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South By South Steph

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Steph

Clever title, eh?

I’ve been submerging myself in SXSW news and media coverage since we left. Each night I’d do a quick google news search for it, and now in preparation for writing this article/blurb/thing, I’ve done even more of the same.  What’s interesting, to me, is that the event has thousands of really big moments, the single events or headlines that the internet covers well and that sting just a little when you find out you just missed them. The huge, packed, line-to-jump-the-fence shows, the surprise guest appearances (Pauly D, Springsteen, Kanye, etc), and the truly weird moments (Tom Morello getting shut down by police for trying to start a riot-ish, Vermin Supreme walking the StyleX runway, etc).  I had plenty of these moments of my own, to be sure.  I may not have seen the Vermin Supreme walkway event, but we met him shortly after and got to look at the pictures on his staff camera.  I knew I was missing some of the big shows (all Titus Andronicus shows were 21+, I believe), but I had a twinge of jealousy every time I happened across an article later on covering one I missed. It is, after all, hard to cover an entire city’s-worth of events over a span of four days.

When you have an entire city (a capital city, no less) of good music and unique events to worry about, it’s hard to think about the single moments. The entirety of Austin is, for that week and a half, thoroughly overwhelming.  In trying to plan my activities for the days there, I was impressed by the schedule.  It’s big. I saw a stat that there were 20,000 bands playing.  The volume of the names on the schedule is unbelievable, and looking at the schedule, the number of artists that I recognized or was excited about was not as big.  This was clearly a comparative effect though. I thought that there were so many groups I hadn’t heard of that finding the events I DID care about would be a simple matter. This was not true. I also thought that, no matter my planning, no matter what little venue I happened into, I’d find really good, fresh, worthwhile music. This was also not necessarily true. Don’t get me wrong – there is, of course, a lot of great music, and I came away seeing and really liking artists that were brand new to me. My favorite overall, in fact, was a woman that we happened across performing with AU two shows in a row (Holland Andrews, goes by Like A Villain, http://likeavillain.bandcamp.com). This is exactly what I had hoped for – to finally see some old favorites live and discover a world of new things that make me happy. Done, check.

But unless you have a lot of time and money that you’re willing to spend on bands you’ll only kind of like (and a 21+ ID), wandering and stopping in to shows will not work as well.  The first night there, we got to a venue early for The War on Drugs (recommended to me, I still haven’t heard anything of theirs, but http://www.thewarondrugs.net/) and faced sitting through four completely unfamiliar and mediocre bands. It wasn’t worth it, and we left after the first band.  This was mostly due to exhaustion from the car trip (it went much more smoothly than expected, but was nonetheless long). New genres are awesome and new music is awesome and every act there had a lot of merit in different ways. That being said, I must stress the importance of finding a balance between finding new music, and trying to ensure that it will be new music that you will like.

My SX experience was interesting because I had a concert partner with music tastes rather unlike my own.  I was therefore in a situation of seeing a lot of music that was new to me but, since I trust Addy’s quality-of-music taste, I knew that it wouldn’t be terrible. Probably. The 21st Street Co-op supposedly-password-guarded-but-actually-ridiculous-shit-show show on Friday night was one that Addy and I were mutually excited for (mostly for Maps & Atlases, partly for the exhilarating prospect of Dan Deacon and Andrew WK). The band Zorch (http://zorch.bandcamp.com/), who Addy had kindof heard of and now likes a lot, put the show on, kindof, so we knew that it was a reputable set of acts being put together. This show was, in fact,  AWESOME earlier in the night. I really liked most of the acts we saw (Girlfriends [http://girlfriends.bandcamp.com/] and AU), it had two cool stages, and was overall a great venue (a cooperative housing complex of about 100 students from the University of Texas-Austin).  However, from 10 PM on, the slow crawl of no-longer-in-control-of-their-bodies-and-too-intoxicated-to-be-considerate-about-it concert-goers began.  We stuck it out through Maps’ set at 12:15 but just couldn’t handle staying any longer. I’m really glad we went to that, and I’m really glad that the big-name headliners drew us to the show, despite the mile-and-a-half walk.  It was perfect. Aside from the less-than-well-controlled alcohol, which is something you encounter slightly less at the official SX shows. We also couldn’t leave the indoor stage room for the last couple hours because the lines to get upstairs near the venue and the line into the room were both at least a hundred people long. That made it tough. But a good show. I wanted to stay all the way to be spit on by Andrew WK, but we just couldn’t do it.

