If Robert Jon Burrison of Robert Jon & the Wreck gets struck by lightning while onstage at South by Southwest this year, just know that he didn’t get fried in vain. After all, the magnificently bearded frontman is just one of the many local performers driving out to Austin to be a part of this year’s OCSX showcase on the rooftop of the Westin Downtown and the Chive House on Rainey St. The whole thing will likely be livestreamed for people who aren’t able to make it to his set (and possible electrocution) in the flesh.
“It’s the South, so afternoon thundershowers happen,” warns John Hampton, the head honcho of both the showcase and Irvine-based Hampton Productions. “Right when Robert [Jon] starts playing, we’ll just get a big thundershower.”
“I’ll just get struck by lightning and die onstage,” Burrison says. “I’ll just hold my guitar up like an antenna.”
“It’d be a great story — way better than dying on the toilet,” says Greta Valenti, vocalist of Well Hung Heart.
“As you’re going down, just yell ‘Album’s out April 28!’” adds Robin Davey, Well Hung Heart’s guitarist.
“Exactly, and we’d get a great photo or video of it,” Hampton jokes.
“Enjoy the royalties, guys,” Burrison laughs.
But even a little bit of dreaded precipitation wouldn’t be enough to stop OCSX at this point. Although many SXSW attendees may not be familiar with the event by name, it’s been going on in one way or another for the better part of the last decade at the massive annual music and culture festival. With three full days of music at two different venues, Hampton is more stoked than ever for his upcoming venture.
“I’m always excited to see what we can do with it and see where it’s going,” says John Hampton, the veteran showrunner. “It’s about getting the bands out of the four walls where they’re comfortable, which can be really hard for some bands to do. It’s about unity, because we’re all in this together. It’s always a really good time.”
With over a dozen local artists lined up to perform over the course of the Thursday-Saturday event — and most of them playing at least one set on all three days — Hampton is far from the only one looking forward to OCSX. From the aforementioned Robert Jon & the Wreck (who have recently developed quite the following in Europe) and Well Hung Heart to Huntington Beach’s Big Monsta and the incomparable Devil Season, Orange County artists in a wide variety of genres will be descending upon Austin en masse.
“A lot of bands have to go outside of Orange County to grow, but they’re intimidated to tour or don’t know how to tour, and this gives those bands the opportunity to get out there,” Valenti says. “Even for bigger bands that know how to tour in some areas, it’s still a good platform to introduce our music to all of these new people and stand with Orange County.”
“The Orange County scene is so competitive that people can’t believe how good you are when you go to some other places,” Davey adds. “There are so many bands out here that I love to see around, and many of them are going to be in Austin with us. It’s a chance for everyone to show what they’ve been working on. If you’re not working hard out here, then another band is going to come right up behind you and steal your crowd. You’re forced to be great musicians and to put a good show together.”
OCSX’s ability to show the ever-changing landscape of OC’s music scene to fans, artists, and industry folks on one of the biggest national stages is undoubtedly important, but so is the bonding experience that comes with the showcase. With so many bands hanging out together for all three days, Orange County’s little corner of SXSW provides a scene-wide opportunity for artists across genres to get to know their neighbors.