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Last year it was the Beastie Boys’ private show at Stubbs, this year it was Public Enemy at Town Lake. South-By was delivering.
WHEELS & DEALS:
RODEL’S SXSW DIARY
Bands, parties, booze and BBQ—South-By continues to deliver
By Rodel Delfin

WEDNESDAY (3/14): SXSW’s music festival has officially started with day one already in the books. This year’s confab will be particularly challenging for yours truly considering our knee surgery last week. [Ed. Note: Wah, wah, wah.] But after getting off our short stint on crutches, we aim to tackle Austin armed with our trusty cane and plenty of painkillers.

Our Wednesday morning flight out of LAX was fairly uneventful, but considering it’s typically the industry-filled flight from L.A. to Austin, we noticed the reduced number of A&R execs present and a larger proportion of label marketing folks instead. In past years, this flight contained a who’s who of West Coast A&R, but the reduced numbers were glaringly apparent. Once in Austin, we checked into the Four Seasons and then headed to Iron Works BBQ, where we ran into Epic’s Pete Giberga and Mike Flynn, and dined with attorney Brian Schall and Big Champagne guy/former Wheels editor Joe Fleischer, as we munched on some tasty brisket.

After an afternoon of meetings, returning e-mails and phone calls back at the hotel, we headed with some friends to Mexican restaurant Manuel’s to stop by the Chrysalis Music dinner to say hello to Chrysalis U.K. players Jeremy LaScelles and Allison Donald, as well as Chrysalis U.S. Prexy Kenny MacPherson and A&R execs Jamie Cerreta and Sara Kapuchinski.

After a number of margaritas, our crew hopped on a couple pedicabs (we love those bicycle-driven rickshaws) and headed to Spiro’s for our first show of the night, newly signed Atlantic act Georgia. Also present in the packed room were publishing reps from EMI, Chrysalis, Universal, Sony Music, BMG Music and Cobalt, since the band’s pub is still open.

Our crew then headed to the ASCAP showcase at the Dirty Dog Bar, where we hoisted a few more with ASCAP’s Tom DeSavia, Harry Poloner, Jennifer Knoepfle, Jason Silberman and Margaret Spoddig. Lots of weasels holding court to check out Bat for Lashes, garnering a big buzz for the night, as well as the other acts on the bill—The Futurists, To Live and Die in L.A., White Rabbits, Audrye Sessions, Trainwreck Riders and Zico Chain.

We caught a few other shows in between, but stayed primarily at ASCAP, where we ran into a number of label folks, including Sire prexy Michael Goldstone, Jive’s Jeff Fenster, Hollywood’s Allison Hamamura, American’s Antony Bland, Capitol’s Louie Bandak and Immortal’s Happy Walters, who was hanging with Island’s Paul Pontius, which was a nice surprise. We made a quick stop to the Nonstop Riot party on Congress afterwards, then hopped on a pedicab (whoever created this thing is a genius!) back to our hotel.

THURSDAY (3/15): Yeah, we had a tough time getting up this morning. Last night, our knee was throbbing by the end of the evening and the 750 mg vicodin pill we took after drinking four margaritas throughout the night alleviated some of the pain. But later, the combo put us way over the edge. It probably wasn’t a good idea. And to our friend who happen to slip us the vike (and you know who you are), thanks for looking out even though it made us want to puke our guts out. We promise to deliver on the percocet in return…

Our day started with an invite to Iron Works BBQ with Island’s Paul P—who can refuse more brisket? Inside, we were happily greeted by producer manager Bennett Kaufman (who was kind enough to give up his booth) and Daylight/Sony Music A&R guy Evan Lipschutz. Also chompin’ on some BBQ at the table next to us were attorneys Tim Mandelbaum and Monika Tashman, dining with Morningwood manager Eddie Applebaum. We headed back to the Four Seasons for a catch-up meeting with Sire prexy Michael Goldstone and were pleasantly interrupted by Mr. Fred Davis, who walked over to say hello. At the table next to us was Fenway RecordingsMark Kates with what looked like a few members of the band Foreign Islands, who were engaged in conversation with a couple label A&R reps. Our afternoon included meetings with a few more East Coast A&R dudes. The Four Seasons lounge was not crowded at all, but it made for a productive location to have a sit-down with folks. However, it reinforced something that we pointed out a few years ago—the Driskill Hotel is now the schmooze spot.

Our early evening was spent at the traditional Davis, Shapiro, Lewit & Hayes shindig. The party was packed as usual, but once again, we noticed the reduced number of A&R executives present. The A&R casualties over the past couple years were definitely felt at this year’s confab, which led us to wonder, who were the rest of these people attending this party? However, the DSLH event is always appreciated, and we’re glad to see that there’s a spot to see the creative community (i.e., A&R folks, music publishers, producers and managers) all socializing in one place. Kudos to Fred Davis, Peter Lewit, Steve Shapiro and Danny Hayes for maintaining a little of the old South-By that we’re familiar with. An overwhelming comment that we were getting from lots of label folks was that the conference has changed over the past few years, becoming more of a launching pad for emerging-signed acts and media/product brands.

After the DSHL get-together, it was on to an evening of shows, our first stop was Emo’s Jr. for N.Y. buzz act Ra Ra Riot. Then we stopped by Club de Ville for the BMI showcase to catch the Envy Corps, Cage the Elephant, which numerous label reps were checking out, and E>K>U>K. We made a quick pit stop to Exodus for the Sire showcase before hopping on over to the Beauty Bar Patio to catch Foreign Islands, who played for a packed crowd. We caught a couple songs and then headed over to the Beauty Bar club for margaritas and some tap dancing with my cane. Then we headed to the Austin Convention Center for The Bravery’s set. Meanwhile, an act that lots of A&R folks were talking about was the Gallows, but are they available in the U.S.? We closed out the evening with a stop at the Pure Volume party.

