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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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Artist Ticket Picks: A Sinful Tour of Portland, Dance in Ann Arbor, Musical Legend Linda Perhacs and more.

marys-club-225x300Welcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks! The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, you can check to see if the limited edition ticket is available to you at the beginning of the ticket checkout process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets!

See a full list of events carrying the tickets on the Artist Ticket page, as well as find out more about the beneficiary for the current run of Artist Tickets.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Artist Ticket picks:

Saturday, March 15 I Portland Sinful Walking Tour: Shanghaiers, Saloons & SkullduggeryPortland, Oregon

As a nexus for labor and shipping in the Pacific Northwest, Portland often had the repute of a rugged, rough and tumble town, more than willing to allow the miners, loggers, and fishermen an opportunity to part with their hard earned cash in whatever debaucherous manner they chose. In addition to the shanghaiers and con men, always on the prowl, saloons, gambling halls and bordellos also thrived in “Whitechapel,” “The North End,” or Old Town, as we know it today. Some of these storied establishments have come and gone, but others have survived, and many say that Portland, or “Strip City,” still has that vulgar and rugged reputation to this day.

Join Historian Doug Kenck-Crispin as he visits locations of famous saloons, bars and bordellos, card rooms and gambling dens, some of which are still in operation today! The tour will meet at Thirsty Lion Pub (71 SW 2nd Ave.). Feel free to stop by early for a pint and grub! Walk-ups are always welcome! The tour will “end” outside of Mary’s Club, one of Portland’s most hallowed strip clubs*. At the conclusion of the tour, you can join Doug inside for an adult beverage!

*This tour is best suited for those 21+
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The Mid-Week Beat: Vinyl Rules

big_vinyl_rules_1Today is an important day in history for all lovers of vinyl records. On this day in 1878, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph and unwittingly created the “record business” as we know it today.

Previous inventions had succeeded in recording sound, but Edison’s phonograph was the first device to be able to reproduce sounds. The original phonograph recorded sounds onto a tinfoil cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. In the 1880s, Alexander Graham Bell made improvements on Edison’s original phonograph by introducing the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved in a “zig zag” pattern across the record. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that Emile Berliner introduced gramophone records: flat, double-sided discs with spiral grooves, the early ancestors to today’s vinyl records.

The vinyl record dominated the market of recorded music until the mid-1960s when 8-track tapes were introduced to the public. These would be followed by cassette tapes and eventually compact discs, which almost succeeded in eradicating vinyl records all together but luckily hip hop DJs and turntable enthusiasts kept the vinyl market alive until today, when we’re seeing a resurgence in vinyl production and consumption. Part may be due to nostalgia but many argue that digital formats like CDs and mp3s are unable to recreate the “warmth” that vinyl gives to a recorded piece of music.

I know for me personally, my favorite songs always sound better on vinyl, pops and hisses aside. I admit that part of this is nostalgia and the fact that putting a piece of vinyl on a turntable somehow makes that music seem more special than something I double-click in iTunes. There’s a ritual involved and a sense of tangibility that will never exist with digital files.

So, in honor of the record, I’m featuring some events that center either around vinyl itself, famous record labels, classic albums that are synonymous with vinyl or styles of music that rely heavily on vinyl.

And, be sure to thank Edison for all the great recorded music we’ve enjoyed for the last 136 years.

52a8fd08967a9.preview-620Friday, February 21 I Respect Yourself Screening and Book Signing with Author Robert Gordon Atlanta, Georgia

Some of my favorite records to spin on a Saturday night are old Stax Records sides like Otis Redding’s Live In Europe or any of the amazing records by Booker T. and the MG’s, Stax’s house band.

At this event in Atlanta, music historian and Memphis native Robert Gordon will be signing copies of his book Respect Yourself after a screening of the documentary with the same name about Stax Records. The book tells the story of a white brother and sister who build a record company that becomes a monument to racial harmony in 1960’s segregated south Memphis. Stax defined an international sound and their story is loaded with epic heroes in a shady industry. It’s about music and musicians–Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.’s and the legendary sound that they helped forge.

