Monday afternoon, the South by Southwest office was predictably under siege. Outgoing mail buried the lobby, workers occupying every nook in a honeycomb of cubicles emailed feverishly, and the front desk phones rang off the hook.
"Not now! Call back in April," commanded one receptionist to a band inquiring about showcasing at next year's Festival.
All of Austin music must feel the same way right about now: Just get us through the next 10 days. After that, it's all gravy. Upstairs, SXSW Music boss James Minor pled the fifth about the keynote speaker, but rumor has it that an announcement may come down Friday, so stay tuned to our website. Otherwise, Festival blasts have been free-flowing all week.
Compton MC Kendrick Lamar was added to ACL Live at the Moody Theater's iTunes Fest as Wednesday's headliner, and the free entertainment at Butler Park expanded with a Jimi Hendrix tribute the following night featuring Slash, Wayne Kramer, Robbie Krieger, and Perry Farrell. This week, news also arrived of Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Lee Murdoch taking part in a SXSW interview and presenting his film God Help the Girl. Nas and Flying Lotus will play the Austin Music Hall next Friday and 50 Cent headlines a Tuesday night showcase at 1100 Warehouse, now known as Fair Market.
Fiddy's warehouse show runs simultaneous to the SXSW Interactive closing event at Stubb's, with the rap cadre of 2 Chainz, Method Man & Redman, and Pusha T blurring the lines between the conference's Interactive and Music portions and making us wonder how many years until the latter annexes Monday to its calendar.
Running Friday through Tuesday, SXSW Interactive includes an appearance by Neil Young, though the legendary rocker will only be singing the praises of his new listening technology Pono. Tech companies secured music regardless: Kiip brings Biz Markie to the Madison on Saturday, while PayPal and BrainTree host Snoop Dogg on Sunday at Stubb's.
A new event, the Hackathon Championship, combines the Music and Interactive disciplines of SXSW, calling on hackers, designers, and programmers to create a new tech innovation that will benefit the music industry for a $10,000 top prize. The free, public event begins Wednesday, 2pm, at the Hilton and runs 24 hours. Prototypes will be evaluated by a panel including Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' singer Alex Ebert and Young Money president Mack Maine. The three winning projects get announced next Friday, 6pm, at Base – the old La Zona Rosa.
As the Music Fest approaches, sponsors continue to roll out their events, including the notorious Fader Fort, which just booked Chromeo; the highly secretive Illmore party, co-promoted by Scoremore; Ray-Ban's EDM-heavy Boiler Room concert; TV cook Rachael Ray's day party with Cee Lo, Blondie, and Foxboro Hot Tubs; and the Thrasher Death Match at Scoot Inn. The latter, four days of punk, metal, rap, and indie, reminds me of bygone SXSW happening Mess With Texas.
While SXSW 2013 featured tributes to fallen music director Brent Grulke, this year's Fest mourns Lou Reed with a star-studded concert Friday, March 14, at the Paramount Theatre. Get a load of this partial roster: Black Lips, Dead Boys axe grinder Cheetah Chrome, Alejandro Escovedo, Louise Goffin, Garland Jeffreys, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Spandau Ballet, Suzanne Vega, and a dozen others. Former Bongos frontman Richard Barone, who met Reed in a guitar shop in 1979 and remained close, says the event will feature rare video and photos from Reed's personal collection. And dig the backing band: Blondie's Clem Burke on drums, the Voidoids' Ivan Julian on guitar, and Tony Shanahan and Lenny Kaye from Patti Smith's band. Look also for longtime Reed cohort Bill Bentley's old Austin band the Bizarros, who from 1977-79 featured Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison.
For the daunting task of familiarizing yourself with SXSW performers, I recommend listening to SXSWfm, the Festival's online radio station. Tune in at www.sxsw.com/fm or download the free app for your phone.
Within the global music and media frenzy that is SXSW, the Austin Music Awards bring a necessary local focus. The ceremony, which predates the Festival, awards the highest vote-getters in the Austin Music Poll, a completely write-in tally of the city's favorite bands and instrumentalists, by category.
This year's AMAs, held at the Convention Center's Austin Ballroom on Wednesday, March 12, includes performances by Lucinda Williams, the Texas Tornados, Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson with jazz extraordinaires Church on Monday, EDM standout Francis Prève, and the generation-bending Youngbloods Choir. The 25-member Minor Mishap Marching Band will lead a mini-parade around the Convention Center, up the escalators, and onto the stage where they'll kick off the festivities at 8pm.
AMA organizer Margaret Moser knows the results and says she's "thrilled with the diversity in this year's voting," so it looks like we're going to see some new bands conquer the podium this year.
"It's okay for Gary to step aside and let someone else win," she joked about Gary Clark Jr., who won eight awards last year. "We're going to see newcomers welcomed into the top ranks in ways that are unprecedented."
As reported earlier, next week's AMAs will be Moser's swan song, retiring after 30 years of doing the show. Expect special guests galore celebrating her send-off, including a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group who'll be guest presenting. There will also be genuine legends of Texas music making appearances during the night's final performance from the Tornados, led by Doug Sahm's son Shawn Sahm, who Moser's known since he was knee-high to a case of Pearl beer.
› Three essential slabs of Texas punk history from Eighties hardcore warriors the Offenders – 1983's We Must Rebel, 1984's I Hate Myself, and 1985's Endless Struggle – have been committed to vinyl on a new double LP on Southern Lord. A reformed version of the band, which was integral in Texas' vibrant hardcore scene that included acts like D.R.I. and MDC, and includes original singer J.J. Jacobson and drummer Pat Doyle, performs at End of an Ear on Friday, 6pm.
› The Good Music Club gleaned live recordings from its Laurie Gallardo-curated concert series into another compilation of choice Austin music: League of Extraordinary Gz, the Wolf, Shakey Graves, Megafauna, Nakia, and an especially badass prog-classical instrumental from Digital Antique. GMC Vol. 2, mixed by Curtis Henderson, mastered by Erik Wofford, and illustrated by Chepo Pena, was financed by the city's music division and will be free at the ATX Music Office's SXSW showcase at the Main (old Emo's) on Tuesday, March 11.
› Black-clad synth force S U R V I V E lug their arsenal of vintage keyboards into End of an Ear on Saturday, 6pm, for a performance in conjunction with the release of a 12-inch vinyl EP. MF064, out on Austin's Monofonus Press, was inspired by the local quartet's acquisition of a particular piece of vintage audio gear, the KR-55, an analog rhythm box with preset beats that adds a new groove to their synthronica sound. After the performance, the band heads down to the Marchesa Hall & Theatre for the SXSW Film screening of The Guest, a new horror film that includes their music.
› Austin City Limits unveiled a partial lineup of artists taping for the PBS show's 40th season. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds make their debut appearance on July 20, while Chicano rock champs Los Lobos return for the fifth time on April 14. A pair of acts who played ACL Fest 2013, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and country realist Eric Church, tape on Aug. 14 and Sept. 23, respectively, while Americana starlet Valerie June tapes May 28.
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