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SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2014

As I stumbled out of the cab the rock ‘n’ roll fanatic driver, who had given me an exciting ride from downtown to the Saxon Pub, called out, “Have a good one sir and remember – no more that five beers an hour”. In the short journey he had managed to tell me he was the proud owner of 5000 CDs and 10,000 vinyl LPs and only drove a cab so that he “could play loud music at work all day”. I was in Austin, Texas (‘Live Music Capital Of The World) for the huge music trade festival, South By Southwest.

Some 2000 acts descend on the capital of the state every March to play in some 90 venues over a five-day period, and that is only the official part. Many more acts play, and will often perform seven or eight gigs in many more venues, usually for free, over this same period. And they come from all over the world too, from Australia, Taiwan, Mexico, Scandinavia, Russia, Spain, Italy and there were even a couple of bands from Afghanistan! It is music heaven if you are a fan of live music.

And you can really see a lot of stuff too if you have the stamina. A few of the hotels host radios shows from 8.00 am or so in the morning, the free showcases start at around 11.00 am and can go on until 9.00 pm. The official showcases usually start at around 8.00 pm and go on until 2.00 am the next day, which gives you a few hours to sleep, if you feel so inclined, before you start all over again. I did not do this. Sometimes if you are in the business you are invited to record company parties, who can provide free music, food and drinks. What is there not to like?

One nice thing about attending SXSW is that you can often get to see acts that you might have to struggle to see in the UK. This year I saw Asleep At The Wheel, Tony Joe White, Rodney Crowell, Laura Cantrell and a blistering set from Dave & Phil Alvin at the Continental Club – all for free. Also you can often see artistes with a six piece band who can only afford to tour solo or as a duo over here. The main purpose of my visit though is to spot new bands who play in the roots based Americana/Alt.country/Indie style, that I would like to promote over here, and I found a number of these, which I am gradually posting up on my Facebook page here.
I did not try to see Lady Gaga.

I have been travelling to Austin since 1985 when I discovered so many of the acts that I liked seemed to come from Texas. It is just a laid back, tolerant, quirky city. The weather is usually pretty good (apart from the sweltering summer months), the drinks are strong, the food is tasty, the girls are pretty, and everyone is genuinely polite, friendly and helpful. As an example of this at 2.00 am one morning, with not a cab in sight, I was struggling with an impossible-to-understand tram ticket machine with much cursing and muttering. The young girl behind me in the queue took over and pressed all the right buttons and eventually got me a ticket. When she finished she said “Look up”, and took a selfie of the two of us, which I am sure has now gone viral around the world, or maybe not.

But you can also check out some of my photo’s from SXSW 2014 on Flickr

Mike
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