Scene & Heard

Go west!

Boston bands invade Austin for South by Southwest festival

SXSW veteran Audrey Ryan. SXSW veteran Audrey Ryan. (Marcus Sabini)
By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / March 11, 2011

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It almost doesn’t seem fair, does it? For nearly a week, hundreds of bands descend on Austin, Texas, for what is officially called the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (colloquially shortened to “South-by’’) to play and see tons of music, drink lots of free beer, and scarf down barbecue. But here is the hard part: They are ostensibly supposed to get something constructive out of the experience. And remember it!

As with past years, dozens of Boston-area bands will be there in force. Why, at both Thursday’s and Saturday’s Blurt/Second Motion day parties at the Gingerman Pub alone, five of Boston’s finest — Kingsley Flood, Mean Creek (Thursday), the David Wax Museum, Muck and the Mires, and Girls Guns and Glory (Saturday) — will rub elbows and amps with the likes of the Mekons’ Jon Langford and X’s Exene Cervenka.

The Berklee College of Music, meanwhile, throws down next Friday at Friends, with alumni bands Aloud, Art Decade, and Stereo Telescope, and musicians from the student-run record label, Heavy Rotation. The local Midriff Records label cohosts a five-Boston-band-bill Thursday at Momo’s; and post-rock instrumentalists Caspian headline a Mylene Sheath label showcase Friday at Valhalla, along with fellow Boston bands Junius and Lavinia. Get the idea?

With all of this music (go to for a complete schedule of events), and so many choices to be had, we reached out to some of the musicians who have bravely descended into the madness, played, partied, and lived to tell about it. We asked them to share their memories, experiences, and strategies for 2011. Other bands, meanwhile, are making their first trek to Austin, so we wondered what they hope to get from their stay in Texas. Here is some of what everybody had to say.

“I once went to this party way out in the Austin city limits with a couple of other Boston musicians, and we got kicked out of the party and ended up at this tiny little roadhouse. When we went in, there were maybe five people there. We had our guitar cases with us and the bartender was like, ‘Why don’t you just play?’ So we set up and played all night. It was fantastic.’’ — Jake Brennan of Bodega Girls

“By far my most memorable moment was getting kicked out of my own showcase for doing a handstand on broken glass. To this day, I’m still very proud and very embarrassed.’’ — Chris Warren of Viva Viva

“I’ve been a bunch of times, always a total blur. Favorite memories . . . watching Chris [Warren] insult [Brian Jonestown Massacre’s] Anton Newcombe to his face just for the hell of it.’’ — Dave Vicini of Viva Viva

“We toured down to SXSW last year for the first time. Amazing experience. The most memorable part was waiting in line to check in at the festival and seeing GWAR in full costume walk by with Starbucks coffees in their hands . . . definitely a ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment.’’ — Ward Hayden of Girls Guns & Glory

“The best thing would have to be the music everywhere. The worst thing would have to be the music everywhere.’’ — Tom Korkidis of Eksi Ekso

“I’m pretty well aware of what is myth and what is reality. Too many ambitious hipster musicians in one place. It’s like the worst parts of Brooklyn and LA puked in the middle of Texas. Makes you wonder what part of it’s about music and what part of it is about dressing in tight jeans and pretending you’re important.’’ — Audrey Ryan, singer-songwriter

“Muck and the Mires have played SXSW every year since 2006. Our most memorable part was opening for the New York Dolls and getting to hang out with [singer] David Johansen and [guitarist] Sylvain Sylvain. The best and worst thing is the sheer size of the event. For every great act you get to watch, you are simultaneously missing another great act across town.’’ — Evan Shore of Muck and the Mires

“Our main focus when we go down is playing as much as possible [because] you get to be in an environment unlike any other. The most disappointing thing about it [is] that the focus has been taken off unknown [and] unsigned bands, which I thought was what it was all about. The focus now seems to be on already established bands. . . . That being said, it’s still a great place to communicate with the rest of the music world.’’ — Chris Keene of Mean Creek

“This will be our first foray into the gem that is Austin. We’re playing at least four shows this year on two separate days and at least 43 street corners at any time possible. All we want to do is play hard. We expect to come home with an acoustic guitar much more beat up than it already is. As far as we know, we hail from the only town that perfectly rhymes with Boston. There’s no Fostin, is there?’’ — Naseem Khuri of Kingsley Flood

“[We’re] looking forward to seeing old friends from around the country who we’ve met from touring, but due to distance, rarely see anymore. If you can find fault in a week of thousands of bands descending on a warm climate and playing for you, mostly for free, you are a nitpicker and a dingbat.’’ — Cameron Keiber of the Beatings; cofounder, Midriff Records

“We’ve never been to the festival before, so we’re super pumped to play this year. We’ve heard a lot of great things. The best [thing about SXSW]? Free music/food/beer. Worst? Driving 17 hours for it.’’ — Brendan Cooney, Ryan Cooney, Dave Mozdzanowski, and Shea Brennan of the Gallery

“It’ll be our first time [and] we’re hoping to meet some of the Austin-based son jarocho community.’’ — Suzanne Slezak and David Wax of David Wax Museum

“I’m really looking forward to seeing all of my Boston friends. Excepting [a] short break we took in January, we’ve been on the road for months and haven’t seen much of them. It seems half of Boston is descending on Austin.’’ — Henry Beguiristain of Aloud

“I’m open to check out a bunch of bands I’ve been meaning to see for years now and hopefully meet a lot of them. [Also], I’m getting me some of that famous Texas beef I’ve heard so much about.’’ — Jen de la Osa of Aloud

“This is Mystery Roar’s second year in existence and our maiden voyage to Texas. Some of us have been to SXSW before either as performers or attendees. We have one official showcase [‘Boston to Austin,’ March 17 at the 512 Bar] and several unofficial showcases lined up, [so] we will definitely have the best of both worlds — a chance to show off our tunes in an official setting and a chance to get down and dirty into the wee hours. [First order of business in Austin?] We are gonna change into our shorts.’’ — Tia Carioli of Mystery Roar

Jonathan Perry can be reached at