If you don’t know what SXSW (South by Southwest) is, then you haven’t just been living under a rock — you have been living on another planet! I think my great friend, Joe Cannatelli of On the Fringe Studios, put it best:
How do you describe it? You don’t! You have to experience it to even understand how insane and incredible it is, kid! (Joe talks like a stereotypical Bostonian)
And I think he is right!
To experience the sounds, smells, sights, and feeling of this insane event, you have to just stand on 6th Street and just absorb it for a minute or two…
You have to think of the whole city of Austin (downtown and its east side Warehouse District) turning into the Mecca of music for a week.
Every fucking building is basically a venue playing music. I just don’t mean most places are playing music, I mean every building that can hold people inside is playing live music! Hell, they even had live music in an auto repair shop.
Stages were built in parking lots, warehouses were turned into mini-festivals, and every bar and food joint had a band or solo act playing inside.
With so many showcases going on (typically an afternoon showcase from noon-6:00pm and a night showcase at 7:00pm-midnight), it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to schedule in everyone you want to see. So, as my good friend Jamie at HardRockChick wrote:
Bands: please don’t come to SX and only play once. There’s so much scheduling conflict that it is only worthwhile to be here and play at least three times to be able to capture your entire audience.
And, once again, I couldn’t agree more!
It is definitely worthwhile to play this event if you’re a band because there are not only so many fans there, but also many other bands and industry people to network with. Make sure you have everything lined up and ready to go to reach as many people as you can.
I saw a lot of bands giving out CD’s, but that can become cumbersome for passers-by to take. A better thing to do is have your Bandcamp address set up in a FR/QR code, so fans and industry people alike can simply download it to their phone instantly. Of course, if you’re playing showcases, it’s best to have all the typical goodies and maybe something more creative that will help you stand out from the crowd. (and, boy, is it a massive crowd!)
If you are looking to play a show to get your SXSW cherry popped, you should definitely do it at Hoeks Death Metal Pizza! Not only is the pizza killer, but the metal is relentless. Ask for James of the Texas Metal Collective (TXMC) to get in touch about that — they got sick of promoters screwing them, so they took it upon themselves to take over their scene.
TXMC has free metal going on at Hoeks every night from 6:00pm-midnight during SXSW. So, if you act early enough, you can probably get on one of the line-ups. I got to check out Prey For Sleep there, and was seriously impressed with them and a bunch of other bands. Cheers to James for taking care of me at the joint!
There also are plenty of bigger brand showcases (MetalSucks, Thrasher+Converse, Metal Blade, etc.). My own surprise of the week was Cancer Bats, who really killed it at the Metal Blade showcase! I did find it ironic that we have been talking about how Metal Blade screwed Gypsyhawk for that showcase, and there we were — interviewing their bands about it all!
As I stated, SXSW is not only the place to play, but also to network! I was lucky enough to meet Ariel Hyatt of Cyber PR, who does some incredible campaigns for artists. I also met with Emma Peterson of Tikly, which is a great site for artists to sell show tickets online practically for free. This all happened at the Topspin event during the Music Tech Mixer.
Finally, if you are going to be going to SXSW to play a showcase, remember that it is insane to park and navigate. Talk with the parking garage attendants about being able to go in and out during load/unloading. Also, if you aren’t playing really close to downtown or are playing far off the other side of I-35 in the Warehouse District, it might not be worth playing. Once you fight the insane traffic to get into the city, no one is going to want to go too far out of the city to see you play.
So, next on the agenda — a Metalluminati showcase for 2013? Fuck yes!