Arts Desk

WCP Does SXSW: Windian Records Throws Stones

Jackson

Every March, South by Southwest corrals the music industry in Austin, Texas. Record labels, publicists, and hip blogs program warring bills throughout the Texas capital’s 200 venues; red-eyed bands cram eight gigs into three days. The taco trucks are superb. Everybody’s there.
But Travis Jackson, the owner and founder of Windian Records, is opting out this year.

“Talking to all my friends about the [South by Southwest] experience, it’s like, ‘Did we accomplish anything?’ No. ‘Did we make any money?’ The little we did went to beer. It’s just partying,” he says. “The focus has dramatically shifted from discovering music to marketing—to finding unconventional ways to get people to buy things.”

After doing the math, Jackson couldn’t justify a Windian caravan to the 2011 conference. The fuming pop-punk of White Faces, the urgent and chant-driven three-minute miles of The Electricutions, and the head-knocking, riot grrrl fuzz of Jungle Fever would have to schmooze elsewhere. But Jackson still wanted to roll out the Windian spring catalog somewhere.

Saturday at U Street Music Hall, he spearheads “Fuck SXSW: Windian Showcase,” an 11-act bill highlighting the “sleazy garage punk rock” Jackson & Co. have spent the last year and a half cranking out.

“All of my friend’s labels are going down for South By,” Jackson says. “The whole event is basically making fun of them...I’d rather spend all our money putting out records. [Fuck SXSW] is saying ‘South by isn’t something we have to do.’”

Timely, unofficial shows rebelling against the suits are nothing new to South by Southwest culture. Peddlers and organizers like New York’s Todd P. have perfected exploiting the gold mine of converged talent into parallel, anti-establishment parties wholly dependent on South by Southwest’s stellar logistics. Jackson’s event is unique in that it throws stones 1,500 miles away from the glass house.

“Austin is a town where you get good rock n’ roll at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve,” Jackson says. “But the problem is it’s hard for concerts to feel special...Bands have to plan spring tours around making it down and then their post-South By shows are in ghost towns.

“By contrast, D.C. doesn’t get too much punk. It made more sense for me to fly in some of my bands from San Diego and Alabama, give them a big show, and keep it local.”

Beyond cost, Jackson sees South by Southwest’s recent evolution as worrisome. When every fading beacon of reporting and criticism is there with an agenda and itinerary, what’s in it for 90 percent of showcasing artists?

“[South by Southwest] is about sponsors and some Pitchfork intern selling me Dos Equis,” Jackson says. “SST and Dischord never had to go down and build contacts.”

“Fuck SXSW: Windian Showcase”—featuring Dan Sartain; Jungle Fever; Pinche Gringo; Two Tears; Sweet Sixteens; Occult Detective Club; Maybe, Baby; Thee Lolitas; The Electricutions; The Cheniers; and Foul Swoops—takes place 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday at U Street Music Hall. $10.

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