Vol. 3, Issue #6 March 21st - April 3rd, 2008

SXSW Retrospective: Fun Chaos
Article and Photos By: Becky Carman

The thing about attending SXSW as a spectator is that no measure of meticulous planning will get you everywhere you want to go. Also, no fasting or electrolyte chugging can possibly ready your body for the day shows, which largely include all-you-can-eat Mexican fare (and more than a little free beer, Southern Comfort, Dewar’s or whatever liquor happens to be sponsoring).

The thing about attending SXSW as a performer (or so I imagine) is that no measure of meticulous planning will get you everywhere you want to go either. Your official (or unofficial) showcase may or may not be well attended, and people may not accept the fliers you desperately wave in their faces as they walk by - even if you offer up the aforementioned free libations.

That in mind, I did my best to support local music by skipping all over downtown to catch what I think is some of the best of what Oklahoma has to offer at SXSW.

Evangelicals played a flawless set to a surprisingly large audience at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on the outdoor stage at Emo’s. Their late afternoon show at Emo’s Annex on Friday was similarly-attended, leading me to believe that a little buzz goes a long, long way. Whether real or imagined, singer Josh Jones’s kooky, ethereal stage persona seems even more forceful when not performing to a hometown crowd, and his Tyson Meade schtick went over swimmingly with the predominantly youthful onlookers.

The 2008 Progress Coffee Showcase (If you recall, last year’s showcase featured only Oklahoma bands, and the shop itself is owned by an Oklahoma expatriate…) opened on Thursday with a few transplanted Oklahomans. Cheyenne, Oklahoman by way of Brooklyn, played a brutal 11:00 a.m. slot to an enthusiastic breakfast crowd that spilled out the door. The band’s noon set time at Spiro’s ‘Amphitheater’ (by ‘amphitheater, they mean an alley with a fence and tent) was scantily attended at first. Onlookers soon trickled in as the band’s technical difficulties became more and more unavoidable. Cheyenne finished the show in good humor, though, and after I valiantly led them to delicious and free chips and guacamole (thanks, PASTE Magazine!), they headed home - hopefully not too wary of the festival.

Tulsa’s Hanson – yes, that Hanson – was among the more famous bands to showcase. Despite the disbelief of passersby, their first show Thursday evening at the Austin Convention Center had loyal fans lined up as early as five hours before showtime. As far as SXSW goes, the show was a horse of a different color, almost equally attended by badge holders and the 17 – 25 female set. Perhaps there was more screaming than most of the other showcases, but there was also a level of technical proficiency and professionalism honed through a solid decade of work in the business. Hanson got their start busking a cappella on street corners during the festival over a decade ago, so the capacity performance was a profound statement on just what you can accomplish without even booking a real show.

Finally, the Dfest / iROK showcase was held at the… um… Chuggin’ Monkey… on Friday, March 14, and opened by El Paso Hot Button. Hearkening back to that bit about technical difficulties, Mickey played one song, broke a piece of his stage setup, said goodnight, tore down, and walked offstage. About 20 minutes later, equipment newly repaired, EPHB played a full set - this time to a packed, excited house.

All in all, then, SXSW 2008 had its stressful moments, but Oklahoma made an impressive showing in a place where it’s nearly impossible to get noticed.

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