Mar 232011
 
Authors: Nic Turiciano

The Downtown Hilton in Austin, Texas, typically books all of its rooms a year in advance for 10 days in the middle of March, and it’s because of the annual festival known as South by Southwest.

Listed on the SXSW Website are 73 hotels in Austin. All 73 were listed as having no vacancy for the duration of the 2011 festival, which included music, film and a trade show.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Sharon, an Austin Hilton employee, remarked.

Over 2,000 bands –– known and unknown –– played during the four days dedicated to music, including homegrown Fort Collins acts.

The festival has become a mainstay for the music industry during its 25-year run, providing exposure for upcoming acts and a meeting point for those involved in the industry.

“What I’ve really enjoyed the last couple years as a talent buyer is that I work with people over e-mail but have never actually met. Then we all go down there for the festival and meet. It’s cool to put a face with the name,” said Greta Cornett, president of the Fort Collins Musicians Association.

Ryan Hover, who is a member of Fort Collins band Candy Claws, echoed Cornett saying that everyone he talks to over the Internet shows up at SXSW.

“It’s cool to see all these people that you know in one place,” Hover said.
It’s this convergence of the music industry that gives SXSW the appeal that it has, drawing Fort Collins bands to play and creating an atmosphere that welcomes varying forms of entertainment that includes an event dedicated to Fort Collins.

Featured for its second year at SXSW was an all Fort Collins showcase of music, art and lifestyle. The showcase, organized and presented by Fort Collins non-profit SpokesBUZZ, featured 11 local bands, art from Summit Studios and New Belgium beer.

The bands playing SpokesBUZZ were a wide range, including Fort Collins’ groups Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Peace Officer, Fierce Bad Rabbit and Wire Faces.

It’s not uncommon for bands to play multiple sets throughout the four days of music.
Fierce Bad Rabbit, who also played at SXSW last year, played three shows this time around, including a set at the SpokesBUZZ showcase.

“It was great to see how people responded to our music, how it was received by a whole different scene. We went to the Denver showcase, and it was almost packed. It was good to see that kind of response to Colorado music,” said Dayton Hicks, bassist for Fierce Bad Rabbit.

While SpokesBUZZ is the most visible piece of Fort Collins at SXSW, a number of local bands made the trip down independently, including Candy Claws, Dovekins, Drag the River, Shell and others.

Candy Claws, who played as part of SpokesBUZZ in 2010, went to Austin this year independent of the showcase, playing seven shows in a variety of settings including bars, non-Fort Collins showcases and house-shows.

With so many bands to see in so many different places, the festival can get to be a little overwhelming.

“It’s like living in a different world for a week,” Hover said of the atmosphere at SXSW.

Stelth Ulvang, accordion player for Dovekins, agreed, saying, “If we were going to go down there next year, say, for three shows a day, I don’t know that I would want to do that. You need to take breaks and see other shows. I think some bands forget about that.”

Dovekins played four shows, but only one of them was affiliated with SXSW. The practice isn’t uncommon, Ulvang said.

“We just booked our own shows. Out of all the venues, probably 30 percent have official stuff to do with SXSW. You can pretty much book a show anywhere. You could probably call a gas station down there and book a show. It’s crazy how much is going on,” Ulvang said.

SXSW wasn’t always so hectic. The festival started 25 years ago and, similar to the Fort Collins Music Experiment, began as a showcase for regional music but eventually grew into what it is today.

“To see the large scale that it’s on, to see the economic impact it has on the city, it’s fun to get the locals’ take on it. Some love it and some hate it,” Cornett said.

Local Music Beat Reporter Nic Turiciano can be reached at verve@collegain.com.

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