Houston's SXSW Strategy
South by Southwest is less a music festival than a force of nature, a ravenous beast that for one week in March consumes everything in its path and the surrounding countryside. But it's also like the old joke about the blind men and the elephant: it can be whatever you want it to be.
Some folks go through two boxes of business cards schmoozing from dawn till dusk (and vice versa), others use their Austin idyll as a working vacation — read: easy expense write-off, though perhaps not so easy this year — and others still as a graduate-level liver examination to see how much free booze that beleaguered vital organ can stand.
First at the Austin Chronicle and now at the Houston Press, Noise has never really bothered to develop a specific SXSW strategy. Since he's on the clock 24-7 this week anyway, he prefers to go where the four SXSW winds take him and see how many notebook pages that fills up — last year it was about 200, if memory serves. The old friends Noise always runs into randomly on the street or in line are without fail the best sources of SXSW insider gossip and hot band/party tips.
To get an idea of what others are expecting from SXSW, though, Noise polled several members of this year's Houston delegation for both their musical and professional agendas. For the record, the only artists he's willing to stand in line for this year are New Wave techno-satirists Devo Friday at the Austin Music Hall and, since he missed them at Toyota Center last November, Me-fucking-tallica Saturday night at Stubb's — though, for that one, he figures he'll be able to hear just fine from the roof of Brackenridge Hospital.
(Note: Showcase times are listed according to the day they begin; i.e., 1 o'clock Friday morning would be listed as 1 a.m. Thursday. Confusing, but that's SXSW for you.)
Matthew Wettergreen, Caroline Collective: "My goal is to highlight the successes we've experienced in Houston over the past year by using a community-focused model for improving conditions, and to demonstrate the wealth of talent and fertility of the Houston community — and not just music, but interactive, the tech people and the film community.
"I'm speaking on a panel at SXSW Interactive, and we're having a party celebrating all things Houston called Houston @SXSW, and it celebrates music, film and interactive; it's the first party of its kind to incorporate all three."
Looking Forward To: "I haven't finished all my research, so I'll just say I'm excited to see Houston bands playing to a national audience. Is that okay?"
Cley Miller, vocals/guitar, Young Mammals: "Our goal first and foremost is just to play our shows well and have a good time. Also, as far as attending goes, we just want to see as many bands [as we can] we wouldn't normally get to see. We want to check out a bunch of international acts.
"Last year, I tried to go [to the Convention Center], but was always too exhausted from the night before that I never made it out. This year, my goal is if I'm awake I'll try to go to the Convention Center and see what's going on. I remember last year I was like, 'I'm gonna go to this, this, this and this,' and didn't even make one."
Looking Forward To: "They've come through a bunch, but for some reason no one in our band has ever seen Dirty Projectors. There's a few bands from Germany that are coming, and a few Japanese bands. I've heard their music but can never remember their actual names."
Showcase: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 18,at Spiro's, 615 Red River St.
Beau Beasley, bassist, Homopolice: "To be honest, I never in my life, and still at this point, want nothing to do with South by Southwest. I try to avoid it like the plague. This year was just a favor to a friend and it kind of mutated into something else. Once it's over, I plan to be back in Houston as soon as possible. I want to stay away. I think it's stupid."
Looking Forward To: "Nobody. I'd like to see Devo, but I'm not sticking around the whole fuckin' weekend just for that."
Showcase: 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at the Scoot Inn, 1304 E. 4th St.
Cody Swann, vocals/guitar, Wild Moccasins: "One thing is I really want to play as much as we can and try to widen our audience. We've only played in Austin I think about four or five times now. I think we're going to be playing about eight — like seven day shows and our showcase. I'm hoping that we can increase our fanbase significantly and just get some experience doing that many shows back-to-back since we're going to be going on tour in June.
"I definitely want to try to make it out [to the Convention Center]. I haven't had a chance to look too much at some of the panels I'd be interested in going to yet, but I think I'm probably going to be using [last Wednesday] to see which bands I'm interested in going to see during our down time and which panels I want to go see. That's one thing that's slipped my mind, but I definitely think it would be for the good of the band."
