by Brian Penick
I feel like an entire calendar year has passed since my
last blog entry. The thought of "how much time has passed this year" is
instantly canceled out by the perplexing conclusion of that it's really only April. This year has been one long workweek for me and I honestly
would not have it any other way.
The main focus of these past few weeks has been the
preparation and actual duration of South by Southwest (SXSW), the
largest music festival/conference in the USA. This event is best
described as organized chaos, with almost 2,000 bands performing
showcases on 80 or so stages with about 500,000 running around a small
downtown setting in the evening. This does not include the 2,000 or so
“unofficial” artists that come to play free events during the day,
basically creating a microcosm for a week that involves live music,
networking, workshops, cheap beer and even cheaper tacos. Most people
have a love hate relationship with it, yet still return each year for
This year was very unique experience for myself, not only
because I was not preforming (I did for 3-years in a row and last year
came down just with The Counter Rhythm Group), but for the fact that my
main focus was not necessarily on music/artists (crazy, right?). This
year, rather, I was down to unveil Musicians’ Desk Reference to a
select few individuals that are considered important in the music
industry (and rightfully so, I might add). These meetings were
strategically in place for equal parts discussion, pre-endorsement and
even some initial shock value. I cannot describe to you the feeling of
anxiety and pride you have when presenting something to the world that
almost no one has seen. A blogger that is way more full of themselves may
describe it as close to bringing a new life into the world, but I'm
definitely not that guy. Still, it is pretty amazing indeed. For any
music fans out there, Haim and Alpine were definitely my highlights this
While I cannot technically say whom/what companies I met
with down at the festival (legal blah blah blah), I can say that they
are significant entities designed to help musicians in this
ever-changing industry and all of the meetings went extremely well,
even vastly exceeding my expectations at times.
The overall week went better than I had hoped and there are definitely some tricks up my sleeve for the release of Musicians’ Desk Reference this fall.
The actual informal networking at SXSW is what absolutely
amazes me. My job (in addition to Izzi Krombholz’s, employee
extraordinaire) was to literally go hang out with other people in the
music business, dip in and see a few songs of a set and then find a
quiet corner to have a drink and talk shop about what both parties do
and how they could potentially help each other in the industry. Maybe my
next written venture should be titled, “How to Network at SXSW: Drink,
Talk, Drink, Talk, Drink, Drink, 15-minute Nap, Tacos, Talk and Drink.” I
see a fruitful career move here.
By now you’re asking, “Why has he spent the entire
duration of this blog yapping about SXSW?” Because this single week has
such a large impact on the music industry, if you are a fan that has the
slightest interest in music culture you should be paying attention.
This organized chaos dictates what you are going to read about in music
magazines and blogs for months to come, what videos you’ll see go viral,
the secondary headliners that you’ll pay hundreds to see at music
festivals, the fashion trends for the summer and fall, the soundtracks
to the latest electronic commercials featuring artists that win all of
the awards and your annoying “mainstream/generic” friends are going to
be bugging you about next year.
My favorite part of SXSW is not the festival itself, but
its sound waves that echo year-round in music venues like The Comet and
Mayday and mid-sized festivals such as Midpoint and Bunbury. If you are
not one of the individuals willing to pay hundreds (or thousands) of
dollars to make the musical exodus, I strongly encourage you to exhaust
the minimal amount of research required to see if the bands playing in
venues around town have made the trek to perform at such an elite event.
If so, consider it a stamp of approval by the music industry and, most
importantly, give these bands a chance when they come to you. I often
hear chatter from people wishing that they could go be a part of the
festivities and see these “unforgettable performances” from
“groundbreaking artists” in “intimate venues,” yet they have no clue
that their chances of seeing that same scenario in a city like ours
(often times for FREE) is extremely high and is tirelessly being written
about week after week by poor Mr. Breen and Mr. Baker. Open your eyes
and ears people; you’ll probably be glad you did.
