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SXSW 2019: #youtoo? with DJ Target, Shirley Manson and Richard James Burgess and Song Math with Ross Golan – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

This year at SXSW 2019, I struggled to find convention sessions and talks whose summaries I would write that I felt would speak not just to our regular readers of TGTF but to a wider audience. Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond had a scheduled keynote Friday morning, but in my head I wondered, what exactly could they tell me, a person who appreciated their band but was not an uber fan, that I hadn’t heard before? I had the same feeling about Shirley Manson of Garbage and Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES’ keynote on Thursday, thinking that what the two of them would discuss would be a retread of past conversations about the difficulty of being a woman in the music business. Instead of attending either, I decided instead to attend the #youtoo? Creating a More Inclusive Music Industry session, which included Manson as well as BBC Radio 1Extra presenter and artist DJ Target and Richard James Burgess, CEO of the American Association of Independent Music. The session was moderated by Vanessa Reed, CEO of PRS for Music Foundation and who spearheaded the ground-breaking EU initiative Keychange, self-described as “a collaborative European programme led by PRS Foundation which empowers women to transform the music industry.”

The session offered three different perspectives on how to achieve better equality in the music business, from the unique viewpoints of an artist (Manson) and a radio promoter and independent music champion, both with a background of being an artist (Target and Burgess, respectively). As a woman of colour who runs a music Web site, a rarity, I myself have wrestled with how women go forward from where we are today to reach equality in the business. I have been uncomfortable with the push for equality by physical number of female acts on festival bills, a push that seems to be getting louder every minute. To be clear, I am not against the ultimate goal of equality. The problem, as I see it, is how to implement it.

Vanessa Reed and DJ Target Friday SXSW 2019

One moment in time that sticks in my head is this article by The Guardian’s Michael Hann applauding the bill for 2015’s End of the Road. Part of the argument that rang hollow to me was in regards to Laura Marling’s position as headliner and how the festival should be applauded for choosing her. Marling is an established artist with a very large fanbase and therefore her presence would sell tickets but not on the basis of her gender. While she is a fine example of a woman who broke the mould, succeeded against insurmountable odds and deserves full credit for all she’s done, I would argue that artists regardless of who or what they are have all faced their own difficulties. Who gets to judge who has suffered more and deserves the bigger breaks?

This may sound funny coming from a woman who is also a person of colour, but the way I see it, hard work is hard work, just like some in this business will argue talent is talent, no matter the source. I fully admit that my experience is coloured by the fact that as part of what is called the model minority in America, I’ve received the short end of multiple sticks. I recall with much clarity that even though I asked specifically for help, I received much less assistance from my high school counselor because as an Asian-American, I was perceived as not needing it as much as my peers. I was also excluded from my university’s minority student support office because I was of Asian descent.

Shirley Manson and Richard James Burgess Friday SXSW 2019

One of the things that I have appreciated more than anything else as a Chinese-American music editor is being judged and respected by industry folk for what I bring to the table and not because I’m a woman or the color of my skin. I also don’t even get the sense that my being American is considered a benefit or a hindrance. Maybe it’s masochism, but I would rather be remembered for how I was able to promote acts I loved, not because I was a nonwhite woman doing it. Burgess’ comments describing how his office is staffed echoed my thinking: he explained that while he has more women working for him than most have in the industry, his hiring decisions were based on merit and experience, not gender. While this model obviously can’t be applied to every situation, I think this is what we should aspire towards.

I appreciated each speaker’s views on the topic and what they suggested for going forward. In particular, Manson’s outspoken opinions on how the white women of America failed all women in voting for Donald Trump for President is something I have thought a lot about since that dreadful day in November 2016. While all of us women have shared experiences in feeling marginalised by elders due to existing patriarchal social structures, by voting in that manner, white women, whether knowingly or not, discounted the additional hurdles faced by women of colour in our country.

