AUSTIN, TEXAS – At least for the Minnesotans in attendance, the South by Southwest Music Conference is still worth the trip and the hassle, despite the rampant proliferation of corporate marketing and mainstream names in what used to be an event driven by indie talent.
“So we’re all here,” Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith deadpanned on stage Wednesday afternoon, after a mention of his hometown drew big cheers at the IFC Fairgrounds — one of countless promotional venues erected on any available downtown lot during the 28th annual music industry mega-fest. Basking in the sunshine at the outdoor gig, the winter-weary Messersmith recalled being described as “the whitest person ever” by a Californian audience member. “I should go outside more,” he concluded.
Dozens of Minnesota bands — Poliça, Sonny Knight & the Lakers, Communist Daughter and the Step Rockets also all had official SXSW showcases Wednesday — joined the 2,500-plus other music acts invading the Texas capital this week looking for attention. The queen of attention-getting, Lady Gaga, was already making the rounds Tuesday night ahead of her keynote speech Friday and her Doritos-sponsored showcase Thursday — admission for which is only being granted to people who complete “bold missions,” such as tweeting their secret love for someone. One option for the hashtag: #TryingTooHard.
Coldplay and Imagine Dragons also crashed the party Tuesday in an iTunes promotional concert. Conversely, Neil Young spoke at the convention center to tout his own new company, Pono, offering portable music players with the high-quality audio that Young believes is sorely lacking in iTunes-style MP3’s.
“This is rescuing music,” Young said. “It’s an artist-driven movement to take it back.”