SXSTest

I woke up today buzzing off my first Sundance Film Festival show with Scenic Byway last night at Flanagan’s in Park City. The show was fun as hell. Thanks to everyone that came out! We had a number of Salt Lakers that rolled through, which helped to make the show super special.

But, what I do want to comment on here is performing at these festivals… and what you’re told is gonna happen versus what does happen. As I scroll down my facebook feed today I see a few of my friends and bands that I’m connected to have announced that they are official SXSW artists. And, that is sick; congrats to all of them. But, there is a dark side of that that I again experienced last night in Park City…

I want to think that it’s just the hype that I and we as musicians have to be a part of something that is way larger than you like Sundance and SXSW, but there is another reality to it. That is that, these entities act like they are more important than they are for your career or whatever you want to call in. Like, I went to this SXSW “Meet Up,” that was held in SLC 2 months ago and it was pretty much a sales pitch for why going to SXSW would make your careeer better. I mean, I saw this kind of promoter to band sales pitch back when I was 18 and playing in my high school band. At that time, we were persuaded to pay $5k to play a festival called, “Locobazooka,” in the hopes that “top record execs would be there,” to see us play. We played the smallest stage on the other side of the festival…

In an overall, bird’s eye view reality, it’s just a fun show to play somewhere other than your usual watering holes… for me now, that’s The Urban Lounge and The Metro Music Hall, which is fun as hell, but that’s what is happening for me at the moemnt. If you look at these festival shows as that, then they are amazing. But, if you look at them as your big chance; you’re gonna be upset.

Back in 2012, I had a band approach me that wanted to play SXSW. Even then, like 2 years into doing SXSW, I knew that it was a blowfish. It isn’t the set that makes your career. In fact, I’m not sure that any one set makes your career, but SXSW definitely isn’t that set. Nonetheless, this band wanted the opportunity to go down to 6th Street in Austin to rock, and that they did. They rented one of those Cruise America RVs and drove us and all the equipment to do this show down to Austin. It was a deal in a half for me. I got transportation for me and my equipment and they got… to play SXSW.

The pressure built up the whole trip. Between me knowing that their expectations wouldn’t be met and them probably hoping that that wasn’t the case, tensions grew. I’d told them that I was only booking them a show in Austin, but when we were in New Orleans the band expected to play. I did find us and them an open mic at the Hi-Ho, but it was low key. It was awesome, but low key and their rock n’ roll hunger was only growing.

When we got to Austin, well, SXSW is a shit show. It was the very bit of insanity that I needed to subdue the tensions that were developing between this band and I, but really between the bass player’s father and I. He never confronted really what he felt, as any Bostonian wouldn’t, but I know he was not into my intentions. And, what were those intentions exactly? I dunno, just to fuckn’ put on a SXSW showcase. It’s fun as hell… but at the cost of their voyage there. To be honest, people pay $500- $1000 or even more to play this festival. That doesn’t even include the cost of travel and food and everything. It’s sad, but that is real. Their deal was fair in the regards that it’s an unfair situation.

It’s not that SXSW or playing these kinds of festivals isn’t a big deal. It’s a large commitment and I respect that. All the bands that make the time to go down there and play an awesome set really does set a band at a different level of organization, but that isn’t the dark part. It’s the expectation that a set at SXSW or Sundance  or whatnot is going to elevate you quickly… I think it can elevate you with your own fans and your fans’ friends and your fans’ friends’ friends. It makes a band appear more legit… because as I said in the beginning of this paragraph; you are more legit.

When it came to the 6th Street showcase for this band, I had them scheduled to play earlier on in the showcase… which, is cool, but it’s definitely cooler to play on 6th Street in Austin at 7pm – 10pm, as you’d expect. That’s when the street starts to really pack up. But, honestly, I’ve been to a number of sets on a packed 6th Street that only 10-20 people were at. It’s like, there is so much traffic that sometimes it’s easy to be over looked by other shows or even street performers. So, when this band got off stage from their 4pm set the discouragement that I had planned for set in…

A hole in time, an opening in the schedule allowed for me to stitch the situation up enough to get this band home with a smile on their face from the performance of a life time. It was crazy, what happened next. This seriously happened…

A Canadian band ended early. Their super indie set up with a lot of acoustics and a glockenspiel was just not working in this pseudo-sports bar. It added 25 extra minutes to the schedule to which I knew I could fit the band I was traveling with in for a few more songs… So, I did, but then something crazy occured…

At 8 PM, Pauly, yes, Pauly Shore walked in and asked me… well, he didn’t ask me, directly he asked the sky if he could emcee for the next few acts… and that he fucking did. So, not only did this band get to rock 3-4 more tunes to a packed venue on 6th Street, but they were also introduced by Pauley Shore. Seriously. It was… ridiculous. And, I found a video from it…

Ok, yes, this story ended with a happy ending… not as happy as some other stories I have of massage parlors in Norther Austin, but nonetheless; happy. But, don’t disregard that this band no longer exists. That, although amazing performance, was part of tough week long or maybe more voyage from Boston to Austin and back that  resulted in a performance of the lifetime and a really really really stressful trip. And, yeh, maybe that is worth it. To me it is… but, this band was really looking for it to change the course of their band and their careers. That was not the case. And, now they are no longer a band.

I’ve seen the stress of SXSW end bands. It’s a lot… I mean, just to take the time off work to make it happen, pay for the flights, maybe even have to pay for the slot… and, for what? A moment. But, isn’t that all we really have at the end of life? Just moments that we can sift through that were real? Maybe…

This article or blog or whatever this is is really about expectations. And, yeh, I know, if you plan to fail then you will fail or fail delicately. But, there are some parts of reality that we just have to be ready for. I feel like this band just didn’t have the right mindset. After this I would travel with bands and book bands for SXSW explaining this expectation. It made for a better boundary to set and honestly made the musicians happier with their experience at and with SXSW.

And, even as I say this, I still look at my performance on Thursday, tomorrow back at Sundance in Park City as a show that maybe makes my career. I mean, I don’t think I’ll wake up on Friday and have a record deal or anything, but I do think that it’s an opportunity to show people and myself that I’m more than just a booking agent, radio host, blogger; I’m a sick guitar player 😉 I’m not sure Boston, where I made music for most of my life really knows that… Sundance will though ;<) [which goes against everything I just wrote about… but, we can all hope our families will see us for who we really feel we are]


{this is just for you to laugh at for a minute… a bit from my first SXSW showcase}

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