Manson’s searing commentary on how the pink hat was seized as a symbol of white women feminism felt spot on to me and brought me to tears. It has become very much the “protect your own patch” mentality, which has a mirror in the racism I discovered a few years ago within the white LGBT community, which was a surprise to me after having grown up with the inherent racism among Asians. My intention in including Manson’s comment here is less about taking sides but to take the first step, in raising awareness of the existence of a problem. After awareness, we can move towards better understanding and empathy. Without these three pieces, we cannot truly address or tackle the issues. Inclusivity in conversations seems to me as key for us to come to permanent, lasting, agreeable solutions.

with Shirley Manson crop
photo by Maryum Rasool of SBEV (thank you kindly!),
I’m pretty sure I was reliving ‘Special’ and disbelieving I was talking to Shirley Manson

Manson brought the conversation back to the music industry when she described the difficulty in finding a female band to support Garbage on a recent tour. I thought it was interesting that Manson felt it was a thinking process that caused industry people to freeze, rendering them unable to call to mind any act that would fit Garbage’s request. I think this is an important distinction: minds can be changed. The more we can keep the dialogue open, the more we challenge the status quo, the more we turn the conversations into the norm and less the exception, the more consistent changes we’ll see.

Both DJ Target and Manson emphasised the role (no pun intended) of strong female role models in the artist realm. Manson, along with the aforementioned Mayberry and others like Grimes, Jane Weaver and Gwenno, have taken their positions with candour and energy. More of this, ladies. But we need to step up and raise up those and offer our help to anyone who needs a hand.

Instead of rehashing the part of Ross Golan’s Song Math that I was present for, I will simply summarise for you the most thought-provoking bits. Ross, I hope one day you offer your review of popular music as a recording. I’d buy it! I’m sure plenty of music teachers would use it for their classes, too.
1. A lot of classical composers died of syphilis: that’s a fact, which Golan utilised repeatedly as a comic device. Thankfully, we here in modern day have penicillin available to us. No more mercury poisoning! But if you’ve been watching Victoria, you already know this.
2. Gregorian chants should be considered the earliest pop recordings.
3. Phoenix were right: Franz Liszt was the first true rock star.
4. Today’s musicians are indebted to the songwriters of years gone by, and much beyond sampling. For one, the structure of songs as simple as ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Frere Jacques’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ have been repeated over and over, inspiring artists far and wide, and subliminally or not.

 

SXSW 2019: Matt Maltese at the Back to Amy photo exhibition, ROE and Joshua Burnside at Output Belfast and APRE – 14th March 2019 (Thursday, part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th March 2019 at 11:00 am
 

After a luxurious sleep (read: more than 6 hours) and the breakfast buffet in my hotel, it was time for a trip to the often neglected west side of Austin, which has some of the most chill and interesting watering holes in town. Holy Roller played host all week to the Back to Amy photo exhibition, displaying never before seen images of the late and great Amy Winehouse at age 19, before she became a household name and before the release of her seminal debut album ‘Frank’. The photos were taken by Charles Moriarty and introduced by producer Gabriel Gornell, who also served as emcee for a specially curated group of promising young artists playing in a cute performance nook of the restaurant.

I was curious about both the photos and Matt Maltese’s performance there at 11 AM. Not the best time to perform during a full-on festival at SXSW, but let me say as a music editor, any opportunity at any time of day to sit down on a chair and enjoy a lovely hand-crafted pink beverage called the She Bad is more than welcome. Following his set the previous night at Central Presbyterian Church, I preferred this performance in more relaxed surroundings for its intimacy. We probably could have sat at his feet if we wanted to. A large cartoon drawing of Amy hung as the backdrop, a poster that all artists playing at this exhibition would sign after their performances. During a week of watching all sorts of artists with seemingly increasingly complexity in instrumentation, watching a master at work with the simplest of setups served as a good reminder that at its very basic, sometimes stripped back is best.


During this set, he had been introduced as creating Brexit pop; Maltese was quick to be humourously contrary in correcting this as he started, saying he was now in post-Brexit pop. Maltese wrote ‘As the World Caves In’ with two world leaders in mind, imagining them getting intimate as their decisions have led to the end of the world and humanity. Given the problems in his country and ours, it has become strangely more appropriate than he could have ever realised when he was writing it. ‘Strange Time’, another one of his songs that is no hurry to get to the finish, muses on an unconventional relationship that somehow works: “They say I’m too old for my age / And you’re just the same / Yet we make love like kids, again and again.” Like Maltese himself, it doesn’t sound like it should work on paper but is such a pleasant surprise when you’re finally get an opportunity to be properly introduced to it.