FRIDAY (3/16): We didn’t go overboard Thursday night, and we were enjoying some sound sleep until we were awakened by soundcheck for the BMI Brunch on the Four Seasons back lawn. We checked out the early morning party. It was packed, and it was nice to get some coffee and catch up with plenty of industry folks. Among the hundreds on the lawn conversing over tea and crumpets were BMI’s Hanna Pantle, who video punk’d some label folks, Windswept’s Todd Parker, Island’s Will Westfall, Columbia’s Maureen Kinney, Roadrunner’s David Bason, Leftwing’s Steven Melrose, Warner/Chappell’s Stephanie St. Gal de Pons, artist manager Michelle Abreim, A&R guy Tom Morris, attorney Michelle Saifer and Artist Arena’s Debra Herman. Afterwards, we headed over to the hotel’s café restaurant for a pre-panel lunch to sit down with the cast of characters who were participating on our Saturday A&R panel. New relationships and contacts are what South-By is all about. Last year, Capitol Records Group A&R VP David Wolter and super-producer Howard Benson both participated on our panel. Apparently, they had never met before until then. The connection led to them working together on an album months later. Hey Howard, where’s our commission on that?

More afternoon meetings for us, including a sit-down with indie attorney Dave Stein and an office visit to Capitol Sports & Entertainment to meet with George Couri. If you haven’t heard of CSE, they not only produce the Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza festivals, but also have a sports and entertainment representation division. Clients include Lance Armstrong, Blues Traveler, Jack Ingram and Ben Kweller. After the meeting, we were walking through the Four Seasons parking lot when we were stopped by Secret Service and instructed to take an alternate route back to the hotel entrance. Was it a brown thing? Apparently Hillary Clinton’s tour bus was sitting nearby with plenty of Secret Service guarding it. We heard Hillary stopped by Austin to catch Peter Bjorn and John’s set at the Austin Convention Center later that night (ha-ha)…

Our Friday evening started with a dinner at Fleming’s Steak House that we co-hosted with barristers Todd Rubenstein and Nick Sciorra. EMI’s Dan McCarroll stopped by early to say hello. Sitting down for dinner was Redbull/Grace Marketing’s Greg Hammer, Suretone’s Andrew Freston, Sony/ATV’s Jonathan Gottlieb, ChrysalisSara Kapuchinski, Capitol Records Group’s Louie Bandak, Universal’s Shep Goodman, attorney Brian Schall, BMI’s Myles Lewis and BMI U.K.’s Nick Robinson.

The steak and company were great. There were even some political debates as well as some bets placed on Democratic/Republican candidates. We’re down for Hillary and Bill, but we’re feeling Giuliani may get the gig.

After dinner, BMI’s Myles Lewis and I hopped on a pedicab to catch the Public Enemy show at the Dew Music Festival at Town Lake. BMI was a co-sponsor so we had VIP hook-ups. We got backstage and were greeted by Wil-Dog from Ozomatli, who was the opening act. We were all stoked to see the legendary group perform. We watched Chuck-D, Flava Flav and crew work the 10,000+ crowd from a perch at the side of the stage. It definitely made our night and was one of those moments where we both appreciated being in this biz. Last year it was the Beastie Boys’ private show at Stubbs, this year it was Public Enemy at Town Lake. South-By was delivering.

Afterwards, yours truly caught a few more shows including the Faint’s show for the SESAC showcase at Eternal and Earl Greyhound’s show at Friends. We then headed to the Driskill for the Indie 103.1 party, where Brent Bolthouse and Danny Masterson were hosting. We had a few cocktails at the Driskill lounge first, which was packed, and we figured would be more happening than the Four Seasons. We proceeded to the party on the second floor. The open bar was cool and the party was fun, but it felt a little too much like L.A. Seeing Kirsten Dunst hanging out and Cisco Adler on the dance floor, it didn’t feel like we were in Austin anymore. But hey, like we said, we had fun. When the soiree ended around 3 a.m., a few of the younger A&R reps we were with wanted to keep the party going. And someone suggested hitting Sugar’s Uptown Cabaret, which is an old South By haunt. But the overwhelming enthusiasm ended when the group split up to catch cabs. We head back to our hotel.

SATURDAY (3/17): Our last day. At this point we are burnt and looking forward to going home later today. But before that, we had a panel to moderate. With all the parties going on, we were a little uncertain about what the turnout was going to be this year and were pleasantly pleased to see a full room. The topic this year was “Making Hit Records.” Our panel consisted of three record producers (David Bendeth, Brian Howes and Mike Flynn) and three major label A&R executives (Roadrunner’s Ron Burman, Warner Bros.Craig Aaronson and Interscope’s Mark Williams). The group shared their insight on the record-making process and the challenges of maintaining the artist’s creative integrity with the label’s commercial needs, which at times leads to conflict. The panel had an impressive resume that included the following acts: My Chemical Romance, Hinder, Gwen Stefani, the Fray, No Doubt, Nickelback, Smashing Pumpkins, the Used, Breaking Benjamin and Hawthorne Heights, among others. The panelists bonded during our lunch the previous day, and it showed as they tackled the questions smoothly and intelligently from the audience. Once again, we give thanks to SXSW’s Andy Flynn for inviting us to participate this year.

We headed for the airport in the afternoon, leaving the Saturday night reporting to our South-By colleague Jeff Leven, who has been doing an amazing job with his daily dispatches. And so we bid adieu to another installment of SXSW. The conference is changing, as the major label world changes and adapts as well. It is still an amazing event and for many of us continues to be the music industry’s spring break.

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