GP's SXSW Wrap-Up

This was the second time I roamed the Austin streets for SXSW, and although things have changed, much of the festival is the same. Namely, if there is an act you want to see (especially a band or artist with any type of juice and cache), get there early. Like way early. And SXSW badge or no SXSW badge, you will be waiting in a long, hot, stinky line. What was different, however—and for the better—was that the manufacturer exhibits in the Austin Convention Center was bustling with activity. It seems that manufacturers are realizing SXSW is a target-rich environment of aspiring musicians and songwriters.
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As for trends at the show, most of the bands reside squarely in the indie-rock camp, but there is a resurgence of metal and more blues-based rock outfits. Not a ton of them, mind you, but a few. Thankfully, guitar is alive and well and the rig du jour seems to be a Fender Telecaster plugged into a Vox AC30. My vote for “Trend That Has Grown the Most Tiresome” is watching guitarists (and now bass players), getting down on their knees and hopelessly trying to “freak-out” with their effects pedals. Most of the time you can’t even hear what they’re attempting to do, and when you do hear it, the word underwhelming instantly springs to mind. Geez, it makes me almost yearn for the days when guys would smash their guitars—or at least throw them around for effect—rather than having a box do it for them.

As for any hotshot players, lets just say that, for the most part, the best players I saw were local Austin cats (Bill Kirchen, Ray McCarty, Carolyn Wonderland and Freebleeder’s Jon Millican) and Albuquerque’s Ryan McGarvey. Hell, Moby impressed me with his 6-string skills! I know there had to be more, but I’m only one dude, and I can’t see everything. All in all, a good time. Austin is a wonderful place and I can’t recommend it enough. If you go to SXSW next year, bring ear plugs, some spare time to wait in line, and an extra liver in a cooler because the beer flows like the mighty Colorado River!

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