Sorry for the rant, but I do feel it was necessary. Next
month I promise to write more about the book, as we have some major
updates taking place, in addition to having what we hope to be 99%
completed prototype in our hands. Exciting times for sure! But for now,
go appreciate some awesome live music (April is the busiest touring
month of the year due to post-SXSW tours) and have some fun for me … I
will not see the light day for several weeks to come. Send help and some
Thai Express if I don’t turn in my next blog on time next month.Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference
by Mike Breen
Superstar surprises fans by joining Cincinnati-spawned Rock greats onstage in Austin
Cincinnati-spawned rockers The Afghan Whigs surprised fans last week with the announcement that the band would perform at the "Fader Fort" party at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. Last night, they surprised the music world when superstar Usher joined the Whigs for half their set, performing hits like his own "Climax" and "OMG," as well as The Afghan Whigs' "Something Hot." "Afro-futurist" funkateer Sinkane also joined the party with a version of "Runnin.'"Murmurs about the surprise appearance were minimal (though a photo of the Whigs' Greg Dulli with Usher and Sinkane surfaced on the band Facebook page earlier in the day), so the special performance turned out to be one of the biggest and most buzzed ones of the entire SXSW fest. Here is the full video of The Afghan Whigs' performance at SXSW last night. Usher (who asked the crowd for good thoughts for his pal, Lil Wayne, who wasn't on his death bed, despite an outlandish TMZ report) comes in about 15 minutes into the set.
by Mike Breen
Watch reunited Cincinnati greats play South By Southwest via live stream
As the final notes rang out at Bogart's early on Jan. 1, many fans at The Afghan Whigs' final concert of 2012 (after a year of steady, successful global-touring) were left wondering if they hadn't just witnessed the final Afghan Whigs' show ever. Band members were vague in interviews about the Whigs' future beyond the dates in front of them and since the tour has ended, frontman Greg Dulli has reportedly been working on material with Steve Kilbey of The Church, while Fists of Love — the local Indie band featuring the Whigs' John Curley on bass — have a new release, I Sang My Heart Out To A Snake Once, scheduled for next month (the release show is April 19 at Northisde Tavern). But future plans were never ruled out.So it was a pleasant surprise but not a total shock last week when it was announced that The Afghan Whigs were going to headline the "Fader Fort" party/showcase (presented by The Fader magazine and Converse) at South By Southwest this week. The band is slated to headline tomorrow (Friday) night's festivities at 8:30 p.m. (Cincinnati time) on a bill that also features Ra Ra Riot, The 1975 and Future. If the Whigs have no plans beyond Friday's mere half-hour-long set … well, that would just be weird (unless they were paid an unusually large amount of money to perform). Read CityBeat's Afghan Whigs cover package from last year here, here and here.What will they play? Will they have news on the future? Lucky for fans, you don't have to be in Austin, Texas, to witness the performance. The Fader Fort showcases are being streamed live through Saturday. Click below to watch the Whigs' and all other performances live. The stream runs today, tomorrow and Saturday from 2-9 p.m. Below the player is the full schedule.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Hard to believe, but the annual South By
Southwest music showcase/festival/conference in Austin, Texas, kicks off
on March 12.
by Mike Breen
The Harlequins and The Seedy Seeds prep for send-off events prior to South By Southwest
Hard to believe, but the annual South By Southwest music showcase/festival/conference in Austin, Tex., kicks off in only 11 days. As always, the huge event is featuring some artists from the Greater Cincinnati area. Two SXSW-bound local acts are playing kick-off shows soon to help raise some funds for the trip (the price of gas today makes traveling all the more difficult for independent acts). • Great Cincy rockers The Harlequins are heading to Austin for SXSW for the first time. The band is slated to perform at the festival on March 16 with the esteemed Gringo Star. Frontman Michael Oliva says the group will be playing shows on the way to and from the festival in Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Garage/Psych Rock trio — which is planning a new EP release in April — is performing its "bon voyage" show on March 7 at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub with guests Stephen Paul Smoker. The show is free, but the band will be offering a limited edition screen print of the night's show poster (right over there, to the left) for $5. The band is also sweetening the pot by releasing a new single for free at the MOTR gig. You can also help The Harlequins out by donating to their gas/van rental fund online. In keeping with their DIY ethic (the group got into the festival without any label or other backing, a rarity these days), the band is eschewing Kickstarter in favor of direct donations through their secure Paypal account, accessible on the trio's official site. Here's the link to donate. Below is a little video spiel if you need further convincing. • Always dazzling Indie Pop locals The Seedy Seeds are returning to SXSW this year, journeying to Austin with pals The Ridges, a fantastic Athens, Ohio-based orchestral Indie Folk squad that has become a favorite in Greater Cincinnati thanks to regular show dates locally. The two bands will be performing shows together around the South and Midwest on their way to Austin. The groups team up for a show at the Southgate House Revival on March 6. The Seedy Seeds are encouraging fans to purchase advanced tickets to the "Supercolossal Little Giant Ye Olde South by Southwest Sendoff Show"; for just $6, if you buy your tickets before "day of show," you will receive a hand-draw postcard from the Seedys while they are on the road. Click here to get your tickets now.Here's a piece of groovy promo featuring both bands and the tour dates.
