Once Again, Super Happy Fun Land Welcomes More Than 100 SXSW Overflow Acts

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Actually, by the time you read this, that number will be closer to 90, but you get the point.

SXSW, Austin's popular music, film and interactive festival, opened its arms to the public this past Friday. In an adjacent welcoming hug, Super Happy Fun Land, Houston's stuffed-animal-strewn East End venue, offered music lovers who may or may not be able to make it to SXSW themselves a taste of the many artists who will be featured in our state's capital. It's the same musical spread, only bite-sized.

Bands like Hip Hatchet, Friend Roulette and Time and Distance (Saturday night), and The Bottom Dollars, Cheers Elephant, The Nuclears and Château Nowhere (Sunday) rang in Super Happy's festival this past weekend with a kick-drum bang.

More than a musical consolation prize, venue owner Brian Arthur explained, this year's Overflow Festival gives artists -- some of whom are traveling from as far as Israel -- an opportunity to circulate their respective sounds throughout the Texas music scene.

"I start getting requests for shows as early as August," says Arthur in a phone interview. "I don't choose them. They choose me."

Arthur started the Overflow Festival nine years ago to meet touring artists' demand.

"We started getting all these bands that wanted shows," he says. "They all wanted them the same day."

Rather than lump them together into a one-day sprint, Arthur chose to spread out the musicians over a two-week period.

"They're also looking to play in nearby cities," he adds.

You read that right; Dallas and San Antonio also wave hello to "up-and-coming bands" during this time. Ultimately, though, SHFL's Overflow Festival provides more "band" for your buck -- $8 nightly, or $24 for all 13 nights.

On the other side of the coin, the festival affords daring music aficionados the opportunity to try out musical genres -- bunge-rock, fusion-pop, stress-rock -- otherwise unknown to them.

To give you an example of the awesomeness of this, live vicariously through our introduction to Château Nowhere, a four-person indie-rock conglomerate made up of Austinite (by way of Paris, France) founder and electric guitarist Philippe Beer-Gabel, bass guitarist Will Krause, drummer Zach Humphrey (both from Austin) and UK-born female lead singer Anna Reuben.

Despite being faced with a nearly empty venue Sunday night, the band played with as much vigor as if they were headlining the SXSW festival itself. Their 45-minute set was equal parts rock concert and performance art, with Greek architectural images looping on a screen behind them as they mashed together their guitars' dissonant harmonies with Reuben's rich soprano.

It was an odd but enjoyable juxtaposition, providing those uninitiated in indie-rock (read: me) with a solid introduction to the genre. It was glorious -- if lacking a little in politeness.

"Where are you from?" asked an audience member.

"We're from Shut the Fuck Up," retorted Krause.

By the end of its opening weekend, Super Happy Fun Land's overflow fest had hosted 15 musical acts of this caliber.

"I just like to give these touring bands some opportunity to play in our city and experience what we have to offer," Arthur says.

The SXSW Overflow Fest continues tonight with Modern Rivals, The Sleepies, Friendly People, Ketchy Shuby, Spiralfire, Hanzelle, At Sea, Hank and Cupcakes, Shark?, Eula, Cold Fronts and Midnight Spin, and lasts until March 22. Visit superhappyfunland.com for a complete schedule, and check back tomorrow for a complete guide to this week's artists.

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