SXSW: One perspective from an official representative of the Music Industry
So I have not seen any of my fellow LA Weekly bloggers down here in the lovely town of Austin, Texas but that's because this whole thing is a nightmarish clusterfuck that would do Hunter S. Thompson or Hieronymus Bosch proud. (The latter allusion for those of you whose tastes run more towards some classic rock.) It's hard to run into people you like down here and oh so easy to get lost in the throng of tarted-up girls marketing Miller Light; young kids who will eventually go on to take over their family's insurance business handing you demos; bloggers capturing exclusive "content" on their cell phone cameras; and drunk people.
For those who claim this thing is all about the music, I will -- by way of contrast -- offer my experience of SXSW point-by-point:
- Most of the bands here suck and are doing it for the wrong reasons.
- Most of the audience here have bad taste and are listening for the wrong reasons.
- Sponsors are a necessary evil though that doesn't lessen their evil.
- I fucking hate people.
That last point was actually an aside. Sorry for editorializing. That said, I am getting a lot of business done down here on behalf of my various and sundry ventures.
There are a few events I do regret missing this year because I had, like, actual work to do. For one, Van Morrison's performance at La Zona Rosa. The best of the blue-eyed soul singers thumbed his nose at the general shennanigins that too many other artists too readily accept. He took the following actions, as reported in the NME:
Morrison had the bars in the venue closed for the duration of his set, while cameras, voice recorders, and any recording or filming device were prohibited throughout his set.
I'm also sorry I missed the Lou Reed covers extravaganza at the Levi's (sponsored) FADER fort. The line ran around the block, and though I've heard reports from those that got in that it was underwhelming, Lou Reed actually showed up. That it was probably the hottest ticket in town this week only enforces my feelings from my post earlier in the week that "Lou Reed is a complete maniac and he will probably kick your ass in hand-to-hand combat..."
Basically, Lou Reed and Van Morrison gets it. They too kind of hate people who think the dominant youth culture of today has anything to do with the kind of art they make. And Lou Reed in particular understands that blogging about boxing has more to do with rock'n'roll these days than any youth culture festival.
For a true Internet 2.0 metaphor of what this whole SXSW thing feels like you should check out this ad that ran in China for a wool producer that is sponsoring this summer's Olympics. The Wall Street Journal reported the thing was so damn annoying it led to a massive consumer backlash, which media reporters are taking to suggest that "increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers are rejecting low-budget, low-quality marketing."
SXSW is basically like that ad, only the thing being advertised is America's out-of-control youth music culture. It too is too often just low-budget, low-quality marketing. And too infrequently is it actually about music.
Why don't all the reporters down here understand this?
After the jump, video of that really annoying ad.