March 10th, 2011 | Published in Sounds of Feedback
The scale of South by Southwest (SXSW) is hard to fathom, so much so that we never know the actual number of bands (or even the number of shows for that matter) who play in Austin during what, in my opinion, is the most important week in music. There are hundreds and hundreds of bands billed on the official website, but that is only a small part of the event because the amount of “unofficial SXSW” activity greatly outweighs what you get to see when you purchase a wristband or if you somehow manage to get your hands on one of the mythical badges.
Showcases around the city can host an independent label’s entire roster, and that’s just in the afternoon because the same venue is usually booked for a completely different showcase that night. This exact thing will be happening at every bar, club, restaurant, rooftop, church, backyard and even parking lots across the city. All day and all night for an entire week this cycle repeats, but with various secret shows, hidden parties and after parties thrown in the mix. Solo sets, alter egos, one time spin-off bands and super-groups forming for a single hour of music are all the norm during the week and they get a lot of post-festival attention, but what is really exciting are number of unsigned touring bands that get to play on the same bill as, or in the same bar as, or at the same time as some real indie heavyweights like the Black Angels, Menomena or the Kills.
That is why SXSW is so important; it isn’t crowded with aging rock stars to drive up revenues, or pop queens trying to attract attention; it allows independent bands of any genre to try to make a name for themselves by showing the world what they’ve got. SXSW is a vehicle for bands like Toronto’s Fucked Up to explode with popularity (they played a late late night set on a pedestrian bridge… seriously, check out the video below) by doing what they do for an audience who is willing to listen to something new and get excited about what they see, and that’s something the Coachellas, Lollapaloozas and Bonnaroos can’t do because their crowds are all trying to push their way to the front waiting for the gigantic headlining act to hit the stage. I’m taking nothing away from those other festivals because they are great, but they serve a much different purpose, and to me SXSW means more to the independent music community than any of those ever could.
This year there are a couple of bands that I’m hoping the very best happens to down in Austin, namely the Myelin Sheaths from Lethbridge and Calgary’s This City Defects. You always hope for the best for local bands, but I’ve seen both of these bands numerous times around town and they really deserve the audience they’re going to get down south. Click the links and check them out if you haven’t already, for more refreshingly (and surprisingly) good local music.
Anyway if you’re going I’m supremely jealous; you’ll have an absolute blast, but here’s one piece of advice if you choose to listen to it: you’re never too tired to go to another show. Sleep isn’t worth what you’d miss so grab a couple Red Bull, man up and drag your ass to the next bar to get knocked off your feet by another amazing band that you’d normally never heard of.
Watch: Fucked Up on the Lamar Street Bridge in Austin: