Saturday, March 20, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 9

It's Almost Over

Even though I was exhausted, I felt a bit of sadness realizing that this was the last day of the festival.

I should also comment that the weather turned for the worse on this day, with the arrival of cold front, on the heels of some thunderstorms. I really couldn't complain about the weather in general, since it had been excellent for the previous 8 days.

Panels

Creating a Music Town

This was an interesting panel detailing how groups from Portland, Maine, Athens, Georgia, and San Francisco are attempting to recreate an Austin-like scene, in their own downtown. I was particularly pleased to discover that Portland has a Music Foundation modeled after the AMF. (I was also surprised to hear that Memphis has a similar effort too).

In general, it was encouraging to see so many municipalities grasping the importance of music and the arts. Perhaps others will get to enjoy something similar to what we have here.

I Never Travel Far without Big Star

This talk was intended as a prelude to the Big Star showcase at Antones. Unfortunately, Alex Chilton's passing on Wednesday had changed the nature and tone of both events.

Members of both the original lineup, as well as the new lineup (the guys from the Posies) were sitting on the panel. In addition, there was a remote skype connection with the engineer for Big Star's first album. I believe he was part of Stax Records, and he had lots of history about the Memphis sound. I did not get his name, but he had worked extensively with Alex Chilton, throughout his career.

Although I was a fan of Big Star thanks to the guys from Sound Opinions, I basically listened and soaked this panel in, since I do not have a deep knowledge of this history or lore. The panel remedied that, allowing me to better enjoy the showcase later that night.

Bill Hicks - An American Icon Remembered

This session was a nice complement to the premier of the Hicks film. All of the panelists had participated in the QnA after the premier screening. The group included one of the movie's directors, Bill's brother Steve, and two fellow Houston comics. The final touch was Bill's mother, who was sitting in the audience.

I think I enjoyed the panel more than the QnA after the premier, mostly because it afforded the audience more time to ask questions. Let me just close in saying that I ordered several Bill Hicks CDs, from Amazon, after seeing the premier. Seeing the film reminded me how much I enjoyed and missed Bill's comedy. Bill Hicks Panel

Artists: Getting a Digital Ass-Kicking?

The was the last panel I attended for SxSWm. It was a general discussion about how artists can best utilize their web presence, to promote their music. For the star gazers in attendance, the designated celebrity on the panel was NY singer, Suzanne Vega.

The advice given was practical, and useful. I found some humor in some of Suzanne's comments. It appears that very few people actually know what she looks like, so she is not typically recognized. She complained that on more than one occasion, when she used her credit card while on tour, clerks or waiters would say Oh wow, you have the same name as that singer from NY.

Honestly, it wasn't until this panel that I knew what she looked like either. I would have liked to have caught her set, but it just wasn't in the cards.

Digital PR Panel with Suzanne Vega

Chop Shop - Atlantic Records Party

After leaving the last panel, I went outside and caught a couple of bands at the Chop Shop Records party. They were Scars on 45, and Marina and the Diamonds. I was impressed with Marina, a very British pop act. On Sunday looking through the Statesman write up about the Perez Hilton party, I had noticed that she also performed there, as well.

Although the music was enjoyable, the air temp was in the low 40's and dropping, and space under the tent was at a premium. I left before the next band went on, and headed to 6th street in an attempt to catch dinner. Chop Shop Records Party

Film

After seeing big lines at Mekong River, and having grown tired of Pizza and the Bratwurst carts, I decided to watch one last movie, at Ritz. I had noticed that the film at 7PM was short, and this would allow me to eat dinner, and more importantly warm up.

The screening was actually two films about dance. Members of the Austin Ballet Company were in attendance, apparently because several alumni were in the Opus Jazz feature.

Keep Dancing

This was a short 15 minute film about an elderly couple, who were Broadway and TV dancers during the 1950's. Now retired, they still dance several days a week. It was quite inspiring.

NY Export: Opus Jazz

The feature had a group of about 20 young men and women performing Jazz dance routines in abandoned buildings and parks, in downtown NYC. It was entertaining, and had a great soundtrack, but if there was some sort of meaning and message to it all, it evaded me. Then again, I was there for the BTUs and the Green Chilli Mac and Cheese, so who am I to complain? By those measures, this side trip was a success.

