With the inevitable descent of springtime and the arrival of March, the music enthusiast's mind and eye invariably turn to Austin Texas and the South by Southwest Conference. Every year, hundreds of bands and artists descend upon the friendly capitol 500 miles to our south in an amalgamation of film, music and technology.
The result can easily be overwhelming. One can take a helicopter parenting approach and micromanage your schedule to see every conceivable event desired without the time to actually enjoy it. Or the more likely laissez-faire approach: Letting destiny lead you to unplanned and yet-undiscovered gems of talent, perseverance, absurdity and happenstance.
Here is a short list of Oklahoma artists that I am happy to see performing at SXSW -- or hope to see in the flesh fate permitting.
The list begins on a personal note. Songwriter Audra Mae attended high school with me in Oklahoma City, but it was not until I moved to Los Angeles that we became properly acquainted.
While in California, I was able to watch her progress as an artist and turn the heads of audiences everywhere, even the Chinese restaurant Genghis Cohen on Fairfax Avenue.
Vocally, she harbors the kind of twang that makes an Okie sink instantly into her songs and a voice as sweet and rich as maple butter. She keeps to her roots musically, and her compositions are traditionally influenced by country and folk, though she is bound by no genre.
I look forward to taking a seat and enjoying her delightful stage banter and getting lost in the voice that can at times be as delicate as a coddled baby or as sonorous as in need of an exorcism.
Another songwriter from this great state is Choctaw's own Ali Harter who is pushing her soon to be released second album No Bees No Honey, which releases on March 13.
On first listen, it is hard to absorb the reality that the grizzled road-weary voice coming from the speakers belongs to 25-year old Harter. Vocally, she has an intangible character like that of Jolie Holland; the soul of her voice is many decades older than the body that hosts it.
Harter's material is steeped in the classic rock, folk and perhaps a tinge of country recordings that have been carefully stowed in the basement waiting to be dusted off and enjoyed like new once again. Songs from her new album were recently featured on Grey's Anatomy, so one will likely be seeing and hearing more about her in the future.
On a lighter note are the impervious antics of Colourmusic. This band of very merry jesters appeals to the listeners' exuberance in a way not attempted since the Polyphonic Spree. Combining melodic pop and matching white outfits with unchecked volumes and a complete lack of ego, they seem to take little serious, except for the desire to spread joy and optimistic noise. Enjoy their music video for the song "Yes!" a video that belongs on the Web site for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. Be sure to chant along.
Also on the rock tip of matters is The Uglysuit. The band has successfully developed a melodic sense of pop that is atmospheric and fresh but still rocks when appropriate. The sound of the band is often shimmering and incandescent, which the band exploits live to great lengths expanding many songs well past the five-minute mark.
I was lucky enough to catch The Uglysuit and Colourmusic at SXSW last year during an Oklahoma artist showcase organized by Dfest's Tom Green. Unfortunately, Green was unable to organize a similar showcase this year citing new business ventures (the downtown bar Enso, for example) and the quickly approaching Dfest season.
Luckily for fans of Oklahoma music, the Academy of Contemporary Music at University of Central Oklahoma has stepped up and organized a similar showcase on Saturday, March 20. Held at Soho Lounge, 217 E Sixth St., the show features the aforementioned Colourmusic and The Uglysuit in addition to the bands Gum, The City Lives, The Non and headliner Stardeath and White Dwarfs.
The Non brought their shimmering and volatile instrumental music to Tulsa in January for a CD release show of its second album Tadaima (see "Headed Home" on urbantulsa.com).
For those attending the showcase, expect an aurally and visually striking show. Stardeath and White Dwarfs are a solid way to end the night with their evolving blast of psychedlic fuzz bliss and stream of consciousness lyrics.
All in all this year's South by Southwest Conference appears like all those before: a full spread of artists you hope to see or have never heard of and everything in between. One could create that idealized grocery list of music and shows one hopes to enjoy but really the fun is in letting go and placing yourself at the mercy of Austin and Sixth Street.
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