Finally, it’s over. After over a 100 bands, 100 beers, a few tacos, we’re back to the daily grind. The beast that is SXSW is officially behind us now, so we’ll be spending a bit of time highlighting our own individual thoughts on the festival. We’re not trying to inundate you with the next big thing, we just want to recap what we caught. I’m on first! Read More
I would love to say that I’m ready for next week, but in reality, my brain and body can never be fully ready for what’s about to take place. To help myself, and you faithful readers, ease a little of the stress coming our way, we’ve got another artist preview coming your way. As always, we’ll tell you a bit about the bands and also post shows we see listed. Follow the jump for more.
So close! Yet we’re so far away. Okay, not really…SXSW is officially upon us, and shows are sprouting up all over the place. Personally, I’m freaking out. So many incredible bands that I want to see for the first time, and so many more that I would gladly see a hundred times over. Here’s a list of a few acts that I haven’t actually caught yet, so I’ll be seeing them for the first time…SXSW is the first time to lose your band cherry. Read More
My picks for stuff to see is based solely on random selection, what I heard recently that caught my ear while perusing the intarwebs and names that I am happy to see on the list of showcasing artists. SxSW is like that; follow your folly. You will always miss something. You will always hear about some big thing that you can’t go to. So ,take a chance with me and the ATH IT Dept. and dance a little, because I am going digitally affected for my list. Read More
Well, it’s that time of year again; your liver hurts just thinking about it, and your Excel program has never seen so much action since Windows 98 first came out. Let’s put all that anxiety aside and concentrate on some really rad bands that are going to be making it our way in the next few weeks. These are three of the bands I’m most excited about seeing, and I have a feeling that I’ll see one or more of them at least twice…I’m just that guy.
More shows are popping up by the day. Keep your ears to the Internet for the coolest party info.
It’s SXSW time again, and I’m already overloaded with party emails, bands needing shows, and the multitude of band submissions that are come our way this time of year. Another thing I’ve always noticed, is the multitude of sites offering their very own “SXSW Guide”, “SXSW Survival Tips”, or some other mumbo jumbo to that extent. Well today ATH is jumping into that game with our very own SXSW rules to live by. Now this isn’t your typical list, as we always try to tell it like it is despite who we may piss off. So stop RSVPing to all of those parties and check out the ATH guide to not screwing this up. Follow the jump for more.
1. Forget Those RSVPs
This has got to be the most frustrating and pointless trend that ever found its way into the brains of many an idiot all over America. Your RSVP means nothing to anyone other than a free email address for shameless self promoters who plan to spam the shit out of you for months to come. The ATH crew has spent the last several years not RSVPing to a single thing, and we’ve never been turned away from a show. Stop being stupid and end the dumbassery now. We will stand united! I. Hate. RSVPs.
2. Don’t plan too much/burn your schedule
Stop planning out your day like you’re some 80 year old man with a laminated index card planning out his first trip to Branson. This is supposed to be fun, and the more time you spend pouring over every little detail and making excel spreadsheets, the more your friends will hate you (and you’ll hate yourself). The night before, or the morning of, find a show with some bands that looks interesting, get there, and see where the day takes you. We all have smartphones that can pull up show schedules if your mind changes. Your best memories will be made when you burn that schedule and go with the flow of the day.
3. Don’t chase free “swag”
Last I checked, I’ve got 100s of free Sweet Leaf sunglasses, Titos bandanas, and XL t-shirts for the next big internet startup crammed in the bottom of my sock drawer. This also means you shouldn’t go chasing free booze either because it’s usually going to be cheap vodka that tastes like it was distilled in a funky shoe and WILL make you vomit. Also be very leery of those “free booze” advertisements because, 75% of the time, that means something like they’ve got 1 free beer for the first 100 guests. I just turned 30, have a decent job, and I don’t really need to chase around free shit like I’m a broke 22 year old college student. If you are in fact a broke college student, well by all means.
