Friday, March 20, 2009

SxSWm - Friday


Little Steven Keynote Speech

The morning began with a keynote speech by Steve Van Zandt (aka. Sylvio Dante, Little Steven, or Miami Steve). This E-Street Band icon was there to discuss his take on the state of the music industry.

The high points of his talk:

  • Artists no longer work on the craft of performing. Expect to skip steps, which should include putting in time to play out live. Rough quote, it takes about 10000 hours of focused work, to achieve greatness.
  • Spoke about the need to make music that people can dance to.
  • Runs an Indie record label with bands from all over the globe. Seems to have a high regard for Norway, as an incubator of talent.
  • Talked at length about the Underground Garage program he does on XM and Sirius. He promoted and pushed multiple bands, and in hindsight many warranted further listening.

Lots of sage advice, from someone with the music entrepreneurial spirit deep inside his core. He of course was dressed in his very distinctive garb. Later that day I saw him walking down the sidewalk outside of Latitude 30 still dressed that way, trying to be inconspicuous. This was fairly comical to be honest, I just wish I had gotten a picture.

Songs in Strange Places with Tiny Desk Concerts and Project Song

An interesting panel about several projects being conducted by NPR. I didn't stay for the whole session, but it included a segment with Nellie McKay.


Manhatten Love Suicides at the Sesac day stage

This was a very good Indie band from Britain. I heard them as I was eating and stayed for the entire set. They seemed to draw some attention from many of the passers by. Will have to investigate further.

Austrialian Music Party

I heard several bands, but the most interesting was Temper Trap, who drew on guitar ostinatos like Edge from U2, combined with a millennial vocal sound. It seemed to go well with good weather, and a couple of bottles of Dark Wattle Ale.

Juliette Lewis and the New Romantiques at the DirecTV Bat Bar

All I can say about this is that I'm tired of screen actors wanting to do music. This show was about as compelling and interesting as Dog Star.

The Proclaimers at the DirecTV Lone Star Lounge

This was another highlight of the show. The brothers basically did this show by themselves, since their band did not want to make the trip. No matter, they were awesome even without the band.

Although they sing with a thick brogue, their voices are powerful and their lyrics moving. There is a certain weird charisma that these guy have that draws the audience in. Like the Kin, they had everyone eating out of the palm of their hands. They finished with their hit, I'm Gonna Be, which was a delight.

I felt compelled to buy one of their albums after seeing this show.

Honey Ryder at the Thristy Nickel

This band was listed as TBA on Red Gorilla schedule, most likely because they had SxSW showcases, as well. They were a British band with a female lead vocalist and equally talented woman on backup vocals.

I'm not sure if everything they sang was their own music, but they were very talented. If time constraints were not a factor, I may have attempted to see their showcase.

I Am David Sparkle at the Karma Lounge

Karma Lounge is dance club that is temporarily converted into a live music venue for SxSW. My friends Ron, Alissa and I went to check out this band from Singapore.

Unfortunately, they had a late start because of power problems. I'm not sure who was at fault, but Alissa (a former SxSW staff member) said that they used to have people specifically assigned to handle this. I felt really heartbroken to discover that this band had flown 30 hours to get to Austin, and that this was there only showcase. Kudos for the effort.

This band was a power trio having a nu-metal/prog sound, and no vocals. I found the music interesting and actually would have stayed longer to hear more, if possible.

Igudesman and Joo at St. David's Church

I always try to go and see at least one show at this venue, given the exceptional acoustics of the room. I chose this show at random, and fate came through for me.

Igudesman and Joo are a classical violinist and pianist who have a comedic act in the tradition of Victor Borge. Let me first say they are phenomenal musicians. On top of that, however, they are extremely funny.

My best advice is to direct you to their website or one of the Youtube videos, so you can see for yourself.
Igudesman and Joo at St. David's

Monahans at the Tap Room

I erroneously thought that the Golden Hornet Project was playing in this slot. It turned out being a local Austin band. I happened across my friend Thad, before proceeding elsewhere.

