Monthly Archives: March 2004

SXSW 2004 (Ten Lessons Learned)

Two and a half weeks. That’s all that remains until the South by Southwest Music Festival overtakes Austin, Texas once again.  This yearly highlight has created some lasting memories and led to my discovery of some amazing musicians. As a countdown to the festival, I decided I would be posting some old SXSW blogs over the next few weeks (plus, this page still needs a little archiving of my old blogs on a website that will remain nameless).

2004 would be my first venture into the magical, musical world of SXSW.  We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We didn’t know about the free day shows, resulting in us hanging out at the campground everyday and only heading into Austin for the night shows. Over the years we’ve fine-tuned our approaching, maximizing our time in Austin, spending every waking moment either listening to great music, running through the streets of Austin to get to the next show, or getting our drink on with the endless supply of free booze.

I didn’t start blogging until 2005, but I do have a little memento of that first year experience and how it changed me forever.  After attending the festival, I emailed Paul a rambling diatribe about all that I learned while Austin that first year. Here is an excerpt of that email from 2004:

I’ve learned so much this past week that I can barely congeal it into one cohesive experience. The reason I’m writing is because this past week has taught me many lessons, that either I never knew, or had forgotten with age. The shows taught me things about songwriting and just appreciating music, basic, simple things that I had let slip my mind. In recent years I’ve lost my fire for music; this week rekindled it. In no specific order, here are the things I was able to take from the shows.

1. The Radar Brothers and Court and Spark reminded me that all bands or musicians should strive for their own sound; yet at the same time, it also showed why it’s so important to try to push the limits of that sound. They both just stuck to their formula, and it grew more boring as the minutes passed.

2. The Rosebuds not only surprised the shit out of me, but they taught me the opposite side of the spectrum; they have a distinct sound, yet every song was different and fresh. Not many artists can pull this off.

3. The keyboardist of the Rosebuds, CoCo Rosie, and the girls that flocked to the front of each show proved to me that there are hot women out there that are into good music. Now we just need to find them.

4. Portastatic reminded me the importance of lyrics. Sometimes I find my song’s lyrics to be simple and hokie; but Portastatic had some of the most vivid and gripping lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. I must look outside my simple lyrics to find a level of lyricism that is both poetic and primal. Destroyer made me realize I shouldn’t take lyrics so seriously. He just seems to have fun with wordplay and rhyme scheme, a truly Dylan technique.

5. Portastatic also taught me that MORE doesn’t always mean better. One guitar and one bass pulled off a way better show then The New Year with 4 guitars, one bass, and a drummer. Sometimes I think I need to add drums and loops to my songs, but good songwriting floats by itself: no whistles or flashing lights.

6. Destroyer, Frog Eyes, and The Wrens reminded me how great it is to WATCH live music. They may have had fuck-ups, they may have had technical difficulties, but they’re damn fun to watch. Up to this week I had lost the urge to attend live music, but now I’m revived with the yearning to see people performing with their souls and vitality out on the stage for everyone to see.

7. The Dead Science and CoCo Rosie taught me not to judge a band by first listen. Often I don’t give music a chance to grow on me. CoCo Rosie has grown on me like gonorrhea on a scrotum.

8. +/- and Calexico reminded me what a great band should do: not only perform an entertaining show, but play their music flawlessly and better than their recordings.

9. The Wrens let me see what being in a band is about. Guys who care about each other and their music, not what other people think, not record deals. Awesome stuff.

10.TV on the Radio and Destroyer also presented an aspect of live music that I had forgotten: how great it is to see bands play their songs in a different style that you will never hear on a recording.

All of this together has filled my heart with musical lust, and I feel the need to play my guitar, go catch a live show, or just lay back and listen to great music. Just because I’m growing up, doesn’t mean my passion needs to die like so many people let happen.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and Roll will never die
There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

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Filed under South by Southwest