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.


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


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.


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


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


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

Friday, March 19, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 8


DIY or Sign with a Label

This was a great panel featuring among others Richard Bengloff, from A2IM, and Cameron Strang, president of New West Records. There were no profound revelations at this panel, but it was encouraging to hear that Indie Labels are still doing well and not whining like the Majors.

CBGB Stories

Although I lived right across the river from NYC, in Hoboken, from 1979 to 1983, I was only able to visit CBGB once, while it was open. However, I do remember my own Punk Rock days, fondly.

I was very anxious to see this talk. The panel included Clem Burke, the drummer for Blondie, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, of the Talking Heads fame, along with Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer from Sire Records. Several other CBGB alumni were in the audience including Jerry Harrison, and Bill Popp. The session went by way too fast, and covered every aspect of the late Hilly Kristal's club, the undisputed birthplace of Punk.

Some time was spent discussing the antics of the resident club bullies, the Dictators. A good friend, Joe Schaedler, formerly of the Sic F*cks had told me all about their hi-jinks. Their favorite targets were the Talking Heads. So, it was humorous to hear Tina Weymouth's account of Dick Manitoba's constant heckling.

The club stories were plentiful, and the time flew by quickly. All and all, this session was too short. I hope to find a new documentary or new book about this unique landmark and this era of music history. Sid Stein and Chris Frantz Tina Weymouth and Clem Burke

Day Stages

Court Yard Hounds in the Hilton Lobby

On the way up from the parking garage I was surprised to find yet another day stage in the lobby of the Hilton. In this case, it was a side project of the Dixie Chicks called the Court Yards Hounds. As you can see in the picture, the lobby was packed.

I listened to two songs before proceeding into the Convention Center. Court Yard Hounds

Ashanka - Malaysian Band

At lunch, I just happened to hear this excellent 8 piece band on the smaller day stage. They played a fusion of Jazz, Rock and Eastern Asian Music. Although they had a showcase at the Copa the following evening, I was unable to go. As a result, I was thankful that I was able to catch the remainder of their set here.

The band included keyboards, electric bass, guitar, western drums, and a Cajone player. In addition, there was also Sitar player and two people playing Indian percussion. On the right, the Tabla player's drums are unfortunately obstructed by someone's head in this picture. Malaysian Band Akasha

Amarala - Zaragoza, Spain

This Spanish singer was being interviewed in the Sx Booth in the Convention Center. I had missed the opportunity to see her the previous day at the Spanish Music party. Her voice and the music were fantastic, and I made a promise to myself to check out more of her music going forward. Amaral from Zaragoza Spain

Citizen Cope

Today I was able to see a full set of music from this Philadelphia born, singer/songwriter. In both cases, it seemed to me that he had a huge amount of charisma, totally captivating his audience. I found this phenomena interesting because although I personally found his set enjoyable, I did not find it anywhere near as moving, as those around me.

That said, I am certainly aware that I listen to music differently than the average Joe. Citizen Cope

Court Yard Hounds

I remained at the day stage for a second helping of the Court Yard Hounds. Not much to say other than the performance and the band were all top notch.

Jakob Dylan and the Three Legs (Featuring Neko Case and Kelly Hogan)

The last act of the afternoon on the large day stage was Jakob Dylan, with Neko Case. This new band still brings back reminders of the Wallflowers, who performed at SxSW several years ago.

Another great set of music, in a great listening space.

Auditorium Shores

At the beginning of the night I decided to head to Auditorium Shores, because I had never actually seen Cheap Trick live, despite being a huge fan.

The BoDeans

After working my way through the conflicting and confusing directions to the correct shuttle, I arrived at Auditorium Shores in time to hear the end of the BoDeans. As in previous years, they had a special tent and bleachers for badge holders. The sound was great.

The Bodeans at Auditorium Shores

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick sans Bun E. Carlos took the stage promptly at 8PM and played about an hour set, which included all of their hits. This show was a guilty pleasure for me. The band is probably past their prime and are teetering dangerously close to becoming a State Fair show or Six Flags act. Several other industry people in my section were loudly joking that this was most likely the largest crowd they had played in front of for a long while.

None the less, they sounded good and they can still play.


Raphael Saadiq

I listened to the end of the Cheap Trick set while crossing the 1st Street Bridge on the way to the Austin Music Hall. My goal was to go see Raphael Saadiq and his retro-Motown act.