After some time mooching around at the posters on offer at Flatstock, I returned to the British Music Embassy for the first two acts of the Output Belfast afternooon showcase there. Young Derry singer/songwriter ROE impresssed straight out of the gate with her aplomb. Being stood on a stage entirely alone except for her guitar and electronics in front of Texan fans and industry types might have shaken the nerves of lesser mortals, but not her. The precocious, smiley artist explained the origins of her songs as she went along, lending sincerity to her stories of adolescent angst. The last festival we covered her at was Hard Working Class Heroes 2017, where she performed at Dublin Grand Social.


The poppy ‘Thomas’ specifically calls out a situation where she was teased for her short hair and compared to a male classmate, but the treatment is incredibly catchy. Songwriting was her method of catharsis from depression when coming up wth ‘Down Days’, broaching a difficult, ongoing subject that needs to keep being discussed and continually. ‘Wasted.Patient.Thinking’ is a surprisingly adult admission that we all should taking care of ourselves first, especially when a relationship no longer serves its purpose to us. It is a sobering thought that ROE has able to come to these conclusions and write them into infectiously amazing pop and at an age when the rest of us were all twiddling our thumbs. If she can keep this up – and I do think she can – she’ll have a long career ahead of her.

Joshua Burnside and his live band returned to Austin after a series of rousing performances at SXSW 2018 last March. This time, he arrived in Texas with a prominent moustache that made him look like a cross between a cowboy from days gone by and Matthew McConaughey. Throwing a beloved flat cap into the audience might not have been the best idea – I’m still not sure if he ever got it back? – but it sure led to a whoop of cheers around Latitude 30. ‘Holllllogram’, from his 2017 Northern Irish Music Prize-winning album ‘Ephrata’, still wows in its exposition of how a broken heart can remain haunted.


I unfortunately had to leave Burnside’s set early to catch what I thought would be an enlightening talk given by Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA and his work colleagues at Auddly at the Hilton. Auddly has been now rebranded as Session, though I had to find that out on social media, as there were technical difficulties preventing their Thursday afternoon session at SXSW from starting on time. I sat there for a good 20 minutes before calling it quits in favour of the International Day stage.

APRE’s most prominent appearance during SXSW 2019 would no doubt be their slot opening the BBC Radio 1 showcase Saturday night at the British Mustic Embassy. Given my past experience having difficulty getting into Latitude 30 for that showcase in multiple years, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing the London-based duo up close and personal. If you’ve followed APRE for any length of time or indeed, you read Bands to Watch preview of them from last month, you are well aware that they don’t take themselves seriously. They also enjoy wearing bright red jackets, which they brought to Austin!


okay, so there’s no red jacket here, but…

This electronic-driven duo occupy a nice niche between tropical pop and r&b, which gives them the opportunity to cover more music territory when songwriting. The delivery of the anthemic ‘Without Your Love’ and ‘Don’t You Feel Like Heaven’ suggest they could their music to stadiums. Conversely, in a different way, a r&b-inflected song like ‘Blackstreet’ pits them favourably against acts like Jungle who have proven they can reach those stages. Although like when I saw Elder Island the day before I got the distinct feeling I was probably the only person in the room who’d heard of them before this, APRE impressed a different set of punters than the ones who saw them the night before at the Communion showcase at Augustine.

 

SXSW 2019: the return to Austin and David Byrne vs. Lance Bass – 13th March 2019 (Wednesday, part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2019 at 11:00 am
 

Reflecting on my eighth SXSW in a row, there are some things about the Music portion of SXSW that are self-evident. One of those things is that there is no good or bad time to arrive for the music festival. Regardless when you choose to touch down in Austin, there are going to be things you have missed, but there will be plenty more amazing things to come. Covering the event alone for TGTF this year, my decision to arrive on Wednesday was primarily a financial one: I stayed in the thick of it, on a hotel on East 4th Street for 4 days, trading number of days for location.

