SXSW Wrapup

The tragedy in Japan took a lot of the SXSW-organized events by surprise, but many groups took some time out from the hooplah and swag dispersal to send out messages of solidarity with the people of Japan, and encourage donations to disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross.
I was playing a gig in Waco on 3/18 so I couldn’t attend Japan Night at SXSW, but I heard it was particularly poignant.
SXSW4Japan had a table at the convention center and helped to get out information. They raised over $100,000 in donations. Their information is at:
Donations during SXSW were directed to the Red Cross which has been getting much needed supplies and personnel to devastated areas of Japan.
There is more information about ongoing relief efforts at:

As always, South By Southwest was a grand melange of music related stuff from the sublime to the ridiculous. The national media cast more than a sidelong glance, since SXSW has in recent years developed the reputation of being, if not a trendsetter, then at least a trendmarker. As music and media increasingly intertwine through the digitization of information and information delivery platforms, the theme of the conference has shifted. The main thrust is still about up-and-coming music groups, but now it is not so much about how to get your band signed by a label. It is more about defining the media niche most appropriate to your band’s needs and capabilities.

Interesting stuff, and I saw the issue played out in various ways, from numerous startup niche media companies promoting themselves as “the next Facebook” to bands trying to stand out from the crowd with the latest digital marketing tools. CD giveaways still occurred, but tie-ins to social media were the main thing.

On a personal level I experienced what a lot of Austinites are feeling, that SXSW is becoming more Festival than Conference. In other words, a lot of amateur drinkers practicing their skills on the natives. SXSW has become a destination for partiers since it coincides with Spring Break. It’s too bad for residents who have to clean the trash out of their yards, try to get any sleep, or find parking near their jobs. But the city gets more tourist dollars, and the cops get to try out their crowd control training on out-of-towners. It’s a shame when tear gas cannisters sit on the shelf past their expiration date.

All that aside, I was happy to hear, see and meet a number of musicians from other countries. For me that’s the best part of SXSW. I met Wouter Kellerman, a wonderful flute player from South Africa, and his amazing band. I also got to hang with inspired musicians from Ecuador, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, and managed to catch Yoko Ono’s set with the Plastic Ono band. More on that later!