REVIEW: SD bands shine at SXSW

Ryan Johnson

The trip to South by South West (SXSW)-an annual film, interactive and music festival and conference where over 2,000 of independent music’s brightest new talents perform in over 90 venues in downtown Austin-isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

It’s the whole cake, and you have to finish it all before it gets taken away from you.

As a band playing SXSW, the first hope is that everyone in your band survives. At best, you want to leave with a lot more of the “people who matter” (whoever you think they may be) knowing your band exists.

Bands can expect, without uncertainty, to burn the candle from both ends for 4 days and nights with thousands of other bands from around the world while drinking copious amounts of free beer.

Lots and lots and lots of free beer.

Driving to Austin seems like an easy task but whether you drive with a few friends in a car, or with six guys in a van, the full-day drive East is scenic – for about 2 hours – and then it becomes uncomfortable and depressingly uneventful except for the occasional dramatic scene at a Border Patrol checkpoint.

Upon arrival in Austin, the next four days take place over what feels like 24 hours.. There are people everywhere. In the parks, in the streets, in the venues, on the freeways, everywhere.

And again, lots and lots and lots of free beer.

Unable to discern fan from band, local from tourist, or even left from right, you just sort of get swept up in a storm of madness until you magically end up back in your car or van-dirty, sweaty, achy, drunk and broke – heading back toward America’s Finest City.

But despite the drive and the drinks, San Diego did pretty well in showing itself off in “The Live Music Capital of The World” as 10 local artists or bands made the long trek.

Some local bands playing “official” SXSW showcases for the first time (Gary Wilson, In Fear and Faith) while some bands went to Austin to play up to half-dozen shows each at hundreds of the “unofficial” parties put on by local residents and businesses.(Little Hurricane, Silent Comedy, Writer).

Bands like The Black Heart Procession, Gun Runner, the Hot Moon, and Maren Parusel played multiple showcases, including a Saturday night Official SXSW Showcase at Maggie Mae’s and several day-parties organized by San Diego’s Requiemme Management.

Last but not least, San Diego troubadour, story-teller, songwriter and SXSW veteran and favorite Steve Poltz (known nationally as “the guy who dated Jewel and co-wrote some of her hit songs”), played five different times this year, including an official showcase at Continental Club.

Fortunately for our fair city, all of the bands made it through the storm alive and are no doubt eager for what future opportunities playing SXSW might bring.

Like I said before, SXSW is no piece of cake, it’s a whole cake, and San Diego can be proud that the bands that represented the city certainly have one hell of a sweet tooth.