This year's South by Southwest Music and Media Conference & Festival, held this week in Austin, Texas, will host over 1,800 bands in official events playing before somewhere around 12,500 registered participants (last year's figure). The number of bands playing somewhere in Austin will likely reach well over 2,000, counting unofficial showcases held throughout the week, just as many more than 12,500 people will crowd the streets, counting those that try to sneak in back doors and see unofficial events.
Just reflecting on that quantity of bands, playing in a town with a slightly smaller population than Indianapolis, leads one to some conclusions: Attendees have a great chance to see an overwhelming variety of bands (not to mention films and comedians) at one time and place; bands will struggle to distinguish themselves from others, but also have a chance to catch a lucky break when playing before music industry figures and aficionados gathered in what has become a mecca for independent music; and every hotel ballroom, dive bar and some residential houses will be filled with bands that could be playing at much larger venues on any other night, in any other town.
As the New York Times'
Jon Pareles wrote in a review of last year's festival, SXSW (the popular shorthand for the festival) is traditionally an opportunity for a band to prove itself: "At SXSW, concert promoters can sample bands that are being, in essence, battle tested: playing abbreviated sets on hastily assembled equipment to unfamiliar audiences in Austin's peculiarly shaped clubs."
Indiana-based bands, DJs and related figures are headed to SXSW this week to host showcases or play unofficial early-afternoon slots, and network, network, network.
To find out what they expect from the trip, we spoke with Craig "Dodge" Lile of locally-based indie rock Web site My Old Kentucky Blog and live music video site LaundroMatinee, Reverend Josh Peyton of country blues trio The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, DJ Scotty Matelic and hard rock band The Last Good Year (who answered collectively via e-mail).
NUVO: What role does SXSW play in your career?
The Last Good Year: It seems to be a great platform for independent bands playing at festivals like these but it never guarantees a launch of your career. You've got to look at it as any other show. Give it your all. Make new friends, network and hope to gain new fans. Continue to cultivate into a national feel.
Craig "Dodge" Lile: SXSW has been a nice little exposure promoter for MOKB. This year should be big. We were invited to put on an official evening showcase.
DJ Scotty Matelic: From what I hear, it's imperative for anyone who takes their musical craft seriously to attend SXSW at some point, just for the experience if nothing else. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and making new connections. Maximum exposure is the goal.
NUVO: How did you get involved with SXSW?
Rev. Josh Peyton: Like everyone else, you must submit first. Our first showcase was killer though. King Coffee of the Butthole Surfers was a big help to us in Austin. He introduced our music to some cool folks with SXSW and outside of the festival too. Thanks to him, our first showcase was a good one.
Dodge: HOT FREAKS! is a music blog collective that MOKB is a part of. We all got organized and decided to put on a big show down in Austin a few years back. It's just grown and grown since. And it's my favorite week of the year, St. Patty's, the NCAA opening tourney weekend and 1,800 bands; seriously, heaven on Earth.
NUVO: Any good stories?
Rev. Peyton: We ran into Neil Young on the street one year. He was going into the Yard Dog and we were coming out.
Dodge: Too many to recount and many might get me in trouble, but once I was backstage at a Flaming Lips show, helping throw all of the props, balls, streamers, etc. out into the crowd. When I was done, I ended up standing against a wall with Peaches, watching the show. I was actually a little too scared to say much to her.
NUVO: Do you think that there are too many bands to make a statement or to be noticed?
The Last Good Year: We think that it's better that there are a lot of bands. The bands that are prepared will stand out. Just don't go down there for business, go down there to experience it and hopefully you'll catch someone's eye that came to see someone else but had a great time at our show. That would make it worthwhile.
Rev. Peyton: For bands coming in that have never done it, don't get your hopes up. Just do your best and make the most of it. We have been booked at a lot of other festivals and signed with our current booking agents because of SXSW, so good things can happen. Our experience has been pretty successful. We have been really lucky.
Some Indiana-based bands (and outfits) headed to SXSW
The Elms (Seymour)
Everthus the Deadbeats
Kentucky Nightmare (Bloomington)
The Last Good Year
Left Lane Cruiser (Fort Wayne)
DJ Scotty Matelic
The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band (Nashville)
Totally Michael (Bloomington)
TV Ghost (Lafayette)
Standard Recording Company
My Old Kentucky Blog
Nuvo.net: Look for photo coverage of SXSW this week by Rumi Sakuraeda, including shots from the Standard Recording Company and My Old Kentucky Blog showcases.