Looking Forward To: "I'm definitely looking forward to seeing our Houston friends in a different setting. I think Music for Listeners from San Antonio is throwing a really good stage with, I think, [Delaware's] Spinto Band. Our showcase got moved to Wednesday, and this band Hot Lava — I think they're from Virginia. They're a really, really good pop band that I'm excited we're going to be playing after."
Showcase: 12 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, at The Tap Room at Six, 311 Colorado St.
B L A C K I E, experimental rapper: "I don't want to have to deliver pizzas again unless I want to. That's real. There's a few record labels and booking companies that I want to get down with, and my friend's bringing a generator. So I think I'm just going to find where they're having their things at, and just set up and play right in front of them. I'm better at doing that than talking to people."
Looking Forward To: "I want to see [Brooklyn indie-rockers] Grizzly Bear, but my girlfriend won't have a wristband or whatever, so she can't see 'em. She'd be all pissed if I see 'em without her. I want to see [Minneapolis rapper] P.O.S.; I've never seen him before. I want to see Juiceboxxx — if I was a white kid from Milwaukee doing the same thing that I'm doing, that's what he sounds like."
Showcase: 8 p.m. Friday, March 20, at Prague, 411-B Congress Ave.
Roy Head, Mr. "Treat Her Right": "I'm just going there to perform, actually. I'm not going there for the exposure — I've been exposed since 1957. I enjoy doing it, and I'm working for the Continental Club and a guy named Ira Pondas who has the Ponderosa Stomp. They call him Dr. Ike.
"I do a lot of things in New Orleans and New York and elsewhere. He asked me to come down and perform, and they're going to do kind of a documentary thing on an entertainer getting ready for a show. It's just going to be fun, plus there's a few dollars, which is always enticing."
Looking Forward To: "Basically, I'm not trying to sound egotistical or anything, but I just hang in until I do my part of the show, then I'm out of the city. There are so many groups there it's impossible to see everybody, and I'm not into the more wild stuff. I'm into blues and stuff like that."
Showcase: 12:20 a.m. Friday, March 20, at the Continental Club, 1315 S. Congress Ave.
Domokos Benczedi, guitar/general noise, Future Blondes: "To get paid. I don't know how much networking I'm going to get done this year. That was a goal, but now I'm really looking at my schedule and how it's going to work, and I don't know how it's going to happen. I have to do three different things. That's really not that many, but really, basically, to go get paid. Catch up with our traveling friends and keep on spreading our music.
"That's what I was looking at this year — to do more than just hang out and go party with friends, and actually give people that would be into what we're doing some packages. I've started to look into some symposiums and stuff, but I haven't really seen anything that would work yet."
Looking Forward To: "I don't know who I'm going to get to see, but Human Eye from Detroit, New York Dolls. Of course all of our friends — Balaclavas and all our crew. I haven't made my list yet."
Showcase: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Independent, 501 N. IH-35.
Tom Nguyen, guitarist, The Tontons: "We're hoping to make a bigger impact this year, seeing how we were offered a better showcase. And hopefully just take advantage of all the benefits that come with South by. Maybe we'll get lucky and more press will be there. But I think just having more experience helps.
"We're going to try to go to some of the conferences there. We're playing two shows, and would have liked to play more, but it was kind of hard to get 'em all booked. Really, just network as much as possible."
Looking Forward To: "Devo, of course. I want to see [San Francisco's] Thao with the Get Down Stay Down. She's on Kill Rock Stars."
Showcase: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21, Habana Calle 6 Patio, 709 E. 6th St.
Chaz Patranella, drummer, Balaclavas: "Shit, man, I don't know. Win the hearts and minds of the universe?"
Looking Forward To: "Indian Jewelry — we're playing the same showcase; that's gonna be good. I don't really know who's playing this year. We're playing with Six Finger Satellite, and that should be cool."
Showcase: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Independent, 501 N. IH-35.
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