Deep in the heart of Texas

20080311_solidgoldmariachi_33.jpgIn 2007, members of Solid Gold wore mariachi outfits to set themselves apart from the thousands of bands at SXSW.

The global pop music jamboree that is “South by Southwest” is once again overtaking the capital of the lone star state. Over the years the media have romanticized this annual music industry meet fest as the place where indie “it” bands get discovered and become famous ever after. And over the years, musicians such as Matt Locher, bass player for SXSW veterans’ Solid Gold, have debunked that myth in MPR news stories.

“You’re supposed to be able to break out as a band down there, but you really can’t unless you’ve already broken months before in the press,” Matt Locher said. “After being there once, you kind of realize it’s not a spectators festival, and it’s not really so much about your performance, but it’s more about the kind of networking that you do down there,” Locher said. “Kissing peoples’…..”

In other words, bands do get discovered, but usually after they’ve already been – discovered. A more jaded view is that the musical guests merely supply the entertainment for the massive ‘here’s my card,’ schmoozefest, drinkathon that SWSW really is.

Which makes me want to gather up my business cards and wine coolers and hit I-35 south, keeping the cruise control button depressed until I reach Austin city limits.

Because it’s the unbelievable critical mass of writers, publicists, promoters, distributors, radio programmers and musicians SXSW achieves every year that’s really difficult to resist for industry types and bands. For the fans, it’s more live music per square block than anywhere else in the world. And chances are pretty good, especially if you’re an omni-present attendee, that you’ll get a glimpse of next year’s break-out acts, because they’ll all probably be there.

More than 30 sanctioned (SXSW is a curated festival) and un-sanctioned Minnesota bands will try their luck this year. Some of them will be familiar faces to Austinites, including “Solid Gold,” “Romantica” and Grant Hart. Others, among them “Gay Witch Abortion,” “We Became Actors” and, believe it or not, the longtime Duluth bluegrass band, “Trampled by Turtles,” will be first time visitors.

The Current is sending the team of Program Director Jim McGuinn, DJ Jill Riley and producer Lindsay Kimball down to Austin to blog, twitter, and file live reports on all the action. They’ll also tape some of the performances for a special edition of “The Current Presents” on Sunday March 21.

The University of Minnesota’s Radio K will be broadcasting from SXSW March 19 and 20.

The Star Tribune’s Vita.mn supplement will host a showcase of Minnesota talent, Thursday, March 18, from noon to 6pm on the roof of Austin’s venerable rock club, Maggie Mae’s.

Good luck to all the Minnesota participants, mind your upper midwestern manners, be sure to get a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and don’t eat that spicy food right before bed.

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