Tag Archives: South by Southwest

Drew Angus’ SXSW

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.

SXSW logoIf 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.

Drew Angus

Drew Angus

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.

Westport's April Kry performed at South By Southwest... (Copyright Kirk Stauffer Photography)

Westport’s April Kry performed at South By Southwest… (Kirk Stauffer Photography)

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.

...and so did Westport's Harry Rodrigues, known the world over as Baauer. (Look closely; that's him.)

…and so did Westport’s Harry Rodrigues, known the world over as Baauer. (Look closely; that’s him.)

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.

Hey Champ — It’s Lollapalooza

Everyone knew Pete Dougherty would be successful.

After graduating as Staples’ 2002 salutatorian — he also ran cross country, swam, competed on the math team and played piano in the jazz band– Pete headed to Princeton.

Today he is zooming up the career ladder. But it’s not finance, business or law — traditional paths for decades of Princetonians.

Pete plays keyboard and synthesizer for Hey Champ, a fast-rising electro/indie-rock band.

Pete Dougherty

Pete Dougherty

They’ve toured all over the US.  This spring they played South by Southwest; last weekend was Jersey City’s All Points West festival.

Tomorrow afternoon they take the stage for their biggest gig ever:  Lollapalooza.  Also on the bill in Chicago’s Grant Park:  Lou Reed, Depeche Mode, The Killers, Jane’s Addiction, Ben Folds, Fleet Foxes, the Kaiser Chiefs and Snoop Dogg.

Pete did not set out to be a rock star.  He entered Princeton as an engineering major.  But after a year he realized that wasn’t him.  He switched to music.

His parents had a few misgivings.  But, Pete says, “They were English majors.  That’s not practical either — but you can use the degree for lots of things.”

Eventually, Pete’s parents came around.  And, he notes, “Princeton isn’t a conservatory.  It’s a liberal arts school.  Either in spite of or because of that, music was a great program.”

After graduation Pete traveled around Europe.  In the fall of 2007 drummer Jonathan Marks — a fellow Princeton musician — asked Pete to join his band.  It was folk/indie-rock, with dance elements.  Pete brought the synthesizer sound Jonathan wanted.

For a year, Hey Champ — a trio, with Saam Hagshenas — struggled for a foothold.

Pete Dougherty

Pete Dougherty

Suddenly, a year ago, a Chicago DJ started playing “Cold Dust Girl.”  Hey Champ attracted a following.  Hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco discovered them.

Within 2 or 3 weeks Hey Champ signed with a label.  They toured.  A Halloween show drew 4,000 fans.  They recorded an album, for release this fall.

“The game definitely changed,” Pete says.

Now they’re ready for Lollapalooza.

“We’re insanely excited,” Pete says.

But like the professional musician he is, Pete is already looking ahead.

After Lollapalooza, Hey Champ goes back on the road.  They hope to arrange winter tours of Australia and Brazil.

What about Westport?

“That would be great!” Pete says.  “My mom keeps asking us to play at her store — Doc’s Cafe.”

First Lollapalooza.  Then Doc’s Cafe.

Life doesn’t get any better than that.

(To hear Hey Champ, click here.)