I was first exposed to Raphael through a free video on the iTunes store. I was impressed enough at that time, that I immediately went out and bought his latest album. It was great, and brought back memories of the Funk Brothers.

The packed house at AMH was visibly into the music, and I think there was agreement across the board that this act killed. I can think of no better opening act for Smokey Robinson. Raphael Saadiq

Smokey Robinson

There's not much to say other than the King of Motown held court in the Austin Music Hall. He played for almost 2 hours, and covered all of his hits, as well as several others that he had written for other people.

Throughout the show, Smokey had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, converting them into a loud and enthusiastic backing choir. I don't think I have ever witnessed an artist manage a crowd to the degree that he did. It was amazing.

Bottom line: It was great to see this living legend. Smokey Robinson

The Low Anthem

I ended the night at St. Davids, and ended up hitting pay-dirt with this band from Rhode Island. This 4 piece band was highly creative, with each member performing as a multi-instrumentalist. In addition to acoustic and electric guitars and basses, there was a trap kit, violin, musical saw, a reed/pump organ, and crotales.

Arguably you could pin the Americana label on this band, but it wouldn't adequately describe what they do. I was totally engaged in their music, and duly impressed by the cell phone resonance/feedback trick at the end of the set, requiring audience participation.

In closing let me just say that this is only one of two bands this year at SxSW where I chose to buy a copy of their CD, after their showcase. The Low Anthem at Central Presbyterian Church

6th Street

On the way to St. Davids, I attempted to capture a picture of 6th Street so that others could appreciate how crowded it was on this night. 6th and Trinity

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 7


Kat Edmondson

I arrived early for the Smokey Robinson interview, and was treated to the last 2 songs of a set by Kat Edmondson. Surprisingly, I have never seen this Austin artist in person, perhaps that will change in the future. It was a great way to kick off the day.

Smokey Robinson Interview

My main goal on this morning was to catch this interview. The list of people that have had a greater impact on popular music than the King of Motown, is very short indeed.

Fortunately, the interviewer, Dave Marsh, did a fantastic job of facilitating this session. Smokey spoke at length about every aspect of his career, starting with meeting Barry Gordy in 1958, while Smokey was waiting to enter college.

It is clear that Smokey was a formidable songwriter even at a young age, and Gordy recognized it, when they immediately cowrote a hit song. From that point on, the rest is history.

It is absolutely staggering to think about how many hit songs Smokey has written for both himself and others, and how many other artists and songwriters he has influenced. Not only is he an inductee of the Hall of Fame, but I'm sure almost every other inductee lists him as one of their major influences. Smokey Robinson Interview

Does Rock and Roll belong in a Museum

I sat in on the first 5 minutes of this panel. It seemed like nothing more than a PR session for Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn't find much of interest here, the talk was mainly hosted by one of the curators.

Welcome to the Music Business You're Fucked - Martin Atkins

Although I have seen Martin present variations of this talk five times now, he keeps it fresh with new insight, and by constantly updating his material. This aging punker uses one of the most humorous PowerPoint decks around to evangelize his DIY gospel. If you have aspirations to be in a touring band, then you must try to see him talk.

Once again, he didn't disappoint. Martin Atkins Tour Smart Talk

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary Tribute

Around lunch on the previous day, I had passed Lenny White of RTF fame on the escalators in the Convention Center. Looking at the schedule, I then noticed this panel.

Lenny and several members of Miles' family including a son and a nephew were speaking. In addition, longtime, Grammy winning, producer Steve Berkowitz was also present, since he was responsible for the 40th anniversary reissue box set.

This talk was outstanding, and there were lots of great stories about the making of the first true Fusion album, and how Miles operated. It is staggering to realize that the great fusion projects, Return to Forever, the Headhunters, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Weather Report were all spawned from this project.

The best part of this talk however was that members of Miles' family and trust were present with merchandise. They gave every attendee a t-shirt and a copy of the remastered Bitches Brew album, on CD. In addition, two prizes were given out, to people that were able to properly answer a trivia question, about Bitches Brew.

Unfortunately, I was beaten to the microphone by a drummer several rows in front of me to answer the question to name five musicians on Bitches Brew other than Miles, and Wayne Shorter. The prize was a 71 disk box set containing all of Miles' Sony Recordings. That will learn me to stand in the back of the room!