Austin Music Hall


I ended up at the Austin Music Hall early in order to see Devo. As a result, I had to sit through Tricky. Honestly, I don't get this guy's popularity. His band was fairly tight, playing slow grooves. I'm not sure what his talent is however, certainly not much of a singer or performer. Yawn.


This was another highlight of the night. Even though a huge crowd was attempting to see Metallica on the other end of town, at Stubbs, the Austin Music Hall was still packed as well. For me personally, 27 or 28 years had transpired since last seeing them on the New Traditionalists tour on Halloween night, in 1981 or 1982, at Radio City Music Hall. I was one of those weird punkers in high school that went to go see them immediately after they were on SNL in 1979, and was always a big fan of this very innovative band.

The 5 Spuds from Akron came out and played for over an hour covering 2 new songs and a selection of their hits including Jocko Homo, Mongoloid, Gut Feeling, Freedom of Choice, Whip It, Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA, Secret Agent man, etc... Even though they are all old men now, it was amazing how much the crowd was into the show.

They are expected to tour this year, I may have to make a point to go.

Devo at the Austin Music Hall

PS. Boogie Boy did make an appearance for one song, Beautiful World.

SxSWm - Thursday

Thursday was a busy day early, I'm feeling a little fatigue since this is already day 6, only 2 more to go.


There's Still Lots of Money in Songwriting and Music Publishing - Jeff and Todd Brabec

This is the fourth time I've seen the Brabec twins speak, third time at SxSW, and once as an Austin Music Foundation Small Group Session. I have always been impressed with depth of the material they present, and how approachable both gentlemen are. I was able to speak for a few minutes with Jeff afterwards, and it appears that another AMF session is in the works. I always learn something new at their talks.

Placing Your Music in Film

This was a repeat of a similar session from last year's SxSW. The panel was mainly Music Supervisors, but also included someone from Subpop records, who manages licensing of their catalog. It was very interesting to hear about this process from the Label's or Publisher's perspective.

Quincy Jones Keynote

This was a marathon and went over at least 40 minutes. I found this write up via Twitter. It does a great job recapping the talk.

Devo Interview

This was one of the highlights of the show for me, all 5 members of the band were present for an in-depth interview. They talked about all of the highlights of their career starting with the Akron, OH days, Kent State, and moving to LA.

Some interesting comments were made about their rivalry with the Talking Heads, along with some choice comments about David Byrne. They also told a story about their label trying to convince them to have John Lydon (aka. Johnny Rotten) join the band, giving some fascinating insight into the Music Biz at that time. Also interesting was their discussion of their cover of Working In A Coal Mine, how it was dropped from their album by their label, yet still went top 40 via the Heavy Metal soundtrack. Devo


Abalone Dots on the Sesac Day Stage

While grabbing a bite to eat, I caught this incredible act, 4 women from Sweden playing upright bass, guitar/mandolin, violin, cello. They also did incredible 4 part vocal harmonies. Outstanding, I will probably look for their CD and buy it.

Von Bondie on the DirecTV soundstage

I caught the last 3 songs of this act from Detroit. Well done, but fairly mainstream stuff.

Peter Murphy at the Elysium

I accompanied friends Ron and Alissa to see the original Goth rocker, Peter Murphy. Pretty much as expected, Peter seems to be good humored and self-deprecating enough to not come off like an asshole. The band was very good, they were obviously all old pros.

18th Floor

I make it point to go to this venue every year because of the consistent quality of the acts I've seen here.

Andy White

I caught the last song of the set of this very talented Irish act. My only complaint is that I wished I had not dallied along the way, so that I could have heard more

The Kin

Another highlight of the festival. They are a pair of brothers (?) from Australia, who had a mercenary rhythm section composed of a bass player and drummer from the Austin bands, Wideawake and Vast.