If you have the luxury of having several or lots of days to spend at SX, do try to make an effort to explore everything once. I assumed that, in our lulled moments, we’d wander the city and happen upon good music. This CAN happen, but wandering the city takes hours, and you’re already tired just from getting to your specific destinations, so wandering for very long turns regretful and boring.  This is also because all of the planned music is in buildings, and it’s not very clear which buildings it’s in from the outside.  So, in one of our plan-less and still-energetic breaks, I suggested to Addy and Jacob that we look around the convention center (it was the last day, so only some music was still going, and the film and interactive were totally over, so the convention center was mostly empty), and once we got in, I begged them to go to StyleX with me for a bit, or at least wait for me.   Jacob was in the middle of trying to refuse (pfffff) when he spotted Vermin Supreme inside.  Apparently Landon and Dylan had been seeing Vermin around each day, but this was our first sighting and I’m glad it bought me some time in StyleX, even if I did miss the runway show for conversation with him.  It was by bored chance that I chose to wander into the convention center and that we happened upon StyleX at all.  Of course, exploring into the convention center at any other time would have still just been boring for dumb Jacob (even though it totally wasn’t completely once he gave it a chance, right?), but still. You will never find your Vermin Supreme if you don’t explore into StyleX. That’s my new metaphor for that.

It is natural, of course, to just scan the schedule for music you know well and really want to see live.  For me, this feeling was exemplified by Rachael Yamagata (http://rachaelyamagata.com/). I got her first (?) album in 8th grade, loved it, and have probably listened to it a hundred times.  I haven’t heard anything of hers since then.  I was therefore excited to see her, for nostalgia and for finding out what she’s been up to.  We finally found her playing in a time slot that nothing else really occupied, though it was a late spot, at a nice church.  She didn’t play anything I knew, which was fine, and it was generally nice and calming and not very exciting.  My music tastes have changed a bit since then. But it was good to see her. But only really because I didn’t know what else to do with that time, besides perhaps sleeping.  The acts opening for her (not really opening, everything at SX is more of a showcase) were within the realm of her sound and genre and demographic.  This is what you’ll come to learn – the variety of music is very large at SX, but you’ll often find some kind of link between artists in any one showcase.  It will not always be obvious.

I also wanted to talk a bit about the style of concert-goers, but that’s not an easy thing to do. Basically, we saw thousands and thousands of really well-dressed people, and every once in a while I’d see someone in a particularly well-patterned dress and get excited and say something to Addy about how and why it was fashionable.  There were very few unfashionable people there, by which of course I mean practically dressed, and we were some of them. I liked seeing the fashionable things that other people were wearing, but in the end was glad to be wearing my well-worn-in vans slip-ons.

We hardly spent any money on food. This is partly due to school-funded clif bars and fruit, and partly due to the fact that a lot of SX is based around advertisement and popularization of start-up names, and that their best way of accomplishing that is free food and water. That was great. We visited our favorite food truck four times in three days. It was awesome. That food truck was one of our big moments every day.

All in all, I should stress the importance of using your time well at SXSW. That doesn’t necessarily mean “see everything you possibly can all day”, because once that midnight show that you’re really looking forward to rolls around, you’ll really regret it. It means wandering over to the convention center when it’s empty because you don’t have much else to do, it means making time for the opening acts for bands you really like, it means taking a nap on the Whole Foods up-cycled pallet chaises once in a while. I guess it even means taking a shot at free swag out of a fake 100-foot-high Doritos vending machine.  You’ll see some good, big, memorable things happen, and you’ll be in the vicinity of enough of them to feel at least a little special.

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Addy at SXSW 2012

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Addy

Basics. Or, “Why doesn’t any other ‘Survival Guide’ tell you these things?” Or, Not As Specific to SXSW as I Was Thinking Originally, But Still Things to Keep In Mind

Here is a little vignette that should start things off well. When I told Rachele that after my morning shower I dried myself with my dirty clothes, she said, “oh, it’s like camping!” which it is. Minus the tent and towels. Seven travelers were stuffed into a 7-person van, plus all our things, plus snacks, minus legroom. So we had to pack light. So will you. Unless you are staying in a hotel, in which case probably none of this will apply to you, because you are probably: money’d, old-ish (over 21), flying in, and wristband’d. Good for you. You’re all set. This is for the people who drove for a very long time, straight through the night, are sleeping on someone else’s floors for 4 days, and have a budget of about 100 bucks for the 4-5 days. The “I almost got thrown up on,” turned away from more shows than attended, “aww, I missed Gay Witch Abortion,” eating zero to one meals a day demographic. This is for you.

