seven inches away – sxsw pt 1

From March 14-18, thousands decended upon Austin, TX for its yearly music-industry gathering South By Southwest. Here is a quick wrap-up of what went down:

Over the course of four days, I attended a grab bag of discussions and interviews hosted by industry insiders. Some were highly entertaining, and some were highly time-wasting.

Touring On A Shoestring Budget: Helpful if you have never ever worked with or in the touring business before; an utter waste of time and cause of great annoyance if you’ve booked more than two shows or gone on a single tour.

Demo Listening 2: I attended this session with Jessica Larabee of the Brooklyn outfit She Keeps Bees. Three panelists listen to a song of your demo/ep/album and give you constructive criticism. Demo2’s panelists were Tom Gimbel of High Wire Music, Eric Kupper of Hysteria Productions, and Dez Dickerson of Pavilion Entertainment and THE ORIGINAL GUITARIST OF PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION (in the video for “1999” he wears the sweet Karate Kid bandana). They were funny, exceedingly nice to people, and best of all loved She Keeps Bees.

Keynote Conversation – Pete Townshend: Who knew the crazy, windmilling guitarist of The Who was so funny? Also, being in the same room as a legend is awesome, even if you’re twenty rows away.

Record Companies – Who Needs Them?: The Talking Heads’ David Byrne is fantastic, even at making PowerPoint presentations. Though very informative, I think most people were there to bask in the white glow of Mr. Byrne as opposed to learning about the cost & profit breakdown of CD production.

Placement in TV and Movies: I missed most of this panel, but being a music supervisor for movies and television sounds like a pretty fantastic career that I should look into.

SXSW Interview – Booker T. Jones: I was really excited to see Booker T (of MGs/”Green Onions” fame). However, he is an extremely quiet and soft-spoken man who doesn’t offer much beside the direct answer to a question. It didn’t help that two ultra-nerdy superfans from the leading Chicago newspapers were his interviewers. Their questions were ridiculously specific and without an extensive background knowledge of Mr. Jones’ career, it was hard to fully appreciate it. So I ducked out early and went to…

Comedy on the Music Circuit: Bob Mehr, Jon Wurster, Henry Owings, Andrew Earles, Tony Kiewel, Zach Galifianakis, and David Cross attempted to discuss comedy in relation to music, but mostly just sat there looking bored and knowing that everyone in the audience was there to see them be funny. You think this would be a trainwreck, but it ended up being the most entertaining panel I attended. One exchange went as follows:

KIEWEL: “At that time we [Sub Pop] were inches away from bankruptcy.”
CROSS: “Would you say you were seven inches away?” [smiles, nods, puts his hand up in the air in a ‘goodnight and thanks for coming’ fashion]
GALIFIANAKIS: [deadpan] “I don’t get it.”

Later, Galifianakis proceeded to become extremely disinterested in the discussion and took his name card, drawing an exclamation point in Sharpie after his name. After getting a laugh, he took Cross’ and added a question mark. Punctuation jokes(?) are right up my alley and I found it to be hilarious. Galifianakis then put his new DVD on display in place of his name card, and finally replaced it all with a sign demanding everyone in the audience purchase a copy. I wanted to get the name cards to take with me, but Galifianakis took his with him when he stood up to leave.

SXSW Interview – Iggy Pop: Iggy and the other two Stooges gave an amazing interview Friday afternoon, the day before their festival-headlining performance. I had grown up with Iggy Pop being a man who sang “Lust for Life”, played Michelle Trachtenberg’s dad on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and supposedly cut himself with shards of glass onstage on a regular basis. Though much calmer while being interviewed, he did not disappoint. He was funny, didn’t give canned answers, and proclaimed “That was cool!” after explaining that he had almost been mowed down by John Wayne and his car.

Covering Music in New Media: More a 75-minute advertisement for leading music websites than informative panel, it was still enjoyable. The woman from Pitchfork was predictably Pitchfork-y, Michael Azerrad proclaimed that “We’re dealing with a post-literate society”, and I now have plenty of people to bug with this website in an attempt to be legit.

UP NEXT: Random sightings and goings-on of the conference.

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