Our pilot on our flight from Baltimore landed us admirably through choppy, bumpy turbulence (cue motion sickness, nearly) and before our scheduled arrival time. Despite this, it took longer to get my badge this year, longer than I could ever remember it taking in past years. The badge pickup area was noticeably much smaller and with less staff than in previous years, though everyone I interacted with was in good spirits and helpful. By the time all was said and done, it was 1 PM, halfway through the two SXSW Conference sessions I’d noted on my schedule: David Byrne and his Reasons for Being Cheerful keynote at the Hilton or Lance Bass in the convention center, both of which I previewed here. Knowing that Byrne’s keynote would likely be videotaped and available to everyone later – I was right, you can watch it in the embed below – I decided to go with the *NSYNC star instead.

A music journo choosing Lance Bass over David Byrne probably sounds like a major mistake. Bass was in town for the premiere of The Boy Band Con, a YouTube documentary he coproduced on Lou Pearlman, the boy band impresario who launched the careers of *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, O-Town and many others but who was ultimately brought down by the American legal system when his fraud and racketeering activities were brought to light. Check out the film trailer below. It’s interesting to learn than it was Bass who was able to get so many past professional singer associates of Pearlman’s to participate in the documentary, winning them over by explaining that the film would be about their stories as it would be about the man who ultimately swindled them.

I was a massive boyband fan back in the day. The other day, an *NSYNC song came on Sirius XM radio in my car (‘God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You’, if you wanted to know) and I was shocked I still knew all the words. For a good portion of my formative years, while I dealt with some family and health issues, music was the only world available to me that I could escape into. I still have all the hand gestures and dance moves to ‘Bye Bye Bye’ memorised. I’d watch the kids go crazy over their favourite bands on TRL on MTV here in America and for that hour the show was on, I could pretend I was like everybody else. It sounds cliched, but when you’re young and you feel like a total misfit, any sense of belonging is welcome. Thinking along those lines, it is incredibly sad that at the same time that while his band brought joy and inclusion to their fans, all the while Lance Bass had to hide who he was and for so many years.

I suppose it’s no surprise that his sexuality was a major point during his conversation with Homophilia podcast hosts Dave Holmes and Matt McConkey. Despite years of discomfort and “playing a character” who wasn’t who he was at all, Bass is now comfortable in his own skin and an advocate for the LGBT community. He spoke of the time he proposed to his now husband Michael Turchin in what he thought would be a beautiful place to make a romantic overture in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the mood was broken by an overzealous fan who apparently wouldn’t go away and completely missed the fact that they were in the middle of something.


photo of Lance Bass from his Facebook page

Although I was only in attendance for the second half of the session, I’d argue that I probably saw the better half. Audience members took turns at the mike on the floor. A young gay man from Mississippi thanked Bass for his visibility, saying that having him as a role model gave him the confidence to be himself. (Who brought the onions?) A female fan asked what Bass thought of social media and if he wished it had been around when *NSYNC hit it big. He described as a double-edged sword. He was glad that it hadn’t been around because anything stupid they did would have instantly spread like wildfire, and he insisted that it would have been something said or done by his bandmate (and resident big mouth) Joey Fatone who would have probably caused the most problems, which elicited huge laughs. On the flipside, Bass said that if social media had been around, he would probably have over a million followers on Twitter by now, which would make promoting any of his work that much easier.

Another thought-provoking question Bass was asked was about his stance on religion, specifically given the fact that he was raised Southern Baptist in rural Mississippi. He said he still considers himself a Christian and called out the mainstream Christian church for being “fake Christians”, which I took to mean their ultra-conservative beliefs that have excluded and shunned the LGBT community. While I think we all expected such a response from a worldwide-known celebrity whose family and fans support him, it drives home how poisonous the massive divide in American Christianity on the issue of sexual orientation, among many other close-minded beliefs and teachings, really is. When will we as a nation, and as part of the global community, rise above these differences and embrace them as part of what truly makes America great?

I feel sure that Bass’ faith is behind his ability to have forgiven Pearlman after all that he did to him and *NSYNC. Lance Bass has moved well past what might have led to a dark ending for him, instead living his authentic life and being a true role model of what it looks like after you overcome adversity.

