blues rock, modern Appalachian folk, psychedelic, punk, post-punk, twee pop, noise rock, dance music, art rock, power pop, garage rock, glitter rock and Detroit rock (Lynn and Mary Beth may be surprised to hear that there is an influential sub-genre of punk rock named after their home town, that doesn’t necessarily have to do with being from Michigan).
If pressed, I guess I’d say the best band I saw was the Hold Steady.The funniest band name I heard was We Were Promised Jetpacks, and the funniest song title I heard — well, I actually probably shouldn’t repeat it in a public forum, but ask me privately if you’re interested.Some of the acts I saw whose names some of you might possibly recognize were the Decemberists, Camera Obscura, Grant Hart, the Avett Brothers, the Heartless Bastards, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Frank Turner, Bishop Allen, the Sonics, Radio 4, Lisa Hannigan, the New York Dolls, Laura Marling, Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Duke Spirit (who Carol should like just based on the name alone).Needless to say, I had a great time.