SXSW: Music's Meeting Ground By
For one week in March each year, Austin, TX becomes the center of the music world. Bands, singers, executives, promoters, lawyers, managers, agents, and fans converge on the state’s capital to partake in the nonstop musical merriment known as South By Southwest.
makes the conference interesting is that at SXSW, the mission of
each participant can be markedly different. Many relatively unknown
artists travel from literally ever corner of the globe to promote
their music and possibly land a record deal. While such Cinderella
stories are not eveyday occurrences at the convention, they certainly
do happen from time to time. More established acts might come to
meet press and make important contacts. People within the industry
primarily want to champion their bands, create buzz within the community,
and mingle with one another. For the average fan, the convention
is a golden opportunity to see as many artists as possible in just
under a week. One common reality among them all is that there is
little time to sleep when so much activity awaits everyone. This
years conference drew over 1,300 acts and every conceivable
local venue swarmed with crowds.
As someone who has participated in SXSW over the years wearing a
number of different hats (fan, performer, writer), I must admit
that I thoroughly enjoyed being able to imbibe on the scene and
savor each incredible performance. Experiencing the New York Dolls
perform at Stubbs on Red River was an incredible treat. Dolls
frontman David Johansen strutted and wailed like a glam Mick Jagger
from the Tattoo You days. Also on the bill was Atlantic Records
Louis XIV, who pounded out a tireless onslaught of indie rock anthems.
Another amazing benefit of the convention is that there are industry
panels in which people can learn invaluable information about the
business and hear music legends speak about their careers. The greatest
attraction of 2005s panelists was former Led Zeppelin vocalist
Robert Plant, who also performed later in the week at the Austin
Music Hall. Aside from Plant, The Beach Boys Brian Wilson
spoke with longtime collaborator Van Dyke Parks about making the
long-awaited Smile CD. Gospel singer Mavis Staples reminisced eloquently
about her legendary career with the Staples Singers. She also revealed
fascinating tidbits about her familys appearance in The Bands
farewell film documentary, The Last Waltz.
For those wanting to learn about trade secrets, SXSW offers mentoring
programs, which are similar to a private tutoring session from a
music business veteran. People can ask questions and hear honest
answers about their particular fields of interest.
Overall, South By Southwest is a rare chance to absorb a smattering
of amazing talent, attain critical insight from genuine experts,
and witness the future of the musical landscape. Anyone wishing
to spend five days in an artistic and cultural oasis should attend
and soak up an amazing opportunity.