 

SXSW 2018: Mary’s Monday roundup of country houses and the SXSW Conference Trade Show – 12th March 2018

 
By on Monday, 19th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo courtesy of Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

Once you’ve attended the SXSW Conference and Festivals once, you get into this mindset that you’re going to try and go to as much as possible, but you also know that the best laid plans often change and may be entirely out of your control. This year, I wanted TGTF to make an even better effort to see more of the conference and visit more of the houses sponsored by our country friends across the oceans.

Arriving earlier than scheduled into Austin on Monday morning, I was able to get badged up quickly and pop my head in for drinks and food in the House of Scandinavia sponsored by airline SAS. Instead of serving those famous Swedish meatballs, they had sat on tortilla chips gluten-free, oat-based meatless treats, reflecting the global trend towards sustainable food sourced ethically. The House, located for the week at Café Blue just steps from the Austin Convention Center, made for an easy pop-in if one was inclined to do so. Monday was Super Finland Day: did you know that Finland ranked #1 as the happiest country to live in 2018? Not so happily, bad timing meant I arrived between musical acts, ultimately missing Tuomo & Markus who we had opened our SXSW 2017 coverage with.

Fox Sports House at SXSW 2018 - courtesy Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

A bit further out on Colorado Street was the Fox Sports House. The focus of their programming was to promote the upcoming World Cup in Russia. On offer were free country-themed tacos made to order and beer, while fantasy football and airbrushed temporary tattoos also were a big draw for mainly orange badge Interactive attendees who had already been in town for a few days. After you’ve done this for a few years, you can easily spot those moving slowly with bags under their eyes who look worse for wear and who are the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed having just landed.

Later in the day, I queued for a good 30 minutes in an attempt to get in as press to the food and wine pairing hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone at G’Day USA‘s Australia House at Lucille, only to be turned away after it had reached capacity. After occupying the much more central location of Brush Square Park for years, the Land Down Under hedged their bets for 2018 to move all of their festivities, including the perennially popular Aussie BBQ, down to Rainey Street. Bringing to Austin the ever winsome Stone and actor Hugh Jackman (there to discuss his Laughing Man Foundation that supports coffee growers) meant huge crowds wanted to visit Australia House early on in the week. You have to wonder if this ultimately translated to Australia House being a victim of its own perceived success. Having been turned away once, I can’t have been the only person to consider that given Lucille’s small size, I was unlikely to get into the place all week, so would it be worth the time queueing?

My unexpected early arrival also meant that I could step into the Trade Show for a wander. As in past years, some impressive local startups were showcasing their wares, including Sock Club, who create custom-made socks for companies and events. I wonder how many Subway employees wear their green, company-branded socks proudly. Many booths had a focus on VR and robots. I was surprised to see so many country booths having VR units on hand for anyone to stop by. While I never waited to see what was on those headsets, the fact that nearly everyone had them made for the odd feeling that everyone had them only because it was the thing to do this year. Is it symptomatic of society’s shorter attention spans? Country booths have tended to be less about welcoming conference attendees than in past years, which I found disappointing. A lot of these booths are designed to create business and attract tourism, and countries have spent loads of money sending people out to an international expo. Maybe everyone was tired by Monday and wasn’t in the mood to network? Far better were the actual houses away from the convention center, like the aforementioned House of Scandinavia.

A large crowd watched on wide-eyed as a giant orange robot was being controlled by a much smaller, normal human-sized woman manipulating a pouch-y horizontal arm. A Japanese booth had a robot creating plastic nigiri sushi from teeny tiny pieces of colored plastic, the same kind of precise technology you’d expect used in making things like microprocessors. Nearby, a Korean booth boomed with the sound of techno, as the electronic face of a panda bear alternated between moods as songs progressed. I’m all for the future of technology and advancement making our lives better. Flashy stuff like this without an obvious ground-breaking application doesn’t excite me. I must be getting old!

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s recommended keynotes and speakers

 
By on Monday, 5th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Each year, SXSW brings in an awe-inspiring list of industry speakers to take part in its Conference sessions. 2018 is no exception. In a month and a half, there will be an impressive crop of industry leaders, luminaries and artists you can hear speak in Austin as part of the Music, Interactive, Film and Convergence portions of the conference. Below is just a small selection of what’s on offer.

