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sxsw09 Sun Mar 22 2009
[A rather philosophical final recap of Saturday in Austin by Thom of Blueblood. If you're interested in catching them in Chicago, they'll be playing this coming Sunday, March 29 at Empty Bottle with Pack A.D. $3! Cheap! ]
We played these guys, Black Diamond Heavies, at our Second Annual Brodown Hoedown party at Back Alley Social on Friday.
Saturday began by loading our gear in the rear of The Jackalope on 6th street, for a day party. We were scheduled to go on at 3:30. But, as suspected, Chicago act, Hey Champ cancelled at the last minute, and all other bands on the bill were shifted back a little.
We set out for breakfast burritos, and on a suggestion by the staff at The Jackalope, hit up the Taco Shack on Trinity. We were hoping for a more ma and pop-type camper/parking lot deal. This place was more taco bell than anything else. And they only served breakfast burritos, with eggs and meat and stuff. So I sampled the side of black beans.
We then caught our friends' Tight Phantomz short set at Radio Room over on 6th street. They slayed!!!! I cannot imagine why they aren't more popular. All the members are exceptional musicians, and the songs move across several genres. Great stuff!
After their set, we went back to The Jackalope to indulge in the free High Life special! The free beer went down smooth, and we waited for our set time, by hanging out with pals in the beer garden. Our bass player, Shaun Paul, performed his solo act "Chaperone" by himself, while Blueblood set up their gear on stage.
We played our tightest, most right-on set of the tour.
After carrying our gear through a crowded beer garden to the alley, 3/4th of Blueblood hung out and got loose, while I took a walk around Austin. It was pretty intense.
These guys were cheeseballs. The singer, John, is Rachael Ray's husband. They headlined our Brodown Hoedown party.
I sat on a curb and watched the people, and listened to several bands at once play their hearts out, as the myriad of instruments bled from the makeshift venues, onto 6th st.
We reconvened a few hours later at Jaime's on Red River across from Stubb's. The food isn't awesome, by any means, but the margaritas are good, and we eat there every year. After a few margaritas, we, now good and drunk made our way back to the hotel. We had some beer in the fridge in our room, so we drank, took some xanax and watched "Knocked Up" on HBO. Mark puked on the floor and went to the van to retrieve a knife to stab us all. Fortunately for us, he was unable to locate it. Haha. I guess you shouldn't mix alcohol and pills!
We left Austin early, Sunday morning with an 18 hour drive ahead of us.
Overall- this was a successful tour in terms of meeting new and awesome people, playing cities we haven't played before, exposing new audiences to our songs and enjoying warm weather. This time around though also opened my eyes on some aspects of today's music and playing in a band in general.
SXSW has become a nightmare version of spring break. I discovered that Its not about music, new aspiring bands or potential opportunities. Its about labels, agents, and industry-types filling their rolodexes with numbers of the bigger acts, and the city of Austin raking in tons of cash. The bigger acts are down there to get paid. The industry people come down to see/schmooze the bigger acts. The college kids venture into the day parties for the free beer, and could care less that the small-time band playing, had travelled 100's of miles just for a shot to play for them that day.
I'm convinced that the music industry local and otherwise is in the worst state its been since I've been playing. There is no support for the bands. Neither from the venues or the other bands. The venues all want more $$$ as the do the bands. Everyone is in it for themselves. And if you want your band to be successful, talent won't make it happen. Practicing really hard won't either. Paying the right "indie" PR firm will. It doesn't matter if you are god's gift to the guitar, or if you fart on a microphone... The right PR firm will get you the hype your money can afford you. Because hype is all one can hope for in these times. Hype will get people out to your shows. Hype will convince people to download your music. Why spend time perfecting your instrument or craft? Just ask daddy for money, to pay Team Clermont to hype your band. The age-old rule of learning your instrument, practicing with like-minded musicians, playing weekday shows and passing out flyers, etc... Has taken a backseat to dating a promoter or having daddy pay for a pr firm. There's no wonder... So many bands never put out a second record. And why so many undeserving, underskilled acts are putting out records in the first place. The people in bands these days, aren't musicians. Music isn't an art or a skill..its become fashion. And fashion can be marketed easily.
Art has become business. And unless you got something marketable or you are someone to mooch off of, you're useless... No matter how talented you are.
Everyone is Austin wants a piece of the pie. From renting a bar for 4 hours at $2500 to $6 ATM fees... The festival/conference is all about one thing: money. SXSW has long been portrayed as the place to meet other bands, connect with people or have a chance to be heard. But unfortunately has quickly become an alternative spring break option for drunk and horny college kids and a chance for music industry folks to market their wares and for Austin to ca$h in.
It doesn't matter how talented you are, its all about how marketable you appear to managers, and booking agents. Because everyone is after the same thing: the almighty dollar! There is no more "indie" anything. The "indie" agencies and labels are using the same business models as major labels.
Michael puked out the window while the van was moving. The van's right side is covered in... Well anyway...
Aside from my soapbox rant, in closing I'd like to add that one should play an instrument, or join a band for fun. And fun only. If something becomes of it... All the better. But don't pick up a guitar solely on trying to get laid or look cool. Play for yourself, not for some agent, looking to capitalize off you.
Fun should always be the motivating factor. Otherwise, if it ain't fun, what's the point?
Thanks to Anne for letting us speak our piece.
-Thomas J. Des Enfants