Matson on Music
SXSW 2011 post #1: the preview, and Q&A with The Head and the Heart, Beat Connection
Posted by Andrew Matson
Image from sxsw.com; Tea Cozies photo (below) by David Lichterman
Walk into a bar and follow an unlit, poster-plastered hallway past a room where a loud no-name rock band plays to a hundred people drinking Lone Star beer.
You think about checking out the band, which sounds pretty good, actually, but instead you keep it hoofing to the back room. You didn't even know this place had a back room. There you find the legendary, reunited hip-hop group you were originally looking for, playing to another hundred people drinking Lone Star beer. You ask the indoors-sunglasses guy next to you how many songs into their set they are. He says he doesn't know, he just came from the show outside, and gestures to an open door through which you can see a two-piece punk outfit playing in an alley by a dumpster. You walk out to and see some cigarette smokers staring up at the sky, and you look and yes, for real, there's a fourth band playing on the roof.
That's what being at South by Southwest (SXSW) is like.
The annual festival/conference takes over downtown Austin March 15 - 20, and after a while, it gets a little ridiculous. But if you like swimming in music, it's fun. And if you're a musician, it's the place to be in mid-March. Dozens of Seattle bands are presently loading up vans to make the 37-hour drive, due southeast.
They're making the trip to party with big-name acts (Cee-Lo will be there; Kanye West is rumored) and network with lesser-known artists and industry insiders.
The city will crawl with music journalists, as well. I'll be down there to be exposed to new music, seek out a few names I've been admiring from afar, and catch up with Seattle musicians. Check the Matson on Music blog seattletimes.com/matsononmusic for in-the-field coverage.
Among the Seattle acts I'll be trailing: Hip-hop act Shabazz Palaces, jangle-rock band Tea Cozies, folk band The Head and the Heart and UW dance-music duo Beat Connection.
This should be the year when the rest of America finally catches on to Shabazz Palaces, Seattle's mystical, left-field hip-hop group, signed a few months back to Sub Pop. Here's what Shabazz auteur Palaceer Lazaro (Grammy winner Ishmael Butler) said about last year's SXSW:
"I didn't realize what it was going to be like until I got down there. Any venue that could possibly facilitate any live anything was doing it. So it was just like a musical Disneyland, for me. [...] It was eye opening, the amount of stuff that was going on musically. And I only touched the music part of it. I didn't go to the panels, or the seminars. It's an amazingly huge event."
Led by dueling singer/guitarists Brady Harvey and Jessi Reed, Tea Cozies makes energetic pop rock. The band supplied theme music for Seattle director Lynn Shelton's "$5 Cover" series for MTV, but is still largely unknown. Harvey hopes to correct that at SXSW:
"I think our number one reason [for playing SXSW] is exposure. It seems like a really good way to get your music out to a lot of different kinds of people, and a lot of those people are writers, and labels, and other rad bands. And fans."
Chris Zasche plays bass in The Head and the Heart, breakout stars of the Ballard folk scene. He answered my phone call in Austin, where his band was opening for the Walkmen, and pointed out a reason SXSW might appeal to Northerners:
"It's like summer day in Seattle. It's like paradise down here. The idea of a summer house in Austin, or something...I understand why rich people do that."
UW student duo Beat Connection makes dance music touched by synth-pop and hip-hop, with beachy sound effects mixed in (moving water, screeching seagulls). This is what they said when I asked what they would do at SXSW:
"Play as many shows as possible (we hear Mika Miko holds the record with 12), see James Blake and Miami Horror, keep a calm and level head through the circus that is SXSW, and learn how to be more active and helpful participants in a thriving all ages music scene here in Seattle."
Below, find songs from those four acts, and a long, incomplete list of other Seattle-area musicians playing SXSW:
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
Duff McKagan's Loaded
Eugene Wendell and the Demon Rind
Grieves with Budo
The Head and the Heart
Ivan & Alyosha
The Lonely Forest
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
The Redwood Plan
State of the Artist
Viper Creek Club
Watch It Sparkle
Wild Orchid Children
The Young Evils
Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers
Dec 31 - 6:30 AM Premiere: 'Seattle Party' by Chastity Belt
Dec 31 - 6:00 AM 'Stop Biting' night at Lo-Fi now an album, mini doc
Dec 29 - 11:52 AM Were you there? 'The Rolling Stones' and Shabazz/THEESat
Dec 28 - 6:00 AM Top 40 of 2012, Seattle and beyond
Dec 27 - 6:00 AM Shabazz / THEESat: a history of high-concept Seattle shows