Daniel Glass (Thursday, 15 March, 5:00 PM, Music Industry; pictured at top) – Daniel Glass might not be a name you recognise, but the international artists whose careers he helped launched here in the States definitely will be. Through his record label Glassnote Records, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, Mumford and Sons and many more acts were able to break America. Started as an independent company after Glass left the corporate world, his insights on how to survive, stay passionate and rise above as a little fish in a big pond will no doubt be enlightening. Joining Glass will be Aryeh Bourkoff of dealmakers Liontree.

Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern (Monday, 12 March, 3:30 to 4:30 PM, Food) – Okay, so this isn’t conference sessions isn’t music related all. But if you follow me on Instagram, you know how much of a foodie I am, and Jose Andres is a major celebrity in the Washington, DC area. More recently, he has been prominently involved in helping to feed the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the California wildfires and mobilising fellow chefs in the efforts. Andrew Zimmern is known the world over as the host of the tv programme Bizarre Foods, where he’s gone all over and eaten some pretty, er, unusual grub, shall we say. It’s easy to forget that outside his wacky Bizarre Foods persona, he’s a James Beard award winner, chef, educator and all around encyclopedia about food.

Keith Urban (Friday, 16 March, 12:30 PM, Music Culture & Stories) – As big of an industry American country music is here, I have to admit it’s not a genre I rate and we’ve pretty much overlooked it in our coverage on TGTF. If you are curious how “the other half lives”, you can do so by listening to Keith Urban’s talk about his career that has led to a bewildering 22 #1 hits and multiple Grammys, American Country Music Association Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.

Kim Deal and Steve Albini (Wednesday, 14 March, 5 PM, Music Culture & Stories) – Kim Deal was as the original bassist for The Pixies and singer and guitarist of The Breeders with her sister Kelly. Kim Deal will sure to say plenty to say about breaking the mould of rock and into grunge and alternative rock. Steve Albini appeared as the keynote speaker at Output Belfast 2016. In Austin, Albini will be providing his perspective on alt-rock from the producer’s side of things.

Lyor Cohen (Wednesday, 14 March, 11 AM, Music Industry) – Lyor Cohen is the Global Head of Music at YouTube and Google, overseeing domestic and international music partnerships and artist and label relations for his companies. He is also a founder of 300, a record label with an eclectic roster of up-and-coming artists. Prior to his current positions, Cohen was the Chairman and CEO of Recorded Music for Warner Music Group, having a big part in launching the careers of The Killers, Ed Sheeran, The Black Keys and many more successful artists of today.

Melinda Gates (Sunday, 11 March, 2:00 PM, Interactive) – Bill’s better half will be moderating a panel talk entitled, “The Company We Keep”, which is expected to include innovators of technology, new business models and new social movements. They will discuss how these new developments have led to changes in how companies run their workplaces and have fostered inclusive environments and creativity.

Sadiq Khan (Monday, 12 March, 2:00 PM, Convergence) – Sadiq Khan may be the first Muslim to serve as the mayor of a major Western capital, but he’s become more famous as the strong, stoic leader of London in the face of some of Britain’s most challenging times in recent memory. As a Keynote Speaker, he will no doubt be speaking about London Town’s special position as a hotbed for technological innovation, a launching pad for startups and the home of some of the world’s biggest companies.

Wendy Williams (Saturday, 17 March, 12:30 PM, Music Culture & Stories) – Now known for her popular daytime talk show, Wendy Williams is also an entrepreneur, media mogul, actor, comedian and best-selling author. She also has over 2 decades’ experience in radio. Williams will discuss her rise to success and the importance of female empowerment in the entertainment industry.

As always, the schedule of events at SXSW 2018 is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information about the entire festival, including the music conference and the lineup of showcasing artists, you can consult the official schedule here. TGTF’s ongoing preview coverage of SXSW 2018 is collected here.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Culture & Stories track

 
By on Friday, 23rd February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Music is such an important part of the fabric of our lives, and the effects of the stories that music makers tell through their art often go far beyond their original inspiration and intent. In the Music Culture & Stories track of the 2018 SXSW Conference, there’s plenty for the music fan to sink her/her teeth into on the influence of song and in the many directions music can take us our minds and hearts.