First thing is first. How to pack. I brought just my clothes, Nyquil (for the 22 hour van rides, there and back), and my computer. Wilmer brought enough earplugs for all of us, which turned out to be one of the more brilliant strokes of foresight I’ve ever seen. I should’ve brought paper and pencil, to take down info on concerts at the outset of the day, but I had my smartphone, which is roughly equivalent. Somehow I didn’t pack enough socks, which was dumb. 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, that is, “warm weather,” “shit weather.”

How to sleep. ‘til noon. No, seriously, get your beauty sleep. SXSW isn’t won by powering through it, we discovered on the first night. You likely won’t spend your time well if you’re hot off your travels. Take a nap. Sleep well everyday, even if you’re missing the 1 PM band you wanna see. They will play at 4 PM the next day and 6 PM the next.

But more really, find someone close to downtown (or very close to a bus-stop, like us) who will let you and your crew sleep on their floor. The total cost of floor-fare with 6 other travelers costs about as much as one night at a reasonably priced hotel. Do it. We managed to arrange this wonder-situation a mere month before our trip by asking an Austin friend to put up a flyer in their workplace. It can be done. Do it, and get creative, because it is worth it.

Woe Is Me, For I Am 20 Years Old. Or, Bar Capitalism.

Here is where I am a valuable narrator: How to under 21. Don’t do it unless you have to. SXSW is oddly unfriendly to the youngins. I understand why its like this, but it is sure is sad. Most of SXSW proper is hosted at bars, and most of those shows are free. That means the bars are making all (or most) their money off alcohol, and that means that I’m not allowed in. By the end of the 4 days I stopped looking at the official schedule entirely. Even the odd, unofficial day party – Brooklyn Vegan’s Hotel Vegan is the main culprit – was somehow 21+, even though we were trying to get in at like 4 in the afternoon. What gives?

Moreover, SXSW had far more of a party atmosphere than I was hoping. I’m still grappling with the number of attractive 20 somethings barhopping at shows I was going to. You’re ruining my indie cred, people. The heart of downtown, 6th street, was closed to traffic, and by the end of the week turned into a veritable Bourbon Street, minus the strip clubs. Ugh. I thought this was about the music! No?

Enough griping. Now I am going to be useful. How to spot a 21+ show a mile away: Are they giving out drinks? Not allowed. Is it at a bar? During the day: show up and give it a shot. At night: highly unlikely. Anything that doesn’t bother to advertise as All Ages/18+/21+? Likely 21+. BUT (and this holds true for pretty much any show you are planning on attending): always check out the situation beforehand. Maybe they are wristbanding, and will let you in the show with big, sharpie’d X’s on your hands, after paying a $15 cover. Show up at 5 when you have nothing to do at the bar where Maps and Atlases is playing at 11:15. It’s worth knowing what the deal is.

Types of events far more likely to let you in, and for other reasons (to be expanded upon later), better events to attend, all around: Day shows, and unofficial, perhaps even “secret” shows. Day shows are usually small labels and promotion companies doing a weird, smaller event for a weirder, smaller crowd. These companies have something to prove, need to motivate people to show up at all, and don’t have the power to book at prime time. So they tend to have free food, good bands, and looser age restrictions. Perfect, right? A group of us made it over to Hometapes’ Friend Island party at Papi Tinos on Friday, where we saw AU and Zorch (both get serious mentions in my music section), each for the second time. Great music, free Nachos, a free tumblr tote, pop tarts, and cheap merch, not to mention the fact that we got let in at all. I realized that the Terroreyes day party had happened on Thursday, which I’m sure was very similarly awesome. (I am a fan of Terroreyes, mostly because Sargent House, Tera Melos, and Zach Hill are all fans of Terroreyes, so I’m deeply sorry I missed it. And apparently both Zorch and AU were playing there, again again. Next time.)

UPDATE: Here is a very good video of AU playing at that Terroreyes day party I missed, but it looks pretty similar to that Hometapes day party I did attend, so, for illustrative purposes: 

AU from TERROREYES.TV on Vimeo.

The best part of these day parties and their equivalent is that they are, as I put it, curated. Something sponsored by Doritos or Taco Bell will get a combination of big names and terrible, tiny bands, with no unifying theme other than the fact that they will fill the tent with noise while people eat free food and try to win t-shirts they will later leave in some other tent. A showcase, put together by a group with an actual musical identity is curated, man. Bands are booked for a reason. The lineup is crafted. A tiny label is putting art on display, not paying for background noise. You want to attend the “curated” events. It is pretty easy to guess which is which after having gotten suckered into one and then lucking out at the other.