In closing, let me say that now I regret missing the Kind of Blue panel at last year's SxSW even more now. I'm also kicking myself for not bringing my Canon SD camera. After this talk I was able to speak to Lenny for a minute and took a very up close picture with my iPhone. It turned out horribly without a flash. Doh!

The NMPA Late Fee Settlement

AMF board member Chris Castle and several others, discussed the latest rulings of the Copyright Royalty board. While some might find this boring, understanding this is key to people with hopes of pursuing a career in music.

Making Money as a Songwriter in a World of Change

Like Martin Atkins, I have seen and gotten to know the Brabec twins from their previous SxSW and AMF talks. I can't say enough nice things about them.

The tips and information the freely give out about music publishing are invaluable. If you've never heard them speak, go. If you can't arrange that, buy their book. It's the music publishing bible. Brabec Brothers Panel


Codeine Velvet Club

I'm not sure whether it was because of an expected increase in attendance, but a second larger day stage was setup this year, in the space used in previous years, for the SxSW trade-shows. The room was setup like a night club, and had sufficient acoustic treatments to afford a decent listening experience.

I was happy to see this, because I was somewhat distraught at the absence of the two DirecTV sound-stages on the ground floor, the Bat Cave and the Lone Star Lounge. In previous years, I had seen some exception performances there, and I was not overjoyed to discover that they had pulled out of the Conference. After 5 years, I had gotten used to this.

The new day stage however, was adequate, and the first band I saw there was Codeine Velvet Club. They were fronted by a male/female duo and had some very powerful and well performed songs. The band were all first rate musicians. The music reminded me of Joe Jackson's Night and Day phase.

I really enjoyed their set, and regretted not being able to catch them again during the festival.

Codeine Velvet Club on the Day Stage

Sounds from Spain

I attended a party outside in Brushy Creek Park hosted by some Spanish based music businesses. The tent was too packed to even get a look at the band, however there was plenty of good food (paella and gazpacho) and sangria available provided you could tolerate waiting in line.

Although the music emanating from beneath the tent sounded great, I was unable to get a good view of the stage. Fortunately, I would get to hear one of the artists, Amaral, the next day inside the convention center.

Sharon Van Etten

I started the night at St. Davids, one of my favorite venues during SxSW because of the listening experience. Sharon was a young singer/songwriter from Brooklyn. She accompanied herself on electric guitar, but her real strength was her vocals. Her voice was amazing, and it was a treat to hear it presented in this room.

I must confess to developing a music crush during her performance. This is saying a lot for a Jazz head like me, if you know how I usually feel about singers.

Sharon Van Etten

Citizen Cope

On the way to the Elephant Room, I stopped in at the Driscoll to see what was going on there. I was surprised to see a packed room, intently listening to singer/songwriter, Citizen Cope, from Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I got there just in time to hear the last 2 verses, of the last song in the set.

As fate would have it, I got to hear more of him the following day.

Wouter Kellerman

The next stop was the Elephant Room, with South African fluitist, Wouter Kellerman. He fronted are really nice ensemble playing a style of Jazz with a heavy world music flavor added in.

The band and the sound were great, and I was able to take it all in while sipping on a nicely chilled pint of Ace Perry.

1001 Nights Orchestra

Following the Elephant Room, I continued down Congress to the Copa to catch this quartet playing Middle Eastern music. Given the genre, I allowed myself an exception to my no Austin band rule ;)

The 4 piece band consisted of a percussionist, an accordionist, a clarinet player (who also played other reed woodwinds), and the leader of the band, who was Persian, and played a variety of Middle Eastern string instruments. For their set, this ensemble played their first a song in a time signature, of 2 beats per measure. With each successive song, they incremented the time signature by one (to 3, and so on), finishing up 45 minutes later with something in 11.

The songs were a mix of Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Russian folk songs. They were performed admirably, but I felt the percussionist was a bit off at times, and surprisingly had the most trouble playing in 4.

I would have liked to have heard more, since they announced a Persian New Years day celebration at Central Market the next day. I guess I'll have to wait, because I was not about to leave SxSW (and more importantly lose my parking). 1001 Nights Orchestra

John Grant

I swung by Buffalo Billiards to catch this singer/pianist do his thing. He was a great singer, and seemed to have attracted a large crowd. I enjoyed the two songs that I listened to, but was trying to make my way back towards Red River for some later shows, so I left.

