Review and Photos by Kirsten Cohen
Thousands of people converged in Austin, Texas last week for SXSW 2013. It was a music lover’s paradise -minus the crowds and inevitable hangovers- as bands played in venues such as Austin City Limits/Moody Theater and Auditorium Shores, dirt lots in backyards, on street corners and everything in between.
Dave Grohl delivered a memorable keynote address March 14. He shared his history and personal stories, as well as an invitation for musicians to embrace technology as a tool. “Now, more than ever, independence as a musician has been blessed by the advance of technology, making it easier for any inspired young musician to start their own band, write their own song, record their own record, book their own shows and write and publish on their own,” Grohl said. “Now more than ever, you can do this, it can be all yours. And left to your own devices, you can find your voice.”
Colorado musicians made their voices heard individually and collectively this year at various showcases and venues as the week progressed. The innovative efforts of the Colorado Music Party appeared to make an impact. According to SpokesBUZZ president and founder Dani Grant, RSVPs for all the showcases in the Colorado Music Party (including SpokesBUZZ and Sweetwine Entertainment Group, The Denver Post’s Reverb/Underground Music Showcase, The Vinefield Agency/Mishawaka Amphitheater, Oskar Blues Brewery, Awnry Girl Productions and Illegal Pete’s/Greater Than Collective Starving Artist Party) totaled approximately 10,600 individuals compared to last year’s 4,000. “The reach was tremendous. It was an exponential benefit,” Grant said.“This is just the first attempt, we are already talking with our partners who participated this year about how to take this to the next level.”
At the Mishawaka/Vinefield Showcase held March 14, Boulder-based band The Yawpers made a snap decision to jump off the stage and play in the dirt when the sound system broke down. “We showed up and the sound system wasn’t working. We looked around and realized we were one of the only bands who were set up to do an off the cuff thing. We found ourselves in a situation that was less than ideal but it ended up being the right thing for us. For The Yawpers, showing people a good time is what it’s about. It was just us having fun,” singer Nate Cook said. “They missed a second showcase due to that decision. I won’t forget it and nor will most people who were there,” SpokesBUZZ Dani Grant said.
The SpokesBUZZ showcase at the 512 Bar on March 15 reportedly enjoyed more attendees as compared to previous years. Around 3,000 people attended and it was crowded for a longer period of time as compared to last year. The showcase also popped up on the Austin website “do512” for a couple of days and NPR editor and reviewer Steven Thompson was in attendance at both the Mishawaka/Vinefield and Spokesbuzz showcases.
Boulder-based band West Water Outlaws made their first appearance at this year’s SXSW. They headlined the SpokesBUZZ showcase upstairs on the 512 Bar rooftop stage on March 15. “The SpokesBUZZ showcase was wild, we were invited to play 40 minutes over our time. The Stone Foxes played right before us; they were incredible and really got the crowd going. It was insane,” guitarist Will Buck said. The band gained new fans and reportedly had people following them to each show. “People told us they came off the street to check us out. We met new fans in Austin that came to multiple shows. The whole experience was better than we expected,” singer Blake Rooker said.
Other Colorado bands reflected on this year’s festival. “SXSW 2013 was great for us,” Post Paradise cellist Amy Morgan said. “We met so many Colorado bands that we want to play shows with. At the Friday night Illegal Pete’s showcase, the manager of Peckerhead’s approached us and said ‘in three years at South by, nobody made me stop and come upstairs and watch.’ We’re definitely going again next year.”
“SXSW 2013 was fun and successful,” Nate Valdez of Denver’s In The Whale reported. “We saw a lot of Colorado people, it was good support and everyone was cool and chill. The Reverb show was great, and the ability to play with national bands was great for us career-wise. We also solidified our connection with Fort Collins bands.”
In addition to the Colorado bands that played this year, a few notable performances by Green Day at ACL Live, Austin-based band UME at the Reverb showcase, and Mississippi-based band The Weeks at The Bungalow, rounded out a great week of music.
The Yawper’s Cook summarized the SXSW 2013 experience. “SXSW is a monolith. All those people, music, it’s almost too much to process. At the end of the day, it’s really all about the music.”