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MKE at SXSW: ‘artistic heaven’

South by Southwest – the mega festival of music, film, interactive media and, oh yeah, conferences – just wrapped up in Austin, Texas.

Lots of local talent was there reppin’ the 414.

What’s it like to play SXSW? We interviewed three local artists who performed there this year – WebsterX, Lex Allen and Tommy Shears of The Living Statues.

Below are excerpts of our discussions.

What does SXSW mean to an artist?

WebsterX: SXSW isn't a festival where you can easily explain just what it is. It incorporates a lot of different things. It’s also a film, interactive festival for one week and then another week it’s a music festival.

So you got two different things right there. There are a lot of different tech companies coming through there. But overall, to a musician, SXSW is a festival in which there are multiple venues, bars, platforms and stages in which artists unofficially and officially are being booked.

So, there are two different categories you can be put into. You can be an “unofficial” artist or an “official” artist.

Unofficially, its kind of like you are from Omaha, Nebraska and you are about to go down there play a couple shows. There is still a chance some industry people and bigger acts will be there to see your show and stuff like that.

Lex Allen: SXSW is basically a big arts convention because it’s not only about the music, it’s about film and just new innovations. And there are all these panels that people go learn things about. It’s just an artistic heaven.

Tommy Shears (The Living Statues): It was a total bonding of strangers and I loved it.

Describe your experience as “unofficial” vs. “official”

WebsterX: My first two years going down I was “unofficial.” But this year I was “official.” When you are unofficial, you are still booked, but people throwing unofficial showcases book you. So these showcases, you don't know how many people are going to be there. It could be from 10 to 100 to whatever. There are big unofficial showcases and small ones. But for official showcases, most of the time you are promised at least a good crowd.

Lex Allen: I had my two showcases through Red Gorilla Fest so I was not an official artist but I did perform with WebsterX and his official showcase. We performed “New Age” and “Renaissance,” the songs we collaborated on.

How was the atmosphere?

Tommy Shears: It was awesome. This was our first time down there and personally my first time in Texas. Austin seemed like a very fun, artsy city. Obviously it was packed with people and art and music of all kinds. It was overwhelming for the first couple of hours and then you just kind of assimilate. Nothing is surprising after a little bit of time down there.

Lex Allen: It felt like home. That’s what made it special, I didn't feel out of place or awkward and none of the artists did either, when they were up there just doing their thing.

WebsterX: The purpose of SXSW is being down there with the presence that you already have on the Internet, taking that into real life. And then, by you just being there, things will come to you.