Monday, April 5, 2010

SXSW Round Up

In the latest issue of Bellingham's What's Up! Magazine, I wrote an edition of their "Tales From The Road" column regarding Idiot Pilot's trip to SXSW. If you live in the area you can pick up a copy of the magazine just about anywhere, but for those of you who can't, I've included the full text from the article for your reading pleasure.

Idiot Pilot Settles In At South By Southwest
By Daniel Anderson

Since it’s conception in 1987, South By Southwest has become a cornerstone of American indie music, not necessarily indie as a vague genre description, but of literal independent music. The freeway to Austin has become the yellow brick road for up and coming bands, who annually throw their shit in the van and trek from all corners of the world to be noticed at the festival. Of course, once they get there they are often confronted with the inevitable fact that they are simply one of hundreds of other bands who threw their shit in said van and made said trek South. The myth of South By Southwest however, remains intact by the fact that it is a truly great event and that, every once in a while, a band will get caught and lifted out of the sea of other bands to go onto bigger and better things. The festival has evolved as well, to include not only music but film and an “interactive” portion that focuses on technology and the internet.

I have been to South By Southwest twice now and, in direct defiance of my lead in, neither of those times was I signed to an indie label. The first time Idiot Pilot was already signed to a major label, and this time we are free agents, which is important to bring up because it drastically informs a bands reason for attending. For this years trip in particular it meant that we were there to get out and meet people; booking agents, labels, other bands, and everyone in between, and to have fun.

We did the drive to Texas in what we in the band like to call a “straight shot”, which basically means in one long haul without stopping at a hotel or to sleep. From Bellingham to Austin is actually the longest “straight shot” drive in the history of Idiot Pilot, narrowly beating out our trip from Austin to Calgary after our previous SXSW experience by just three hundred and sixty eight miles. (Austin to Calgary is almost exactly 2000 miles on the freeway, for those of you who care.) There were five of us in the van, Ian the manager, Michael and myself as the band, and our two auxiliary band members Chris and Dimiter on drums and bass respectively. The wonderful and talented Paul Turpin flew down to meet us at the festival and run our live sound. Needless to say, by the end of the drive we were all feeling a little delirious and ready to sleep.

Idiot Pilot’s showcase was on the first night of the festival, with a fairly promising 11:00 PM timeslot at a great little venue right across from the world famous Stubb’s Barbeque and right down the street from the equally notorious venue, Emo’s. We loaded in our gear through a street quickly filling with music lovers, bands, and press documenting the action. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we grabbed the attention of NPR, who asked Ian and Dimiter for a comment about the recent news that Youtube would be working with independent artists on a royalties-per-view program. First day at SXSW and we’ve already got an interview with National Public Radio, not too bad.

The show itself was fantastic. Even though we were initially told that fans could not get in unless they possessed one of the very pricey SXSW passes or an artist wristband and that the venue was twenty-one and over, we quickly learned that neither were true. An hour before show time I sent out a message though our various online channels saying that the gig was actually much easier to attend than previously thought and, somehow, enough Idiot Pilot fans in the area dropped what they were doing and packed the place. There were some familiar faces in the crowd, which is always nice when you are far from home, and even the unfamiliar faces seemed to know the words. Most importantly, we met some great new friends who showed our crew the best late night diner in town for a post show hang out.

The next few days at South By Southwest were spent mingling with various industry folks, running into old friends, or checking out bands. Most of the showcases that I went to were, ironically, from semi-local artists who I could have easily seen without driving across the country. I saw The Globes and Blunt Mechanic from Seattle, waited an hour outside for Past Lives just to catch them packing up there gear, and hung with John from Anacortes’s The Lonely Forest. Getting to catch those guys play was especially great because Idiot Pilot and John Van Deusen have been doing shows together since the both of us were kids, and now that we are all grown up The Lonely Forest is a force to be reckoned with. There set was one of the best I saw all festival; a super tight, well-oiled pop rock machine with all the hooks you could ever need. On the non-local band front, I managed to catch Myspace sensation Lights, Jakob Dylan and Neko Case, Doll And The Kicks, Washed Out, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and the legendary Stone Temple Pilots, among others. Seeing STP rip through a soaring version of The Big Empty is something that has to be seen to be believed.

I also managed to get into a few of the SXSW film premiers while I was there and I was not disappointed. On the third night of the festival Chris and I went to see “The Loved Ones”, an Australian horror feature that has been making the rounds at festivals currently. At the time of our screening it also happened to be the only movie premiering at SXSW that had been picked up by any major distributors, and there is no question why. As a horror connoisseur I can honestly say it is one of the better films I have seen in years, taking all of the best parts of French New Wave Horror and turning them on their head, through a glittery pink lens nonetheless.

The film portion of South By Southwest also insured that, along with various musical personalities strolling around throughout the day (We almost got eaten by Gwar on 6th Street), there are also a few notable actors in attendance. When Dimiter was watching Muse perform he was bumped into by a stranger who mumbled “I’m sorry.” He then turned around to see Bill Murray stumbling away through the crowd.

By the end of the week we had accomplished a lot. We had a great show and made a lot of good connections, done interviews, had fun and seen some fantastic art. As with all matters of business, not all of the details can be shared with the adoring readership of What’s Up just yet, but as they say about SXSW, it’s all about discovery.

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