Ben Doak: Texas is where it’s at, baby

AUSTIN, Texas – For music, the four days of South by Southwest offer the breeding ground for the hype machine. Designed as an industry-based event, the festival allows for more than 1,600 bands from across the country, and the world, to gather around a few square blocks where they showcase their work for an audience of thousands. For bands and industry representatives, the event may revolve around networking. But for fans and tastemakers, SXSW is a rush of new and welcomed voices to obsess over.

The event is based largely around the bars and clubs of Austin’s 6th Street. Shows start in the early afternoon and end late into the night. Walking down the streets of the city, you can hear music coming from nearly every building, some of which host several shows at a time on different stages. In such a close proximity, almost any act is available to see, only subject to inevitable time constraints and lines that form outside the more popular showcases.

Because of its origins as a festival focusing on industry networking, SXSW is one of the few places where young bands can get the attention they need to break through. For us die-hard music fans, it is impossible not to come back from SXSW bragging about the up-and-coming bands we saw and conjecturing who might be the next breakthrough act. Just as a case-in-point, the music blogosphere gets flooded with updates and on-the-scene news, as well as exaggerated excitement about young band – The Hatchet’s own blog, included.

Thrown into the feverish excitement of the festival, each day felt like a whirlwind. Even with a planned schedule, there was never enough time to see every band we hoped to catch. Food was eaten mostly as an afterthought or on a break from concert-going, and sleeping happened only when it had to.

Coming out of the festival, it is safe to say we have many new favorite bands, new favorite show experiences and probably a little swagger in our step for having experienced such an amazing event. Nowhere else is there a place that completely distills an entire music scene like SXSW.

Ben’s Picks

Best Show: Yo La Tengo at the Austin Music Hall
Best Old Band: The Homosexuals
Best Young Band: Be Your Own Pet
Best New Band: Atlas Sound
Best D.C. Band at SXSW: Exit Clov
Best Concept for a Band: Tragedy, A Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees
Best Comedy Set: Gary Gulman
Best Venue: Wave Rooftop
Best Eats: Torchy’s Tacos

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