4. Better yet, don’t use the word “swag”. Ever.
Along with RSVPs, another trend that needs to go to a dark place and die. It sounds like a new vocabulary word for loose women. I can’t wait for the emails I’m about to get…
5. Don’t buy a wristband, it’s not worth it.
I still don’t get this. Can someone please explain to me why this makes sense? What are these things for? Please, please, please save your money and don’t buy into this scam. People, we live in Austin, and we can see a lot of these bands during the year, so this total waste of money has never made any sense to me whatsoever. If you need a further explanation into this, please shoot us an email and we’ll get into it.
6. Stay hydrated
Carry around some Emergen-C to start your day and drink some water in between all that booze. As soon as you make fun of me for acting like your parents, you’ll be the one passed out in the Waterloo parking lot.
7. Wear comfortable shoes
Forrest Gump knows best. He wasn’t a very smart man, but he knew the importance of comfortable shoes. You will be walking a lot, and while those 6 inch stilletos look real fine, you’re going to break your ankle skank. This also goes for general clothing that you have no business wearing in March. Really, a fur coat?
8. Carry a “survival kit”
Our Friends at Bloggy Limits have a good one to get you started. Most seasoned veterans understand the importance of always being prepared. Many of these items can fit in your pockets so you don’t have to carry around a bag all day.
9. People Watch
One of my fondest memories of SXSW was sitting at the door of Shang-ri-la with one of my buddies who was checking IDs. I watched people try to haul in cases of beer, flasks down their pants, and even a few people tried to walk in topless. SXSW turns your average Austinite into a crazy asshole for one week and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life.
10. Steer clear of the “huge shows”.
“BIGGEST SHOW EVER” “WHAT WHAT “. “If you aren’t here, you suck”. Exclusivity and the pretense of exclusivity does not a good show make. I understand that we as human beings want to feel like we belong to something, but if what you’re belonging to is a crock of shit, well I don’t know what to tell ya.
Clearly this is just the opinion of a select few here at ATH so you are free to disagree and offer your own opinions in the comments section. I could probably go on to make a list of 100 do’s and dont’s during SXSW, but I just don’t have that kind of time. If you’d like to know where we’re headed everyday, follow us on Twitter, we’ll keep ya posted, and maybe even buy you a non skunky beer. We love SXSW, and we just want everyone to enjoy it as much as us. Don’t screw this up.
We ATH crew are here to make sure you don’t completely screw up this whole SXSW thing and hate yourself for doing so. Now we realize that every website in the nation shares some musical advice on the festival itself, but we like to think that we can offer you our opinions in condensed, easy to read versions. Our policy has always been to only post things we like, and we promise to continue doing that. We’ll be spending the next week or so fulfilling our promise with some SXSW artist to watch, 3 at a time. I’ll start things off today by telling you a bit about 3 bands I deem worthy of your time. Follow the jump for more.
For current show postings, keep in mind that it’s still early and many shows have yet to be announced. We will post what we can find at this point. Read More
Jason Hicks and team may just save The Austin Music Hall, the venue we love to hate. It is the venue with the space to handle everything from deadmau5 to Morrissey. It is the venue making the downtown bridge between the Erwin Center (theater seating chart) and ACL Live or Stubb’s. It is a very important venue in that it can handle a large stage show for a demanding audience. But up until now, it has been a bit of a nightmare.
Bad sound, weird management, odd color schemes – you name it, AMH had the issues that made it easy to cringe when you found out your favorite mid-level headliner played there. Fortunately, the team that brought you all of the cool shows and festivals at Seaholm Power Plant found their way into changing things. I randomly met Jason at non-music people party. He is big part of The Electric Company that managed those events and has now found a new way to get you the jams you love.
I asked Jason several questions about The Music Hall, past, present and future, as well as some random goodness about the scene…
ATH: Do you miss Seaholm?
Jason: Sure I do. We went way back, both with Rare and the shows with Electrico and as a fan of the space before. That room could make any event better just because of the mystique. I always knew it was a finite resource, though, and the city never wanted to be in the venue business so it was increasingly an uphill battle to use the space. I take some solace in the fact that once developed there will be 2 outdoor venues (a 2000+ cap lawn facing ladybird lake, and an ~800 person lawn/market area under the smokestacks for events. There’s even potential for an indoor venue in the retail mix if the right person comes along. Of course it won’t be the dingy steam punk affairs that we used to enjoy but that was never to be a long term deal so I am glad I got to play in there while I could.
