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March 14, 2012

SXSW Day 2: Randomonium

Editor's note: Seven Days music editor Dan Bolles is in Austin, Texas, this week attending the annual South By Southwest Music Festival.

Some scattered thoughts from the last 24 hours of SXSW:

Austin might be the most hyped "cool" city this side of Portlandia. But it is deserved. Granted, a booze-fueled shitshow like SXSW is probably not the time to get a genuine feel for the city. But everything you've heard about the live music capital of the world is true. The people are friendly, the food is absurd, the women are beautiful and the music … oh, the music.

Speaking of hype (and music), there is no shortage of either during SXSW. And it's wise to take everything you read and hear with a grain of salt. (Except from me, obvs.) To wit, a band called Lighthouse and the Whaler. These guys are one of the presumed "it" bands at SXSW this year. You'll hear about them soon, I bet. I caught their set last night, and there were several major label scouts in attendance. And with good reason. They're basically Arcade Fire lite. A safe, predictable knockoff that seems to be exactly the sort of thing that gets major label scouts all hot and bothered and pisses off people like me (asshole critics) because they're really not doing anything other than regurgitating someone else's brilliant formula. But people will eat them up when the hype machine kicks into post-SXSW overdrive. Look for them in a car commercial near you. 

I spent some quality time hanging with Casey Rae-Hunter last night. You may remember him as the "old Dan Bolles," or, the 7D music editor previous to myself. It occurs to me how lucky we were to have Casey during his tenure. He's possibly the smartest guy I know, a walking encyclopedia of music knowledge and, not inconsequentially, my mentor. If you haven't kept up with him since he left Burlington, do yourself a favor and check out his work with the Future of Music Coalition in Washington DC. Unless you don't care about things like artists' rights, net neutrality and other such pressing topics weighing on the hearts and minds of musicians and fans. It's important stuff.

If you ever go to SXSW, prepare to wait in line. A lot. For everything. Last night, I waited about 45 minutes in a line (which is short by SXSW standards) to see a band whose name I can't even remember and will probably never think of again once this paragraph is over. Then I went to the Belmont to see one of my all-time favorite bands, Built to Spill. There was no line. None. Thrilled as I was to get into the show and be within 20 feet of one of the most infuential indie rock bands ever, the fact that there wasn't a queue profoundly irritated me. I know most folks are here looking for the "next big thing" — myself included. But come on, people. Without bands like BTS, there would not be Modest Mouse, or My Morning Jacket or Arcade Fire — or, I suppose, the Lighthouse and the Whaler. Show a little respect. I will now step off my soapbox.


Being in Austin makes me think of "Friday Night Lights," a tragically underappreciated TV drama about high school football in Texas that really wasn't about football at all. Clear eyes, full hearts.

Being in Austin also makes me think about BBQ. I have yet to eat any BBQ here. I'll rectify that situation today.

The other thing being in Austin makes me think about are VT artists who have come here to live and play. Like Lowell Thompson, Greg Izor and, one of my favorite BTV bands, the Cave Bees. Lowell and Greg aren't here this week, but I'll get to see the Bees tomorrow, with Bill Mullins on guitar. I'm very happy about that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find some brisket. 



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