Going to SXSW this year

5 Mar

Hi, this is Jeff, owner of the Radon. I used to write super long posts in past blogs, this is one of them.

I wanted to talk about my upcoming trip to SXSW with Cat, the lovely Radon Wife. For those of you who don’t know what SXSW is, this is the festival of festivals, and it’s located in Austin, TX.

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We actually have family in Austin, TX, and once every few years we travel down to see them, and like back in 2009, it just happens to occur during the second week of SXSW. I don’t know all the particulars of what SXSW is, but I have a gist.

SXSW (South by Southwest) is massive, and I’m only focusing on the music part. There is also an indie movie fest, electronics expo, and a whole bunch of other things that happen under the SXSW umbrella. I only have a few days, and music is what’s more important to me anyway. SXSW gets bigger every year, and more and more established as the place where bands get discovered. I listen to some music podcasts when I’m at work, and they all say SXSW is the beginning of festival season. This is when bands get discovered, and then by the following year these bands will be playing all the big festivals, Grammy nominations, etc.

However, there are like 1-2 thousand bands officially or unofficially taking part in the fest and the place is crawling with industry people. Tons of reporters, photographers, critics, it’s a complete mass of humanity. In some ways its like walking down the Strip in Vegas as someone who likes to gamble and every casino looks huge, interesting and inviting, that’s what walking down 6th street in Austin during SXSW is like, only much bigger… I suppose I could think of myself as an industry person now, but I don’t think house show venue owners count.

I mentioned I went in 2009, and it was utter bliss. I had no idea what I was doing, so I staked out one lineup of bands in one venue each night and we showed up 2 hours early to make sure we got in. It seemed to work well, there wasn’t a show I couldn’t get into, so this year I’m going to be a little more up for adventure, but at the same time, things seem to be more exclusive. It seems that all the big buzz shows require $750 badges to even have a chance of entering (anything dealing with NPR for example). I suppose it’s the price to pay for success.

When we were there in 09, the idea of hipsterism was still evolving. Shutter Shades were cool, the blog about what white people like was still updated regularly, and everyone thought my Pug shirt was awesome. This year, I have no idea what to expect. The whole hipster thing seems to have played out, I think people will be trying a lot less to be cool…

2662_507922359331_7366595_nIt was a sweaty night

We got to see some good stuff when I was there in 09. I got to see my favorite band at the time, Anathallo, which was great as they broke up soon after (not great, please come back!).

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We also got to see a Scottish showcase that included a very silly band called Dananananaykroyd, The Proclaimers (they sang that song from the 80s), Camera Obscura, and We Were Promised Jetpacks (they opened the show, before they were cool).

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We also got to see a Sub Pop showcase that included Blitzen Trapper and the Handsome Furs, and even accidentally found a day party where Passion Pit was playing (also before they were cool). And last and not least I got to stand in line with Annie Clark from St. Vincent. She is a very tiny person (but plays guitar like a robot god!).

I have to say that I’m a little less excited about going this year. I’ve been focusing so much on this Radon thing for the last year, that I really haven’t been paying attention to what’s “cool”. I feel like I have lost the star struckness I’ve held for musicians, and am more concerned with their authentication. Now it seems the music I get most excited about is music performed by someone I know.

However, I have found some shows that look pretty great. I only have Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to attend the fest, so I’m going to use my time wisely. I don’t have an expensive fancy schmancy badge, so I have to be nimble. Wednesday I’m going to hit up the Paste Magazine day party where The Lone Bellow, Dawes, Foxygen, and the Shout Out Louds are playing among other equally great bands. I think that’s by far going to be the best lineup. The rest of Wednesday night we’ll just wander around and take it all in.

Thursday I plan to hang out with our new acquaintances from The Soil and The Sun (hopefully will blossom into romance, but probably not) for a showcase including them and a bunch of other bands I haven’t heard of, but will probably soon like. Toward the end of that showcase we’ll hop over to a different venue to hopefully catch Local Natives.

Friday, our last day, we’ll be checking out an electronic showcase with one of our Radonette’s favorite bands, Small Black, along with some other great stuff, including the Joy Formidable, and then at the end of that evening we hope to catch Kimya Dawson (of Juno soundtrack fame).

I will be surprised if all these plans work out, but if at least half of them do, I think we’re going to have a great time. I’ll be sure to send out updates on how each day went. Chances are I’ll be too tired to blog about it at the time, but I’ll catch up eventually. Someone should give you an award for reading this whole thing, and if you know of a SXSW band we should check out, be sure to let us know! I know some of you will say Dignan, but they seem to only be playing Saturday and we’ll be having to drive home that day.

I suppose I felt the need to write this, as my experiences in SXSW in 2009 showed me how much life music breathes into a place. Austin is electrifying during this time, so much culture, it completely overwhelms you to the point where you’ve never felt more alive. I hope that the Radon can snatch some of this joy for Springfield. We’ll see what the future will bring!

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