To me, these guys sound reminiscent of Tonic and you could tell that they had the little something extra. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands before coming out and doing one number standing on two chairs, in the middle of the crowd. I think these guys will be stars some day. Kudos to them for handing out download cards of their music.

Stars Go Dim

I caught the first 4 songs of this talented band from Tulsa, OK. I felt sorry for these guys because they had to follow the Kin.

Somi at Elephant Room

After an extra long setup, Somi managed to do one song. Things quickly derailed by PA/sound problems. After waiting 20 minutes, I left.

Leni Stern at the Copa

This was the last act I saw of the night. Leni is a NY based guitarist, who is married to Mike Stern, another famed guitarist. She was part of a 4 piece band, with her self, an Upright Bassist, Drums, and Bazuki player (who also had Tablas and other percussive nick-knacks)

The music was sort of new age mishmash of Persian/Middle Eastern sounds with a light Jazz twist. In general though, I find her playing a bit understated.

Needing sleep, I headed home a little early.

SxSWm - Wednesday

I managed a fairly early start to the first day of the music segment of SxSW. Of course, the most interesting panels are always the first couple of days.


Annoying Things that Bands Do

This was an entertaining panel of Club Owners and Bookers giving their collective horror stories. Nothing surprising here really, and I noticed that the group was predominantly people from the Chicago area. I wish there had been a few Texans on this panel, although I guess there were some universal aspects to what was being said on this panel.

Artist as Entrepreneur

A fantastic panel involving one artist, Rachael Sage (who I had seen at SxSW several years ago), along with Panos Panay (CEO Sonic Bids), Jeff Price (CEO Tunecore), and Derek Sivers (of CD Baby Fame). Jeff and Derek are fountains of information, and seem to really care about their fellow artists. Like Martin's panel later, repeated attendance may be required to catch the gems presented.

Loudness Wars with Bob Ludwig

A very interesting session with legendary Mastering Engineer, Bob Ludwig. This talk worked on several levels, and was very engaging because he spent considerable time A-B'ing mixes off of his laptop. The whole talk got of to a good start when he chose Frank Zappa's, Dumb All Over, the first listening.

This session was also fun because I ran into old friend, Scott Hull. I recorded a 4 song demo project over in Scott's parent's garage in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1985. He's now one of the giants in the NYC Mastering scene. Scott informed me that he had bought Masterdisk this past year.

Martin Atkins

This was essentially a repeat of Martin's talk from last year. Regardless, repetition is needed to fully absorb the jewels that Martin leaves on the table. He is truly a champion for the DIY crowd.



I started out the night at the Copa on Congress. I had never been in this club prior to tonight. It apparently is a Latin, Salsa Dansing club having a fairly large dance floor and a stage big enough to hold an 8 or 9 piece band.

El Tule

A very good local Latin dance band. The dance floor was packed, I'm sure Little Steven would have approved, given what he said during his talk.

Invincible Czars

The Czars were the main reason I went to this venue. Helping to support my good friend, Josh Robbins, from AMF. Their set was good, but the sound suffered because their Keyboard player is out of commission for a while.

Contra Coup

A local Dub band. I listened to the first 3 songs, but was not really that engaged with their material, so I ventured onwards.

Monster Big Band at the Elephant Room

I walked up the street to Austin's main Jazz Club, the Elephant Room. There was a local big band with about 14 members. I was impressed that they managed to fit into such a small space. I enjoyed to a degree, however, my preference has always been for my improvisational, small Jazz combos over Big Bands. There is however, a certain sonic strength to Big Bands that you have to like.

Del Castillo at Antones

I stopped in here to hopefully hear some of the new material from Del Castillo's new album to be released, next month. I believe that I heard two new cuts. As always, they killed. I noticed several people with out of town badges, who appeared to be impressed.

La Zona Rosa

I trekked down to LZR just to see what was going on. Was very disappointed to see button pusher/DJ called Deadmau5. Given the size of some of the temporary venues in town during SxSW, why would you sacrifice a good large stage?