After the screening Gordon further discusses his work with The Bitter Southerner‘s Editor-in-Chief Chuck Reece and resident “soulologist” Nelson Ross.


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Hot Tickets: Seattle

valentinesdaydinneranddanceHere are this week’s Hot Tickets in the Seattle area. Check back every Thursday at noon, PST for stellar events that fit the interests of locals and tourists alike.

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Friday, February 14 I Valentine’s Day Dinner & Dance

“Accompanied by his four-piece band, Kline brings a little humor and a lot of swagger to the old standards with a fresh vitality and offers a great opportunity for couples to kick up their heels in support of a great local institution.”

“Get your kicks” on Route 66, but wine and dine your Valentine on Orcas!

Dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to swing to the sounds of Half Pack LIVE!, a Vegas-style show band that’s bouncy, fun and well-delivered entertainment reminiscent of the old Vegas Strip when Frank and Dino were kings. Veteran singer and entertainer Troy Kline will be performing in a Valentine’s Day benefit for Orcas Island Children’s House at the The Rosario Resort Beachhouse (Discovery House).

Accompanied by his four-piece band, Kline brings a little humor and a lot of swagger to the old standards with a fresh vitality and offers a great opportunity for couples to kick up their heels in support of a great local institution.

Local favorite Gene Nery will provide additional musical talent to the Seattle-based band! And look for additional local entertainment throughout the evening, including magician Matthew Laslo and young songstress Stormy Hildreth.

A silent auction will be held in conjunction with the event.


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The Mid-Week Beat: Music for Lovers

r2eValentine’s Day is this weekend and I’m sure the significant others out there are frantically thinking up plans for showing their special someone how much they love them. Sure, there’s flowers, dinner, chocolates, etc. but personally, I relish the times when my wife and I have gone out and enjoyed some good music. Whether we be dancing or just swaying to the beat, music has a transformative quality that makes us feel that we’re the only ones in the room and that the musicians are playing just for us.

So, this week, I’m going to highlight some musical events that are sure to get you in the mood for love. Doesn’t matter where you’re at or what kind of music you dig, I’m sure there’s something here for everyone.

Valentine’s Day – Friday, February 14

Loves Me- Presented by Marco CollinsSeattle, Washington   Get your romance on with an intimate evening curated by Marco Collins showcasing a cross section of diverse NW artists. Featuring live performances from: Shelby Earl, Shaprece (with IG88), Shawn Smith (Brad/Satchel), Maiah Manser and Mark Shirtz.

Always… Patsy ClineConway, Washington   Ria Peth Vanderpool and Kelly Bohon reprise their roles as Patsy Cline and Louise Seger, respectively. The musicality and humor of the two on stage is a can’t miss! Join them at The Conway Muse, the perfect venue for such a show. The show opens on VALENTINES DAY, and runs Friday and Saturday evenings for six weeks! Dine before the show in the restaurant, or bring your dinner and drinks from the restaurant into the theater with you! The laid back atmosphere of the theater is perfect for a special date night.
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Artist Ticket Picks: Getting Back to Abnormal, Roxy Music, Body Painting and more.

getting_back_to_abnormalWelcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks! The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, you can check to see if the limited edition ticket is available to you at the beginning of the ticket checkout process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets!

See a full list of events carrying the tickets on the Artist Ticket page, as well as find out more about the beneficiary for the current run of Artist Tickets.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Artist Ticket picks:

Sunday, February 3 I Getting Back to AbnormalSeattle, Washington

New Orleans’ long history of political dysfunction gets a new lease on life when Stacy Head, a polarizing white woman, wins a seat on the city council after Katrina. Four years later, she needs to get black votes to be re-elected. Getting Back to Abnormal follows the odd couple of Head and her irrepressible political advisor, Barbara Lacen-Keller, as they try to navigate New Orleans’ complicated political scene. Featuring provocative commentary from New Orleans cultural figures like David Simon (Treme, The Wire).