Also, secret shows. These are hard to find, hard to figure out where they are, and hard to figure out the line up. And hard to get into, if you don’t show up very early, but Steph and I were lucky enough to show up very early, with Wilmer trailing not very far behind at all, with Rachele, Dylan and Landon waiting outside for an hour and half to no avail. I’m basically talking about 21st Street Co-op’s STOUH X SMES SHOUT 2 on Friday night, which I will give its own section.

Random thoughts, Part 1

Knife throwing. People hopping the fence into some huge concert. Accidentally sneaking into a show. Vermin Supreme. Donut Taco Palace. Someone misreading my ID as over 21 once, and I got a wristband for like 30 minutes and it was weird. Looking at Dan Deacon but not seeing him perform. Breaking up hipster mosh pit fights. Being in a hipster mosh pit. Asking for toilet paper and getting the response “I don’t steal it for nothing.” Telling the lady at Donut Taco Palace that they should sell t-shirts and she says “About what?” Getting preemptively kicked out of a bar because the bouncer thought my free designer lemon lime soda was a beer. The pedicab with darth vader sticking out of the back. “The Violin Monster.” The guy with Zebra gum tattoos. Tattoos. Everyone pouring out the free Brisk, because it sucked. The amazing sounding pedals that I still need to find the contact info for. How I realized the big awesome famous record store in Austin is basically a Newbury Comics. In fact, I caught myself thinking I was in a Newbury Comics. Zorch selling clearly Goodwill shirts with screen printed designs on them. Zorch selling “Al Gore Sexual Rhythms” concept albums. Zorch. AU. AU knows Why I Must Be Careful. Turning sparkling mineral water into normal water. Somehow running into Wilmer and Rachele basically everyday, without planning on running into them, despite the tens of thousands of people walking around on 6th. Catching a cab, somehow. Watching mild sexual assault/just really drunk people on St. P-Day while in the cab. Putting a mosaic cross air freshener in the car as a joke and it getting Dylan out of a ticket, apparently. Getting familiar with the streets, actually. Adventuring. Finding lots of really worthwhile things to do outside of the terrifying largeness of 6th street, the main drag of the festival. Not attending any shows I had initially planned on attending. Seeing Maps and Atlases but with such an annoying crowd I enjoyed it far less than I expected. People my age being pricks to one another. People my age being pretty cool.

Food. Or, Woe Is Me, For I Am A Poor College Student Or, How To Save A Fair Amount of Money

How to food. Buy Clif Bars in bulk. Bring a big cooler of water from your home place. (Side note, courtesy of Dylan: Apparently the reason people tend to get the runs when they travel is because they drink the local water, which contains local bacteria that you aren’t quite used to. Bring as much of the water to which you are accustomed as you can, and find a source of free purified water, which for us was provided by the Whole Foods tent, along with a water bottle. Thank you, WF. I drank gallons of your free water.) Buy a bulk bag of chips. Fruit snacks. You will wake up at 2 and you will eat these and you will like it. And then you will wander around downtown Austin and come across a free food promotion, and you will eat your one meal everyday there, licking off the stamp they give you as soon as the stamper is out of sight and before the food truck man gives you their delicious foodstuffs. Ok, fine, I will give you a plug: Squarespace sponsored the food truck that provided the majority of my meals. Thank you, beta.squarespace.com. I spent 20 bucks on food over my trip thanks to you. Track down opportunities like this. The Squarespace food truck was enough for me, but I’m sure there were other daily offerings that will get you through SX. There are of course parties you need to RSVP to, or have a press pass or something, which will occur pretty much daily and will get another group of people through the week, but you are not that group of people.

Or you can be like Jacob and only eat Clif bars, and maybe buy a beer at your punk show at the end of the day.

What Happened One Night. Or, Thank You, Zorch

How to Secret Show. We had been turned away from three or four shows already that day, from Tennis and Poliça at Hotel Vegan’s Day Party to Trampled By Turtles at Swan Dive, and we were ready to try anything. Maps and Atlases was playing at 10ish at the North Door, so we dropped by at 5 to check it out, but even the door guy didn’t know if we could get in, so we decided to invest all our time and energy in a place that would actually let us in – STOUH X SMES SHOUT 2 at 21st St. Co-op, a good 15 blocks away from where all the official events were going on. Zorch, this local two-piece weirdo band, organized it, which meant (though I didn’t know it at the time) that this show would serve as the classic example of a “curated” event. All the bands were different and interesting in their own right, but generally hovered around the weird-/experimental-/math-rock genres, and were all in all downright sweet. Girlfriends, Cartright, Caddywhompus, AU, El Ten Eleven, Zorch and Maps and Atlases were all great acts we got to enjoy thoroughly.

