SXSW: Creating a Scene in 2012

What a scene, SXSW here and 35 Denton just up the road

That's me on the left in the white tee, filing a review at the paper's SXSW HQ at the Omni.
That's me on the left in the white tee, filing a review at the paper's SXSW HQ at the Omni.
photo by Margaret Moser

So South by Southwest is over and we’re all recovering. I went to my fair share of parties, but I also took full advantage of the business panels and learned a lot. On the first full day of the music festival, Wednesday, I attended “Creating A Scene in 2012,” which featured venue owners national and local, including our own James Moody of Mohawk.

Discussion centered on the relationships between venues and scenes, and how they can help build each other. “We set up places we wanted to hang out at, and things just happened,” explained Nick Bodor, owner of several NYC venues.

All the panelists agreed that one must start a successful scene by taking care of the artists. “It’s about paying bands the best that you can, and we try to take bands from the small stage to the big stage to bigger stages,” said Moody. “You have to react to scenes as they grow, because they're organic, and you must let go of the short term and focus on long-term growth.”

Of course, lots of venues move in when scenes have already started; they’re not always joined at the hip. “When building a new venue, it’s important to show your community that your heart is in the right place,” advised Bodor. “You’re not coming in to wipe the slate clean. You want to add to it.” Other advice included always booking your taste, having great bartenders, and never attempting late night happy hours.

Speaking of building cool scenes, the weekend before SXSW I attended the 35 Denton festival. Here’s a perfect example of a passionate group of people building a scene. Although UNT has long attracted musical minds, 35 Denton has brought the Denton scene to a more national level. It’s a really fun and well put together festival, and it also features a small amount of panel programming.

With less time constraints and formality, the panels become more like conversations with audience involvement. The panel I attended on recording went on for two hours. 35 Denton's a great prototype of a small festival that could be built in a college town anywhere, big or small.

Nevertheless, I’ll leave it to others to dream big about their home scenes, because it's always Austin for me.

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