Fort by Fort Worth
South by Southwest is like sex or pizza—even when it's bad, it's good, but it often leaves an unseemly taste in your mouth.
I've written about it before, so let's not overwork it, but here's a brief synopsis of the thesis shared by the cynical/grumpy/over-it types (that would be, uh, me) for those who missed the initial rant:
1. SXSW has gotten too big for its britches.
2. It's become an exhausting test of stamina and endurance, rather than a fun way to explore new music.
3. It's a really big mutual industry/journalist/corporate blowjob-fest. Seriously, what the hell do Levi's and Urban Outfitters have to do with rock 'n' roll? What business do I, as a music journalist, have sauntering into the Levi's VIP party? None, but I freely admit I'll do it anyway, because there's free booze and giveaways and slightly better food than you can get at the other parties, which I'll attend because they still have free booze and food and giveaways. Is that shitty? Yes, yes, it is. But we all do it, because everyone knows if you throw a complimentary imported beer and a couple cheese plates at a bunch of music writers, we'll bear your children if need be. That's how they getcha.
4. The people who book the much-heralded panels and keynote speakers have lost their minds. I mean, do we really need an hours-long panel about Nick Freakin' Drake? That sounds about as fun as finding out you have cervical cancer.
5. Not all of this is entirely the fault of the folks behind the conference, nor is it a sweeping indictment of the festival, nor does it mean that SXSW doesn't have its value (see sex and pizza simile above).
What it does mean, however, is that we need to remember there are other resources—ones with less baggage—for indulging in lesser-known bands. In fact, there will be an opportunity this very week, for those few souls who are not braving a journey southbound on Interstate 35, which promises to rival Hurricane Katrina evacuations in terms of highway-cloggin' potential. You might think about sticking around North Texas, folks, because the Ridglea Music Festival will be a little mini-SXSW of its own, all within the friendly atmosphere of the epicenter of the Fort Worth music scene, the Ridglea Theater.
Thursday, March 15, through Sunday, March 18, while everyone else is sweatily racing down Sixth Street, the Ridglea is hosting close to 50 bands—50 bands—many of whom will be fresh off their SXSW gigs. We're talking Eisley, Black Tie Dynasty, Windsor Drive, 1090 Club, Sound the Alarm, These Arms Are Snakes, Panic Division, Great Glass Elevator and Thorn vs. Side, to name just a teeny percentage of the high-quality lineup. Indie rock, metal, straight-ahead rock and all types in between will represent. The shit, as La Stefani might say, will be bananas.
A four-day pass is just 50 bucks (compare to the several hundred dollars you'll pay for a SXSW wristband, which won't get you into any of the big shows anyway, because all those Pitchfork people will have beaten you to it), the atmosphere relaxed and presumably free of vomit. The festivities may not include a keynote speech by Pete Townshend, but the upside is the festivities will not include a keynote speech by Pete Townshend.
Now, let's be clear: SXSW has its worth. I'm not slamming it entirely by any means, nor am I gonna lie and say that its glitz, its mammoth size and its lineup—even on off years—isn't lustrously tempting. SXSW has evolved into this... thing, and it is what it is. I'm just trying to remind us all there are other options, other contexts and other perspectives that apply to enjoying large quantities of music in a short amount of time. And the Ridglea Music Festival is a damn good option.
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