Arts Desk

This Ain’t Our First Rodeo: Arts Desk Touches Down at SXSW

Arts Desk's Texas correspondent covers D.C. music (and funny shit) at South by Southwest.

I randomly ran into Matt Pinfield around 2:40 a.m. in a Whataburger men’s room on Wednesday. I wanted to tell the former MTV VJ how much I enjoyed the liner notes he wrote for the Queen box set that I acquired secondhand, but after Tuesday’s SXSW soft opening, we all just needed a snack.

I'm in Austin covering the annual music conference/bonanza for Arts Desk, as City Paper has made a habit of doing. As early as Friday night, early events—like Vice magazine's party with Bun B—were up and running. Wednesday, I squeezed into an as-of-yet unannounced secret 3 a.m. concert featuring a rapper whose name rhymes with Phil Blaine. (Update: This show was a bust; the rapper in question never showed up.) But none of this matters. I'm here for the local natives, not Local Natives. I came for the hometown artists who are down in the Lone Star State in packs, joining forces for regional showcases. For that, Tuesday, the fest's official first day, was pretty stale: DMV acts were few and far between. Thank God for Pirate Rob.

"Our main thing is to network," Baltimore's Pirate Rob (real name: Rob Bryan) said at the Tuesday showcase hosted by his promotions group, One Koast Entertainment, at The Lodge. "We wanted to show the other bands who we are and what we’re doing as a unit, and we came down here tonight with like, five or six bands that are really good friends from the East Coast." About his prospects, he's optimistic: "It’s going to grow all our touring routing and chances and opportunities." Pirate Rob curated and emceed the showcase that traded in unpretentious, Sublime-y rock music from Annapolis’ Bumpin’ Uglies, Baltimore’s Bond & Bentley, and Pasadena's Pasadena, which seems poised to revive the 1970s trend of bands named after their places of origin. Pirate Rob bought shots and Lone Star tallboys for his artists mid-set.

This guitar: Baltimore as fuck.

In a way, the One Koast show was kind of refreshing. The showcase played out like an old school SXSW gig: a room filled with anonymous and sympathetic drunk wanderers, with bands that shared a backline and drum kit (tonight, it was Bumpin’ Uglies' kit, emblazoned with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles font). The musicians stood around holding guitars, waiting for their turn to play. Pasadena, in particular, got the ground shaking with its shout-along closing number. Yeah, the bands were made up predominantly of white dudes doing the solemn-because-it’s-meta-and-about-the-bottle-and-the-struggle thing, but I appreciated its stark contrast to SXSW's suffocating skinny-jeans bullshit.

Minutes after One Koast’s showcase, at least 15 members of The Polyphonic Spree packed an intimate stage down the street at Red 7—one normally reserved for hardcore and punk shows. Everything’s bigger in Texas, and some bands came ready.

Graphic by Brooke Hatfield

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