The Tap Room

This was the first time I had ever been in this venue either. There was band named Wild Moccasins from Houston. I listened to one song and wondered how the hell they got accepted for a showcase.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SxSWi & SxSWf - Tuesday

Yesterday was the SxSWi close out. I attended three panels (that I can recall), one was about current attacks on Fair Use and was very well done, the second was about NUI interfaces which was also somewhat intriguing, and last but not least, I attended one of the Platinum Track sessions out of curiosity. I don't see what was supposed to be so special about the Platinum Track session, it hardly seemed worth segregating this talk from the others.

The most interesting thing of the day was the film panel with Richard Linklater and Todd Haynes. The conversation turned to the previous night's screening of Superstar. It was a great session because both directors answered a wide array of questions, from a very engaged audience. Great panel.

I finished the night with two films, You Won't Miss Me and the Austrailian film, Horsemen. I must say that the former was too artsy for my tastes. Some interesting usage of multiple cameras and media formats, but the story itself didn't appeal to me. Horsemen was a bit more engaging, sort of a Walking Talk meets Dead Alive vibe. Basically the story of a father who goes on a rampage after his daughter dies as a result of being involved with the porn industry.

The long days start tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SxSWi & SxSWf - Monday

I got up a little later than usual today, and was unable to park in my usual spot, the Parking Garage. The weather has finally broken, and it was absolutely beautiful, warm and sunny.

In the morning I bounced between two talks about managing employees in startups, and protecting domain names. The first was somewhat interesting, but for the second talk, all I can say is god save us all from lawyers, please. This panel members (all lawyers) and some of the other Esquires in the audience came to the great conclusion that there is a problem with ICANN because they turn a profit, and that all of interests would be best served by having the government regulate this function.

After a nice leisurely lunch on the roof of the Iron Cactus, I spent the afternoon at two talks:

  • A film panel focused on the topic of 3D, with Robert Rodriguez and Henry Selick, the stop action animator of Nightmare before Christmas fame. This session was fantastic and went by way too fast. They both presented short clips of their work in this domain, and answered a large volume of questions. It was great to be able to see into the minds of these two fantastic artists and see what makes them tick. Having the audience so engaged, made the session enjoyable on several levels.
  • Bruce Sterling's keynote speech finished the day. I think he portrayed the general state of things, with some good commentary on today's Internet, Social Media, etc. I would say that although he tried to assume the mantel of an objective journalist or observer, his political agenda did leak out on several occasions. I'll just say that this, Bruce is lot more enamored and impressed by Politicians and Policy Wonks, than I am.

For the evening, I went to two film screenings:

  • Luckey - at the Convention Center theater. First let me say, this facility was surprisingly good. It is by far, the largest screen of the festival and great sound. The film itself was fantastic and very moving. If only most reality TV could aspire to this level.

    The film is a documentary about the life of sculptor, Tom Luckey, who became a quadriplegic from a fall. The deadly irony of this, is the fall was the result of one of his own architectural decisions.

    The film covers his present day business, building elaborate climbing tree sculptures that you would find in a Children's Museum. The documentary details the interactions with various family members as they prepare one of these climbing trees, for the Boston Children's Museum.

  • The second film I saw last night, was listed as TBA on the Alamo Ritz list. This intrigued me enough to want to go see it. While in line, I recognized that the person next to me in line was originally from Baltimore (my home town), and we had a fun conversation while waiting.

    Entry to the screening was delayed. All we were told is that the film was 30 years old, historically significant and that projector setup was taking longer than expected. We finally entered the theater, I was surprised to see Richard Linklater introduced as the MC. He then explained that we were about to see Todd Haynes' banned film Superstar, the Karen Carpenter story, and that Todd might be available after the screening for Q&A. Richard also spoke about seeing this film back then, and the impact it had upon him.