John Grant

Le Loup

I penciled this band in because they were from my home state of Maryland. Let me just say, I left halfway through their second song. I'll leave it at that.

Le Loup

Bobby Long

On my way to the 18th Floor of the Hilton Garden, I stopped first at the Creekside Lounge on the Ground Floor. Unlike previous years, there was a full stage and much improved sound system.

Bobby Long, a London based singer/songwriter was performing. He definitely had the right stuff, and a very powerful voice to deliver it with. I enjoyed his set and considered staying put for the other acts, but decided to stick with my original plan.

Julie Feeney

I heard the tail end of the last song for this Irish singer. I didn't really hear enough to make a judgement one way or the other.

The Chapin Sisters

This Los Angeles based act normally consists of 2 of Harry Chapin's daughter, plus a third member who is a half sister (and daughter of Wes Craven). Jessica Craven however, is presently on maternity leave, leaving Abigail and Lily Chapin to perform as a duet.

Vocal harmonies were on display in a big way, and it is apparent that the apple did not fall too far from the tree in this case. The time went by way too fast, and I really enjoyed the set.

Towards the end of their set, they were joined on stage by the next performer, Harmon Simon.

Harmon Simon

Harmon is an LA based singer/songwriter who plays lap steel. Like the previous act, he has a famous musical father, Paul Simon. I enjoyed his set immensely, as well.

Austin Skyline from the 18th Floor

One of the reasons I love this venue is the view. This picture captured with my iPhone does not do it proper justice, but you get the idea. Austin at Night from the 18th floor

SxSW 2010 - Day 6


Today was the first official day of SxSWm. With this being my second year with a platinum badge, I am amazed that I managed to find my second wind. Of course, there will be plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead, as one t-shirt I own says.

The Cloud vs. the Paradise of Infinite Storage

This was an excellent panel, mainly because of Sandy Pearlman. Sandy is a former producer of some renown in punk circles, and is now a professor at McGill University. He typically is placed on panels discussing IP and copyright issues. In this capacity, he plays a role analogous to what Bruce Schneier does in the world of computer security.

In the long run, I think Pearlman has it right. Large mobile storage will be ubiquitous. Once that happens everything will be turned upside down. The cloud will serve a utilitarian purpose, but it will not be a point of control.

Cheap Trick Interview

I am a regular listener of American Public Media's (APM) Sound Opinions podcast. The show is hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, two Chicago newspaper critics who provide the Indie Music equivalent of Siskel and Ebert. In a previous year at SxSW, I had the good fortune to meet and speak with Jim, and was pleased that he remembered me this year.

Upon entering the room for the Cheap Trick Interview, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jim and Greg were the hosts. As a result, I knew that it would be a good session.

The actual interview session lasted approximately an hour, and included 3 of the 4 original members, Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, and Tom Petersson. For some reason, Bun E. Carlos was absent, and when questioned, Robin laughed and said he was under the weather, and sleeping back at the hotel. (Strangely, he was not present at their show the next night, and their website indicates that he is not touring. but is still a member of the band.)

The interview covered their entire careers, and was a great amount of fun. Kudos to SxSW for having Jim and Greg as the hosts, and here's hoping they are tapped for more interviews in the future. My only regret however, is not knowing that they were doing an ACL taping this same day. (Thanks Ed ;( ) Cheap Trick

Update or RIP: Alex Chilton

I forgot to mention that the subject of Big Star obviously came up at this interview, since Cheap Trick had covered Big Star's In the Street as the theme for That 70's Show. Unfortunately, this is where I first heard the news that Alex Chilton had passed away, on the previous day. This was a bummer since Alex had been scheduled to appear with Big Star at Antones on Saturday night.

Lemmy Kilmister

This was the second interview I attended for the day. This time, the host was awkward and uncomfortable. Lemmy was quite gracious, and kept the whole thing on the rails. Although the session was interesting, I didn't learn anything new that hadn't already been covered in the documentary.

In contrast to the Cheap Trick interview, this one was a FAIL.


