SXSW Music: Day 2

Now that I'm safely back at home in the near-freezing fog of Brooklyn, I can tell you guys all about my second day of SXSW Music, which was pretty darned eventful.  The day began at a reasonably late hour, due to staying up past my bedtime the night before.  When I did finally make my way over to the Austin Convention Center (or "ACC" to those of us in the know), I got there in time for a panel all about how to get your music featured in commercials.  Apparently the short answer is, "it's hard."  The longer answer is, "it's really hard, but keep at it and good luck!"  After that dose of realism, I wandered down to the Flatstock Poster Exhibition where I immediately wanted to spend every last dollar I have (which wouldn't have taken long) on amazing rock posters, t-shirts, and art for me and a lot of people I know.  If you're reading this, chances are I saw I a poster I wanted to buy you.  But I showed remarkable restraint and only bought myself one robot t-shirt from this guy.

Please buy me this
After drooling all over the poster show's floor (and a few of the posters), I made my way down to the "Gear Alley Expo," a much smaller version of the SXSW Trade Show featuring only vendors that have something to do with music.  Within seconds, I had already fallen in love with several products and was trying to figure out how to sell my body on the spot to pay for them.  The first thing was a very cool amp from Fender that plugs into your computer and gives you on-screen controls to use it as a modelling amp (meaning it can emulate a bunch of different amp sounds, and it has a ton of included effects, etc.)  You can load your own backing tracks on it or use one of the many included ones and play along live with yourself, without having to bring a laptop to your show.  If anyone would like to buy me this, I would be forever (or at least for a long time) in your debt.  I also had a nice long chat with the guys at Raw Talent, who were there promoting a new computer-based guitar training program that actually looks very cool and useful.  After talking to them for a while, they asked me if I happen to write about music or technology.  Why yes, yes I do!  Even though I warned them that I only have a handful of readers (but it's the best handful on the Internet) they gave me a free copy of their software to evaluate and review.  So watch this space for a review coming soon, and watch me have 1 fewer excuse for having incredibly limited guitar skills.

Next up was a panel titled "Songwriters Explain Everything," which sounded pretty useful.  But much like imaginary numbers, it turned out to be pretty cool, but of limited practical value.  While there wasn't really too much talk about the craft, there were some great live performances from Hayes Carll, Ron Sexsmith, and Hazel Dickens, who is not only adorable, but can still belt it out pretty well for an old lady.  Hazel did say something about songwriting that I loved - the moderator was asking the three musicians how they got started with songwriting, and she talked about how she loved singing along with music as a child, but that she would always "run out of verses," so she had to writer her own.  I could really relate to that, both as a musician and in particular as a musical improviser.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - dig that giant beard!
I ended up skipping the panel with maybe my favorite title of the week, "I'm Not Old, Your Music Does Suck" in favor of going home and preparing for a night out of seeing shows.  Turns out I didn't need too much preparation, as I only ended up seeing one band.  Halfway through a really, really great set from LA's electro-shoegazers Letting Up Despite Great Faults, I got a phone call from the wife.  I texted her back, explaining that the club was loud and I couldn't really talk at the moment.  She texted back, explaning that she had taken a little spill, and was currently dripping blood from her face.  So I missed the rest of the set (and I missed seeing Portugal. The Man and TV On The Radio later that evening) to spend time in one of Austin's most exclusive (seriously, the wait to get into that place is ridiculous) venues, the emergency room.  Fortunately (very!), she was fine, and is now sporting some styling face stitches and very strong views on cities that leave downed street signs lying in the middle of the sidewalk for unsuspecting (and completely sober, sadly) pedestrians to trip over.  On the plus side, she did get some kick-ass painkillers from the doctor, who also told us about a great (and free!) bluegrass/folk showcase going on the next day at a coffee shop right near the condo we were renting.  And it was at that showcase that Amanda discovered a new favorite artist.  So that's kind of cool.

More on that in my next post, as well as reviews of the five(!) shows I saw on my final night in Austin, including a honky-tonk klezmer band, the surprise announcement of Her Space Holiday's retirement, and the loudest band in Austin!  Stay tuned...

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