by Brian Penick
Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference. For more on the project, visit its Facebook page here.Wow, what a month. Extreme highs and lows, minimal sleep and a work schedule that would make an outsider believe I had an armed guard with a shotgun pointed at my back … which in some regard is true, except that I am playing both roles.I am going to attempt to make this blog entry significantly shorter than the last because, as you may have guessed, I have more work to accomplish. The ever-looming deadline for South by Southwest (SXSW) is creeping up and preparations with everything surrounding the presence of Musicians’ Desk Reference at SXSW grow almost exponentially by the day. This will be my fifth year attending the Austin, Tex., festival/conference (the largest music-related event in the US), and while it is my second time going without performing, I can already tell that this will be my busiest year ever. Taking meetings, handing out promo material and managing schedules for myself and my team are just a few of the things that will fill my week-long itinerary, all for the pursuit of introducing Musicians’ Desk Reference to some select individuals for endorsement. While there are many different potential outcomes to this journey, I feel confident that my inevitable glass of top-shelf Kentucky bourbon at the end of the week will be a salute to success rather than a drowning of sorrows.The obvious focus of this month, or at least what the intention was to focus on, was our Kickstarter campaign for Musicians’ Desk Reference (our upcoming music industry progression eBook for you newcomers). We still have a little over a week to go and time will tell what the final outcome is. My original goal was to have the funding reached by interested parties to eliminate the need for a third party publisher, ultimately keeping the cost down for the user. Click here to view the project's Kickstarter page. In the event that this goal is not obtained in early March, never fear, as those who know me have probably deduced, I have several backup plans. Am I thorough? Yes. To the point that I am slightly neurotic? Probably. Regardless, nothing is going to stop the freight train that is Musicians’ Desk Reference. Nothing.So in my attempt to clear my schedule for February to make way for this crowdfunding campaign, I actually ended up with a much busier month that originally anticipated. On top of all of our regular client work, The Counter Rhythm Group hosted our Locally Insourced Cincinnati Music Industry Trade Show, a fantastic show with Bad Veins, PUBLIC and The Ridges. We have been in negotiations with several of our clients for national support tours and we are in the midst of working a potentially huge licensing contract for a client. In addition to a nationwide social media campaign and a getting ever so close to finishing the book, these past 28 days have seemingly become a marathon that we have just sprinted through. My next vacation is (literally) planned for 2015.In closing I would like to take a second to thank not only those who have already donated to our Kickstarter, but also to those who (hopefully) will. There is still some time left (depending on when you read this; campaign ends on March 8), and sharing is something we are also encouraging folks to do. I would really like to try and go the independent route with this project, but I am prepared with other options in the end if that is not the case. At the least it has been quite a journey.I also would like to thank those who have had to deal with my absentmindedness in (“normal,” non-music related) conversation over the past few weeks. I would like to say that this may change in the coming months, but knowing myself and how much I want to accomplish with Musicians’ Desk Reference, I would just plan on it for the next several months. It is by no means a way of stating that I do not care about what else is going on in the world, but should be viewed as a precursor to how significant I think this project can potentially be. I have dedicated literally half of my life to the music industry and I believe this is my biggest accomplishment to date. Goodnight, and thanks for reading!
