Texas Roast

Hugh Sundae blogs from the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas

SXSW: Bigger than Texas

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Curious punters on East 6th Street peer into BD Rileys to see what all the noise is - the noise was Cairo Knife Fight.
Curious punters on East 6th Street peer into BD Rileys to see what all the noise is - the noise was Cairo Knife Fight.

My son asked for a space-themed birthday party this year. Sounds quite simple but there is much more to it than you'd think.

If I think how stressful the 24 hours leading up to a kid's party can be, I can't imagine how the thousands of SXSW related staff and volunteers appear so relaxed.

The scale of this event is mammoth. When you walk through the city anytime after about 1pm you get a different genre of music coming from a different direction every few steps. It's like walking through a radio station dial.

Every one of those gigs has a different sound system, sound operator, a half-dozen bands and tour managers all tripping over each other to achieve their respective goals.

Generally bands seem to get about 15 minutes between sets. That's one band loading out, one band loading in, line check, rough sound mix and then the annoying press guy (me) comes up asking the sound engineer for a desk feed.

As an aside - we generally say 'media' at home but they say 'press' here and I reckon it sounds cooler so I'm sticking with it.

Cones are set up down the side of pretty much every street that act as pit-stops for a constant stream of huge American vans and trucks loading band gear in and out. Some are obviously hired for the week, the rest look like second hand converted motor-homes driven in from their respective cities.

Every once in a while you see the really big tour buses that only bands with a bit of cash behind them can afford. There was one outside Kasabian's gig the other night.

But if you don't want to bring your entire backline (the gear musician's use like amps, drums, etc) from NZ there are companies you can hire from.

After Electric Wire Hustle performed at Swan Dive earlier this week I thought their Chevy Suburban was all packed up and I was about to get a post-match interview - turns out that was just the hired gear - they had to drop that back to the 24 hour backline hire place then come back again to get the rest.

The financial and time commitment these bands have put in, not to mention just plain hard work - is amazing.

It didn't take long to realise my hopes of catching international acts like Santigold, Niki & The Dove, Dr John, The Shins, Mobb Deep, Pharoahe Monch and the Jesus and Mary Chain were thrown out the window - there isn't the time.

If you booked early you could get a central city hotel, but for us latecomers 6 miles out of town is the best we could do - and getting a cab in this town is a nightmare. You can easily wait an hour - even coming into town in the mornings.

One hotel staff member where we're currently staying (we booked so late we couldn't secure one hotel for the whole trip) saw a gap in the market and started shuttling people back and forth in his own car. He told us he made $500 bucks yesterday.

Having press passes certainly helps jump the queues to shows, but they don't work miracles. Jay Z played an "intimate" show for 2800 people but you needed a particular brand of credit card we didn't have.

The passes were snapped up as quick as you can say Trevor Mallard.

Last night Bruce Springsteen played but you had to enter a lottery to get a ticket. I wasn't lucky but Sam was - look out for his thoughts in a special SXSW issue of Volume out on Tuesday March 27.

I'd mention the food but I think it gets a blog of it's own. That will be coming up as well as more from SXSW including a report on the New Zealand showcase, video interviews with Cairo Knife Fight and loads more.

Hugh Sundae travelled to SXSW courtesy of STA Travel.

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