Zoe Keating

The first showcase of the night was San Francisco based Cellist, Zoe Keating. She does a single woman show with herself on Cello, and bunch of digital effects and delays. Her act is basically Frippertronics for the Cello.

The venue, the Central Presbyterian Church, had fantastic acoustics. Sitting in the balcony, I found the music filled the entire space wonderfully, and could easily have sat through 3 more sets without getting bored.
Zoe Keating at Central Presbyterian Church


This year, I attempted to focus on acts that were not from Austin or Texas, so I hightailed it down 7th Street to the Elysium, to catch the Polish band, L.Stadt. They had an interesting setup, with guitar/lead singer, bass, and two drummers playing traps, one of whom chose to stand.

I enjoyed the set which had elements of Oingo Boingo, as well as a roots rock feel.
L.Stadt at Elysium

Doll and the Kicks

I stumbled across this act while walking past the Emo's Annex on my way to the Hilton Garden. They were obviously British, and from the write-up are playing their fourth straight SxSW, and have toured with Morrissey. They were compelling enough to convince me to enter the tent, I just wish I had an opportunity to catch them again, so that I could hear more than one song.

Benjamin Rose Band

My next stop of the night was the Hilton Garden's 18th floor. The night time view of Austin from here, can't be beat, and every year it seems I consistently discover great bands playing here.

I had specifically penciled in the Benjamin Rose band from Cologne, Germany, after hearing their demo on the SxSW website. They played a 90's alt-rock set reminiscent of the Wallflowers. Very well done.
Benjamin Rose Band at the 18th Floor


After seeing the documentary and the interview, I had to go see Lemmy the icon. Having seen this band one other time opening for Emerson, Lake and Powell in 1987, I knew what to expect.

Metal is not normally my cup of tea, but I must say in hindsight, that Mikkey Dee is quite the drummer. Motörhead

Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio

Antones was my last stop of the night. I was surprised to see a huge line of non-badge holders lined up outside the club. The band in question was from Mexico City, and played a unique mixture of ska and Mexican folk music.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 5


This was the last day my brother was in town, he headed for the airport after the Ek talk. I'm certain that he enjoyed himself, and I believe he plans on returning next year.

Prototyping Web Apps - Nobody Loves a Wireframe

This panel was basically an argument for using a RAD (Rapid Application Development) approach for standard website design. As far as I could tell, some of the Software Engineering practices from the late 90's are now bleeding out into other disciplines. Nothing surprising here, really.

Music Licensing for Emerging Media: Apps, Widgets, Viral Videos

Honestly, I'm not sure whether I attended this panel or not. If I did, I was diddling with my iPhone the entire time.

Music 2010: Playlists, Networks, Radio & Numbers You Need

This panel, unlike the previous one, featured music PR and marketing guru, Ariel Hyatt. The information was very valuable, and the panel was timely and good prep for the AMF party later in the evening.

The basic message was that if you want to survive in today's Music Biz, you better know how to leverage Web 2.0.

Daniel Ek Keynote Interview

Although my brother and I went to lunch, we were able to catch the last 20-30 minutes of this talk. Ek is the founder of Spotify, an amazing online music service in the UK. The best description I can give for Spotify is that it's what the original Napster should have become.

This was all a bit of a cocktease, however. Anyone from the US who sees a demo of Spotify would most likely want to sign up for the service. They would then discover that they can't, because of licensing and royalty issues peculiar to the US. Ugh!

Devo, the Internet and You

The spud-boys from Akron, Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerry Casale gave a talk as part of SxSWi, rather than SxSWm. As far as I could tell, they did not play this year, even though I heard that Josh Freese was in town playing.

For Devo fans this panel was an extension of the type of humor or gags, typical for the band. I found it mildly funny, but I'm not sure everyone present agreed with me. I won't ruin it other than to say the you should go over to their website and watch the focus group video, if you would like to see what they were up to.

My only disappointment is that I would have loved to have applied for the job of COO of Devo, Inc. Damn you Greg Scholl!

Mark Mothersbaugh
Gerry Casale
Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerry Casale


AMF Tour Smart Party with Martin Atkins, Charlie Cheney, and Ariel Hyatt

Being a proud Austin Music Foundation (AMF) member, I attended their party at Momo's on Tuesday night. In addition to free food, and music by the Chinese band, AV Akubo, AMF hosted several guest speakers.

