Exposure Is Good

TucsonScene.com's unofficial SXSW showcase takes Tucson bands to Austin

South by Southwest (SXSW) is one of the music conferences every band wants to be a part of. For a few insane days in March, the music industry takes over downtown Austin, Texas, and careers can take off.

But since only so many bands can actually be a part of the official SXSW showcases, unofficial showcases are the next best thing. Playing unofficial venues--sometimes right next door to official venues--where the audience doesn't need a pricey badge or wristband to get inside can give the same boost to a band as being a part of the official showcase.

Spreading the word about Tucson bands is what inspired TucsonScene.com founder (and Weekly contributor) James Hudson to organize an unofficial, non-SXSW TucsonScene.com showcase for this year's SXSW.

"Last year, a late night conversation with local singer-songwriters Andrew Collberg and Will Elliott about a road trip to Austin morphed into a series of low-key, multiartist non-SXSW showcases," Hudson explained via e-mail. "This year was more premeditated. I wanted the 2008 showcase bands to fit in more with the indie-rock vibe of SXSW, while still spotlighting Tucson's diverse scene.

"These are some of our best and brightest musicians, all of whom have built loyal followings through the year with exciting live performances and a dedication to push their music to the next level. I think the SXSW experience can help give them that extra push they need to be even bigger."

Hudson has organized a series of shows during the week of SXSW (March 12-16) for local bands Mostly Bears, Golden Boots, The Deludes, The Swim, ... music video?, The Holy Rolling Empire, The Jons and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout.

"We've always wanted to play SXSW, or at least play in Austin during it ... which is basically what we'll be doing," said Paul Jenkins of ... music video?, via e-mail. "It seems to be really hard to get accepted for a showcase by SXSW if you are an unsigned act."

Doing unofficial shows means circumventing the unsigned-act stigma while still getting the advantages of the SXSW experience.

"Normally, you have to drive to different cities all over the country and world to show music-industry figures, media and fans your music," said Ian Carstensen of The Holy Rolling Empire, in an e-mail. "SXSW is an event where people from around the country and world drive to you, and are in one place at one time."

Said Larry Wawro of The Deludes, also via e-mail: "Even if it's not an official showcase, it will still be nice to say that we've been there at least once."

Dimitri Manos revealed in an e-mail that "Golden Boots is part of the SXSW showcase because of a double dare. We're not happy about it, but (it was) either that or start eating our own pee for breakfast."

For Brian Lopez of Mostly Bears--the only band part of the TucsonScene.com group that is also participating in an official showcase--playing both the conference and unofficial shows is just plain good planning.

"The nature of SXSW is such that any band would only benefit from playing as many shows as possible--official or not," he said in an e-mail. "For us, just having one 'official showcase' may not even be worth the gas money to get us there."

SXSW rules dictate that official bands cannot play unofficial venues after 7 p.m., and Hudson has made sure that Mostly Bears will be in compliance. The main TucsonScene.com event is a day party, co-sponsored by A Fine Tooth clothing, which also features some national acts, like Polyvinyl artists Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Headlights.

In order to raise gas money for the unofficial showcase, all of the bands involved will be performing at a benefit show at Club Congress.

"We're only charging a $5 (or more if you'd like) donation at the door, or for $10, you get your cover plus a limited-edition compilation CD featuring exclusive tracks by the showcase artists," said Hudson, adding, "TucsonScene.com is an ad-free, nonprofit site, but if anyone out there would like to help sponsor the musicians' trip, contact us at tucsonscenesxsw@live.com."

The bands are counting on the support of the community they're representing, and all of the bands involved said that they are excited about showcasing Tucson's varied music scene.

"It's an opportunity for us and our musical counterparts (i.e., the bands we are playing the showcase with) to really show the rest of the music community what has been going on here in Tucson the last couple of years, and it's an honor to be chosen to be representatives of that," said Carstensen.

Caleb Christopher, of The Swim, added in an e-mail: "With the diversity between the bands being so outstanding, I believe when (the bands are) combined, it should make for an eclectic force to be reckoned with."

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