But the venue. Oh man. When we got there at 6:30, about an hour before acts were slated to start, we got to just hang around this pretty cool co-op/mini-village/commune. When we walked in, Steph leaned over to me and said, “there will be naked people here by the end of the night.” It was that kind of place, and that has both good and bad implications.  The outside venue was a porch, essentially, and the inside venue was a well-mural-ed cave with terrifying spray insulation/fiberglass/asbestos absolutely covering the ceiling (that people later were grabbing on to sort of ferry about while crowd surfing, which was admittedly a pretty cool feature). I went to the bathroom and there was vomit covering the toilet seat, and no toilet paper to use to wipe it off. Later on I asked to borrow someone’s toilet paper that I noticed they had in their bag and they said “I don’t steal it for nothing.” It was policed by a bunch of the college kids who lived there, so we should’ve realized it would eventually get pretty out of control, but it got super out of control. I think there were about a thousand people there – I read somewhere that the line to get in itself was 300 people long (and then there was a line to get into the upstairs venue, on top of that.)

Cultural Reflections, Or, I Am Glad to Be A Young Person Today, Or, Fuck Youth Culture

The Good. Here’s what I am going to call Kalnoky’s Lament: Tomas Kalnoky, of Streetlight Manifesto, strives to bring opening bands on tour with him that are distinctly different from his band. Streetlight can be called a ska band, and most other bands in his position would simply bring along other bands that could be called ska bands. They regularly bring along reggae, punk, and hardcore bands, sometimes even very weird bands. This isn’t without its flaws – Jacob and my worst opening bands of all time (actually, worst bands of all time) directly preceded a Streetlight set. But – and I’m totally serious about this, despite the approach’s rare successes – good for him. He’s trying to get people to appreciate a showcase of bands in a single night, like the supposed “good old days.” It largely doesn’t work in a we-are-paying-for-Streetlight-Manifesto sort of situation, but it totally does work in a you-are-getting-into-this-show-for-free-and-don’t-know-what-to-expect-and-all-the-bands-are-pretty-sweet-in-their-own-way sort of situation. And that’s what you get at SX – in the right situation. And – in the right situation – it feels like everyone is actually into the bands. And – in the right situation – you are into the bands. Things work out! At 21st St. Co-op, we saw a slew of weird, interesting, honest bands. They had many different musical goals and backgrounds and crowds they tended to cater towards. It worked. The same holds true for most of SXSW on the whole. It was sweet.

Also, there was this great DIY ethic thing going on that I haven’t really seen much of before. There’s not a whole lot to say about it, but I saw many examples of people my age putting things together themselves, whether it was the whole 21st St. Co-op event, or touring bands managing themselves or random things on the street, most non-sponsored events felt very real and honest. It was refreshing to see that happen.

The Bad. There was this word floating around SXSW, and it was “hipster.” No one wants to be it, everyone sees plenty of them roaming the streets, and most people would admit to having a handful of characteristics of “hipsterdom.” This is that culture. The majority of people attending SXSW are hipsters, in some understanding of that term. But one out of every 1,000 attendees are self-declared hipsters. No one feels a part of the culture that does, in fact, exist. Few punks would deny being a punk, few metalheads would deny enjoying metal, and few hip-hop enthusiasts would deny enjoying hip-hop. Yet there is this mass denial of a cohesive culture around this scene.

This seems a minor note – there is still a culture being developed and participated in, regardless of whether or not members are willing to admit it. What difference does that make? Turns out the 21st St. Co-op party showed how this basically makes people pricks to each other. At a punk show, if someone gets bowled over in the pit, they get picked up. People who are crowd surfing recognize that they are being supported by the necks and collarbones of strangers, and tend not to flail around while suspended in the air, lest skulls are broken through. Not so, here. When a group of people doesn’t feel like they all belong to the same community – in fact feeling quite the opposite – people don’t treat each other properly. I broke up a fight; felt like I was the only guy picking people up from being trampled; and was repeatedly (and more stupidly than usual) clawed at by crowd surfers. But mostly (because the set up times for the bands stretched on forever because people didn’t realize that the band members had to load and unload their equipment off the side of the stage, through the clueless, entitled masses) the chatter was self-righteous and inconsiderate and dicky. It was unfortunate. I’ll admit this sounds trite, but it was a lot worse than I was prepared for.

People need to unify, man. There is a culture here, and we all need to admit it and take pride in it. Otherwise there is this weird, underlying frustration that everyone has towards one another. We are the youth of today. Let’s stop pretending we’re not. Eh?

