SXSW - Too much?
(Above, Julian Lowin, Paste ad sales director (L), and Josh Jackson, Paste editor-in-chief, tape up a poster to the door of Maggie Mae’s prior to our party on Friday.)
One of the most notable aspects of SXSW, which has only gotten worse over my past three years of attendance, is the sheer overwhelming quality of not only the offiicial program, but all the marketing and unofficial events that assault the senses of the attendees. (Though sometimes piling on is a good thing—check out this family bluegrass band I just stumbled into on Wednesday night):
And of course, the heart of whole thing is the bands playing official showcases each night, and the milling crowds on Red River and E. Sixth Street:
But when celeb gossipmonger Perez Hilton is in attendance, and corporate entities like Yaris, Levi’s and many many others are all piling on, perhaps it has gotten all too much. Even sticking just to the official program, is anyone going to discover a worthy new band amongst 1,400 official showcases? (Glenn at Coolfer has a spot-on meditation on this.)
Fortunately there will always be guys like Jon Pareles of the NY Times, with whom I briefly compared notes on Friday afternoon. Pareles makes a conscious point of exhaustively listening to the .mp3s offered to registrants prior to arriving in Austin, then seeking out the most interesting-sounding acts. (Two names he shared with me: Besnard Lakes and Lonely China Day.)
Perhaps next year organizers should make admission to SXSW much more difficult. And perhaps the rest of us should swear off going to see established acts like The Stooges or The Rapture and instead wander the streets each day (like Josh Jackson did on Saturday, seeing 15 or more bands and making some useful discoveries) looking for a fresh sound.