The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

The Quest for Relevance

I just left one of the biggest glad handing sessions I’ve ever been privy to.  And it was dope.  South by Southwest is a collection of music industry types celebrating their importance, but when you can move past the inescapable condescension, the party is outfuckingrageous.

It doesn’t stop and it doesn’t start, there is just a constant stream of beer, cigarettes, chicks in cowboy boots and often free food.  If you wanted to, and were quite committed, I believe you could go the whole week without spending a dime.  One night I ate a dozen tacos simply because they were free and they were there, and I was hammered.


There are day parties (“showcases” in industry parlance) and night parties.  Typical day is heading downtown about 1 in the afternoon, seeing a few indie bands who don’t want to be playing the showcase, then milling about for a while trying to impress girls.  Somewhere along the way some herb gets smoked too.

The night showcases/parties are where it starts to get a tad obnoxious.  Remember: day=fun and carefree.  Night=long lines and no chance of seeing the bands you want to see.  I had a wristband and a decent hook-up, and going to shows I wanted was still basically out of the question.  Not sure about everything being bigger in Texas, but certainly the lines are longer.  Coming down for South by I had an itinerary and long list of bands I wanted to see.  After my first two hours in Austin I realized there would be no itinerary, lines dictate where and when you go.  And the worst part is these places aren’t even crowded, they merely create the line to propagate the elusive veneer of coolness.  It’s quite a spectacle.

I’m coming across negative about the experience, and I don’t mean to be.  I loved it.  Again, I loved it.  I love Austin.  I want to move there a thousand times over.  Just a pleasant town without the snobbery that pervades DC and maybe the whole Northeast.  (DC counts as the Northeast right?)  I saw one band that elicited real emotion, made me want to bring them into my exclusively illegally downloaded music collection.  The Scanners, they are British and the leader singer is hot.  I also went to a hip hop show where the main rapper was wearing yellow sweatpants.  I am no expert, but you might need to get a pair of jeans if you’re going to make it big buddy.  I think he invested his pants money in his mouth, which was part gold and part platinum he told me later.  Nice guy though.

The band I am genuinely bummed I missed was Sleigh Bells.  I sweat them like Brenda did Dillon at West Bev, I had it all lined up to see them at the NPR party, but the damn lines were my undoing.  Maybe part of the problem is my ridiculous impatience; that shit really is a virtue and something I wish I could buy at Walgreens.

The weird undercurrent to everything at South by is the vast majority of people are very cool once they let their guard down.  But everyone, including me, has their guard up.  We all set out to prove just how indie we are, or how relevant we are, or who heard of the newest buzz band first, when in fact let’s just enjoy the massive get down going down.  There’s Lone Star to drink, dope to smoke, bands to cheer and people to meet. The town, the scene, the spirit is too damn good and too damn important to let it go to waste in a march to prove elite.

I met a band that drove from Pennsylvania to Texas to play at 11 am at some shit showcase.  They didn’t care.  They were happy.  They had a chance and we’re going for it.  That’s what I thought SXSW to be, and that is what it can be.  No idea if their band is good, but I want them to make it.  It was funny, we were all at this party and there was some bonafide singer there in some Ozzfest type band.  The dude was kind of a douche, but he said something important as he handed me a joint.  “It’s not about being a rockstar, it’s about making music that you care about and can be proud of.”  It’s that simple.  It’s not about lines and what minor celebrity may be at what energy-drink-sponsored-party.

A special thanks to my wonderful hosts.  You are my boys forever and I will slang MusicSkins ‘til I die.  You should order one too.


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