Random thoughts, Part 2

Lots of cyclists. Interesting graffiti. Winning a Burton shirt out of a 100 ft tall stage of a vending machine from the Doritos party and giving it to a lady who was clearly going around and around in the line, collecting crappy shirts, skate decks and Doritos promo stickers. Walking by a family holding armfuls upon armfuls of promo Doritos. Wilmer falling asleep for 2 hours in the Taco Bell party. Homeless people collecting free Brisk cans. “That guy from Das Racist” at a Whataburger. My first Whataburger. Delay pedals everywhere. El Ten Eleven totally rocking out but getting cut off because the previous band had gone over a bit, and the management had yet to realize that everyone else was going to run over their allotted time not only while on stage but also while setting up and while packing up, and so El Ten Eleven are really the only band whose set time suffers the whole night, even though Japanther makes me displeased with existence and should have ceded their set time to El Ten Eleven. Three delay pedals on El Ten Eleven’s part, alone. Saying names of bands that the music on the car stereo clearly isn’t responsible for. Slowing down from 100 mph to the speed limit like 20 yards behind a police car and awkwardly sitting behind it for a little while until it exits off the highway. Someone spotting my Zach Hill shirt and me not having been in that situation before and not knowing how to handle it. Hip clothing. Getting really tired at 10:30 pm. Figuring out how to get home on buses. Seeing people with press passes and badges and VIP and stuff and not understanding what their world must be like. Everyday doing the same thing – dinner at Squarespace truck and water refills at Whole Foods’ tent – it started to feel like running errands, for a second, there. Getting accustomed to saying “south by” rather than “south by south west” because that is how the locals say it, and it’s all about blending in with the locals, isn’t it? Enjoying myself. Already planning on coming back next year, armed with knowledge and hopefully a press pass and a get-me-into-shows 21+ ID and (more) hair on my chest and a bone to pick. Feeling simultaneously that I know far too many and far too few musical acts. Looking up shows on the internet and getting a lot of false positives from last year’s SXSW, and going to the venue to see Colin Stetson and it turns out that, in fact, Pennywise is playing at 10. Showing up very early to shows, and it being worth it every time. Austin turning out to be a fine city to walk around in. Not going to Graceland after all, for all sorts of reasons. Probably narrowly avoiding all sorts of heavy rain induced traffic accidents. Dylan driving like a very deliberate, somehow safe, lead-footed maniac. Rental car holding up amazingly. 20 hour car ride “not that bad,” everyone somehow agrees. Being almost totally unable to fall asleep in cars. Dylan kind of just choosing not to fall asleep during either leg of the journey. Underestimating the value of a good mixtape. Incredible, vomit-threatening heartburn in gas station bathrooms. Humidity. Not really feeling like we’re in Texas, cuz we’re in Austin. Seeing I think zero non-Texan license plates, despite everyone supposedly traveling to get there. Did everyone fly? Are there that many locals? Really? Getting nervous about the thousands of people milling about 6th street on St. Paddys day and it turning out that, in fact, 3 people were killed that night. No longer sure at all how hip I am, in any meaning of the term.

Music. Or, I Wound Up Seeing Almost No Bands I Planned On, But Found A Bunch of New Ones

I’ll make this short because not only is this getting (has gotten) long, but also because you should judge them for yourself. But don’t think that just because I don’t go on about how great these acts are, it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. Because I do. Easy listening links are provided, for your easy listening pleasure.

Of course, Maps and Atlases – Look for their new album out April 17th. Gonna be good. http://mapsandatlases.org/

AU – Caught them twice, once at 21st St. Co-op and at the Hometapes day party the next day. They are awesome and know Why I Must Be Careful, who I’m talking with and I’m trying to get an interview or something like that posted up here. UPDATE: Here is the interview with Why I Must Be Careful! Watch for that. But in the meantime – http://au-au-au.com/

Like A Villain – Holland Andrews played with AU (and apparently is gonna stick around with them) and was great with them. This is her solo project. Another looper, she lays down some great clarinet lines and sings on top, with a whole lot of variation to that already interesting formula. Honest and experimental and pretty great. http://likeavillain.bandcamp.com/

Zorch – mentioned a number of times, very cool and loud and weird. Here’s that DIY ethic I’m talking about. Cheap, good music here – http://zorch.bandcamp.com/

El Ten Eleven – super awesome, I kind of am still surprised we got to see them. http://www.elteneleven.com/secret/watch_and_listen/

