Top 5 SXSW Survival Tips

SXSW2014-BillI’m heading to Austin, TX for a week plus of music, film, crowds, Tex-Mex cuisine and very little sleep. Want to get the most out of your SXSW experience? Here are a few tips.

1. Pace Yourself to Avoid Burn-Out
I first witnessed SXSW in 2002 as an Austin resident. Since then it has evolved and expanded greatly. With the addition of the interactive part of the festival, and the potential growth from the eco and fashion areas, there is no sign of slowing down. Smiling yet? Or does this raise anxiety or depression? Regardless, if you are going to SXSW for the first time, you are in for a hell of an experience. Pace yourself. Sleep when you return home. Or build in down time if you know you need it.

2. Don’t Plan Your Experience
There are thousands of bands playing all over the Austin, day and night, at parties and showcases hosted by record labels, tech companies and anyone else you can imagine. The best experiences I have had at SXSW were completely by chance. Whether it was discovering the Catalan punk band Unfinished Symphony, bumping into Gwar in the convention center, mistakenly walking into Stubbs right at the beginning of The Specials’ set or seeing Talib Kweli and Jimmy Cliff across the street from Whole Foods. All of these things were random happenings. Don’t get me wrong, there are always a few events that I set out to see. Schedule only a few things every day. But realize that if you know about the greatest show of the day, so does everyone else. How long of a line you are willing to stand in for any given show? Consider that. Go with the flow and don’t be surprised if the best thing you see happens in front of 20 people in a place you’ve never heard of.

sxsw-bill3. Prepare for Transportation
Logistics. Don’t let them ruin your SXSW experience. Getting around Austin during SXSW can be frustrating. Cabs are usually a bad idea. Good luck hailing or calling one—only to have someone else steal it a half a block away. If you take a taxi from the airport, or at any other time, I recommend you get a card with the driver’s cell phone, tip big and ask him if you can call him and during what hours. It might take him (or someone else he calls for you) a half hour to get you, but at least someone will come and you do have a number handy. The later it gets in the evening and the festival—the bigger a problem this becomes. I have spent an hour outside a hotel trying to hail a cab at 1:30AM with 2 of the doormen out on the street trying to hail cabs. Car2Go is very active in Austin, but it may be too late to register as a new member in time for SXSW. Pedicabs can be a great option for getting from East 6th Street over to West 6th Street in a hurry. Or try local drivers when possible. They know the area and you could be supporting the local independent economy. Walking is healthy, free and allows you to see a lot more. Downtown Austin has a feet-friendly Walk Score of 86.

Leave your car parked. The combination of traffic, scarce parking, over-priced parking and alcohol makes getting around SXSW by car a really bad idea.

4. Eat and Drink Like a Local
This is Austin. There is scrumptious food everywhere. Whether you dig Mexican food, barbeque, street food or even vegetarian—there are plenty of good places to find good eats. There are a lot of day parties that feature free food and even free beer (mostly light beer, not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you are pacing yourself).

Food and drink recommendations:

The Texas Cuban: South Lamar (Cuban sandwiches, fried plantains, Ting, free Lonestar tall boys on Saturday mornings)

Mother’s: Hyde Park (vegan and vegetarian cuisine)

Curra’s Grill: South Austin on Oltorf (great Mexican food, incredible avocado margarita)

Casino El Camino: 6th Street (best burgers and Bloody Mary’s in town)

Ruby’s BBQ: University area (lessor known piece of Austin music history, good BBQ too)

5. Go Off the Beaten Path at SXSW

There are special parties and happenings all over Austin—both official and unofficial SXSW events. If you get tired of 6th Street, there are plenty of alternatives to explore. The newly redeveloped east side is a short walk from 6th Street, and so is the fairly new Rainey Street District. Both areas are packed with bars, restaurants and food trucks, with music showcases all day and night. West 6th Street (@ Lamar Blvd.) is another hot spot. There is usually a bigger showcase (that’s where I saw Talib Kweli and Jimmy Cliff) there at Waterloo Records and many smaller showcases at the clubs and a couple small stages at Whole Foods. Austin is riddled with a slew of SXSW events. Venture out. Have a plan to get back safely.

Music recommendations:

Chicago Made Showcase (official): Tues. March 11, 8pm @ Red 7

Bipolar Sunshine @ SXSW (official): Tues. March 11 @ Latitude 30

SXSW Reggae Showcase (official): Wed. March 13, 8pm @ Flamingo Cantina

DigSin Dig Party (unofficial): Thurs. March 13, 1pm @ Majestic Austin

SXKeyBar (unofficial): Fri. & Sat. March 14/15 @ KeyBar

SXSW Outdoor Stage at Butler Park (open to the public w/ pass): Thurs. Fri. Sat., March 13/14/15

Enjoy yourself. Soak it all in. Be open to new experiences. Feel free to holler at me on Twitter and let me know of any cool events.

