Starting at 5 p.m. this evening, Guy Schwartz and Marlo Blue’s South By Due East annual music festival returns at Last Concert Café. The event, now in its 15th year, runs throughout the entire weekend with a starting time of 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, which will give folks plenty of time to get out there and catch some of the artists performing, all of whom are local Houston bands and solo acts. A very cool thing about SBDE (not SXDE) is that it is absolutely free to attend.
“I like to call it a fake festival because to me it’s our TV shoot and recording session, but we do let people in," clarifies Schwartz. "There are bands playing all day long for three days, and it functions [either] as a faux indie music festival or a real one. If you’re there just to listen to bands play, there’s nowhere where you can hear more of these original bands from Houston than right there, and it’s a festival for you.”
Schwartz and his volunteer crew record all of the performances at SBDE each year for a Houston Media Source public-access cable television show created by Schwartz and Blue called, appropriately, South By Due East Television. The show can be seen at 11 p.m. Fridays on Comcast channel 17, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Phonoscope channel 75 and Sudden Link channel 99 and online at hmstv.org and youtube.com/siriushippies.
Audio compilations from past SBDE shows can also be heard online on Wild Man Steve Radio out of Auburn, Alabama; Houston’s Stiletto Broadcasting; and radio.guyschwartz.com. “We’re talking with a few more people and we’re trying to get it everywhere it can be, so we can share Houston’s great original music with the world,” Schwartz says.
Blue has decided her crew will use all 4K cameras this year, as provided by Houston Media Source. “These cameras show so much detail, and I don’t think anybody broadcasts in that much detail, as they're usually used for high-end motion pictures,” Schwartz explains. “We’re really excited about that.”
Schwartz has high praise for all of the members of the volunteer crew that helps with the SBDE recordings each year; in addition to being used for South By Due East Television and the aforementioned online radio networks, SBDE shares the recordings with all of the artists who perform as well.
“Everybody’s welcome to come by and pick up the raw footage or the raw audio and if we choose to edit and mix their performance for the TV show," Schwartz explains. "Once we have that done, they are equally welcome to come by with a hard drive and get a copy of that stuff too. Everything we do belongs to SBDE and the technicians and the musicians and the songwriters equally; we’re all allowed to do anything we want with this recorded material.”
I asked Schwartz what kind of feedback he has gotten from bands who have performed at SBDE in the past and he paused for a moment. Then he said, “How do I say this without sounding like a guy with a big ego? The response, the thanks, and the compliments and respect I get from the musicians in the local scene for what we do is overwhelming and humbles me every time.”
Artists performing at SBDE 2017 include Mydolls, the Mark May Band, Eric Demmer & the Sax Dogs, Devil Killing Moth, New Clear Weapon, Truly Groovy, Funeral Horse, Iron Skillet, Charles Bryant, Robin Kirby & Friends, PuraPharm, Photon Mechanics, Opie Hendrix, Zak Perry Band, Billy Bourbon Band, Nick Mulrooney and lots more; these performers encompass many different musical genres.
Schwartz has his own eclectic band, Guy Schwartz & the New Jack Hippies, who perform at SBDE every year as well. “My band has a set at 4:20 in the afternoon and at 10 at night, where we really only do one or two of our songs; we invite other artists onto the stage with us to teach us a song from scratch right in front of the cameras and the recorders," he says. "We do a little high-wire act and see if we can pull it off, and it makes a fun little segment on the TV show called ‘Teach the Band a Song,’ which people really seem to enjoy."
I asked Schwartz what kinds of people usually show up at SBDE. “The crowd tends to be a combination of people who have heard about us or know what we do and come for the event and the fun, and the personal families, friends and fans of each of these bands,” he explains.
“If we have a Mark May or a Shake Russell, we get a full house full of their fans," continues Schwartz. "If we’re in the middle of the day where we’re doing a few bands that haven’t really built an audience yet, but we respect what they’re doing with their original music or someone has recommended them to us, they may not have fans and they’ll just have a couple of family members and it [makes] a very mixed audience. We try and include artists of different genres right next to each other so people are constantly surprised by what they hear next and maybe build an audience for everybody.”
Looking ahead, Schwartz has also created The Guy Schwartz Foundation For Houston’s Original Music. He says the goal of the foundation is to promote, archive and support Houston’s original music scene.
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“The foundation is not dependent upon SBDE,” Schwartz explains. “Our hope in the long run is to be able to offer grants to other recordists and filmmakers to create events that expose Houston’s original music and create digital media — video and audio recordings — of Houston’s artists, and we expect, whether SBDE itself continues or not, that the project will continue through the efforts of many musicians, visual artists and audio engineers.”
The foundation also has a goal of creating a permanent online archive of Houston music recordings that people can access; the website will include past and future recordings of not only SBDE performances but other documentations of the Houston music scene as well.
In the meantime, Schwartz and his volunteers anticipate enjoying working on SBDE this weekend and beyond. He concludes, “We get to meet new musicians, we get to hear what everybody is doing, we get to network, we get to support the scene, we get to archive the scene, we get to promote the scene and have a great party at the same time. It seems to do everybody a little good.”