by Emily Maxwell
Posted In: Local Music
at 10:23 AM | Permalink
Local Reggae/Ska/Soul band hits Austin for the fans SXSW brings, but not the fest itself
The 2012 SXSW festival has come to an end and it's left us tired, sore and broke. In retrospect it seems like a meager price for a full week of live music, free booze and hanging out in one of the country's coolest cities. But for many bands, it's just another week on the job. Among the thousands of artists that apply for SXSW every year, only a small percentage are officially a part of the festival. However, that doesn't stop bands from all over the world, like Cincinnati's The Pinstripes, from taking the stage or at least creating their own. Even if it's on their own dime and they aren't part of an official showcase. The six-member Reggae/Ska/Soul band traveled across the country to perform on the streets of downtown Austin. And, from what band members Matt Kursmark and Leo Murcia say, it seems like they'd happily do it all over again."When we play shows and busk, and hustle the best we can, it's, like, hey, we're from Cincinnati. This is what we have to offer and what our city has to offer, and remember it. Remember that you had a good time and you moved your butt. We're trying to shake butts, really. Trying to shake as many as possible," Murcia said. The Pinstripes, which played a variety of festivals over the years, note that SXSW is unique in that it definitely carries its own, more "industry-focussed" tune, compared to others. "I was surprised to see that it's an industry party. It's not for the fans, but I'm also surprised at how many fans there were," Kursmark said. "It's definitely nuts, 'anything goes' to a certain extent. There are a lot of people here who are trying to experience as much as they can, ourselves included, and watching people try to do that is an experience in itself," Murcia added. However, the exclusivity of the festival didn't deter this group from having a good time or making an impression on crowds, particularly the police. "The first time we were practicing our acoustic set on the street outside of Dallas in a neighborhood and we were playing outside. It was a nice day … then someone called the cops for a noise complaint. But the cops said, 'Hey you guys sound really good, but I have to shut you down,' " Kursmark said.Then police officers later asked when and where they were playing at SXSW so they could come check out the show. "The cops really seem to like The Pinstripes, but the people who like the cops don't seem to like The Pinstripes. There must be some algorithm for it. If you find out let us know. We'll try to avoid it at all costs," Murcia said. So, what's the best part of the festival for these guys? "Free. Free food, free beer — that definitely has its negative side of the coin, too," Murcia said. And the worst?"It seems a bit exclusive, it caters to certain bands and genres. It's all about Indie Rock, there's a lot of Punk or whatever, but it seems like there's a lot of the general showcases seems to be just popular music," Kursmark said. However, the band remains mindful of the opportunity SXSW presents. And they just want to keep doing what they know best — keep playing music. "It's tough to not go see (artists like) Jimmy Cliff (at SXSW), someone who we really admire and respect. This guy is such a direct influence on what we do, but we can 't see him. It sucks It's a bummer, but at the same time the really cool part about it is you go out on the street, play a house show, people are so open to it, People are open to us — people want it. if we can provide that for them, then that's sweet. That's the best part of SXSW and the music," Murcia said.
by Emily Maxwell
Local rockers feel (almost) right at home entrenched in Austin's notorious "weirdness"
Austin prides itself on being weird and this week has proved to be no exception. For instance, on a bus ride from our hotel to Sixth Street, we witnessed a marriage proposal of an older couple who had met the day before on a park bench. The announcement was awkward, more so for us tourists, as the crowd uncomfortably received the news and clapped."(Austin) seems to have a lot of quirky personality that's celebrated. People are glad that people are weird," says Stuart MacKenzie, frontman for Cincy's Lions Rampant.This music town is incredibly accepting and filled with a plethora of motley characters as a result. Whether they're artistic, tattooed, pierced, young or old, few truly stand out among the masses in a city whose motto is "Keep Austin Weird."The same goes for musicians, which makes South By Southwest such an anticipated event. The likelihood that a struggling no-name band will be picked up by a label is about one in a million. For that reason, the festival is geared toward the industry — not just the fans — which makes for outrageous ticket prices and can make access difficult. But every musician here, regardless of genre, is longing for the same result — to be recognized by someone that matters. "The downside is that it's super corporate and I've heard that the technology portion is actually bigger than the music conference. It use to be a place where you'd come to get signed and now it seems like a place signed bands go to get more buzz. If you don't have crazy promotion, no one is going to come and check your band out. It's all about the buzz bands," MacKenzie says.This is the first time The Lions are participating in SXSW, but MacKenzie is no stranger to music festivals. Over the years, his band has performed at CMJ and Forecastle, among others. But the exclusivity of this event doesn't seem to deter the band's morale. "This whole process has lit a fire, creatively. When I see bands in Cincinnati, most of the people making music I already know, so it's refreshing to see people from different cities doing the same thing you are, so that's exciting," MacKenzie says. "I feel like I need to step up my game now because everyone is doing what I'm doing and it makes you want to record and promote. It gives you a glimpse that's in reach."The group played their first SXSW gig on Tuesday at the Midwest by Southwest showcase with other Cincinnati bands. They'll play two more showcases before making the trek back home. The Lions' newest member, bassist Richard Sherman, who has played only a handful of live shows with the band, says he's grateful for the experience. "I feel like my batteries are charged up and when I get back, Stu and I are going to record a ton … it's good old baptism by fire. You come out of it stronger," Sherman says.Thousands of miles from Cincinnati, MacKenzie says the SXSW experience is also a reminder that there truly is no place like home."Cincinnati bands share guitar players, share drummers, share equipment and help each other out a lot. It's probably like that in every scene, but Cincinnati, especially," MacKenzie says. "However, being in Austin, I'm seeing a bunch of bands that are similar to every band — bands in the same shoes as us, doing the same thing, which is comforting because (we're) normally seen as a weird … It's nice to be around other weirdos."
