SXSW 2012 here I come, y’all…

The big daddy of all music festivals is upon us once more… SXSW is by far the largest, craziest and most overwhelming music conference on the planet and I’m going back once again. This will be my 10th time in a row and, as you can probably tell, I can hardly control by fan-boy excitement… Yeehaw!

Over the years I’ve broadcast from the festival on BBC Radio 1, Radio Scotland and 6Music. Last year I was lucky enough to bring a film crew for an ‘Artworks’ Documentary on BBC 2 TV, as we tried to document the Scottish presence at the event and tell a few stories. I’ve also written about it for various publications over the years too. I know the event and Austin pretty well now, and stay with Peej, Farah & Dune from Dear Scotland when there.

It’s impossible to bring you every sight, sound and flavour as there are simply too many to absorb within such a small space of time… Over 2000 acts officially turn up and play, whereas the number is closer to 2500 or 3000 unofficially. Everthing happens simultaneously over 5 days, believe it or not! The ‘showcases’ take place at night in a ridiculous assortment of venues scattered throughout Austin – whose motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ by the way – but during the day there’s an inordinate amount of barbecues and parties, which are probably even more fun.

2 things you’ll hear about SXSW these days…

Firstly, that it’s far too big and corporate now and the the bands appearing don’t get paid enough. These are extremely good points, and since I first visited in 2003 it has grown beyond belief. The sheer amount of sponsors financing the event has also increased massively too. Maybe it is too big now… I’m not sure. I’ll tell you when I return. It’s certainly just as exciting to me as it ever was and I don’t see bands, labels, broadcasters, journalists, bloggers or punters holding back from going in large numbers. The whole ‘corporatisation’ of music does worry me, but it’s seems like a steam-roller you can’t stop. Until people start buying music again, this is what we get… Someone has to foot the bill when it comes to finacing art and culture. When it comes to paying bands however, I’m in full agreement. If you’ve travelled from far and wide, which most bands have; then it’s only right they should be helped to reimburse at least some of the expenses incurred. Maybe some of that huge revenue SXSW collects could be redistributed amongst the bands, especially the unsigned bands.

Secondly, that it’s awesome! This is true in my eyes… obviously. The city is so easy to navigate; the people are extremely friendly and helpful; the weather is beautful, warm and sunny for the most part; the barbecue and Tex-Mex food is spectacular; the margaritas and beer go down easy… and most importantly, the music is always of an extremely high quality. You can see indie, rock, metal, punk, hardcore, hip-hop, dubstep, electronica, folk, country, blues, singer-songwriters …and an amalgamation of the aformentioned, if you so desire. It’s utterly exhilarating! Not only that, but all the venues are within walking distance and you get to sleep in a bed at night, rather than in a smelly tent. Maybe SXSW is better for the music lover than the musician – this I should ponder – but AS a music lover, you can immerse yourself in your favourite new, classic and never-heard-before artists all in one place.

This year, I’m writing 2 articles for the Sunday Herald and the PRS for Music Magazine. I’m also hosting the 2 Scottish gigs. This one’s on Wednesday 14th and night:

And this one’s on Friday 16th, during the day:

The whole venture to Texas is extremely expensive for the artists, the industry and the media alike. It’s not something I take lightly either. I lose money going to SXSW each year, but I love it sooooo much so I make the pilgrimage. It helps me keep ‘ahead of the curve’ for what that’s worth. I get to see a collection of the greatest bands on the planet; in the company of thousands of amiable, like-minded souls; in an incredibly surreal ‘bohemian-redneck’ setting! Every year I discover huge swathes of new music, champion new Scottish music and make useful alliances with other music-lovers across the globe. Despite its short-falls, and there are many; I still haven’t been to anything quite like it anywhere before or since.

If you’re heading out there, come along to the Scottish shows and say hello. I’ll be the sweaty, excitable guy jumping on and off stage introducing the bands and befriending the crowd…

Here’s to beer, barbecue and bands at SXSW 2012…

Hopefully I’ll see Nardwuar again this year too!

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