Girlfriends – one man act from Portland, OR. Loops some great guitar riffs on a baritone guitar, and then rocks out on drums. Personally I could do without his brand of screaming (okay, shout-screaming), but I’m very much into it. http://girlfriends.bandcamp.com/

Cartright – Singer/songwriter heartfelt acoustic-ish punk with the occasional “math-y” tangent, played on a classical guitar. Good stuff. I recommend their first album, I’m pretty sure. http://cartrightmusic.com/

 

 

SXSW 2012 – Rachele’s Version/ A Guide for First-Timers

Posted on 18 March 2012 by Rachele

South-by-Southwest 2012 (or, if you’re cool, “South-by,” as we soon discovered from the veterans), ended in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, March 18. I was in bed before this point, but that’s because I almost got puked on as I was walking out of a show at a great bar/club called Mohawk. It was St. Patrick’s day, and the merging of drunk hipsters show-hopping and drunk Austinites bar-crawling was a little too much for me. But I’m a wimp. Other members of WLFM were out partying until the festivities dwindled down, and trust me, there was still plenty for them to be doing. The group !!! was playing a show on the Doritos Stage while Nas was supposedly performing Illmatic at a stage that I’m sure was nearly impossible to get into (hey, life’s a bitch). If this all sounds incredible to you, that’s because it was. Don’t take my early sleepage as a sign that there was not enough to do at SXSW. If anything, there was too much.

Here are some of my general musings about SXSW-

Shows: I know this sounds dumb, but there were a lot of shows at South-by-Southwest. So. Freaking. Many. Any music lover’s first reaction is to try and see as many as possible in the four days that South-by hosts the music portion of the convention. By all means, try and see a lot of music. Just don’t get disappointed if it doesn’t work out. What I mean is, SXSW is not a festival. It’s a convention, and it’s a totally different experience than a festival. If you approach it like it’s a festival you may end up not seeing any music at all and just drinking and people-watching for four days. Know that it is way easier to get into shows if you have a wristband or badge. If I didn’t have a wristband, I probably would have had a crappy time. The wristbands allow you to cut in line, to get into shows that not everyone has access to, and honestly, to feel important. It sets you apart from the average show-goer. It makes you look serious. I was proud to have the wristband, because I am serious about seeing good music, and being around people who are serious about seeing good music. Case in point: I waited in the Fader Fort (an event that required an RSVP-I’ll get to that later), for 5 hours, sitting through sets by bands that I had never heard of while smoke was getting blown in my face so that I could watch Nicolas Jaar play a 25-minute set. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is. Did I miss a lot of shows during the time that I was waiting? Yes. But if I would have been out seeing other shows, I would have run the risk of missing Nicolas Jaar’s set because the line at Fader would have been so long (a special “secret” artist was scheduled to come on after Jaar, which was what many of the smoke-blowers were waiting around to see. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out who it was). I knew it would be worth it, because Jaar was the one artist I was absolutely committed to see, and since I had missed his Pitchfork set, I knew this would be my last opportunity (it was 25 minutes of shear brilliance, by the way).

Did I see a lot of shows while at SXSW? No, I didn’t. A lot of it was due to the fact that I approached this whole thing like it was a festival; a fun party in a park where music is handed to you on a platter. It’s not that. It’s more like a mission to see music that you really care about. If you plan on going to SXSW I would recommend this course of action: plan out your schedule down to the very last show, even if you are not a planning kind of person. Find out what street every show is on. Remember, it takes over the better half of a city, and in some cases you’re going to have to walk several city blocks or take a taxi or find a bicycle dude to take you from Show A to Show B. Also, if you plan on trying to go see a hundred shows, I would reconsider. Choose a few. Choose the ones that are worth it, that you’re really committed to standing in line for for a couple hours to see (sometimes even those with wristbands had to wait in line). RSVP for the parties where the shows you want to see are going to be. This is a little hard to explain, but just know that in advance of SXSW there are parties posted on the internet that you have to RSVP to. You can pretty much get in as long as you RSVP and show up early. Earlyness is a big thing. Get there early, dude. Stick it out. It’ll be worth it.

Unofficial Shows: Be wary. I left a stage where Grimes was going to play in an hour because there was an unofficial show at a place called the 21st Street Co-Op where Dan Deacon, Andrew W.K., Doldrums, Grimes herself, and Maps and Atlases were all scheduled to show up. It seemed like the better deal, but in the end, I didn’t end up seeing any show that night. We waited outside the Co-Op for 2 hours where I proceeded to get drunker and angrier as I realized that we weren’t going to get in (we were later told that the line to get in exceeded 300 people). I took a risk for something that seemed like it was going to be better, but then ended up not getting anything at all. Stick to the shows where the press wristband holds some weight, because at least then the people who will be telling you that you can’t get into the show aren’t just some college kids who live in a Co-Op.

