Imagine a station that plays records that are hits now. (5/29a)
Ketchup on a hot dog, yea or nay? (5/29a)
Stats and strategy. (5/24a)
I.B. Bad does the math. (5/24a)
The power from the Tower speaks. (5/22a)
The astonishing first half-century of a world-rocking genre.
Who's next to grow the profile of Seoul music?
Are we about to see new attendance records set?
He signed Elvis.

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I have the distinction of being one of fewer than three people (if that) who have bragging rights regarding perfect attendance at SXSW. That’s 32 uninterrupted years, even though one year consisted of only 36 hours in Austin, before flying back to L.A. to check myself into rehab. Maybe the more impressive statistic is that I’ve been sober for 25 of those 32 SXSWs.

My highlights this year were bountiful, and most of the 30+ artists I saw were exceptional. The deafening buzz on U.K. band Shame (Dead Oceans) is fully warranted—I was gobsmacked (as they say) at their three shows, all of which I loved. Not since Arctic Monkeys made their SXSW debut in 2006 has a new U.K. band made this huge an impression. Judging by the lines outside the venues (thankfully, I’ve never met a line I couldn’t cut into), Billie Eilish (Interscope), Two Feet (Republic), Superchunk (Merge), and the return of Andrew W.K. with a full band were must-see priorities for attendees.

C3’s annual Wednesday night gathering downstairs at Stubb’s is the unofficial launch of SXSW for radio programmers, label reps and artist managers. Our hosts, C3’s Joe Greenwald and Dave Barbis kept everybody happily fed and drunk, while their new clients Mt. Joy played a few songs from their Dualtone debut, including the soon-to-be Modern Rock smash “Silver Lining,” which had us singing along at the top of our lungs. KKDO’s Andy Hawk had this to say about Mt. Joy’s single: “I mean that hook is so massive! It's the kind of hook on a song that should make Mt. Joy a household name. It's the kind of hook that reaches across genres and formats.”

Fueled by three Diet Cokes and a slab of cherry pie (it was 3/14, or Pi day, after all), I went outside to watch Lucy Dacus (Matador) and Superorganism (Domino), both artists proving that the future is, indeed, female. Journalists (which I am not) highlighted mostly female-fronted bands in their SXSW wrap-ups, including Billie, Lucy and Superorganism, as well as Soccer Mommy, Stella Donnelly, Goat Girl, Kitten, In the Valley Below, Bishop Briggs, Starcrawler and Jade Bird.

The latter two artists were acknowledged with the prestigious 2018 Grulke Prize, voted on by SXSW panelists. Starcrawler (Rough Trade), fronted by force-of-nature Arrow de Wilde, was awarded the prize for Developing U.S. Act at SXSW, while Jade Bird (Glassnote), whose audiences grew exponentially with each set she played, was named Developing Non-U.S. Act at SXSW. Brent Grulke, after whom the prize is named, was SXSW’s Creative Director (and friend to all), who passed away in 2012 at the age of 51.

The third of three Grulke prizes is for Career Artist at SXSW, and this year’s winner was none other than Todd Rundgren, whose appearance on my Thursday panel was definitely a career highlight for one of us. I’ve been a Todd super-fan for 40+ years, which is no secret to anybody who has ever met me. I didn’t think he’d agree to be on my annual panel about songwriting, let alone perform a song (Utopia’s “There Goes My Inspiration”) AND a duet with fellow panelist Chris Price on “Bleeding” (from The Ballad of Todd Rundgren) after Chris’ nerves got the better of him and he forgot the words.

Also on the panel were my dear friend Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Matt Lowell from Lo Moon, whose Columbia debut was released last week, and will be unchallenged for my favorite album of 2018. Matthew performed a gorgeous song he had been working on, with lyrics about the need for a songwriter to address BIG IDEAS in this current political climate, while Matt played a solo version “All In” from his band’s debut.

After the panel, Glassnote’s Daniel Glass pulled Todd and me into the frame of his on-camera SXSW.com interview, using us as visual evidence to illustrate his point of never knowing who he’s going to run into in Austin. And oh, the running I did—from Superorganism to IDLES, back across the I-35 to see Shame and Ought, before another jaunt across town with Jonathan Clarke to catch Andrew W.K. So many artists qualified as “must sees”: lovelytheband playing for 101X, Shakey Graves in front of a massive hometown crowd of 20,000 (at least), Lo Moon (3x), Morgan Saint, Slenderbodies, Marlon Williams, Bishop Briggs, In the Valley Below, Todd Rundgren, Chris Price, etc. etc.

Years ago, I started hosting an annual breakfast for women who do promo at indie labels. Unlike me, the original three women’s careers have matriculated beyond promotion, but the tradition has persisted. On Saturday morning, at the unholy hour of 9:00am (lights out at SXSW is rarely before 3:00am), I was thrilled to see (pictured at top of page) Sub Pop’s Michelle Feghali, Merge’s Cecile Duncan, Secretly Canadian’s Bri Aab and Mute’s Caroline Shadood, with special guest Amber Miller (MD at WRFF Philly), join me for caffeine, food, unconstrained conversation and more caffeine. Sisterhood is indeed powerful.

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