During SXSW 2021, I had the privilege of being able to see musicians that I would not otherwise get a chance to see. One such showcase was the CLOSE UP: A Sounds Australia Showcase. Each of the three nights had six different artists, each performing two songs. As Sounds Australia said in their release, “These performances have never been seen before and all were recorded in the artists’ ‘backyard’ (however they chose to interpret that theme).” Dom Alessio and Glenny G, both of Sounds Australia, hosted from Glenny’s actual backyard.
On this third night of music, Dom kicked off the festivities by paying respects to the elders, past, present and future, and any Indigenous people. No Money Enterprise, a hip hop quartet from Logan City, Queensland, played their energetic music in what looked like a park. In a nod to their Polynesian heritage, native dances were incorporated into the set alongside the hip hop rhythms.
Hauskey, from Western Australia, was next on deck playing from a studio. Playing the first song on the piano and the second on guitar, Hauskey displayed a pop flavor and versatility that reminded me of Ed Sheeran. He was followed by Indigo Sparke, an artist from Sydney. She played a stripped down acoustic set. Indigo Sparke has a voice quality that is both sweet and haunting.
The Merindas played their set outdoors at night and I wanted to be invited to that party! The Melbourne based duo performed dance tunes that mix pop and R&B beats. Like No Money Enterprise earlier in the evening, The Merindas infuse their music with their native Indigenous language and culture.
The next artist was Didirri, who hales from the town of Warrnambool in Australia. He also played an acoustic set, using a piano for the first melancholy love song and a guitar for the second song. Didirri’s voice is raw with emotion that perfectly matches his lyrics.
The biggest surprise of the night was the appearance of Jaguar Jonze. They played a live set in front of an audience – people in the comments of the broadcast were as pleasantly surprised as I was. In all honesty, I have no idea how big the crowd was, but the people there were very responsive to Jaguar Jonze’ brand of rock music. They had an energy and stage presence that we haven’t seen since March, 2020.
I look forward to the new music that artists in this Sounds Australia showcase will be making in the coming months!
Thursday, March 18th brought with it some new sounds from far-off places. I was overjoyed to sit in on night 2 of “Close Up: A Sounds Australia Showcase.” Hosted by Dom Alessio of Sounds Australia, this relaxing evening featured music by Kee’ahn, Beans, Death by Denim, The Chats, and Kota Banks & Ninajirachi.
We think the photos do this showcase quite a bit of justice. The feeling of connecting with the earth and these natural landscapes while engaging with incredible international artists is absolutely captivating. Check out the snaps below, and add these bands to your next playlist!
As we all emerge out of quarantine and into what will be a more normal existence, a panel discussion at South by Southwest moderated by Andy Gensler of Pollstar broached the topic of what is next in the world of live music in independent venues. Joined by Grace Blake from Iridium, Amy Madrigali, a Troubadour agency associate, and Dayna Frank, CEO of Minneapolis venue First Avenue, the conversation offered frank ideas of what has happened and what is coming down the road.
All three venues were coming off fantastic showings for 2019 and were looking forward to great things in 2020. In fact, First Avenue was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary in April of 2020. And then, as Andy Gensler put it, “The gut punch was South by Southwest canceling.” Although talks of forming an industry association between Rev. Moose (eventual NIVA co-founder and Executive Director) and Hal Real had begun a little earlier than when the pandemic hit, the SXSW cancellation gave an urgency to the situation that led to the formation of NIVA (National Independent Venue Association). From an initial steering committee of about 30 people, NIVA has grown into an organization that has kept independent venues front of mind during lobbying efforts (#SaveOurStages Act) and fundraising, all with the goal of financially shoring up the independent venues and all of the people who are dependent upon them. Blake and Madrigali both serve on the NIVA board and Frank is the current president.
When asked about their takeaways from this year, all were quick to answer. Blake said, “We were really able to provide some comfort into how to navigate the system. We were able to say to Congress, you really need to step up and help these venues who have never asked for anything. For me, it was a lifesaver.”
Madrigali related, “To echo what Grace said, we came together. Sending 2 million letters to Congress. Showing the power of what we can do in our cities and our country. We can communicate with our government. My first lobbying call was with Representative Adam Schiff – myself and my GM. In his world, LD is Legislative Director and in my world, it’s a Lighting Director. We had great support from our representative and we are really lucky.”
