SXSW was a big blur of dirt, dudes with long hair, loud awesome music and telling people “no.” I’m not a big drinker, so luckily I didn’t have to endure ten hours of fun with a crispy hangover. But I was a SXSW Volunteer Stage Manager: it was pretty cool, I am very glad it’s over, and I may have broken my foot.
One of the perks of being a SM is being paid with a Platinum Badge. I felt very important. I can’t recommend panels enough – next year I may skip the shows altogether and go to all the panels. On Friday, I stumbled into a room hosting the Parliament Funkadelic talking about being aliens. When they say not to have a plan during SXSW, they mean it – gold can be found whilst wandering around the Convention Center. Bernie Worrell’s hat was out of control! They all had great things to say. I especially liked George Clinton describing today’s funk – to paraphrase, he said there’s still funk being made, it just looks different, and named Eminem as an example (“he’s funky as hell”).
From L to R: Lumar LeBlanc, Bootsy Collins, Novena Carmel, Arthur Baker, George Clinton and Bernie Worrell. (Photo by Mindy Best/Getty Images for SXSW)
Since I had to work, I didn’t get to enjoy the official nighttime music showcases – but if you work SXSW, you don’t get to really go to SXSW anyway. I still can’t decide which I’d rather do.
I got lucky though! I didn’t have any shows until Wednesday, meaning I got to see the opening Tuesday shows. The band I toured with, Act Rights, played to a dedicated (if tiny) crowd at The Jr at 1 AM. Not the best slot, to be sure, but they earned a fantastic write-up from Indie Music and had more than one cleaned-up guy in a suit bobbing their heads and videotaping. The band may or may not be writing new material for a possible release.
Tuesday was Mood Media’s SXSW party at Clive Bar on Rainey Street (I realized Clive Bar was at the intersection of Davis Street, and Clive Davis was in town for a panel. Coincidences?) featuring Body Language, Blondfire, AVAN LAVA, Tomorrow We Move To Hawaii and a lot of alcohol. It was a lot of fun, and I quite enjoyed spending time with my coworkers outside of the office. Good show, everyone!
The stage I managed was the Hotel Vegas Patio, which played host to Roky Erickson, Thee Oh Sees (twice), Black Lips, Mikal Cronin, Mac DeMarco, Bleached and King Tuff. I got a call from the Black Lips on Thursday afternoon announcing their arrival, which was a bit surreal, and was very awesome. They are definite pros. Nobunny wins “Most Outrageous Set” by a mile. The guy wears a pretty terrifying Leatherface-inspired bunny mask, so maybe don’t take your small children to one of his shows, lest you wish years of therapy upon them.
On Wednesday night, we added an artist last-minute because we got our outside sound permit extended an hour and a half. So, once Burgermania’s (very fun) showcase ended, Katey Red took the stage.
For the unfamiliar, Katey Red is a New Orleans sissy bounce artist and something of a celebrity. If you are unfamiliar with bounce music, it is the greatest thing in the whole world and get ready for your mind to be blown.
Sissy bounce is a style of bounce music created by queer artists, which also covers lots and lots of ground and is a lesson for another day. Katey Red and Big Freedia are among the most famous New Orleans bounce artists. Bounce is hypersexual hip hop sampled from a few sacred tracks and is literally impossible not to dance to. I even caught a group of Japanese people dancing, and they are famous for their stoicism. Bounce is powerful! (Warning: bounce also involves lots and lots and lots of booty shaking – hence the name – so watch the this video at home.)
Thursday was the Levitation showcase, presented by Austin Psych Fest. This was Roky Erickson Day, and the whole crowd was in awe, and dancing, and more than one life was changed. It was my second time seeing the legend live onstage and, I have to say, I liked watching the crowd more than the stage. Roky put on a great show, but the stress was obvious.
On Friday night, Panache Booking held their annual baller showcase and it was beautiful mayhem. They brought London group The Bug and we spent a lot of time making sure the electrical transformer was perfect. It was perfect and The Bug had an excellent show, only his second show in America since 2010 (and his first good show, thankyouverymuch)! Jonathan Toubin closed the night with a killer DJ set – he plays strictly 45 rpms in and around New York City and other places. The dude is a walking party. His dusty-covered shiny red shoes were a personal favorite. This was probably my favorite show of the week.
By Saturday, I could barely walk and had resigned to door duty. It felt really, really good to sleep all day Sunday.
The SXSW conference is a huge networking event, despite everyone’s loving declarations otherwise. A lot of awesome bands get discovered, but it’s more about meeting people – networking – than just tons of bands playing. Of course, the exposure a band gets comes from their SXSW connections, but hopefully you see my point.
In that respect, SXSW was pretty awesome. The first person I met was a film producer from Hong Kong named Warren. He was very nice.
Favorite new bands:
Pangea (Los Angeles, CA)
Guantanamo Baywatch (Portland, OR)
Meat Market (Oakland, CA)
– Submitted by Tessa Hunt, Audio Engineering