Charlie Cheney was first and he discussed his website, which is a set of web based tools for managing touring bands. Ariel Hyatt was next and discussed PR and had copies of her book for sale. Both of these talks were well done.

The star of the night however, was the always entertaining, Mr DIY himself, Martin Atkins. He gave an abbreviated and compressed version of his normal talk. This guy is the bomb, and I'm seriously thinking about going to one of his Tour:Smart sessions one of these days.

After speaking, Martin and Austin based act, Chant, jammed on dueling drum kits to close the party.
AV Akubo
AV Akubo at Momos


Les Signes Vitaux/Vital Signs

I managed to catch one film after leaving the Momo's party. Vital Signs is a French Canadian film taking place in Quebec. The film was in French with English subtitles.

The story follows a volunteer/nurse as she works with multiple patients, under hospice care. I won't give away too much of the story, but the main character has challenges of her own, and eventually is asked to leave.

I liked this movie because it fearlessly addressed the subject of death and terminal illness, coaxing the viewer into a state of poignant introspection. I was forced to revisit my own personal experience several years ago, with the loss of my last grandparent.

Monday, March 15, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 4


Adobe HTML5 vs. Flash debate

This talk was essentially an Adobe product plug. One interesting thing mentioned however, was their Packager for iPhone. It allows Adobe developers to create iPhone apps, without leaving the Adobe environment.

Who needs Venture Capital?

This was a paenl very near and dear to my heart, given my personal experience with failed startups. The talk was fairly balanced, having both bootstrappers, and VC wonks on the panel.

I especially appreciated the fact that the panel included, Chris Wanswrath (aka. defunkt) from github. I am a huge fan of github for their service, and I also love their no nonsense, no VC approach. They're quite inspiring actually.

I was able to talk to defunkt after the panel, and received some bonus schwag because I was one of the few people (perhaps the only person) in the room that had listened to their github podcast.

Evan Williams Keynote Address

Evan is one of the founders of twitter. Twitter was launched at SxSWi in 2007. Having only gotten a music badge that year, I heard the buzz and signed up for an account that week, but didn't really understand what it was. Several months later a friend, Ian Varley, suggested we connect at an AMF mixer. This was about a month before SxSW 2008. It took a year, but I think that is when it clicked for me.

Back to the present

Evan drew a big crowd. So big in fact, that it required 3 satellite ballrooms in the Austin Convention Center, with live video piped in to the other rooms. There was nothing really surprising said during this address, since I was well aware of Twitter history and lore. The latter part of Evan's interview was mostly a pitch for Twitter's @Everywhere.

Jaron Lanier Talk

Virtual reality pioneer and guru, Jaron Lanier gave a talk around the subjects covered in his new book, You Are Not A Gadget. Before beginning the talk, he took the opportunity to play a reed, wind instrument from Ancient Greco-Roman times, that was a predecessor to the Pipe Organ.

His main argument seems to be concern about the future economy. He believes that the digital revolution will eventually put almost everyone out of work. I agree that there is some room for concern, but his arguments sound very similar to Ray Kurzweil's Singularity predictions, or those from the Hard AI movement. Although I have not read his book yet, I think some of his assertions are overblown. I also feel that he is overly dependent upon what I call zero-sum game thinking.

None the less, his talk was provocative, and I am looking forward to reading his book on my Kindle. Jaron finished the talk with another instrument from his collection of over a thousand, a pair of Ukrainian reed flutes (for lack of a better name).

Jaron Lanier



The first film of the night was a biographical documentary about the larger than life front-man of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister. Although I am not a Metal Head, this was a fun movie. Lemmy and his entourage (who looked like they stepped right out of the Spinal Tap movie) were present at this screening, because it was the premier.

At 63 years of age, Lemmy is clearly the last man standing having a career that spans working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, and being in the band, Hawkwind, in addition to Motorhead. When not touring, he basically hangs out in the Sunset Blvd area of LA, and is very accessible to his fans.

The movie also contains vignettes of other rockstars, like Slash, Anthrax, and Metallica expressing their admiration for the godfather of Heavy Metal Music, and recounting great stories about their interactions with him in the past.

In closing, I'll just say that I would recommend this movie to anyone, regardless of whether they are into his music or not.