Although President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11, 2021, Frank reminds us there is much to be done, “We are waiting for the SBA to finalize rules and open up applications for grants. We are nagging them every day. We’re hopeful that an SBA administrator gets confirmed soon so someone from the administration can guide the process along. We definitely need the SBA to provide the safeguards.”
Gensler then asked about the future: “We’re seeing some southern routing opening up in New Zealand. Are things creeping back to your venue at all?
According to Blake. “New York has some of the strictest restrictions. We have to walk before we can run. I do look forward to the vaccination process to continue to happen so that, as we head to herd immunity, we can get closer.”
When asked about Live Streams, Madrigali said, “We had the SOS Fest (October 2020). Coming up, we are doing a TV show. It’s minuscule as compared to where we were before. In November 2019, we had booked 30 nights. In November 2020, we had booked 5 live streams.”
Frank hasn’t found it financially feasible to open for less than full capacity, so summer may not be in play, but fall may be a different story, “When the fall happens – and I am going to will it into existence – we will be busier than we have ever seen.” Blake is “cautiously optimistic”, and is looking toward the fall as well. “October is almost booked. November is getting booked, December. 2022 is looking good, especially for overseas acts.”
For those venues still trying to hang on until the fall, Madrigali recommended checking the SBA website to apply for funds. Frank recommended that artists try to get PPP loans as an independent contractor.
For more information about NIVA and the work being done, go to www.nivassoc.org. Since it can take time for grants to be issued, money is still being raised to help those venues in the most need. A donation link is provided on the website.
St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW 2021 was an absolute blast. The Black Fret showcase featured six Austin, Texas-based bands in their showcase, giving us some of that SXSW hometown flare we were missing from our couches. Featuring Sydney Wright, Ley Line, Motenko, Eimaral Sol, PR Newman, and Buffalo Hunt, the music was magical already without the added lunar backdrop. Peep the highlights and check out the work Black Fret does below!
Black Fret believes our local music is art, worthy of the support of our community just as the symphony, opera and ballet have been supported for generations. We are a 501(c)3 public charity whose mission is to support the creation and performance of local music. Since 2013 we have contributed over $3.6 million to the local music economy of Austin, Texas. Learn more or join us at blackfret.org.
As always, SXSW was packed to the brim with introspective panels, incredible showcases, and fun opportunities. And some conversations were less for informational purposes than to just have fun. After all, we’ve all been in some level of quarantine over the past year and seeing people is so different than usual!
That said, we had a few fun panels and experiences to share screenshots and quotes from on our SXSW adventure. Let us present our first edition of “seen + heard @ sxsw 2021.”
If you’re into intricate storytelling that involves a technological future that doubles as a dystopian society, then MADE FOR LOVE is made for you. Lucky enough to view the first few episodes of this upcoming HBO Max gem, this shit kicked off our SXSW 2021 in some type of crazy headspace.
Imagine: A scattered, confusing beginning as a woman hoists herself out of the ground, sopping wet as she splays out on a dry, dusty desertscape. She has escaped a cluster of shiny buildings, which you can see in the background.
Cut to a different time. What looks to be routine morning escapades with the most pretentious man you know, followed by watching him swimming laps with a dolphin in his pool. The man? Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), the owner of a tech company that is pronounced astoundingly familiarly. His advancements in technology seem to be changing the dating landscape, on top of many other big accomplishments in his career. But his empathy, his ability to communicate healthily, is obviously insufficient. Early on, you see a crazy in his eyes that makes you feel like this escape from reality might hit a little closer to our technological home than planned.
But the entirety of that first episode is dedicated to understanding this woman. Who is she? How did she get here? Why is she subject to invasive questions by a creepy algorithm? Why is her life being determined by someone that isn’t her? Why does everything feel cold in this strange, structured world?
The first episode of MADE FOR LOVE will throw you back and forth over a short window of time, a fun way to create mystery in the storyline. I was initially drawn to view the show by the listed cast. How I Met Your Mother fans will rejoice in the knowledge that Cristin Milioti is top-billed as the protagonist, Hazel Green (a naming choice that does not entirely evade us).
And when Ray Romano is introduced as Hazel’s father in a flashback? The unexpected (and somehow necessary) marriage of two favorite moments in pop culture united to create what we are sure will be our favorite television father/daughter duo of all time.
If the last scene of that first episode is any indication, things could get even weirder, too.
Our thoughts? Don’t miss the premiere of Made For Love, April 1 on HBO Max.