POSTED ON MARCH 21, 2012:
Sixth Street Bands Story
A music fan's trek South by Southwest
The dust hasnít settled on this epic journey of mine to South by Southwest (SXSW), known by locals and veterans to the festival as simply ìSouth By,î but after six late nights of only four or five hours of sleep, all the travel and clock racing, schedule chasing and stimulation overload, I have an even greater appreciation for the touring bandís ìroad dogî lifestyle. Now I have 1,000 words in which to write about my experiences and how the Tulsa music scene is influenced by this event. All I can really attempt to convey, however, is how I was affected and what I hope Tulsa might glean from SXSW.
My best friend, Erica, and I filled the soundtrack of our journey with familiar Oklahoma artists on the way to Austin, eager and hopeful for what the week had in store. Having never been to Austin, much less to an event like this, we had no idea what to expect. In contemplating what South By might mean to those attending, I thought about how these artists have spent days of their lives practicing and working, trying and creating in an attempt to connect us to that which inspires their art. After a week at South By and seeing a glimpse of the infinitely complex business side to making music, the actual creation of it could be the easiest part!
Not Business as Usual
From what we saw of it, Austin is definitely a beautiful city, and SXSW was obviously unlike anything we had experienced before. Block after block hosted venue after venue, several of which had stages that were viewable from the street. We saw thousands of people from all over the world and often found ourselves overhearing conversations in foreign languages we could only guess at the origins of.
For our first night, we made our way down 6th Street to a venue called Friends to catch some Oklahoma bands showcased there. Defining Times from Oklahoma City started the night off great and, per my particular taste, became my favorite Oklahoma group I saw there. Each band would play approximately 40 minutes, and between sets Erica and I would wander next door or down the street to see what else might catch our ear. We kept our itinerary as open as possible but were still unable to see some of the bands we wanted to simply because of just how much was going on.
The Boss Speaks
Attending Bruce Springsteen's keynote address was a monumental honor. If I didn't consider myself much of a fan of his music before this event, I definitely consider myself a fan of him now. He truly impressed me with his humor, storytelling ability, humble artist's perspective, and the words of wisdom he had for other artists. We got a great lesson in music history out of it, too. It was a joy to see and hear how passionate he is about the music that influenced his path in life which, in turn, has influenced and inspired countless others.
Being such a music nerd, another huge highlight for me during South By was my opportunity to attend several music panels from established industry leaders. I was particularly interested in panels that dealt with fan engagement, although there were panels held on everything from choosing the right haircut for your image and music placement in sports, to treating performance-related injuries and the continuing influence of Woody Guthrie today.
I was very excited to learn about StageIt (stageit.com), an online live streaming platform that gives artists an immediate revenue source by allowing them to sell tickets to exclusive events that can be held right in the artist's kitchen or living room. I heard tips on how artists can have successful KickStarter campaigns to fund projects in advance of production, giving fans an opportunity to invest in and support the longevity of an artists' career in exchange for copies of the finished product and other rewards. I heard about a website called TopBlip.com that allows musicians and dancers to upload videos for a chance to win prize money and get increased exposure by collecting votes from online viewers. All in all, the panels were very entertaining and informative, and I look forward to being able to discuss them with musician friends and venue owners here in Tulsa.
As far as the actual music part of the festival went, the best concert experience I had was at the Skrillex show on Friday. I haven't been exposed to a lot of dubstep or electronic dance music, but this show was just what I needed! Despite the frustration of not being able to make it to two other shows we had set out to attend that night, this show allowed me to let go of all the worries about schedules, deadlines, obligations, responsibilities, and basic annoyances of everyday life and just enjoy the moment, and the movement the music inspired in us all. We became a huge mob of sweat and noise, and I reveled in absolutely every minute of it.
My hope for how Tulsa's music scene can be influenced by South By is by inspiring a resurgence of local support for original music. Supporting local music does not come without its rewards. Huge thanks again to Urban Tulsa Weekly for sending me to SXSW, and to the artists who continue to enrich my life.
Stay tuned next week for more coverage from the UTW crew who attended Austin's annual musical shindig.
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