A South By Southwest How-To

Over the past few years, the number of Houston bands at South By Southwest has been shamefully tiny relative to our population, in comparison to our dreaded rival Dallas-Fort Worth, and in terms of adequately representing what we have going on here. This past March, only 13 Houston bands (not including DJs) made the cut, as opposed to 30 from Dallas and nearly 300 from Austin. (As ex-Suspect Bill Grady puts it, "Just how bad does your Austin band have to suck before you're not accepted by South By?")

Racket has blamed the people who run South By in the past, but he's come to suspect that the real reason we have such inadequate turnout is that far too few bands know how to go about getting on the bill, and too many of those who do don't bother. And now that the application deadline is fast approaching, Racket will relieve the former category of its excuse.

So without further ado, here's how your band can perform at the biggest dog and pony show of the year in the live music capital of Travis County:

First, send in a completed showcase application, a CD or cassette of at least three songs of original material, a photo, bio, press kit and your processing fee. To receive an application, go to www.sxsw.com, or e-mail [email protected], or call 512-467-7979. Then mail the packet to SXSW Music Festival, P.O. Box 4999, Austin, TX 78765. Make sure your press kit looks at least semiprofessional. As for the fee, it's cheap: a mere $15 if you get it in postmarked no later than October 7, $25 thereafter up to the final deadline of November 8.

And here, according to Cactus Music & Video general manager Quinn Bishop, is where a lot of Houston bands have been making a key mistake. "After sending in their packet," he says, "they sit on their butts and wait for their rejection letter." Bishop says that the main reason for Austin's and Dallas's dominance is that those bands know how to play the behind-the-scenes game and we don't. So here's what you need to do: Get political. Call in favors from whatever friends you might have in Austin, be they ex-bandmates who have moved on, nightclub owners you've impressed, music scribes in the capital -- whoever. Lobby. Sweat. Consider the mailing in of your application just phase one of getting on.

"It's like Thomas Edison said," Bishop says. "It's 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. In the music business, it's 1 percent music and 99 percent business."

Either way, you'll know by February 8 whether you made the cut. And if you don't make it, you'll at least have a nifty South By rejection letter to show your grandkids.

On a related topic, Bishop believes that not enough Houston bands use the free resources of the Austin-based Texas Music Office as much as they should. Many young bands don't have a clue about anything when they start out. They don't know how to go about manufacturing a run of CDs. They don't know how to pay royalties on cover tunes. They don't know how to get a UPC registered. All of that info and tons more is available from this taxpayer-supported clearinghouse in Austin, and what's more, it's all free. Check it out at www.governor.state.tx.us/music/index.htm .

With the seasons changing and the first straight-up cool weather since April, Racket thought it was time to take a look back at some past columns and bring readers up to date on what's happened since then.

When last we visited at length with Robert Conran, a.k.a. Reilly, the unluckiest musician in Houston history was languishing in an INS jail, convicted of a crime even the judge in his case believed he didn't commit, awaiting cancer surgery and deportation to a country he hasn't lived in since the 1960s. Since then, his tumorous kidney has been removed. But while he may have won the battle against cancer, he lost the war to stay in America.

"He got deported, basically," says Reilly's friend and former Los Mortales bandmate Steve Baker. "He's in England now. He had a change of heart. Finally he was just like, 'You know what? Why don't I just get out of the country?' "

Baker says if anybody can come out of midlife cancer surgery and start over -- penniless, mind you -- in what amounts to a foreign country, Reilly can. "He's a tough guy, man -- this is the second time he's battled [cancer] in his life. I talked to him not too terribly long ago, and he's got a pretty cool setup over there in London and he's just enjoying his freedom. That's a big thing to get it back when it's taken away."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.