ATH: How did the group come together to pull Austin Music Hall up off the floor?
Jason: I found out through friends and business contacts and didn’t really think twice about it. I had been a big critic of the room in the past and like many, was disappointed in it never living up to what we had hoped the rebuild would bring. I guess my name was thrown in the mix because I was invited to lunch to talk about the Music Hall which I basically approached as “if it were me, this what I would do” to turn it around. Before 15 minutes had gone, we went from giving opinions to discussing real opportunities to step in. I had to step away and really dive into the problems. I spent hours and hours reading abysmal yelp reviews and asking everyone I knew their thoughts but instead of getting down on the room further, I came to the conclusion that all of the problems were fixable. Then I imagined Austin without a room of AMH’s size and thought it would be the biggest disappointment of all to lose the space and see the building repurposed.
ATH: How about a summary of the improvements? Any funny stories found? Weird history in the walls? What do you think the biggest single impact to the venue to the fans?
Jason: A lot of general maintenance was done. A lot. First and foremost, was taking care of a rampant rodent problem. Then, servicing the AC and Heating, plumbing, bar infrastructure, cosmetic improvements like painting the entire venue from the dated orange and green scheme to a neutral and modern gray spectrum. Also, out went the exposed pine wood paneling and beer neons and in its place was a new logo design centerpiece and LCD menu boards. I felt like event planners were always working against the room and I wanted to create an environment that they could work with and bring in their own color schemes. Then we started on back of house. Along with the help of local designer, Kelly Laplante, we redesigned all 3 artists suites with a music themed overhaul making the venue a little more friendly to road weary bands. On the tour manager and promoter side, we added hard lines for phones and upgraded the high speed internet so business managers could be more productive while in the space. Most of this all done on an inconceivable time line to try and give President Obama a worthy venue for his campaign visit in July.
On the day of his visit we uncovered a plumbing problem we didn’t know the source of, unfortunately there was some pretty foul smelling gray water bubbling out of the ground right where the president’s car was pulling up in the alley. We were given 30 mins to find the source or secret service was considering canceling the visit. Talk about pressure. luckily we dug to find the source quickly that was a sink that had never been connected to city sewage and thus had 5 years of funky water built up in it. Led by Ops mgr, Scott Davidson, we fixed, sanitized, and mulched the area within the hour and the the grand reopening was saved.
Above all else of course was the acoustic remediation. When we painted the venue we pulled down the previous acoustic panels to find sheet rock with residential grade fiberglass wrapped in cloth, basically a prop and hardly a sound treatment. We were actually relieved to find this because Damon Lange with Nomad sound had spent a fair amount of time mapping the room to execute the remediation and his findings were not making much sense. Once we realized the room was completely untreated the solution became much clearer.
Nomad engineered and hung over 63 sound baffling panels throughout the venue to complete phase one of the sound plan. There are plans to go back and do more like the ceiling, under the stage and elsewhere but we wanted to see what kind of impact we had made with the first round. The calendar only had EDM shows on it for the next few months (not the best indicator of acoustics in a venue) but finally in November we had a real snare drum (the true test) when Noel Gallagher and Snow Patrol played and this former critic was impressed. Sure it didn’t sound like a cathedral just yet but it was a viable rock venue comparable to most venues of it’s stature. We are looking forward to dialing in some of the other issues in the year ahead but we had come a long way in just 6 months.
ATH: How is the scope of the venue’s booking going to change under your guidance?
Jason: Well the booking landscape of Austin has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Historically Austin would get it’s fair share of routed tours coming through Texas. Nowadays, we are feast or famine. While the amount of bands that can fill AMH are plentiful, they are all here simultaneously during SXSW, ACL, Fun Fun Fun, and now adding F1 to the mix just means the window for booking the level of bands that can play here means you have what’s leftover after all of those national events. Therefore it was clear to me that trying to pay the bills on concerts alone wouldn’t keep the place around very long and the booking competition for those scraps was one of the reasons the venue was underutilized. So my strategy with booking shows is just to leave it to those who do it best. Walking in and putting a flag in the ground to build a booking footprint was not in the best interests of the venue so I went hat in hand to every promoter in town telling of my plans and asking them to consider us for shows. Some were reluctant but are coming around, others liked the approach from the get go and we are building strong partnerships as an independent venue open to all promoters.