Documenting Music and Musicians
Though we may not be actively thinking about it on a regular basis, those who document music, musicians and the legacy of their art and how they have done this documentation have affected the way we consume and ultimately remember the music that has moved us. In an early afternoon session on Tuesday 13 March entitled ‘LONDON ROCK: The Unseen Archive’, Alec Byrne will discuss his decade-long career as a London rock photographer. Attendees will enjoy a slideshow of his rare images of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and many other artists. These images have been stuck in an archive for almost 40 years, only resurfacing recently as part of Byrne’s book. Photographers have been some of the few in the industry who have crossed and allowed into the emotional inner sanctums of musicians, so Byrne will have some unique stories to share.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 14 March, panel session ‘Preservation & Appreciation of Album Art Today’ will discuss the effect of the size limitation of album covers in digital streaming platforms. With such a small graphic size available, how we can continue the artistic appreciation of the art form that was once so important enjoyed during the original heyday of vinyl in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Albums like The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and the banana of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ are remembered almost as much for their cover art as they are for the music they contain.

Music, Our Minds and Our Emotions
How music makes us feel is an important key to what we like and remember and what resonates with us emotionally. In ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’ on the afternoon of Saturday 17 March, University of British Columbia’s David Metzer will discuss his book The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé. Metzer believes when a ballad is written and released to the public and what is going on in the world at the time can influence how that song is experienced by the listener. Taking things on a more philosophical level, Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou of Zent Records in ‘The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters’ will provide his personal views on how artists through their songcraft “have a unique role to play as our nation comes to terms with these dark days.” (date TBA).

Two members of London rock band The Fish Police (header photo from their Facebook) have autism, and their conditions have informed the way they write music and unapologetically. Alongside staff from internationally acclaimed creative organization Heart n Soul, they will offer their unique perspective on making art in their own unique musical universe in the session ’Exploring Music Through the Lens of Neurodiversity’ early Wednesday afternoon (14 March). On a slightly different tack, local radio station KUTX will be taping their podcast This Song at SXSW 2018 on Thursday afternoon (15 March). Podcast host Elizabeth McQueen will be interviewing hip-hop artist and writer Dessa, who will describe a life-changing song and how it influenced her new album ‘Chime’. [NB: This taping will be held at the Wisteria Room at the Fairmont Hotel on 101 Red River Street and not at the Austin Convention Center.]

Iconic Venues
Some music clubs live on in memory, even long after they physically no longer exist. In
‘From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora’ on Friday 16 March, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Modern Recording artist Chris Stamey, Talking Heads members Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, and visual artist Julia Gorton will recall what made the New York City dive bar special and why it’s remembered even today.

Despite the widely reported assault on music venues across Britain by property developers, we thankfully still have venues in North America who have stood the test of time. Session ‘The Horseshoe: the Roots of Canadian Rock n’ Roll’ will explore how this venerated institution in Toronto has survived for decades and been the starting point of a career for many Canadian rock acts who then went on to stardom beyond the Great White North. Closer to home and heart for Texans, ‘The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk’ and its over 5 decades of support for live country music will be discussed on the morning of Tuesday 13 March by none other than its long-time and only proprietor James White.

Musical Legacies
In terms of American musical heroes, who casts a bigger shadow than Elvis? In a featured session on Wednesday afternoon (14 March), there will be an exciting conversation about the upcoming three-hour, two-film HBO presentation on Elvis Presley that will premiere in April and includes “a comprehensive creative journey from his childhood through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions”. The panel will include Presley’s widow Priscilla, legendary Memphis music writer and producer David Porter, director Thom Zimny and producer Jon Landau. Arguably Elvis’ counterpart in rap Tupac Shakur will be fondly remembered in ‘Still Thuggin: Tupac Relevance Over 20 Years Later’ on the afternoon of Friday 16 March.

In more recent, fast-paced times, there’s been the question of whether musical stars made through appearances on reality tv shows will live on or will they be quickly forgotten. In ‘Now What? Life After Reality TV Singing Shows’ on Saturday afternoon (17 March), Cas Haley (2007’s America’s Got Talent), Blake Lewis (6th season of American Idol) and NAKIA (1st season of The Voice) will share their experiences before, during and after appearing on millions of tv screen around America.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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