SXSW – Tracing Charlottesville in the Global Indie Music Scene

Austin, TX
March 18-22, 2009

After missing a flight and hitching a ride from Dallas, Wendy and I finally made it to South by South West, an indie music festival in Austin where she followed several of her dissertation informants (Thao, Asobi Seksu, Airborne Toxic Event…) and I followed my field sites, the local scenes of Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia, as they were represented there. Richmond sent one act – Hot Lava, and Charlottesville sent three – Parachute (formerly known as Sparky’s Flaw), Invisible Hand, and the locally brewed beer Starr Hill. Parachute and Hot Lava, both signed bands, were off limits to me without the $100+ ticket. Starr Hill, looking for “support on the ground” was selling low at $2 a bottle. And its brand was integrated into the landscape of Emo’s. SXSW is one place where indie and corporate overlap without the pretense of tension.

Still there were plenty of free shows and free beer as musicians and artists tapped into the massive crowds of avid listeners. I walked down a (very) long hot dusty road to find Invisible Hand who had rented the Pelican and supplied their own keg of Longhorn in a show dedicated to awesome dads. They rocked out under turquoise walls and fake crystal chandeliers for an audience of Austinites and (ex)-Charlottesvillians who convened there.