A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about how SxSW is a festival which gets maligned far too often without good reason. Not that there’s no reason to malign the fest. There are PLENTY of reasons to bash it. It’s strayed far from its original purpose, which was to provide a venue for unsigned bands to play in front of suits with pens, blank contracts, and corporate accounts.
What could have been called a “talent convention”. Or “slave auction”. Whatever. Bottom line: the bands are only there for exposure. I don’t know if any of them get paid today, but in the beginning, NONE of them did. They tried out, sent demo tapes to the SxSW “talent scouts”, and hoped that they would be given the opportunity to play in front of whoever it is that “makes” the industry. It’s a privilege, not a right, to play SxSW. Even today.
But the spirit of it has changed significantly. And I don’t think that’s coincidence or random chaos which has led the fest to where it is today.
Now we get to hear The Stooges, Morrissey, and The Walkmen. Aren’t these bands signed? And if they aren’t, do they even care? Are The Stooges looking to pen a record deal, or are they just going to play some classics, collect a fat ass check, eat some Kirby Queso and fly on back to the home for wayward punk retirees?
Are these “headliners” here to appease the throngs of crybabies from years past who peered over the list of unsigned bands who were there to scratch out their name, and thoughtlessly bawled “I’ve never HEARD of any of these shitty bands! I want some of that Ramones, or maybe an underground act like Coldplay!”? Why the fuck did they do that if it’s supposed to be a festival to connect the unsigned with those of signing authority?
Ozomotli or Bloc Party about to be free agents or some shit? Panthers? Come on.
And then there’s the cost to get in, traffic, lines at eateries, and wha-whah-cry-blah-tears.
And it’s all legitimate, every complaint. But why bother? It isn’t going to change just because it’s incapable of being everything to everyone. It is what it is, and the majority loves it in its current form. So why not just find a way to enjoy that shit? For the love of god, if the festival pisses you off, then turn that urine into lemonade!
At least, that’s what I tried to write in my Austinist post, in a roundabout sort of way. Even if the other crybaby contingency, the throwers of the festival, cannot grasp the possibility that people like me who love the festival, but completely understand why others hate it, actually exist. And that unlike both extremes, we aim to be a reasonable middle ground of an island, poking out from a see of their obnoxious tears.