** WARNING! This trailer contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. **


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Mid-Week Beat: Happy Birthday to Daniel Johnston

chapterone2Most people know singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston from the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston but this one-of-a-kind musician was influencing underground musicians well before the celebrated documentary came out.

Johnston became initially known within the Austin, Texas music scene in the early to mid 1980s. He recorded all his material on a $59 Sanyo monaural boombox, singing and playing piano, guitar and chord organ. He would hand out his cassettes to pretty much everyone he met and eventually gained attention from the press, developing a large and devoted fan base through his quirky, yet heartfelt, compositions.

Johnston self-released his cassette-only releases for almost a decade before he actually entered a real recording studio in 1988 to record 1990. However, it’s these early, lo-fi recordings that he’s best known for and which contain some of his best-loved songs like “Speeding Motorcycle” and “True Love Will Find You In The End.”

These early recordings have earned him a reputation as a seminal artist in the so-called “lo-fi” and “outsider” genres, but Johnston’s method of recording was more based out of necessity than a desire to achieve any sort of artistic aesthetic. It goes without saying though, that Johnston’s primitive recording techniques did give his songs a certain vulnerability that is often hard to achieve in a “professional” recording studio. The songs were recorded “as-is” complete with out-of-tune guitars, instrumental flubs and background noise! The definition of D.I.Y.!


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Artist Ticket Picks: A Roller Skating Party in San Diego, A Sinful Tour of Portland and more!

314458-250Welcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks! The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, you can check to see if the limited edition ticket is available to you at the beginning of the ticket checkout process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets!

See a full list of events carrying the tickets on the Artist Ticket page, as well as find out more about the beneficiary for the current run of Artist Tickets.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Artist Ticket picks:

Sunday, February 9 I Roll’n’LoveSan Diego, California

Burners are taking over Skate World & fundraising for C.O.R.E.! (Circle of Regional Effigies). Admission includes skate rental and two raffle tickets. Tunes will be provided by DJs Lee Reynold and KnottyBoy (BOOGIE/Liquid). Circus entertainment provided by Cirque Quirk & Zephyrus Circus Arts.

Your raffle tickets qualify you for The Gambler’s Raffle. Here’s how to play:

1.) Locate the C.O.R.E table next to the DJ booth.
2.) Choose which prizes you’d like to win.
*Each prize will have a clear, glass jar so that you can SEE how many tickets OTHER players have put down on that item.
3.) Hedge your bets to win your raffle prize of choice!

There will also be a roller hooping contest, a photo booth and face painting by Bri.

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Thursday, February 13 I Oly Old Time FestivalOlympia, Washington319199-250

Oly Old-Time Fest is coming! Come on down and enjoy a long weekend of jamming, dancing, learning, and breaking rule #1 1930’s style. There will be two dances, a concert, workshops, and lots o’jammin’!! Advanced purchase get you a ticket to the Thursday night dance, Friday night concert and Saturday night dance!

This year, will again be at The Olympia Ballroom inside the Urban Onion Building. There will also be additional workshop space at The First Christian Church, just a couple of blocks away.
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The Mid-Week Beat: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Dr.-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-005With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up this Monday, this week is a chance for us to remember this great man and the incredible struggle that he helped spearhead: the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

And, since this is the Mid-Week Beat, it’s also important to remember what a key role music played for those involved in the struggle. When one thinks of the music of the civil rights era, we largely think of so-called “freedom songs”: African-American gospel hymns like “Go Down Moses” or “We Shall Not Be Moved,” that had deep roots in the African-American churches and socially concious folk songs sung by artists like Julius Lester, Odetta and Pete Seeger. The freedom songs were collaborative in nature and they served as a tool to bring people together in the struggle and to gain strength from one another.

Many younger African Americans involved in the movement, however, sought to separate themselves from the old church tradition and wanted music that was more revolutionary in spirit. Music that could be cranked at parties and was more receptive than participatory. Therefore, it was the soul and r&b that was being produced in Detroit by Motown or in Memphis by Stax, that spoke to this, more militant, generation.
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