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SXSW remains one of the best music values in the universe. Austinites have zero travel expenses with the music traveling to them instead. Personally, without trying hard, I heard 56 bands from every continent except Antarctica. To the Antarctic penguin research scientists rocking out in bands at SXSW, be assured the Austin Daze holds no bias against Antarctica, Antarctic bands, or penguins.  The Austin Daze was simply unaware of your Antarctic band’s gig. It should also be noted the 56 band total only includes bands that impressed. Bands were not counted if only “heard” while walking past their gigs en route to better ones. Bands playing at parties where I only stayed for free food and drinks do not count. Even if a band was seen, heard, and helped further my hearing loss; it was not automatically counted. The hearing loss had to be worth it.

Musicians crossed my path from the exotic locales of Chile, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Denmark, Poland, Australia, Israel, Nigeria, Japan, China, Cambodia, and northwestern Oklahoma.  Music from a wide variety of genres is easy to find at SXSW. If you only see one genre at SXSW, you’re just not trying. To think like a label exec for a minute, the 56 acts could be unfairly stereotyped, typecast, and pigeonholed into genres: 8 indie bands, 7 rock groups, 7 funk/soul/r&b acts, 4 punk rockers, 4 jazz artists, 3 hip-hoppers, 3 string bands, 2 psychedelic rock bands, 2 Americana acts, 2 singer-songwriters, 1 folk group, 1 electronic group, 1 big band, 1 New Orleans brass band, 1 Latin band, and 1 Tejano band wearing Mexican wrestling masks. Defying any attempts at genre generalizations, there also was a banjo punkabilly group, a Blaxploitation soundtrack band, and one alt-classical orchestra providing a live soundtrack to a silent film. Some musicians were born in the 90s. Then there was Wanda Jackson, the First Lady of Rockabilly, whose first hit the charts in 1954.  Joining Wanda in the “hey kids – been there, done that” category was Smokey Robinson, Ray Davies from the Kinks, and Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. 

Where genre labels fail at accurately describing music, the band’s instruments paint a better picture: 60 electric guitars (2 Flying Vs!), 8 acoustic guitars, 40 electric basses, 5 upright basses, 47 drum kits, 3 sets of congas, 1 set of tablas, 1 set of timpani drums, 35 keyboards, 2 baby grand pianos, 1 upright piano, 1 keytar (yes keytar!), 18 trombones, 17 trumpets, 15 tenor saxes, 5 baritone saxes, 4 flutes, 1 alto sax, 1 oboe, 1 French Horn, 1 sousaphone, 6 fiddles, 3 violins (there is a difference – and it’s attitude), 3 cellos, 4 accordions,  4 banjos, 2 washboards, 1 mandolin, 1 dobro, 1 lap steel guitar, 1 pedal steel, 1 Theremin, 1 jug, 1 kazoo, 1 set of steel drums, 1 human beat box, and 1 Carolinian playing percussion with cattle bones. Yes, cattle bones. If your band uses cattle bones, it’s best not to leave them on stage next to your guitar. The stage crew may wonder “who ordered ribs?” and toss them in the trash.

People in the mix included 7 female backup singers, 6 rappers, 5 djs, 3 bounce hip hop dancers, 2 R&B dancers wearing knee high stripey socks and white top hats, 1 clogger, only 1 girl with a Mohawk (need more Mohawks next year please), 1 guy working a hockey arena sized smoke machine inside a small bar, 1 stage manager that lost control of a band who wouldn’t stop playing, and 1 band who played three songs after being told “time to stop”.  There was 1 party host who asked “are you a journalist?” after seeing me write notes about the band playing. Yes, notes were taken, the numbers are not made up. The numbers should be between 99% and 102% accurate (depending on my bbq intake for the day).

All this hopping around tested the myth of long lines at SXSW. The myth of long lines is just a myth. Out of 56 shows, only four had any kind of line to deal with. Stubbs attracts long lines, as do a few high profile bands. Otherwise people can safely hop to venue to venue with either badges or wristbands. Only 51 weeks till SXSW 2011!

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