Music

I started off this night of music by venturing back to my favorite listening venue, St. Davids.

Ora Cogan

Was the first act I went to go see. She is a singer songwriter, and was accompanied by another guitarist who also sang backing vocals. Honestly, I found her singing to be flat and slightly annoying. Enough that I bailed early, and headed over to the other room, the Sanctuary.

Hey Marseilles

On the way to the other room, I ran into some friends and fellow Baltimorons who are part of the Ravens Nest, that I hang with at the Tavern, during Football season. They introduced me to two other people that had flown in from Baltimore, to visit for SxSW.

We talked for several minutes, before we all proceeded into the Sanctuary to see the last part of a set by a band from Seattle, Hey Marseilles. It was very well done, I should have just skipped Ora and gone straight to this show. Hey Marseilles

Shine

My Baltimore friends then mentioned that they were staying for the next band, Shine, who were from France. My friends had been putting them up for the week, at their house.

I was glad they had convinced me to stay, and found that I enjoy a lot of the recent French alternative bands, after first being made aware of this sub-genre by the boys from Sound Opinions (Thanks Jim and Greg). Shine

Arborea

For the final act at St. Davids, I watched Arobrea. It was a husband and wife duo, with the husband playing a Strat, and the wife playing several instruments including violin, banjo, acoustic guitar, and/or pump organ.

The music reminded me of Steve Tibbetts. I was impressed enough with them that I bought one of their CDs. Arborea

Walking by the Big Event

On my way from St. Davids to Club 115, I passed a nondescript, block sized building with a huge crowd outside, as well as several touring buses. I had never seen this building used for anything, but on this night, the lines were 4 and 5 people deep, all of the way around the structure.

I discovered the following day that this was the Perez Hilton party. From the accounts in the Statesman, it appears that both Snoop Dog and Courtney Love performed there. Honestly, I don't think that I missed much. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed myself even if I had managed to finagle one of private invitation, wrist bands.

Anime Winds

My main purpose in leaving St. Davids and heading to Club 115 was to catch at least one band for the Classical Crossover showcase. This night was hosted Michael Drapkin of the Anime Winds ensemble, who I had met at an AMF function in February.

I had decided to check out his band's set, since it sounded intriguing. I had not realized however, that my friend Graham Reynolds had composed some pieces for their group. He and several other members of the Golden Hornet Project were participating in this showcase, in various roles, and had composed music for some of the groups.

Unfortunately, Club 115 shares a wall with a lesbian dance club. The dance music emanating from the club next door, easily penetrated the wall, making it almost impossible for anyone to hear the acoustic music. Anime Winds played valiantly, but the listening conditions really detracted from the experience.

A similar problem had occurred last year at SxSW, when Graham hosted a similar show at the Tap Room. Having spoken to several of these artists in the past, I understand why they do not want to perform in traditional chamber music venues. They were hoping to make their music more accessible with a different style of presentation. Unfortunately, the venues chosen by SxSW for the past two years have been totally inadequate. Here's hoping a better solution can be found in the future.

Tommy Keene

Leaving the cacophony of Club 115, I headed over to the Tap Room is see some Power Pop. Tommy Keene provided a good warm up for the Big Stars show to follow. Tommy Keene

Big Star - A Tribute to Alex Chilton

For my last showcase of SxSW 2010, I went to Antones to catch the Alex Chilton tribute. I had obtained a Sxxpress pass in anticipation of a large crowd, and I was right. While waiting before the show, I noticed multiple celebs in the audience, such as John Doe, and Exene Cervenko from X and the Knitters.

The show lasted for approximately 2 hours, and the two frontmen from the Posies were joined on stage by a rotation of Big Star alumni, and mid-tier, Indie artists who have all listed Big Star as influences. John Doe did join the band on stage, Exene did not. The set ended with Susan Cowsill on stage, singing. Several people I spoke to were disappointed that neither Paul Westerberg, nor any of the members of Cheap Trick made an appearance. There were obviously rumors floating around that this might occur. Big Stars Final Song

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