Saturday, March 13, 2010

The List

I've now assembled my schedule for the South By Southwest Music Conference which begins in Austin, Texas this coming Wednesday the 17th. Last week I included video clips of three bands I had identified as rising to the top of my "must see" priority list. In the end, that list ended up being around 20 artists total, and I'll highlight a few more with video clips while providing links for the others.

Bomba Estereo from Columbia. This is another example of the new face of "world music:"

The Living Sisters, a trio consisting of Wendy Stark of Lavendar Diamond, Inara George and Eleni Mandell:

Vadoinmessico U.K.-based with a unique and wonderful sound well suited for The Cedar:

And these:
Black Prairie (bluegrass side-project by members of The Decemberists)
Delhi 2 Dublin
Dengue Fever
Fishtank Ensemble
Gong Myoung
Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit
M. Takara 3
Natalia Mallo
Sharon Van Etten
Son Lux
The Chapin Sisters
The Very Best

These bands get slotted first on my agenda. The schedule is then filled in with choices from my next level of about 80 additional artists that made my final cut, based on such loose criteria as bands that are likely to be available for booking, and music that I think would work well at The Cedar (either by fitting our mission or by playing to the strengths we have as a music venue, ideally both). Of course there are a few things that I just personally want to check out but are not likely to book. And then it all has to fit within a reasonable logistical framework... one band on my list may get the nod over another band because it's three blocks as opposed to ten from the showcase before it.

This is always a very interesting exercise. In many ways it is an intensive microcosm of how the booking decisions get made... there are simply too many options, and we can't do (or learn about) everything. So filters get put in place. When faced with the task of going through a list of 1700 bands, certain compromises must be made. There may be another Kid Koala at SXSW, but I simply can't explore every DJ option to find him or her. So entire categories, like Punk, Metal, and DJs are filtered out. But that's not to say I would never book artists in those genres.

Outside input is invaluable. I would not have learned about, never mind booked, Kid Koala had it not been for both fellow blogger Zuppa di Banjo (whatever happened to him, btw?) and The Current super-dj Mark Wheat recommending that I go see him at the Calgary Folk Music Festival last summer. There are a number of names on my final SXSW list that landed there as a result of suggestions from other presenters, Cedar staffers, board members and volunteers, and a few loyal blog readers. Thank you all!

It's also reassuring that not only will fellow bloggers Angel of Rock and Sgt Pepper be in attendance this year, rumor has it that so will that elusive Banjo guy. The more eyes and ears, the better!

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While I'm gone, I'm pretty bummed that I'm going to miss some upcoming Cedar shows that I'm particularly excited about. On the top of the list, on the 18th, is the fabulous Del McCoury Band. These guys are in a class of their own... outstanding musicianship, great ensemble playing, and a truly classic American sound. I love the choreography of their live show, each member stepping up to the microphone to sing or to solo (and raising their instrument to be better heard). These guys don't use stage monitors because they hone their sound to be such a perfect blend directly from the stage:

Then, after a spectacular throat singing ensemble from Tuva on the 19th, Alash, who blew folks away when they recently appeared in Béla Fleck and the Flectones Christmas show, we are pleased to screen the regional premier of a new "visual album" from director Danny Perez and the band Animal Collective, called ODDSAC, on Saturday the 20th. From the following trailer, and reviews from viewers at Sundance, this promises to be an intense experience:

* * * * *

With almost each posting, one particularly loyal fellow blogger puts out the bait, and then waits patiently for the reaction. As a result, one week it's taking issue with defining certain music as "shlock" by making my farts don't stink pronouncements such as "the more music I hear, the less I find to dismiss as inferior," only to turn around in two weeks and deliver the verdict that certain music is "laughably pompous crap!" (Ha! Don't you just love it when we are reduced to excrement and flatulence! And isn't the exclamation point always helpful to tip you to laugh at that moment!).

Perhaps I opened this Pandora's Box with my "shlock" review of a recent recording. All art is personal, and we're bound to step on some toes, if not actually offend, with almost any negative criticism of it. But I'd like to propose to my fellow bloggers that somewhere between "shlock" and "pompous crap" we accept that there is a line which should not be crossed in this public forum. We all have opinions, otherwise this would be a really boring read. Some should just stay in private emails to old friends.

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