Artists, agents, publicists and partiers come from far and wide to take part in one of the largest music and networking events in the world. Fans attending SXSW in Austin ,Texas view it as a diverse display of music in which they can recreationally party and enjoy bands they love and bands they discover throughout the week long musical portion of the conference. The aforementioned groups of art producers and opportunists view the conference much differently than the fans or even the way they themselves typically view playing a regular show or festival. With a somewhat intimate knowledge of the bands in Southern California and their proxies, it was fascinating to watch it all unfold in front of me. From Burger Records to Lolipop Records, iHeartcomix to Desert Daze, the Los Angeles and greater Southern California area musicians and business’ were very well represented at SXSW 2016. Janky Smooth was proud to see the members of our scene thriving in such a competitive environment and of course, to make our own stamp on the events surrounding the conference in our very first SXSW experience as a publication.
On the band side, there were L.A. bands like one of our low key favorites, Them Howling Bones that don’t even have a booking agent. They hopped in a van on a whim with only a couple shows they scheduled themselves and were able to schedule a few more on their way out there. As an outsider, it seemed that Them Bones leveraged much of the nebulous opportunity available to any band or individuals that had the heart to reach out and grab it. Our first show of SXSW was Them Howling Bones on the rooftop of a bar I forgot the name of. With the perfect mix of hard psychedelic rock arrangements and the fancy footwork and golden pipes of front man Pedro Torres, Them Howling Bones are like a Sam Phillips band on steroids. Fuzzed out Rockabilly is the name of their game and getting their art in front of as many people in Austin as possible is easy at a place like SXSW. Between the hustle and flow, beers and blow, housewives and ho’s, anything is possible for a good band like Them Howling Bones hustling at SXSW.
There are bands like FEELS who have just released their Ty Segall produced, first full length album on Castle Face Records. With a full schedule of shows and press events, all of which wouldn’t ever be enough for those who promote and support them, FEELS are an exceptional, standout band that have gelled with one another both in the studio and in their live show. Unlike the tack that Them Howling Bones took, It seemed that the table was already set for FEELS prior to their arrival at SXSW; gigs, press, parties etc. With not one but two standout song writers in this band, their music is dynamic and their live show will stand out in a sea of bands. Janky Smooth has already spent so much time discussing FEELS in the past, you can check out some previous coverage and also, hear the replay of our interview with FEELS at SXSW on the Soundcloud embed below.
Then there are bands like Chicano Batman who are exploding into a mainstream consciousness of music lovers all around the country, being asked to play political rallies for Bernie Sanders and who are only now just beginning to transcend the doldrums of upstart bands after playing together for the past 8 years. Just a week prior to seeing Chicano Batman at the Burger Records 5 year anniversary that celebrated Burger’s partnership with the Obvservatory venue in Orange County, Chicano Batman caused a loving frenzy of swirling bodies to pack the room on a day that The Orwells and the new lineup of Crystal Castles took the stage in America for the first time. Chicano Batman made it very difficult for those headliners. They are the new romantics of independent music. The soulful and intricate arrangements and the emotions behind them are far more complex than most of the bands, not only in Los Angeles but around the country. Once again I saw Chicano Batman at a Burger booking but this time in Texas and once again they stood out amongst a roster of exceptional bands. During our interview for our Dash Radio show, I was curious to find out if any of them had a formal education in music theory but I was told that their only education was in Metal. Bam! It was great to spend some time talking with them, not only about music but politics, Bernie Sanders and uniting the people of this country to take our country back.
On the business and distribution side of music in Southern California, Burgermania was once again at Hotel Vegas, a good mile from the outside edges of where the festival was most active. Hotel Vegas is a former whore house that was transformed into a venue years back and attending Burgermania required a time commitment because it was not a spot that one could easily bounce from other events. But with Burger, you could guarantee that both the lineup and the lovely people in attendance would make an extended stay at this event the highlight of your day. Burger Records knows people and music and always seem to acquire the right type of both. It has helped build them a worldwide brand that is recognized by music snobs all around the globe. I spent a big chunk of two different days in Austin at Hotel Vegas. Once for Burgermania and the other for the Desert Daze/Lolipop Records event that I attended the Tuesday that we got into town. Lolipop is like Burger’s little brother in Los Angeles and Desert Daze was sprouted from the Moon Block Party collective who are all hustlers and in great bands in their own right. The three work together often and between them, they are able to extend their reach further with each passing year. With Desert Daze, you have multiple artistic hustles in one. Chief Phil Pirrone is the head of the annual Desert Daze festival, songwriter in the three piece band, JJUUJUU and on top of that, the booking outfit, The Space Agency. He is juggling all that with a newborn baby with his wife, Julie Pironne who is herself, the drummer of Deap Vally and principle member of Moon Block/Desert Daze. The keyword is ambition and if you have it like they have it then you too can build the type of empire that is sprouting in their garden.