My brother and I were unable to stay for the Q&A after the Lemmy screening in order to make this film at the Alamo Ritz. The film deals with the bleak and dark subject of a serial killer, in the heart of London. I won't give away any spoilers, but it seemed that in this movie the city itself was a supporting character to the killer, Tony.

Although the story was quite twisted, I also recommend this film.

SxSW 2010 - Day 3


What's Open Video and Why Does It Matter?

The first talk of the day discussed efforts to promote Open Video. Members of the Mozilla Foundation and YouTube described recent efforts to move forward with HTML5 and newer codecs. The plans are encouraging, hopefully we will see something substantive by SxSW 2011.

Conversations with Michel Gondry

French born, director Michel Gondry drew the largest crowd for a Film or Music interview this year. The line began forming about one hour before the session started.

Michel discussed his career, his music videos, and of course his films. He had a film, Thorn in the Heart, at the conference this year, but I was unable to make a screening.

Towards the end of his interview he talked about a project he ran through his website. Fans could submit a photograph, and receive a sketch by Michel for $20. Michel later published a book with all of the sketches, and had a copy available on stage. Surprisingly, two people in the audience had purchased sketches, and he invited one of them on stage, for a side by side comparison.

This was a great interview of a great artist. My only lament is that it seemed clear that some things had changed, as Michel moved from Europe to Hollywood. Perhaps not all was for the better.

Michel Gondry

A view of the packed house in Room 18ABC.

Crowd for Michel Gondry

Fun with HTML5 Video

This was another talk about the Open Video. In addition to the support and promise of Safari on the iPhone, there is good news on the Mozilla front. I found most of the HTML5 demos pretty impressive, particularly those using Hot Spots. I'm sure these technologies will pick up a head of steam over the course of the next year.


Camp Victory, Afghanistan

This film was a documentary following a group of advisers from the New Jersey National Guard in Herat, Afghanistan. The US soldiers are responsible for training and preparing the Afghan National Army (ANA), for their role as a functioning peace keeping force. It emphasizes much of the commonality between the Americans and Afghans, while specifically focusing on the relationship between an American Commanding Officer, and his Afghan counterpart, the ANA General.

Throughout the movie, you discover that many of the Afghan soldiers are illiterate, poor, and have poorly maintained and out-dated equipment. It is apparent by the end of the film, that the ANA is still unprepared for the job ahead.

The film ends with the American advisers being replaced by Italians/NATO forces, and follows them back to their homes in NJ. During this segment, it details a rather depressing event where the American CO is informed that the ANA General has died in a helicopter accident. The Colonel is visibly shaken, and laments the fact that accidents like this are common, because the Afghans primarily use Soviet helicopters left behind, after the previous conflict.

It is my hope that this documentary gets wider distribution, since it tells an important story.


This was actually a set of 6 short films, prepared for PBS. Each short was approximately 15 minutes in length. Five of them presented future dystopias where Climate Change and/or our current Financial Crisis have progressed to catastrophic proportions.

I was somewhat disappointed with all 5 of these shorts, because none of the characters in these stories displayed any rebellion or disobedience to authority. In every film, the characters just went along with forced relocation, or whatever else the authorities mandated. Myself and another libertarian friend both decided that we were not enamored of this underlying message.

The last film was somewhat interesting. It was a first person narrative about a plastic grocery bag. After being initially picked up at a grocery store checkout, it is used to carry lunches and tennis balls, then used to curb the dog where it is subsequently thrown out. Ending up in a landfill, it is later picked up by the wind, and travels around the globe.

The narrative was entertaining because they gave the bag a voice, and a personality. I becomes attached to it's maker, the later goes through depression and separation anxiety, before learning to enjoy its freedom. I thought this short was very creative, and well done.

Electra Luxx

This was a pure Grindhouse Exploitation flick, where the main character is a retired, porn actress. Honestly, I felt the story was so-so, even though I enjoyed the hot chicks in spandex. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it), the projector at the Paramount broke down about 1 hour into the film.

Trying to salvage the day, director Sebastian Gutierrez, and cast (including Carla Gugino of Watchmen fame) climbed on stage with their finger puppets, in an attempt to entertain the crowd. Unfortunately, the theater staff were unable to repair the projector, so we never saw the rest of the film. FAIL. Director and Cast of Electra Lux