As we mentioned last week, the Bay Bridged gang will be heading down to the annual South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) this week, although we’ll have plenty of local music news running while we’re gone. While I’m definitely excited to head to Austin, see a ton of bands, and consume a lot of BBQ and beer, I’m once again at a bit of a loss for how we should cover the fest on this web site.
South by Southwest is perhaps the world’s greatest indie rock buffet, a place where up-and-coming bands and established names converge in an almost-disgusting overflow of music consumption. Typically, I’ll see performances from about 70 bands a year, crossing off a number of names on my Internet-driven list of “bands to see” and even, yes, discovering great new bands I previously wasn’t aware of. In short, the annual SXSW trip has a meaningful impact on how we here view the state of indie music overall.
Despite how much fun it is and how important it is, though, I struggle with the value of SXSW coverage on TheBayBridged.com. Our organization focuses on what’s going on in San Francisco, upcoming Bay Area concerts, the sounds of SF musicians, and issues that impact this scene. South by Southwest is a great opportunity for SF bands to play on an international stage, but it isn’t likely to tell us anything particularly significant about our local scene. Heck, given the environment — short sets by increasingly exhausted/hungover bands in front of increasingly exhausted/hungover/drunk/disinterested audiences — I’m not even sure how “useful” SXSW is overall.
I’m not trying to be a buzzkill, but SXSW, like so many parties, seems on some level like the sort of thing that’s only fun or interesting to the people who are there. To many others, I would imagine, reports of “You should have been there” range somewhere between irritating and irrelevant. So I put it to you: Who cares about South by Southwest? Is there value in posting pictures, videos and other impressions from the festival, if only because we’re likely to be taking them anyway? For attendees, does SXSW ultimately “matter” to how you view music or your impressions of bands? Or is it just an indie rock Spring Break?