by Emily Maxwell
Posted In: Local Music
at 02:27 PM | Permalink
Cincy SXSW veterans talk food, traffic and what playing the fest means
We're now settled in our Super 8 hotel room, alongside the humidity and mosquitoes, and finally have a few shows under our belt. Last night marked the debut for Cincinnati bands at this year's South By Southwest, featured at the Midwest by Southwest showcase. The event was put together by The All Night Party folks at the Soho Lounge downtown.Among the bands that played, The Sundresses is one of the most experienced when it comes to SXSW. This year marks their fifth time playing the festival and from what these veterans say, it seems doubtful it will be their last.Check out what the band (Brad Schnittger: drums, guitar, vocals; Mackenzie Place: trombone, bass; Jeremy Springer: drums, guitar, vocals) had to say about the experience below.CityBeat: What do you think of the festival overall?Mackenzie: It's just awesome. It's on a regional, national and international level. It's a bunch of awesome musicians that come to an awesome town and enjoy it. It's great and I'm happy to be here.CB: Has SXSW made an impact on your band's success?Jeremy: It's hard to tell, you know, it's hard to say because you don't know what would happen if you didn't play. It's a nice feather in your cap, but still.Mackenzie: As far as making friends, though, and connections, it's done that — it's definitely worked. You meet people you wouldn't meet in Cincinnati. You're in the middle of all these great musicians and if they love you, they'll say "Hey, come to my town." Brad: One time we gave a CD to the guy from Everclear, in 2006, but, nothing every happened. We saw him on the corner down here and were like, 'Hey, we should give totally give him one of our CDs,' so we did.Jeremy: Yeah, that's when we were young and dumbBrad: Yeah, like the guy from Everclear was going to help us out. It didn't do anything.Jeremy: If we saw him now, we'd probably throw an empty coffee cup or beer bottle at him.CB: What kind of bands benefit from playing at SXSW?Mackenzie: It's the big and little.Jeremy: The flavor of the month definitely … It's funny because everyone here is famous in their own town so they get here and everyone thinks (they're the best), and rightfully so because to get here, period, is a difficult thing. You have to be of a certain amount of quality to play this festival. So all the musicians are walking around with their best clothes on and it's a big fashion show and party. But, you're not going to get signed at SXSW. It's just random and lucky, really. CB: What's the worst/best part of the festival?Mackenzie: The best part is the food, the worst is traffic — the food is so good here.Brad: The best part is the food — I agree with Mackenzie, the traffic is the worst.Jeremy: Traffic is the worst. Girls are the best.
by Emily Maxwell
After two days of driving in the Vanarama — a 1996 GMC Rally 3500 in school-bus yellow — we're only about 3.5 hours outside of Austin.This is the second time I've made the trek to SXSW, but every time I make the four-state drive, a few things remain constant: Arkansas highways suck and everything truly is bigger in Texas.On the last stretch of 11 South, as you approach Crockett, Texas, road signs alternate between "Cemetery" and "Forest." This wouldn't have been so intimidating if we hadn't exchanged ghost stories about dead relatives and scary camping trips (Google "Appalachian Trail" and "scary photos"). We then stayed in a hotel that we seriously scoured for bed bugs before bringing in our gear. But cheap is worth it, right?We are by no means alone in this endeavor. Thousands of bands travel across the country and the world, whether or not they're "officially" a part of the festival. This is the biggest weekend of the year for bands — whether they're on the rise or struggling to get a fresh start — and they'll do whatever it takes to be heard.Tuesday (today) marks the beginning of the SXSW (as far as the music portion). The All Night Party's Midwest by Southwest showcase kicks off tonight and will feature some of our hometown favorites, including The Sundresses, The Lions Rampant, Wussy and The Seedy Seeds. This official showcase is an anticipated event, not only for us Cincinnatians, but also the locals. The Austin Chronicle has named Wussy as one of the top 10 shows to see Tuesday. (Scroll to the bottom of the link for the Wussy write-up,.)We're not even in Austin yet and Cincinnati's already making headlines at SXSW.