Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cedar at SXSW

I went down to Austin last Wednesday to experience the madness that is the South By Southwest Music Conference, scope out potential artists to book at The Cedar, network with agents, managers and other presenters, and try to get a sense of what's next in music.

SXSW is probably not the best place for a person that mostly tries to avoid loud 4/4 rock, posers, and really drunk people. But it is without a doubt the musical capitol of the universe for four solid days, and with over 1800 "registered" artists and probably half as many more there unofficially, if one is willing to work at it, one can usually find something worth listening to at any given moment. Often it seems like you really have to work at it really hard, though.

Some recent developments which makes this a compelling place for someone from The Cedar include an increased presence by international bands (including clubs that specifically cater to world music acts every night), the addition of more "quiet" venues for more acoustic artists, and this year there was even a showcase by a new British label called Nonclassical which features classical musicians playing music which combines elements of classical and modern genres.

In reading a few of the press articles and blogs about the conference today, such as The New York Times and our own Star Tribune, it would be easy to conclude that I went to a different conference entirely; I specifically avoided those sets by Metallica, Kanye West and Devo, for example. About the biggest show I went to see was Tori Amos, but I didn't even make it through the second song, not because I didn't like what I was hearing, but because I could only see the top of Tori's head, which, sorry, just wasn't enough for me.

I did see a few Cedar regulars and past performers, and a few of those were real highlights, like Haley Bonar's set at the Victorian Room at The Driskill, Andrew Bird and his band of Minneapolitans at a special KEXP live performance taping at a small TV studio, and St. Vincent at Antone's, playing a set of tunes mostly from her upcoming album.

But here were some of my favorites, some of which may well end up on The Cedar's schedule in the future:

Sam Amidon: a new take on "traditional" music

Madi Diaz: what a voice...

Laura Gibson: smart and charming

Valéria Oliveira: Brazilian singer/songwriter

Tiny Vipers: Sub Pop acoustic artist

But if you want the full SXSW effect with any of these, make sure another stereo is on at the same time with some obnoxious loud bass thing and have a few drunk college students yell "Woo!" at all the quiet parts...


Mr. Wrolstadley said...

Thanks for going so we don't have to.

Loving the Valéria Oliveira clip, thanks!

Angel of Rock said...

Wow. I would love to see any of these acts at The Cedar.