Music conference

Mar 242004
Authors: Ab Berendt

It’s hard to imagine standing on your feet for 15 hours and

enjoying every minute of it. But with free drinks, great music and

a penchant for schmoozing, I found myself in a bizarre Spring Break

heaven dubbed South By Southwest (SXSW), the largest music

conference in the nation.

Four days later, I am sitting on American Airlines seat 17F

listening to The Rocket Summer in my headphones.

But, it just isn’t the same as it was last night, watching Bryce

Avary whining, screaming and playing his heart out to crowd packed

into the Copper Tank off of 6th Street the night before. Throughout

his set, Avary kept mentioning “The End,” and by “The End” he meant

SXSW, a conference for industry moguls, journalists, promoters,

tour managers, blooming artists and music geeks.

During March, for the last 18 years, Austin, Texas, at least for

a few days, becomes the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the nation. Around

1,090 selected bands from around the globe perform, a gig that is

the most promising, hope-to-sign-a-record-deal performance they

will probably play all year.

Yet SXSW is not just for playing. Sure, at the beginning of

every night, thousands of indie rock fans pack into a seven-block

radius hoping to catch a few songs from their favorite bands while

moving along quickly to dozens of other hip venues. But during the

day, it’s all business. Business included panels and workshops,

keynote speakers and celebrity interviews.

This year the line up showcased Little Richard, who urged bands

to perfect their craft throughout life and said artists should

never give up, because, “the grass may be greener on the other

side, but it’s just as hard to cut.”

Other speakers included DIY superstar Ani DiFranco, producer and

manager of the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldman and the eccentric

front man of the Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne. Each discussed their

experiences with success.

Conference attendees were able to learn about every aspect of

the music business from leading professionals. The rooms were

packed with wide-eyed industry wannabes, hoping to hear words of

wisdom and maybe steal a few words with the renowned panelists.

Louie Bandak of A&R for Capitol Records, Jim Pitt-Talent,

exec for Late Night with Conan O’Brien and David Fricke, senior

editor for Rolling Stone, were among the many who graced the

audience with their presence and parlayed information regarding

their specific talent-be it writing, producing, touring and even

eating on the road — advice that was soaked up by every listening


Shockingly, day after day there were people still listening.

After late-night hours of partying, it was a surprise to see the

Austin Convention Center halls packed with SXSW junkies.

And if participants found that panels weren’t their flavor for

the moment, or a hangover cure was in need, the Trade Show was the

place to be.

With a full service bar and food court, an acoustic day stage

and show exhibitors from around the world, the Trade Show was a

paradise for the networking individual. Eager participants snatched

up goodies ranging from guitar picks to condoms.

In four amazing days, thousands of bands and over 50 venues

played host to swarms of dancing, drinking and celebrating music

lovers. And just as it took off, SXSW ended.

The Rocket Summer finished their final concert with “She’s my

Baby,” a slightly melancholy rocker, reminiscent of wanting more

even when you’ve got it all. It’s how I feel in my current


As I bid adieu to the Lonestar State, I am reminded of my 15

hours of standing a day. Granted, I am yearning to stand as this

coach airline seat is inherently uncomfortable, but I can’t help

but think that since every artist I saw and every person I met who

was so filled with talent and passion that SXSW would make me want

to stand on my feet indefinitely.

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