South By Southwest, Part 1

Well, it's 8:35 Austin time and I've finally got my room, internet access, and festival badge. Haven't had a chance to see any actual music yet, but I've certainly seen plenty of jaded industry types, giddy young music writers, and desperate publicists. I'm headed out into the evening to actually find some material on which to write, but in the meantime, I'll leave you with a quote from page 209 of Lone Star Swing, Duncan McLean's book on his travels through Texas searching for the original performers of Western Swing. Though not specifically about SXSW, he speaks about Austin in this passage, and I feel that his point is all the more trenchant this week. Given the obscene amount of sensory overload that occurs during this festival, how much of what SXSW is ideally supposed to be about gets lost?

"...the thing that struck me was the strange but certain feeling that nobody was really listening to the music.

For one thing, they were all too drunk. Ninety percent of them had started chucking down the heavy and whiskey ten hours before, when the pubs opened and the sessions started, and kept at it all day...

Mainly, though, folk weren't listening to the music because they didn't want to, they didn't need to. What really mattered was the idea of being at Keith Traditional Music Festival.* They liked the idea of a weekend of carousing and music: they could look forward to it for months before, they could recollect it in sobriety for months after. While they were there, of course they would enjoy it...The actual music could've been dull, clumsy-fingered, tuneless (it was often all three) but that didn't matter: it was the idea of the music that was more important than the actuality. As long as there was a vaguely melodic racket going on in the background, then everybody could keep on knocking back the whiskey, swaying in time to nothing at all, yelling at each other what a great time they were having...they were going to drink, dance and be merry, and nothing was going to stop them. Not even over-priced drinks, tarted up tourist-trap bars, and third-rate, mind-numbing, body-and-soul-less imitation-blues.**"

Kinda beautiful though, in it's own way I guess. Thoughts?

*Read "SXSW"

**Read "imitation-indie-rock", "imitation-alt-country", "imitation hard-rock", etc.


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