Songs Outside The City
Any way you look at it, preparing for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference is a little daunting. Let’s face it, with 2,000 bands playing on 80 stages all over Austin, and countless other related festivities, you’re going to be missing a lot at any given time ... even if you plan ahead. And who has time to plan ahead?
2010 marks my 17th South By, and every year I vow to be better organized in figuring out a schedule in advance. And, just about now, as the conference begins, it occurs to me that I’m nowhere near ready. It’s kind of like realizing the final exam is tomorrow and you didn’t actually attend any of the classes or do any of the homework.
If you’re lucky, the smart kids in class will help you out. With that in mind, I consulted a few SXSW veterans to get the scoop.
Notwithstanding all the panels and showcases, much of the fun to be had is at the roughly 1,000 sponsored parties going on during SXSW. So the first step is to check in with Americana music promoter extraordinaire Cary Baker to get his famous unofficial SXSW day party list. This labor of love (“a 12-year hobby … necessitating late nights and weekends leading up to South By”) has expanded to a 40-page summary of the best places to be at any given time, day or night. Best of all, many are free, with no badge or wristband required.
Another reliable source: the hour-by-hour SXSW show list from L.A. entertainment lawyer, Paste Magazine writer, and Houston expat Jeff Leven. For the first time in years, Jeff is missing South By, due largely to the March 3 arrival of his baby daughter. However, his meticulously compiled list arrived this week, complete with recommendations for a myriad of bands, including power-pop/punk quartet The Henry Clay People, singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno (who, among other accomplishments, wrote the theme song for NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation), and pop/rock trio Crash Kings, whose live show Jeff describes as "utterly stunning" and whose drummer, Jason Morris, also hails from Houston.
Next, do a quick survey of some Houstonians (actual and honorary) who are headed to SXSW this week to see what’s in their plans:
Carolyn Wonderland — (beloved multi-award winning guitarist/ singer/ songwriter/ pianist/ “trumpeteer” and Houston native): “I am really wanting to see American: The Bill Hicks Story (about the late iconic Houston comedian). We are playing at least once a day ... Official showcase is Wednesday 11:30 at Momo’s! I am looking forward to playing Video Ranch’s live virtual concert series. But the biggest thing I am looking forward to is the Million Musicians March for Peace at noon Saturday, meeting at the State Capitol and marching to City Hall. Everyone is encouraged to bring musical instruments and join the band. That’s what I know.”
Rick Heysquierdo – (host/producer for KPFT 90.1 FM’s popular Lone Star Jukebox program): “I want to be sure to catch one of John Hiatt’s shows (Hiatt has several gigs planned in support of his new CD, The Open Road). Also, I’ll be hosting a great showcase Friday afternoon at the Convention Center, featuring Carolina Chocolate Drops, Citizen Cope, the Court Yard Hounds (the side project of Dixie Chicks sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison) and Jakob Dylan with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan.”
Jesse Dayton — (“turbo-country” recording artist and local favorite of Houston and Austin audiences alike): “Looking forward to playing our official showcase with Raul Malo Wednesday night at the Continental Club in Austin with Mojo Nixon from Sirius/XM Radio hosting. Another show I'm looking forward to is playing guitar with Houston songwriter Mike Stinson for his showcase on Friday at 4 pm at Maria's for the Sin City Party. I produced Mike’s new CD that just came out, and it's getting rave reviews from newspapers all over the country."
Great ideas, all. Time for a deep breath. Let the music and mingling begin.