After featuring more than 1400 music acts over a five-day stretch in 2007, South by Southwest is back again in March 2008 as one of the premier music festivals in the world. Held in Austin, Texas, the festival gives the music industry a chance to bring all its constituents together in one huge event. Besides hundreds of bands, SXSW also includes a film festival and numerous music industry conferences that draw even more people into the heart of Texas.
With its size and stature, it’s not surprising that SXSW has included local Davis and Sacramento-area bands in the past. Notable Davis band Buildings Breeding – which includes current and former UC Davis students – played the festival last year. The 2008 lineup will feature two UC Davis alumni: Caitlin Gutenberger, lead singer of the band Two Sheds, and Christian Kiefer, a local singer-songwriter.
Kiefer, who earned his doctorate in English from UC Davis in 2006 and has played the festival twice before, said SXSW is a chance for bands to network with a diverse set of music industry people.
It’s a good way to meet people who can help bands develop – if you need a booking agent or a manager there’s industry people everywhere, Kiefer said.
He also explained that because of the sheer volume of performers at SXSW, bands never know exactly how many people will attend their shows.
Despite this uncertainty, Kiefer said that SXSW has some enticing guarantees.
You know [SXSW] is going to be a good time, and you know that even if you don’t play to your own satisfaction, you are going to see 40 bands. And ten of them will be the best bands you’ve ever seen, he said. SXSW is unbelievable – it’s like stepping into an indie music magazine.
Speaking of print publications, local group Two Sheds is scheduled to play Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street on Mar. 13 and will share the stage with up-and-coming indie acts like Be Your Own Pet and Robyn. Two Sheds’ Gutenberger said that representing Sacramento at SXSW generally leads to positive reactions by attendees.
For the most part, the bands we play with all express an interest in coming through Sacramento, she said.
Buildings Breeding was added to the 2007 Fanatic Promotion showcase at SXSW by their label, UC Davis alumni Jenn De La Vega’s Mushpot Records. De La Vega also works for Fanatic Promotions and arranged for the band to play the show, said senior psychology major and guitarist Evan Hart.
Although Buildings Breeding was only allocated a 20-minute set at the showcase, the band still managed to impress a representative from the record label Yep Roc and discuss signing a record deal, Hart said.
Even though the deal fell through, at least we got a chance to meet [someone from the music industry] and talk to them and try to get signed, Hart said. It was cool to have someone come … looking for you instead of spamming every record label with your demo and never hearing back from them.
As one might imagine, a large festival like SXSW brings throngs of people to Austin – not just bands, but music fans as well – which means that downtown can become a bit unruly.
[SXSW] is crazy; it’s wall-to-wall people, Hart said. Since almost everything happens at bars, the festival is mostly people drinking a lot and seeing bands at different bars.
As for the appeal of SXSW to small bands, Kiefer said that its size is definitely a major incentive.
When you are a little band, you don’t get to play Lollapalooza, but SXSW gives you chance to experience that kind of atmosphere – the streets are filled with musicians who are drunk, happy and filled with tacos, he said.
For me, I love hanging out in a rad town and discovering new music, Kiefer said. As long as that continues to happen … I’ll be happy to play SXSW.
South by Southwest takes place in Austin, Texas until Mar. 18. The music-related events will take place until Saturday at various venues. For more information, visit sxsw.com.
ZACK FREDERICK can be reached at email@example.com. XXX