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The Mid-Week Beat: Northwest Day of Digital Detox

316597-250Digital technology…what a wonderful thing it is! It has changed the modern music industry in countless ways: from making production more efficient to connecting musicians all over the world. It has even made distribution of music an instantaneous process.

Like any technological advancement, there are some bad things that come along with the good. I can go on all day about the degradation of fidelity or the financial implications digital distribution brings, but I was recently slapped in the face by an observation I made at a show at a great independent venue named Reggie’s in Chicago. After visiting the lounge, the record store and band merch area, I made my way to the balcony where I could take in the entire room and really get a feel for the place. The sound and lights were great. The bands were all well rehearsed and enthusiastic, but something seemed strange and it took me about five minutes to figure it out. It was Friday night at 10pm and the room was pretty full and about 30% of the room were typing on their phones while the band played on stage. I was a little disturbed by the image of the band pouring out their hearts and all these people ignoring them to keep up with their social media circles. This got me thinking about how much time I waste and how much I actually miss trying to keep up with things in the digital world, and that even though this digital technology really can make the world a better place, it is easy to fall out of balance with it.

A few days later I heard about the inaugural Northwest Day of Digital Detox that is happening this Saturday in Olympia, Washington. It is an annual event that is not so much meant to be an anti-technology rally, but an opportunity “to step away from your technology, guilt free…relax, unwind, unplug, detach, disconnect and enjoy five blissful hours of live music, free from any texting, posts, comments, uploads or likes.”
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The Mid-Week Beat: Hometown Get Down

202277-250This week on the Mid-Week Beat, our Music Doer Bill Geoghegan reviews an upcoming show in his neck of the woods, Central Wisconsin. We love featuring shows like this: eclectic, DIY and loaded with local talent that most of you probably haven’t discovered yet.

If you’re in Central Wisconsin, be sure to head out to Bernard’s Country Inn in Stevens Point, Wisconsin for a night of music that’s sure to please just about anyone, regardless of their musical tastes. Tell ’em Bill sent you!

This Saturday, May 4, Bernard’s Country Inn will be the home to an incredibly eclectic night of music. The up and coming, Central Wisconsin bluegrass group, Horseshoes And Hand Grenades, are throwing a release party for their new full length CD entitled “This Old Town.”

With this being their sophomore album, you might expect them to stack the show’s line up with other members of the Central Wisconsin bluegrass family of bands. Not these guys. This show promises something for almost anyone on the planet. Whether you need bluegrass, funk, reggae or indie rock to get you going… you’ll find it at Bernard’s. At least you will on Saturday. Get your tickets here before they’re gone!

Horseshoes And Hand Grenades (10:30-12:15):
“Hailing from the great town of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, HHG plays something like progressive high-energy old-time folk music. With strong roots in old-time and bluegrass, the band has formed it’s own unique style born from the diverse musical backgrounds and interests of the five friends who make up the band. All born and raised in the great state of Wisconsin, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades began playing music in the spring of 2009. Since then, the band has shared the stage with the Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Charlie Parr, Pert Near Sandstone, Art Stevenson and Highwater, .357 String Band, The Big Wu and many more. Being mostly inspired by rivers, valleys, good friends, and good drink, this five piece is as sturdy as any midwest riverbed and will make your toes tape from sundown to sunrise.”


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Fair Trade Music Bash in Austin this Wednesday

This Wednesday, March 14 in Austin, Texas six great acts are coming together to christen a brand new venue. Once called The Empanada Parlor, the venue at 709 E. 6th St. has been though some changes in the past few years. It’s newest incarnation is definitely the nicest one yet. Now called the Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden, the place is looking nicer than ever, turning out great food, serving great craft beers and, once again, adding live music to the menu. This will be the first show at this familiar place with a new face and it will be followed by four days of two-showcases-a-day fun.

The first soulful showcase is being thrown by none other than Brown Paper Ticket! It seems a given that the fair trade ticketing company would throw a fair trade music bash. Right?

The show is free, but if you register online and get a ticket, you will receive a cool free gift at the show.

The line up is truly awesome with national and international acts and even two well known comedians!

Here it is….

12:00-1:00 LZ Love Band
1:30-2:30 Graham Wilkinson
2:45-2:55 Mike Lawrence
3:00-4:00 Bruce James Soultet
4:30-4:40 Kristine Levine
4:45-5:30 Chic Gamine

Chic Gamine “Closer”

Graham Wilkinson “Focus”

LZ Love “Been Lonely”

Come and out and say hello, raise a pint and show some soul!

