Drew Angus — a 2007 Staples grad, who studied music production at Hartwick College and now runs his own artists’ management firm — just returned from South by Southwest.
If you’re from the Woodstock generation — or the silent film one –and don’t know about “SXSW”: It’s 2 weeks of music, film and interactive mayhem in downtown Austin, Texas. The festival features great new films, bands, technology, phone apps, surprise appearances by famous stars, and “a bearded lady-man with a well groomed mustache.”
That’s the 1st part of Drew’s report. Here’s the rest:
It’s a sleep-depriving binge on music, BBQ and Tex-Mex, with a side of networking. There’s a little something for everyone.
The official band schedule could be overwhelming — and that doesn’t include the vast number of unofficial shows and parties. My highlights included Justin Timberlake’s surprise show with ?uestlove, Jim James at Willie Nelson’s ranch, partying at Willie Nelson’s Ranch, Baauer, Dave Grohl demonstrating his original multi-track recording setup using 2 tape decks, an interview with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, wandering into a Frank Turner show at 1:30 a.m. where most of the audience was singing along (some hanging off the fence, many drenched in beer), and discovering the band Dawes.
I missed a lot too, like Prince, The Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins, and more, but I’m not sad… well, maybe a little bitter about Prince. Life goes on.
I’ve attended SXSW since 2005. It’s gotten bigger every year.
This year I was supposed to perform. However, the only gig I ended up playing was at 30,000 feet on Southwest Airlines (the most captive audience I’ve ever had).
My gig on the ground got canceled because the venue shut down midweek (not terribly uncommon). This year Third Eye Blind were 2 songs into their set when the cops stopped it (due to overwhelming crowd response from fans on the street).
Westport often has a presence at SXSW, whether it’s bands, blogs or small companies.
Last year, Will Richardson (Staples ‘07) made a splash with his band American Royalty playing multiple shows a day (including a key slot at the Virgin Mobile House.
This year, Westport was there in force. Staples ’07 graduates April Kry and Harry Rodrigues (or, as the world knows him, Baauer) were both in town. I caught April at her ZodLounge showcase at Bourbon Girl. For a petite woman, she’s got one hell of a voice and a band to groove hard. She took command of the stage, telling stories through catchy songs and soaring melodies.
Afterwards we chatted. We agreed that while performing at “South By” is great, there’s just so much noise (bands) that it’s more about the networking than the performing.
Baauer, on the other hand headlined quite a few shows. He was a big buzz artist this year. I caught his show at La Zona Rosa, the venue Prince made a surprise appearance at Saturday night (with 7 encores).
Electronic music isn’t quite my jam, but Harry throws down. He came on at 1:10 a.m. and played a 45-minute set straight — no stops between songs. That’s impressive.
The crowd’s dance moves were reminiscent of those during the raves Harry and friends threw while at Staples: intense head and body bobbing, hands thrown up waving to the beat, and some jumping.
Harry’s excitement and intensity on stage behind a wall of LEDs with rapidly changing shapes and patterns, combined with a killer light show and the deepest, loudest sound system of SXSW, transcended reality. The 3 light guys were all working just as hard as Harry. The light show and music really go hand in hand.
He did of course spin the “Harlem Shake” track.
I caught up with Harry after his gig. He’s still Harry.
When I asked how the whole “Harlem Shake” thing happened, his smile grew. He said simply, “I have no idea. I don’t f—ing know.”
Then — in a great Westport moment — he was ushered off to the illmore party. It was run by another Staples grad: Mike Bowen.
It was a successful week, full of great music, handshakes, friends, and partying like a rockstar. Now it’s time to get back to reality. I have a lot of work to catch up on — and new leads to connect with.