Editor’s Note: Co-written by Joe Abbruscato and Devon Christopher Adams.
Our first several days at SXSW, we Echo Cloud photographers and bloggers walked the streets, shooting performances of unknowns and handing out cards hoping to bring people to the Arizona showcases. We ran into Amanda Palmer of The Grand Theft Orchestra and The Dresden Dolls, shot The Airborne Toxic Event, watched Shepard Fairey finish an Obey mural, ate nachos while Maserati melted the faces of Brooklyn Vegan fans, and stayed in the nastiest of motels. We loved every second it. While the highlights are here, we were there for Arizona music.
KWSS radio here in Arizona has a morning show called The Morning Infidelity (TMI) that organized an AZ music showcase at SXSW. They hand-picked the bands who’d perform the Friday showcase and included P.K. Gregory, The Wiley One, Jared & The Mill, Captain Squeegee, Ruca, PALMS, .decker, IAMWE, and KONGOS. The Hickory Street venue had two stages set up and during the evenings housed official SXSW showcases, but AZ music took over the bar and grill all day Friday. From the moment we arrived, we knew this was the real deal. Under the beautiful afternoon skies, the TMI folks handed us our all access badges and gave us full access to the venue to get the best photography, including a hidden interior balcony. Brandon Decker, who drove much of the PA equipment in from Sedona, was on hand to say hello, and the boys from KONGOS hung out with anyone who wanted to chat. P.K Gregory warmed up the restaurant crowd outside while Mick Quinn, husband of Anamieke Quinn (who played all weekend) and sound guy for The Rogue Bar, set up sound throughout the afternoon. Highlights included Ruca who is highlighted with this week’s Phoenix New Times coverage, Jared & The Mill who made a huge hit with fans and music execs alike in Austin, and Kongos who we covered here. Captain Squeegee performed before .decker who still makes us pause and listen a little closer anytime Kelly and Brandon bring their crashing desert soul to a new level.It was a complete and humbling honor to be a part of such an assembly of talented, charismatic, and ballsy folk who made the trek to Austin for the love of the action and the music itself. Bands, fans, friends, promoters, enthusiasts, lunatics and creatures of the spirit alike! We did it right and we traveled in force and number. Something similar may happen again, but it won’t be as rootsy as this. – Brandon Decker
Haley Grigraitis, the heart and soul of Ruca, said “the TMI Showcase really displayed the diversity of our local music community, stylistically blending together what makes the Valley of the Sun such an exciting place to be right now. As a band at SXSW for the first time, we got to cut our teeth playing for a brand new crowd out of state, and it’s all about the experience. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, the whole day was a hit.”
The afternoon, partially sponsored by Four Peak Brewery who sent out cases of beer for patrons to enjoy, rocked into the early evening as people dispersed to evening gigs, showcases, and other antics.
On Saturday, closing out a week of music which left even the most die-hard musicians (and concert photographers) ears’ ringing, Arizona musicians took over the Lucky Lounge en masse near the heart of the Austin festival. The flyer being handed out simply read “Lucky Lounge Saturday,” not mentioning the time of the Splash Artisan showcase. Initially confusing, this was done for a simple reason: Arizona musicians took over the bar all day and night. From door open to door close, we desert-dwellers made Lucky Lounge our basecamp, and it was a great fit. Walking in, we felt as if we had found home. Avery was on hand, as were Captain Squeegee, PALMS, Frequent Kings, Anamieke Quinn, Field Tripp, and of course, our boys from Japhy’s Descent were there the entire day supporting, hanging out, and preparing themselves to turn Lucky Lounge into a rock and roll dance hall. Japhy’s Descent who held the coveted 10pm slot (in rock star time, it’s ideal) had the crowd so pumped that several female audience members danced across the bartop. Between sets, Adam Cost and Mike Boyle kept the party going, playing acoustic between each and every act as equipment was moved, plugged in, unplugged, lugged around, and eventually used as impromptu seating and drink holding.
The highlight of the trip for me was being on the road with the band for the first time and seeing the mutual drive and dedication to our project as well as seeing familiar faces from the first stop to the last stop. -Trevor Hedges, Sundressed
While the bands were all Arizona, the crowd was an awesome mix of people from across the states, pulling in people from Austin (of course), LA, Florida, New York, and damn near every state in between. This falls directly in line with the spirit of SXSW: wander around, discover new music and new friends, and simply enjoy the time you have there. Brian Neil of Japhy’s Descent states it perfectly: “It’s all about networking and putting yourself out there. If you allow the Universe to guide you, come from love and not judgement, then there is no telling what may happen. Just have faith in the journey, and I can guarantee that it will be beautiful.”
From dirty hatchbacks to panel and minivans loaded with gear, plane rides and pedicabs, AZ musicians and photographers, bloggers and fans, tagalongs and passersby did exactly what Brian Neil stated: we let the universe guide us to Lucky Lounge for 14 hours of pure musical bliss. No one had any clue how it would all come together, and that was part of the beauty of SXSW. We let it happen. Open minds, open hearts, and open ears. We locals all know that Arizona music matters. Thanks to back-to-back showcases in the heart of Austin, now so does the rest of the country.