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Bill’s Show of the Week: Jason Charles Miller, Scattered Hamlet and Bradley Fish in Madison

Wednesday night at The Frequency in Madison, Wisconsin, three great acts Jason Charles Miller, Scattered Hamlet and Madison’s own Bradley Fish are coming together to put on a good ol’ fashioned rock show. I highly recommend that all fans of true down-home rock n’ roll check out this incredible triple bill. Advanced tickets are available here.


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New To Me: Pianorquestra

Music Doer Bill presents a new feature to the blog, “New To Me” where he highlights great music that he discovers in his travels as Brown Paper Ticket’s Music Doer. This week he highlights Pianorquestra from Brazil.

I was contacted by the management for the group Pianorquestra a couple weeks ago. They were looking for help in getting more performances outside of Brazil. Before the meeting, I took a look at the links and videos and was, frankly, blown away. These guys are wonderful. I have heard of “Prepared Piano” before (where a piano has its sound altered by placing objects on the strings, hammers or dampers) but I have never seen it like this.

I am very excited to work with these guys and bring them to the U.S. next year. Keep an eye out for them. They are definitely worth the price of admission.

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The Land Before Goth Rock – 45 Grave Are Back Again!

Before the terms Goth Rock, Death Rock or Horror Punk were popular, 45 Grave were spreading their eerie horror-movie-punk sounds around the scene. Based in Southern California, their heyday was 1979-1985 and I remember seeing them countless times, always thinking they were going to “make it big” due to their theatrical, larger-than-life stage show. This was not common in the stripped-down, DIY punk scene. While I had more of an affinity with the sociopolitical side of punk, teenage Bill couldn’t resist Dinah Cancer covered in blood with smeared makeup, fishnet stockings and black leather.  What teenage boy could? Other bands had a similarly dark, theatrical approach to punk rock (Bauhaus, Siousxie And The Banshees, etc.), but 45 Grave took it to the next level (6 feet under).  I never imagined that this strange sub-genre of punk rock would have the impact it has, flourishing and thriving for almost three decades.
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Doo-Wop Hero Fred Milano Dies at 72

Singer-songwriter Jonny Meyers, grew up in Queens listening, imitating and eventually becoming friends with members of legendary doo-wop group The Belmonts. He put this obituary for Freddie Milano together and sent it to me for inclusion in the Brown Paper Tickets blog. I agree that Mr. Milano is an unsung hero who has influenced many genres of popular music. His passing is truly sad news….

With great sadness, rock-n-rollers worldwide mourn the loss of Fred Milano, backup tenor and founder of the Dion & The Belmonts. Freddie passed from complications due to lung cancer on New Years Day, 2012. His contribution to rock-n-roll history is best known by the seamless harmonies that defined the Bronx, New York doo-wop sound in hits such as “A Teenager in Love” and “Where or When,” which reached #5 and #3 respectfully in the 1959 Billboard charts.

When Dion left the group in 1960 for a solo career. Freddie continued on, reaching the Billboard Top 30 with “Tell me Why” in 1960 and “Come on Little Angel” in 1962. The Belmonts continued to make records and to perform up until Freddie’s recent passing. He is survived by his wife of forty-three years, his son and daughter, and his ten grandchildren.
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Bill’s Top Ten Musical Discoveries of 2011

Our music Doer Bill Geoghegan knows his music. He’s been making music since the early 80s, runs his own record label and plays in a number of ska/reggae bands. His work as a musician and as a doer for Brown Paper Tickets has him out on the road a lot of the year and he comes across tons of bands in his travels.

Bill put together this list of ten bands that caught his ear in 2011. While some of these bands have been around for years, they’re new to Bill and possibly to some of you out there. So while these may not be “new” bands, they’re, as Bill says “new to me.” I hadn’t heard of any of the bands on the list so there’s a good chance they might be a new discovery for you as well.
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Bill’s First Night in Austin

Music Doer Bill was recently down in Austin for SXSW and sent us this report from his first night at the festival. Enjoy!

SXSW 2011 was all it was cracked up to be: music, beer, food, beer, Pee Wee Herman and a gazillion others coming to get a taste of the “Live Music Capitol Of The World.” I arrived early to be a part of the interactive and film portion of the festival, but on my first night there, I could not resist an invitation to go see some real “local” music in a not-so-well-known spot.

I followed the directions: “…when you’re standing in front of The Continental Club, walk North to the end of the building. Go in the unmarked glass door and walk upstairs.” When I got upstairs I found a small room (maybe 40 capacity), with a very small bar and a few couches. On one side of the room was a Hammond B-3 organ and a small P.A. system. It was 8:25pm and I was the only person there besides the bartender and a couple musician types. I took one of the few bar stools and settled in next to the bay window that gave a great view of the newly reshaped Austin skyline and overlooked the ever-trendy South Congress Blvd.
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