Tag Archives: sxsw

Top Music Festival: Top Festivals Flourish Despite Tight Wallets

With the summer in full effect and music lovers of all ages itching for a good dose of outdoor entertainment the question arises…  Is the hot sweaty allure of summer music festivals enough to draw attendees in an time of over-priced tickets and under-employed fans? Well, in a word – yes. As the classic adage goes; escapism sells in times of challenge. And with current music festivals tailor-cut to embrace nearly every sect of musicophiles there’s sure to be opportunity a-plenty for those looking for a respite from today’s financial and political woes.

Conforming to the zeitgeist of mixing varied cultural elements for an increasingly multi-faceted and curious populace, organizers of music festivals have begun to construct more interesting lineups in terms of variety. At Lollapalooza seemingly disparate acts like pop-diva-monster Lady Gaga and grunge kings Soundgarden have come to share the same stage. A trend that is popping up at nearly every music fest on this season’s bill.

The Lilith Fair has dropped the “fair” aspect and re-emerged as a forum for successful female singers of all genres, incorporating pop and R&B into its once acoustic only line-up. Kevin Lyman, founder and organizer of the Vans Warped Tour has made a concerted effort to maintain diversity in the line-up, combining ska, emo, metal, and punk while keeping the tour’s image as a home for alternative genres. “I think if you really tear apart (this year’s) Warped lineup, it’s appealing to a lot of different kids. It’s appealing to the music fan,” Lyman said.

Of course the opportunity that music festivals hold for non-profits and environmental proponents to reach out to young people has not been lost on this years gatherings. Greenpeace and other like-minded agencies held muddy court at Bonnaroo, and BP oil spill backlash was notable on the landscape written large in graffiti and on banners.

Despite an unstable economy and record low employment levels, fans have continued to dish out big bucks to attend live music festivals. In many cases attendance has actually risen this past year. The Coachella Valley Music Festival held in the desert community of Indio saw a ticket sales rise of nearly 15,000 over last year’s daily average. The famed South by Southwest Music Festival in Texas experienced a whopping 11% increase in overall attendance this year. This is a trend that has some festival organizers planning and hoping for the best. After selling out all three days last year, Lollapalooza has expanded its concert terrain in the spirit of “if you build it they will come”. The festival area now includes an extra 35 acres, upping the fan capacity from 75,000 to 95,000.

For those who just really cannot afford the price of a ticket there are alternatives. Organizations like the Work Exchange Team (WET) give participants a full weekend pass in exchange for a commitment of set hours working the festival. These scenarios help festival organizers to ensure the younger high-energy crowd, who may not be quite as affluent, feel desired as attendees of the music festivals. This year’s festivals are showcasing a strong line of classic musicians as well such as Carly Simon and Stevie Wonder.

Warped has remained a top draw over the years – it’s usually one of the country’s 20 best attended tours – because it’s so consistently able to plug into  the wants of its largely youthful audience. It pays for it with an onslaught of inexpensive merchandise, socially conscious messages and constant marketing of the bands and their labels, including lots of opportunities to meet the bands and get their John Hancocks.

With the live music festival world still much imbued with lively energy and awesome acts, music fans everywhere have a lot of opportunity to get out there and sweat it out in the sun this season. However, a trend of insistence upon involving every genre of music at each festival might leave some fans missing the days of unapologetic festival celebrations catering to particular tastes.

For right now though. it seems the summer music festival is still holding strong.

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– Amanda Decker


Liner Notes: America’s Top Music Cities, Part II

Last week, in celebration of the July 4th holiday, I looked at the nation’s top five cities for music. The list, in no particular order, included New York, Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Chicago.

This week I have laid out a list of another top five, just as wonderful as the cities we would all expect to see, but the ones that usually fall through the cracks. It is not about how obvious they may or may not be; it’s just about how good the music is.


Everyone knows South by Southwest is awesome, but Austin is awesome the whole year-round. I have never been able to put my finger on what makes this central Texas city so damn cool. No offense to the rest of the state, but what is it about Austin that has all us liberal-minded democrats in the North thinking, “how that hell is that city in Texas?”

Austin’s music scene began to really form a national image about twenty years ago, although its soul is much older than that. Of course Austin, being in the heart of Texas, began its climb to legendary music status in the country scene back in the thirties. Then, somewhere in the eighties, Austin began to earn its reputation as so much more than a country music town.

Nowadays, music fans can enjoy everything from electronic techno venues to hardcore new punk stages. Austin is anything but one-dimensional. 6th Street has come to be recognized as one of the country’s greatest music miles. Austin’s own Channel 8 News has dubbed Austin the “live music capital of the world.” It may sound a bit pompous, but the moniker is not that far off. It just would have sounded better if it came from a music magazine somewhere beyond of the city limits.


Eugene, Oregon’s music theme really began to blossom in the early nineties. You may say it rode on the coattails of Seattle’s grunge revolution, but there is an argument to be made that the reality is that it may have been the other way around.

The thing that makes Eugene so cool is its ‘under the radar’ status. Beyond the late nineties swing-revivalists The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, no band from Eugene has become mainstream famous. Close in proximity to the larger Portland, Eugene is able to feed off the creative flow from the metropolitan area and university campus, yet ditch the pretentious self-righteousness that is often married to young urban bands trying to make it.