Promoters: (Skip this section if you don’t work at a radio station and don’t know what promoters are). If you want a way to get some free food, go to some cool parties, and get into RSVP shows without an RSVP, it would be a good idea to talk to the promoters before you go to SXSW. Let them know you’re going to be there, give them your number, get their number, and doors will open for you. Plus, it’s really fun to meet the people that you’ve been emailing/talking to on the phone for months, wondering what they look like in person. I got invited to a party by Rupam from AAM at a bar called Icenhauer’s. I still haven’t met Rupam (does he really exist?), but I know he was there. I did end up meeting one of my favorite promoters, Jenn Misko aka “The Band Mom,” at this same party, and kept in contact with her for a good portion of the festival. I also met Ruben from Hardly Art, who looked pretty indifferent to meeting me, haha. It’s a really cool opportunity to make some contacts in radio land, especially if you plan in getting a job at a radio station after school.

Being 21: I guess this wasn’t really a problem for me, because I am 21, but for those of you who aren’t 21, just know that things are going to be slightly difficult for you. They card almost everywhere you go, which sucks for minors, but it makes sense. The bars hosting the shows need to make money off of you buying drinks, since most of the shows are free. If shows aren’t 21+ a lot of the time you will end up paying a cover charge.

Food: Might want to talk to someone else at the station about how to eat cheaply. I spent the majority of my spending money at the Whole Foods truck because I am a pretentious food fuck/vegetarian.

Hipsters: South-by is basically two weeks of the year where counter culture gets to use culture’s stuff for a bit. Case in point: The Austin Convention Center was taken over by American Apparel vendors at several points during the convention. It seemed a little weird, like a porno being watched in a church or something. But it was great. I love hipsters. I am one, but not really, not compared to the average SXSW-goer. I looked pretty tame compared to 90% of the people there. It was some of the best people-watching I have ever experienced. If you thought Pitchfork was hipster, think again. This was the real deal. (Completely unrelated side-note: A fashion-blog photographer for WGSN Fashion took my picture for the blog. I guess a small town midwestern girl can stand up to the big-city hipsters after all).

Austin: This is a really cool place, I decided.

  1. The people there are well-dressed. Yes, this is something that’s important to me. Get over it. I am sick of Green Bay Packer sweatshirts and mullets. Have a little more self-respect.
  2. There are a lot of young people. Also a plus. Old people are obnoxious.
  3. There is good food. Whole Foods was frickin’ started in Austin, man. Also, I ate out with my friend Maggie at a place called Polvo’s where my meal consisted of fried bananas, beans, tortillas and rice on eggs over-easy. For breakfast.
  4. It is warm. And humid. Goddamn I love humidity.
  5. The people are really nice, and helpful, and polite. Perhaps this is just a southern thing, but it was waayyy different from Milwaukee in this respect, and it was a breath of fresh air.
  6. There is good music. Clearly, as it hosts SXSW. Also, we found several cool record shops.
  7. It’s a cool mix of new and old. The Austin Historic District, which took up like half of 5th Street, looked very authentically Mexican, and the new part doesn’t look douchey or tacky (Dallas, on the other hand…).
  8. It’s pretty! There is a river, and some pretty nice parks.
  9. It is biker and public transportation-friendly.

The only bad thing about Austin: It’s in Texas. This means that as soon as you step out of the city, you’re in…Texas. Yeah, Texas.

Navigating the city: As cities go, Austin is pretty easy to navigate. If you’re a suburban kid like me I would recommend figuring out the buses and stuff before-hand. I think a lot of the reason I didn’t make it to as many shows as I wanted to was because I really don’t know how to find my way around a city. And I don’t know how to read a map. Like, literally, I don’t know up from down on a map. Or, you know, have a Smart Phone. That helps too.

20-hour car rides: Really not that bad, as long as you’re with people who listen to good music, or, at least, like to argue about good music.

If I was Pitchfork I’d give SXSW a 9.2. Except not really, because that’s what Big Boi’s Sir Luscious Leftfoot got, and I would have given that a 10. So I guess I would give South-by-Southwest a 10. I had a great time. You should go. Everyone should go. It’s a great place to be a hipster, listen to good music, and be around good people. I was honored to be the in the first round of WLFM employees to go and scout it out. Hopefully we can be like ORC and keep getting tons of money for this shit every year. Because I think in the end going to a music convention and listening to good music is more productive than getting high and taking hikes. Even though I like taking hikes.