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SXSW Wrap Up

The day after Christmas, wrapping paper lines the floor, new acquisitions sit in a pile on your bed and you feel both relieved and disappointed for the madness and excitement to be over.  This is the exact feeling of coming home after SXSW.  Trash lines the streets, endless swag fills your Jansport backpack and you’re at once excited to sleep but sad that the party’s over.  Before getting back to real life, let’s reminisce on the past week (and ahead for next year).  Here are a few tips for SXSW 2011:

1. Get a hotel near the convention center with friends. Before heading to Austin, check out where the convention center is and find a hotel around the area early on.  There are shuttles that go to the hotels further out, but if you can shell out the extra $20 or so a night, definitely go for it.  When you’re trying to get to your hotel after Fang Island (the best set ever) at 2 am and the shuttle’s load of drunken losers kill your buzz,  you’ll wish you had spent the extra money.  Also, go with friends!  Not only will it be cheaper, but sharing the entire experience will make it 100x better.

2. Pick up your badge first. When you get to Austin, pick up your badge and complimentary bag at the convention center first, and then go check in to your hotel.  They often give you free swag when you first arrive, so it’s best to drop everything off in your room at once rather than having to go back to your hotel right away.

3. Use the SXXpress badge and plan ahead. A new feature this year, the SXXpress badges are for those attendees who have music or platinum badges.  SXXpress allows you to jump the line at one venue each night. However, if a show’s at capacity, you can still be denied entry.  If one show is sold out, have a backup plan ready to put into action immediately.  You have to move and think fast in order to get into everywhere you want to. You can pick up these badges up on the 4th floor of the conference center.

4. Pack appropriately.  Obviously this is a no-brainer.  However, Saturday’s cold weather left many people unprepared.  You might want to throw in a hoodie or raincoat just in case. Also, ladies, don’t wear heels. Chicks will look at you like you’re crazy and creeps will try to take you home.  Basically, wear comfortable shoes, don’t get sunburn, but stay warm.

5. Stay hydrated and healthy. No, not with alcohol.  Drink tons of water during the day; don’t binge on tacos.  A slice of pizza or two is great, but when you ate a whole pizza at noon and it’s 8 pm and you’re running to and from shows, it’s not so great.

6. Wear earplugs! It doesn’t matter how uncool you feel or how dorky they look.  Standing next to the monitors at Visqueen and Sharon Jones was unreal, but getting to She & Him and only hearing static was so not worth it.  So take care of yourself, and the experience will be a ton more enjoyable.

Above all of these things, the one thing you definitely should do is GO!  The memories, sun and incredible music make everything at SXSW worth the money and time.  Round up a group of friends and make it happen!  This is a moment in life you will never regret making happen, but look back on and smile.

SXSW: Day One

SXSW is in full swing here in Austin, Texas. Yesterday, the first official day of the music festival, was not only the kick off for a lot of showcases but an impromptu St. Patrick’s Day celebration as well. Part of the Belfast Rocks showcase, Fighting With Wire’s performed alongside other Irish acts such as General Fiasco and Strait Laces. People filled the venue and even lined the street to listen this OurStage act’s Irish brogues and see their St. Paddy’s Day pride. And the beer flowed on and on.
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Fine Tunings: 10 Things to See at SXSW

Now in its 24th year, the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas is the nation’s largest and most formidable industry event. It is also the place where new talent is discovered and old talent reinvents itself. The conference, which takes place at the same time as many a spring break (March 16-20), brings thousands of music fans, college students, industry movers and shakers and nearly 2,000 musicians to Austin. SXSW also has Interactive and Film components leading up to the music portion. But unquestionably, the big kahuna and signature of SXSW is the music. With a cacophony of thousands of bands, parties, trade show and educational panels that are the hallmark of SXSW, I thought I would break it down to the Top 10 events you will most likely find me at this year.
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Fine Tunings: 10 To Watch in 2010

OSBlog02_FineTunings_10in2010The last year and last decade were a mixed bag musically-speaking, and all over the map. From Sri Lankan M.I.A. to Canadian Feist and Londoners Amy Winehouse and Adele, it has been impossible to predict where the next break-out scene will come from. As we begin a new year and a new decade, I have compiled a list of 10 fascinating female artists to keep your eye on. Some are new artists but most are on their way to becoming well-known and one even became a full-fledged superstar in 2009.

10. Visqueen: Rachel Flotard is the undisputed Visqueen of Seattle but has yet to make the national impact she deserves. With a stint as Neko Case’s backup singer on her resume, I’m thinking that 2010 will finally be her year. Visqueen’s latest album, Message To Garcia is filled with catchy hooks that are brainy too.

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OSBlog02_FineTunings_RachelFlotardWith 2 previous critically-acclaimed albums, King Me and Sunset on Dateland, already under their belt, 3 is the charm for Visqueen’s brand new album, A Message To Garcia. Fronted by the dynamic, whip-smart and hilarious Rachel Flotard, the power-pop trio makes an art of great songwriting that boasts more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box.

In a city like Seattle, where the number of local bands equals the annual number of raindrops, Visqueen is almost as iconic as the Space Needle. But it’s been a few years between albums. Why? Rachel’s musical schedule was hugely curtailed while she cared for her terminally ill dad, a life-long steamfitter who  died from prostate cancer in April after a long and valiant battle. A Message to Garcia is a devoted daughter’s tribute to the late George Flotard, and he would be very proud indeed.

Readers with a soft spot for the Pacific Northwest’s musical gene pool, may already recognize Rachel as one of Neko Case’s back-up singers. She provided vocals on Neko’s albums, Middle Cyclone and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Rachel’s riveting charisma flew off the screen on a recent Neko Case Letterman appearance, a year and eight days after her dad’s passing. On Message Neko backs up Rachel, and can be heard on 5 of the album’s 11 stellar tracks. “Every song is a single,” says John Richards of KEXP, “One of the best records of the year.”

No stranger to hard work, Rachel started a label, Local 638 Records, another nod to her dad, to put out Message. I had a few questions for Ms. Flotard, and she was gracious enough to answer in her own unique way.

CD: What took you so long to get this album out? I’ve been hearing bits of it for, I think, it’s been 3 years!

RF: I know. Sorry about that. For the last several years I was living with the coolest prostate cancer patient on the west coast, my dad. I juggled music and his care until I couldn’t do both anymore. Timing wasn’t right to put out an album, even though I wanted to pretend it was. Hence the bits you heard, and trying to keep my band-hat on while my nurse’s uniform was getting too tight.
Now that I’ve had time to breathe after losing him, it all makes total sense. Visqueen is, and has always been, independent. It takes focus for me to make it move. Today I have the strength and motivation of 10 dads.

CD: How did you decide to start your own label rather than signing to an established one this time out?

RF: Releasing the new album on my own schedule and terms instead of waiting for the miracle label situation (which doesn’t exist, by the way) to reveal itself, was essential. I’m happy I made the decision to take this on. It fits the way I work. It can be as big or as small as I want it to be, because “established” doesn’t mean “wiser route,” “proven theory” or even “resourceful thinking.” The music business can sometimes feel like an industry packed with Chicken Littles who need safe bets and low cherries. Lucky for me, my cherries don’t touch the ground.

CD: How did you first meet up with Neko?

RF: She’s been stalking me pretty hard for a long time. I think she wants a piece of my caboose in the worst way. You’ll have to ask her the real story because I’m still trying to figure it out. It involves Minnie Mouse gloves and deep fried tomatoes, I’m sure.



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