Rock 'n' roll??
SXSW never heard of it!
On February 1, I received a manila envelope in the mail. Inside were a few posters promoting the release of the Beat Angels' coming debut album, Unhappy Hour (due out on Epiphany February 27); a demo from said release; and a note scribbled on two soiled, bright-yellow scraps of a Beat Angels gig flier.
The note was dated January 30.
This is what it read:
Hey Michael, here's a couple of posters for ya to toss darts at. Looks like SXSW bent us over the hood of the proverbial flat-tire car again. Fuck 'em, I'm just pissed about the $10 processing fee.
Anyway, we're not a shitty desert jangle combo from Tucson--what were we thinking! The whole thing (SXSW) has proved tobe counterproductive to the spirit of rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll?? Never fuckin' heard ofit!
The note was signed, "Brian" (i dotted with an x instead of a dot).
Evidently, someone--perhaps because his brains are pickled in Jack Daniel's--got my name right on the envelope and wrong on the letter.
I promptly smashed the tape and threw it away, of course.
But I kept the note, for its clear articulation of the same old song most Phoenix bands are left singing every year after acts are announced for the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference held each spring in Austin, Texas. Take a look at the Arizona bands named to perform at SXSW '96. (Note that the Beat Angels are not among them.)
By name and hometown:
Paula Jean Brown, Tucson
The Drakes, Tucson
Friends of Dean Martinez, Tucson
Giant Sand, Tucson
Phunk Junkeez, Phoenix
Dan Stuart, Tucson
Alana Swiddler, Tucson
Trunk Federation, Phoenix
I see a couple of trends here. The first is that it looks like SXSW has a quota on solo artists to fill. The second is more business as usual: Seven of the nine acts are from Tucson.
I'm not making any judgments about that trend at this point--I'm simply observing it. I'll judge it--because the watchmen should be watched--in March in Austin.
But I do have two early comments, off the cuff.
One: Friends of Dean Martinez is a fine choice to represent the Arizona lounge-nation-auxiliary underground; and Two: I would have said the Drakes or Giant Sand, but not both. Though where else is SXSW going to pull its requisite desert rock from but Tucson?
Past that, I know the best band from Tucson I've heard is 35 Summers. I know two things about this group: It rocks, andit's not going to SXSW.
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The ratio of Tucson to Phoenix (Mesa,Tempe, etc.) bands in SXSW '96 is pretty close to how things have shaken out in recent years. In '94, two Phoenix bands were chosen; in '95, none were until, by special arrangement with New Times, the Refreshments were invited to play.
Circumstances seem to support the sneaky suspicion held by so many in the Valley that, where SXSW is concerned, thefix is in for Tucson acts. If it is, bandsfrom here are being robbed of their chance for a Cinderella story--already, three A&R reps have called me about the two Phoenix bands that did make the list this year.
Since proof of a fix remains elusive, I'll just say this: There are some damned good bands from Phoenix that I know applied to SXSWthat I do not see on a list with the names of a lot of Tucson bands that--for the integrity of the conference's sake--had better be just as damned good next month.
And I'm sure they will be.--David Holthouse