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.