So back to paying the bills… It is my goal to have between 2-4 concerts a month in the venue but I am hoping to book 150-200 events per year, therefore, while I am yielding the rock shows to the outside promoters, I would focus on event planners, private events, conferences, churches, and anything that needed a flexible space for 300-3500 to fill between 50-70% of the calendar.
ATH: I loved seeing Motorhead at AMH during SxSW a few years back. Any hints for surprises at SxSW in the works?
Jason: What I’ve seen tossed around is pretty good but everything sxsw related is all tentative but I have been assured the venue will again be treated as a headlining space. I am very much looking forward to hosting the Austin Music Awards so we can get the press and the writers in as well as those who’ve been going to AMH for over 20+ years a chance to see the place (assuming they weren’t at Bassnectar). We will be an official venue Thursday and Friday and we will host the Perez Hilton Party on Saturday which will be open to the pubic and is always well-booked.
ATH: I know you have your hands in a few festivals, Psyche Fest probably the next big project you have underway. Any morsels to share? We are all excited about the new venue. Can you share challenges of going to the field by the river?
Jason: Most of the good secrets have been shared with the addition of Billy Gibbon’s Moving Sidewalks, and the announcement of on-site camping. There’s a few more late additions coming but everything you need to know is already there if you are a fan of any of the bands or the genre. Psych fest has always been a perfect festival to include camping, the Reverberation Appreciation Society have just been smart to scale up and grow naturally rather than force the issue. The ranch was an option last year but the land was still pretty raw as was the idea. I think the goal was to always take that step this year. It’s a great plot of land I think you are going to see utilized a lot more in the coming years, I am excited to get in there first from a large event perspective. As far as challenges go, you work with what opportunities the land gives you in an effort to enjoy the natural beauty. Luckily there is a lot of space and a lot of options. Safety is always the biggest concern. We want everyone to have fun and make it home safe so we plan to have a well planned fest that can grow at our newly selected site. It will surprise most people that they are so secluded just 7 miles from downtown.
ATH: Ticketmaster’s CAPTCHA – worst thing ever? Happy to see it go? Any wishlists for the future of booking and ticketing?
Jason: I hate all captchas. It really doesn’t keep out the people cheating the system and taking the tickets out of hands of fans. I’m for more fan friendly stuff and keeping fees reasonable meaning a small percentage based fee rather than an arbitrary monopoly fee. As a venue operator, I now see the other side and need for things like “Facility Maintenance Fees” (they aren’t just BS) I just hope that fees go down along with the ease and more affordable technology. Not really your question but I know ticket stubs will one day be a thing of the past. That’s something I’ll miss but it’s natural progression. Glad I have a chest full of them to peruse when I’m ancient.
ATH: Where do you like to saddle up when you get your jams on? Favorite show of the last twelve months?
Jason: We have a good crew that makes an annual jaunt to bonnaroo (regardless of who’s playing) Its an exceptionally well dialed in festival far enough from home that I don’t have any work ties to it (anymore). It’s nice to take off the production hat every now and then and just remember what drew me to this career in the first place. I can also usually be found downing grilled oysters at the wine tent at Outside Lands in SF. Being a small business owner and father of 3 I don’t get to make many local shows that aren’t work related these days but The Parish is always the place I feel most at home. Hopefully some day I will be able to execute all the ideas I have for AMH to make it my favorite home venue. We shall see.
So how is that for wicked honesty? I should be shooting Morrissey next week so I will bring you more about the changes with the show review. Tickets are still available and Crystal Castles is right around the corner. and after meeting Jason and getting to know him and feeling his enthusiasm for the venue’s future, I believe the Music Hall will suck no more. We need this sized venue to succeed.
Image courtesy Electrico, Diana M. Lott.