And of course, you have very few bands like hip hop slasher flick rockers, Ho99o9 that can fit in both everywhere and nowhere. These dudes are from Jersey but they are firmly planted in the LA ecosystem for the past few years. I witnessed Ho99o9 play two out of three of their shows while they were in Austin. I see them play often. The 2nd of the two Ho99o9 shows I saw was on a fluke. The original interview I scheduled with them got pushed back and I ended up rescheduling our conversation to take place just before they took the stage at the Biz3 publicity 20th anniversary showcase at The Belmont. When I arrived at The Belmont, there was a line around the block. Then the sky opened up and a severe thunderstorm lit up the night sky. Well, severe for someone from Los Angeles. A weather alert went out across the city and many events were cancelled. The huge line in front of the Belmont disappeared and so did most of Biz3’s anniversary celebration but the show went on. I was able to see Biz3’s soulful and innovative vocalist, Azul along with the long lightning strikes that flashed across the sky as she performed her soft and soulful attack. I spoke with Eaddy and The Ogm, principle members of Ho99o9 and you can hear the conversation we had about the pain, suffering and torture that inspires their music on a replay of our Janky Smooth and The NSA show that airs on Monday’s between 6-8pm on the Los Anarchy station of Dash Radio embedded into this post above. Then they took the stage to a room that was filled with electronic and hip hop artists who aren’t used to the theatrical type of horror punk of the likes of ho99o9. A lot of the MC’s in the room had their arms folded, skeptical as most MC’s are of other MC’s. Particularly skeptical of the theatrics they were about to witness. Eaddy walked out punk as fuck in his t shirt and jeans with a Kanye West mask on with the numbers 999 drawn on his forehead. The OGM with his flamboyantly terrifying fashion choices was cloaked in a blue fur jacket, claws attached to his fingers and evil intentions in his heart. Ho99o9 played the best show I have ever seen them play, sonically. With their new drummer, the band was tighter than they had ever been. By the time the Ho99o9 show was in full swing, everyone in the house was bouncing up and down and into each other, dancing in the rain, becoming disciples of the 999 in front of my very eyes. It was a shame that the line of people that scattered in the rain weren’t able to stick around to see what we all saw. A shame for the fans that missed it A shame for Biz3 on their 20th anniversary and a shame for Ho99o9. It was a star making performance. Simple bad luck in the cycle of nature prevented a bigger impression. Or was it G-d himself ready to smite those who crossed over to the blasphemous Ho99o9 Death Kult? Perhaps it’s time to make a deal with the devil.
Music isn’t the only L.A. hustle at SXSW. Janky Smooth attended a comedy show organized and promoted by Jeremy Burke over at Loud Village and sponsored by Weed Maps. World class comedians such as the Lucas Brothers and surprise guest Hannibal Burress unleashed their material on a music crowd that was ready to laugh. The house was packed and so were the dab pens and it was a quieter but welcome
respite to the sonic onslaught of SXSW 2016. Those like Jeremy Burke who are all about the hustle that puts their content in front of the SXSW crowd are facing certain, long term success simply with the tireless output that they maintain. We came across Jeremy Burke at the Restless Nites event down on Rainey Street at their silent disco that was a part of the Culture Collide roster of event clusters. On a night that we disco’d silently and caught Miike Snow at the Stub Hub House, Taylor Wong and I connected with Burke and much like the bands out here hustling for gigs, Taylor was able to pick up a short, side gig with the Loud Village comedy show taking photos for their event. So now, their hustle is included in our hustle and keeping our antennas up has led to more content for Janky Smooth and a little cash in the pocket of party boy and photographer extraordinaire, Taylor Wong.
The L.A. Hustle at SXSW 2016 was strong. While Austin is quickly becoming the independent center of the music and film industry, Los Angeles will always represent an exploding oil well of artists and business folk which when tapped into, spews greatness in every direction. Even events that fell flat like the iHeartcomix party with Prayers and Ho99o9 were a testament to the diversity and opportunity of the business of art. Sure, all of us are in this for the passion we feel for art and expression but to be able to make a living off of what we love is the aspiration of every human. Fans reading this might recoil at all the talk of business amongst the art they consume but make no mistake about it; SXSW exists to convene with those that are like minded and looking to scale. It was great to travel all the way to Austin to strengthen relationships with the people, bands and business’ that we deal with on a regular basis. Our community of music travels well and Los Angeles made it’s mark on SXSW 2016.
Photos: Taylor Wong