    The entire film is done with barbie dolls, interspersed with segues of real people at various points. I found it extremely creative, and found it interesting to hear about why the film had been banned. I was really happy I made this decision to just wing it.

Looking forward to another great day of weather and the close out of SxSWi.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SxSWi and SxSWf - Sunday

Sunday was a great day, but one contributor to that was the turn in the weather. It finally resembled an Austin spring. It was almost a crime to spend part of the day inside.

Of note for SxSWi, I attended talks on Version Control, and the status of CSS3. Having used svn every day for the past 4 or 5 years coupled, with bzr, then git for the past 18 months, I felt like I could have given as good of a talk on the subject, as any of the panel members. Of course, there were several corporate types still pushing their proprietary wares. My only question, why? You put any of these up against git, and I believe that git will win every time (now that the documentation problem is being addressed).

The CSS3 talk was more interesting with the lead Mozilla developer, a member of the IE8 team, and the CTO of Opera there for the discussion (no Safari representation, however, boo Apple). As much as it pains be to say, kudos to Microsoft for finishing a fully CSS 2.1 compliant version of IE8.

The highlight of the day however, was hearing lifelong Kubrick friend and producer, Jan Harlan, talk about Stanley. It was a real treat to hear Jan in person, since I loved the documentary he prepared that is included the Kubrick Box Set, from Warner Brothers. The room was filled with people (like me), who were all passionate fans of SK's work. The highlights for me was hearing about two projects that Stanley was never able to complete, Napolean, and the Aryan Papers, a Holocaust movie that was scrapped because of concurrency with Shindler's List. Jan did say however, that a new book will be published with Stanley's notes, storyboards, etc. from his extensive pre-production process for these two movies, and AI. He also mentioned that a 2nd (and cheaper) edition of the Taschen Kubrick book was going to press.

I finished the night with 2 films, Humpday, and a Sneek Peak presentation of Sasha Baron Cohen's new movie, Bruno. Humpday was shown at the Alamo Ritz, and although I miss their original downtown location, I must say I am growing to like this location. I also really enjoy the whole process with having a Q&A with the director, after the screening. Talking to some film people in line from LA, I also discovered that the Alamo concept is still unique to Austin. It's a shame, I think it would take off anywhere.

For Bruno, all I can say is that Sasha seems more and more like Andy Kaufman every day. If you thought Borat was over the top, then all I can say is that he has pushed the envelope even further. I laughed pretty hard at the footage they showed. The only thing I didn't like was the heavy handed security. There were actually hired security for this screening, to ensure that no screeners appeared on the Internet. Cell phone confiscations were threatened.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

SxSWi, SxSWf and Barcamp Austin IV - Saturday

Although I'm taking in the whole SxSW experience this year (Interactive, Film and Music), I punted day one because of work commitments, and crappy weather Friday. I opted for a more manageable 9 straight days, rather than 10 (LOL). Today, I popped my Interactive and Film cherry.

Having never been to the Interactive portion of SxSW before, I was working with a clean slate of expectations. It did seem however, as though the Barcamp or unconference model has started to diffuse over into the conference world. Given the subject matter and people at SxSWi this was not too surprising.

I attended a number of sessions about startups and bootstrapping, and several specifically focused on Ruby on Rails. These were not new subject areas for me, I was more interested in seeing their mainstream adoption. Mid afternoon, I also managed to sneak out, and walk down the street a block to the Barcamp Austin IV location, at the old Paradox nightclub. I must say, although the location was great (relative to SxSW), the actual venue did not work for me. In fact, this is the first Barcamp I would call a Fail.

For the remainder of the day I hit several of the outside parties, saw Doc Searls interviewed, and straiffed the Dorkbot event, which included a guy that had built a large modular analog synthesizer (from modified PAIA kits and I ended the night with a pair of films, including Daryl Wein's and Zoe Lister-Jones', Breaking Upward. An absolutely fantastic movie in the narrative feature realm.

Now, off to prepare breakfast, and head downtown for my day 2.