Page Two: Bright Light, Hot Smoke

Here we go again: South by Southwest 2011

Page Two
We are deep into South by Southwest preparations as the event kicks off in just two weeks – on Friday, March 11 – and then runs for 10 days. Calling this column an advertorial would almost be flattering it. It is a straight-out, pedal-to-the-metal slam, a roller coaster car having climbed the highest loop of tracks and now heading straight down fast, and there's nothing that is going to stop it.

Anyone following the ongoing misadventures chronicled in this column is probably aware that the author is either in a somewhat deteriorating mental state or is at least acting as though he is. I bring this up because my predilection for going online, reading some snarky attack on SXSW, and then obsessing over it for some amount of time is well-known. The SXSW and Chronicle staffs probably couldn't care less about what topics I'm obsessing about, except for the fact that I frequently share my feelings with them – more in a whining, lecturing kind of way than as a participatory discussion.

Over the years, the staff has made it as clear as it can that it is very unhealthy for me to read online comments, so I shouldn't do it. If, despite staff members' wise advice, I do read such comments, then the least I can do is shut up. Per the staff's wishes, I have no idea what is currently being said about SXSW online. In the past, however, almost invariably someone would post a comment or send us a letter about how many different things he or she planned to do during SXSW. They usually let us know not only what a great time they're planning on having but that they are going to do it in such a way that not a penny of theirs will go into SXSW coffers.

This is supposed to be something that will drive us crazy – being deprived of revenue. Over time, some of us at SXSW have been two-dimensionalized into straw men. According to some, we don't care about music or any other media; we don't care about Austin, because all we really care about is making more and more money. Making Scrooge McDuck seem like St. Francis of Assisi and recasting Hetty Green, the Witch of Wall Street, as very much Mother Teresa-like, the SXSW greed-crazed mob robs children of their change. In this glare, evidently just getting us to think about not gathering every coin out there should make us mad-crazed with frustrated greed. Thus, by telling us this, they are causing us pain. Except I think it is great to hear that people can have a terrific time during SXSW without spending very much money. In my life, I had no money for decades longer than I've had some money.

When we are cast as such villains, it's like the experience of mulling over in your head something someone said or wrote with which you strongly disagree; you drift into an ongoing reverie wherein you argue the offender into the dust, brilliantly lacerating the offending arguments. Sometimes you take them apart with such wit and logic that you almost feel sorry for their stunted and inarticulate defenses. You have leveled them. This, of course, only within your own head.

There are so many reasons we put on SXSW, and it is so wonderful to do that my disconnect between others' assumptions and my realities is severe. It is a business; businesses need to make money to survive. But when we started it, we had no idea whether it would be successful or not. Our motivation wasn't, "Hey, this is a great way to make money." Get real: The odds were against us. The motivation was we thought SXSW could be a terrific event and a great party useful to those in the music business. And we hoped it would someday make some money.

We love to stage events. Among us there is a passion for throwing parties; we love to bring people together, and we dig almost all media.

If someone is having a great time, that's the idea.

Rationally, I don't expect that writing any of the above will change anyone's mind. Actually, I think it will be grist for the explosive spit take at how stupid we must be to believe anyone is dumb enough to buy what we're selling. But for so many others of you, I wanted to offer a bit of our perspective.

Austin Music Awards and Poll Results

The 2010-11 Austin Music Awards show will be on Saturday, March 19, at the Austin Music Hall. The 29th annual awards show, beginning at 7:09pm sharp, is the ending celebration for SXSW Music 2011.

The lineup this year includes singer-songwriter Sahara Smith (Myth of the Heart) accompanied by Will Sexton; legendary Eighties country band the Wagoneers featuring Monte Warden with special guest Joe Ely; Bubble Puppy, one of the most storied bands from those wild psychedelic times now long past ("Hot Smoke & Sasafrass"); the Bright Light Social Hour; and the Meat Puppets with Roky Erickson. Finally, there will be a concert-length closing set from Mother Falcon.

For several decades now, The Austin Chronicle has published the results of its annual Music Poll on the first Wednesday of the South by Southwest Music Festival. The Chronicle issue for that week was always a giant music issue that included the poll results as well as extensive SXSW Music coverage. The issue was published on Tuesday, and Downtown distribution began on Wednesday evening. The rest of distribution was finished on Thursday, the day on which the Chronicle is normally distributed.

During almost all of that time, the Austin Music Awards show honoring the poll's winners occurred on Wednesday night, the first night of the SXSW Music Festival.

Last year, for a number of reasons, we moved the Austin Music Awards show a few days over, to the Saturday night of SXSW Music. Still, the poll results appeared in the regular issue of the Chronicle that was distributed on the Thursday preceding the show.

The sense of celebrating the community and honoring musicians, as well as the overall fun and traditionally great music of the show, was all there, but the evening was drained of some of the excitement and suspense usually associated with it. This year The Austin Chronicle issue with a street date of March 18 will be a SXSW Music issue, but it will not contain the poll results.

Instead, the results will be posted online on the evening of Saturday, March 19, concurrent with the Austin Music Awards show. The results will be printed in the Chronicle that comes out the week after SXSW, with a street date of March 25.

