SXSW Part I
For starters, let me take on those pathetic souls who would rather wallow in dissension and what's wrong with SXSW. For all the hating, blogosphere jerk-off's who whine and cry and condemn all SXSW's shortcomings—I refuse to mention them because publicity is what these Me! Me! Me! publicity hounds live for—it remains the vital once–a–year coming together of the tribes. If there's one thing the music world could use more of, it's any shred of a sense of community. If you want to bitch about it, then please don't come. I noticed in some of the most negative blog posts, the writers weren't even there. Kind of like reviewing the Black Crowes without listening to the record. Yeah, it's all dollars and cents capitalism on some levels, but it's also about a mass of music. There were 2000 acts at SXSW 2008. If that doesn't get your juices flowing then you need to get away from music because baby, it's over for ya. I mean can't there still be a little joy about music in amongst all the shifty, trying–to–sell–music rat race? If you want to see and get a feel for what is happening in music today, in nearly all genres, Austin during SXSW is it. If you want to feel good again, if only briefly, about the state of music in the world, Austin for a week in March is the place to do it.
Should bands go in expecting to land some gazillion dollar record deal? Hell no. But playing for rooms full of critics and industry folk sure can't hurt and it's infinitely better than playing on Monday nights in some dumpy club in nowheresville for hundred bucks.
The music business is destroying itself fast enough; let's not add to the fires. In general, we need less hate. Being jaded to the point of no return is a terrible thing. Isn't squabbling about nothing and forgetting about music part of what got the business where they are today?
Two brief episodes may be appropriate. I watched as a German band, fresh from a SXSW gig which must have gone very well, felt flush and bought their first ever pairs of cowboy boots. You're in Texas, so of course you gotta buy boots right? Amidst all the waddling around in new boots—the concept that boots unlike Chuck Taylors need to be "broken in" completely escaped them—they were babbling like parrots about their showcase and how all these people, critics, booking agents and label reps, came up and introduced themselves after the gig. I have the feeling that the entire band is now somewhere nursing their blistered and broken feet so some of these opportunities may have to wait until they heal but still, they made a bunch of valuable contacts and got their music some exposure.
The second fond incident was a Spanish band called Tokyo Sex Destruction. The name alone made me stop in to see what they had musically. At SXSW, one of the key principals is a fairly strict adherence to forty five minute sets. If you want to blow your time singing power ballads or running you mouth at the microphone, that's fine but you ain't getting more than 45 minutes. The boys in Tokyo Sex Destruction used up a third of their time soundchecking like they were the Rolling Stones. When you have a bass player endlessly checking his vocal mike—"Check, check, check" enough already!!!!—time begins to crawl by. By the time they finally launched into their first song, the crowd had thinned out. Their music was your basic thrashy punk with no real songs and vocals (in English) that were unintelligible, but watching a rolly poly bass player convulsing across the stage and a lead singer with a Beatles haircut and greenish velvet jacket, jumping off the drum riser like he was the second coming of David Lee Roth made me smile. You cannot have rock 'n' roll without rebellion and ENERGY. Perhaps that's what's best about SXSW: all the energy. It never fails to recharge my batteries.
On this, the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq let me quote one salient fact: it IS costing a family of four in this country around 16 grand annually to support this wasteful, lethal, mismanged fiasco. The GOP has spent us into disaster. For American taxpayers, winning this war, the Bush McCain mantra, would be getting out. Soon.