The Austin Music Awards are presented by The Austin Chronicle and SXSW and co-sponsored by 93.3 KGSR Radio Austin and the Art Institute of Austin. The event is a benefit for the SIMS Foundation. This year, the Music Awards show will air live on America's longest continuously running community television station, channelAustin (Channel 10).

Tickets will be on sale at Waterloo Records starting Feb. 25. Cost is $15 in advance and $20 the night of the show. Your SXSW badges and wristbands include entry to the Austin Music Awards.


As with every year, there are free events all over town sponsored by SXSW. SXSW FREE 2011 kicks off with SXSW ScreenBurn, the video-game element of the SXSW Interactive Festival that merges the new media, music, film, and video-game industries all in one place – at the Austin Convention Center. The event is free and open to the public Friday, March 11, from 2 to 6pm, and Saturday-Sunday, March 12-13, noon-6pm.

The free shows at the Auditorium Shores stage on Lady Bird Lake, as always, offer across-the-board strong music bills.

This week brought the announcement of the Strokes' scheduled performance for Thursday, March 17. Announced for Friday, March 18, are: 6pm, Suzanna Choffel; 7pm, World Party; and 8pm, Blue October.

During the afternoon of Saturday, March 19, the show will be family-friendly, with Ozokidz at 1:30pm and MarchFourth Marching Band at 2:30pm. Then the lineup continues: 3:30pm, Kurt Vile & the Violators; 4:30pm, Man Man; 5:30pm, Middle Brother; 6:30pm, the Felice Brothers; 7:30pm, Bright Eyes.

The second SXSW weekend is during SXSW Music. At the Convention Center, there will be the Texas Guitar Show and the Flatstock 29 poster show, both of which will be free and open to all. The Texas Guitar Show is an insane, instrument-centered buy-sell-trade event. The Flatstock poster show is run in conjunction with the American Poster Institute and features unique concert posters from some of the biggest artists on the globe.

Visit for hours of operation and more info about these exciting exhibitions.

In conjunction with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, SXSW will offer two weekends of free events at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center (1165 Angelina). The weekend of March 12-13 features Film and Interactive events, and the weekend of March 18-20 features Music events. Film events at Carver: Saturday, March 12: 10am-4:30pm, Youth Filmmaking Workshop With the Austin School of Film; 6pm-8pm, Texas High School Shorts Screening.

New to SXSW Music Festival

This year, SXSW Music Festival showcases will begin on Tuesday, March 15, with nine venues hosting bands.

Update SXSW Film

Last year there were crowding issues at a number of SXSW screenings. Over the past year, we spent a lot of time planning how to minimize such problems for this year.

SXSW is still going to sell Film passes, available at Waterloo Records (in-store only), but only a limited amount, about half of what we've sold in the past. We've added screens, but the price of $70 has stayed the same.

This year's theatres include: the State, the Paramount, the Vimeo Theater at the Convention Center, the Rollins Theatre at the Long Center, the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, and the Alamo South Lamar. Also, SXSatellite will be at the Regal Arbor Cinema at Great Hills and the Regal Westgate.

Passes allow entry to all SXSW films, subject to capacity. Since people holding passes are admitted after badge holders, they are ideal for the films in the larger venues, like the Paramount and Vimeo Theater at the Convention Center, and should often work at midrange venues like the State, the Rollins, and the SXSatellite venues.

Important: It's unlikely that passes will gain admittance for many, if any, of the screenings at the Alamo South Lamar or Alamo Ritz because they fill so quickly. If these Alamo screenings are on the top of your list, we encourage you to buy a Film badge.

This year, we introduce SxSatellite at the Regal Arbor in North Austin and the Regal Westgate to the south. The main idea behind this is to allow Austinites who would like to see some of the films playing in the Festival to have access to them without having to drive Downtown. The programming at the Westgate and Arbor won't be exclusive but complementary to what is being featured in the rest of the Festival. The idea is not to introduce new films but to give local moviegoers a chance to see SXSW Film Festival programming.

Austin Film Society 2011 Texas Film Hall of Fame

Not officially associated with SXSW, the Austin Film Society presents the 2011 Texas Film Hall of Fame on Thursday, March 10, 2011, at Austin Studios Stage 5 (1901 E. 51st). This year, honorees include Rip Torn and Renée Zellweger. Friday Night Lights will receive the Star of Texas Award, to be accepted by Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler with Brad Leland, Jesse Plemons, and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. The Rising Star Award will go to John Hawkes, best known for playing Sol Star in Deadwood and Teardrop in Winter's Bone, for which he's been nominated for an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Independent Spirit Award, all in best supporting actor categories.

Spoon will be honored for their work on soundtracks. A lot of their songs have been featured on such TV shows as Veronica Mars, Scrubs, Chuck, The Simpsons, Numb3rs, How I Met Your Mother, and the pilot episode of Bones "Take a Walk" was featured on the soundtrack to the video game Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX 2; and "The Underdog" was used in Cloverfield, as well as being featured in 17 Again and I Love You, Man. "The Infinite Pet" was used in (500) Days of Summer.

The evening's emcee is comedian and writer Wyatt Cenac. Among the presenters will be filmmaker Jeff Nichols and columnist Liz Smith. Finally, special guests include Thomas Haden Church, Catherine Hardwicke, Richard Linklater, Luke Wilson, and Mike Judge.

More to come!

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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