Eugene’s music scene is like that party you went to where a bunch of musicians spontaneously started playing together, and the music was as magical and mystical as the night. No one trying to up anybody else, no one trying to impress anyone else, no one with a fabricated ego or style to be taken too seriously. If you are a music fan who thrives on the non-famous, and just loves that night of music that you wish would never end, spend a weekend in Eugene—you’ll be hooked.

Kansas City:

KC is a funny one, because you don’t need to tell anyone from Kansas City or anyone who is versed in the history of American music that Kansas City, Missouri should be on the list. They know that. I know that. But a lot of the country does not know that.

Kansas City has contributed two of the nation’s most famous and revered jazz musicians (Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins) as well as numerous blues players. KC is all about the jazz and blues; it’s like New Orleans, Chicago, and New York all rolled into one. Sitting almost smack-dab in the middle of continental America, Kansas City takes from all four corners of the country and mixes the music up to spit out a pure American sound.

The city continues to attract musicians from all over the Midwest, adding a home-cooking, apple-pie flavor to the music scene. If it’s more than just music you are seeking, and you are after something down-home American, you can find it in Kansas City. Blues, jazz, funk, Motown, hip-hop, it’s all there, but there is something that makes Kansas City feel more red, white, and blue than any other music-city in the country. I am sure it has a lot to do with the fact that it is geographically landlocked—it acts like a magnet for the different musical styles it surrounds.

The city with its own dance, Charleston, South Carolina has always been one of those Deep Southern towns that people often forget about when thinking of America’s great music cities.

Charleston is smothered in that old Southern charm. The music scene in this picaresque town is of an all feel-good nature. When you’re chilling in Charleston, you aren’t there to interpret lyrics, start a revolution, or witness groundbreaking musical form; you are just there to have a good time.

Charleston continues to produce that unique combination of quality music and a timeless dancehall environment that is soaked in ageless elegance. Unlike the rest of the country, it seems like Charleston never got over the hedonism of Fitzgerald’s jazz age. The state-recognized ‘IOP,” a distinctive stretch of land jetting along the coast into the Atlantic Ocean, houses some of the best venues on the eastern shoreline. If you find your summer plans involve a long drive between New York and Florida, make sure to plan for a few nights spend in Charleston. Walk the main drag of the ‘Isle of Palms’ and check out bands at the top-rated Windjammer, Pour House, or Music Farm, and get your Charleston on.

Minneapolis/St. Paul:

Last, but certainly not least, are the twin cities in the land of a thousand lakes: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. For some reason, the state of Minnesota is historic for pumping out a few of America’s most creative and recognized musicians (Bob Dylan and Prince among the top recognized).

Maybe it is because it lies so close in proximity to Canada, and is naturally influenced by that laid back and liberal state of mind. Or maybe it is just that it is so damn cold up there most of the time, there is nothing else to do but sit by a basement fireplace and master an instrument. Whatever the cause, Minneapolis and St. Paul are creative epicenters.

More recently, Minneapolis has revolved its style around the fresh indie rock scene, with Tapes n’ Tapes being one of the more successful acts to get their name known beyond state borders. Surrounded by thousands of miles of bucolic deciduous forest and lakes, and rooted heavily in early American folk music, Minnesota maintains the values of the pure American struggle song, but also finding new sounds to share its message. If you like having the option of hearing that acoustic campfire sing-along sound as well as American blues and rock, then Minneapolis is the place to visit.

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– Kory French

BTR Artists On Tour: Dum Dum Girls, Matt & Kim, and Wye Oak

Time to board the BTR tour bus again! This month we get the skinny behind life on the road from The Dum Dum Girl’s Dee Dee!  Plus, a look at two sweetheart sets–Brooklyn’s unstoppable dance duo Matt & Kim, and Baltimore’s folk rock innovators Wye Oak– both are playing the upcoming NYC Siren Fest!

Several of our favorite artists will be stopping there to strut their stuff before traveling on to the next town, and BTR gets to come too.  We’ll have a booth complete with giveaway goodies, so make your way to Coney Island and come check it out!

Dum Dum Girls (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

Sub Pop artists the Dum Dum Girls have had a big year of firsts. In 2010 the group has released their first full length album, I Will Be, they played SXSW for the first time, and just wrapped their first official European tour. All of these accomplishments and it’s not even July. The ladies-about-town, comprised of lead singer and founder Dee Dee Penny and her three friends Jules, Bambi, and Sandra Vu, have given the production qualities and structure of ’60’s girl groups a makeover for today’s music scene, writing on topics from psychedelic drugs (“Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout” ) to the identity theft of religion (“Catholicked“).  Informed not only by the age of the beehive but by all subsequent musical decades as well, DDGs spin punk and garage-rock inspired licks into music, coloring the edges of sugar-pop with a darker crayon.

Not surprisingly, I Will Be was produced by Richard Gottehrer, songwriter of ’80’s girl group resurgence hits “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and “I Want Candy,” as well as producer for vintage-singed rock peers The Raveonettes. A perfect fit for the retro sounds of Dum Dum Girls, who have paused, briefly, before heading back out on the road, ping-ponging from the U.S. to Europe and back through October. Dee Dee took some of that precious time to share a bit of her road-wise perspective.

BTR:  You just finished your first major European tour. How was it?
DD:  It was overwhelmingly great. I had a hard time accepting it was really happening. Collecting all of these priceless memories in cities all over, playing my songs with the girls, seems too good to be true. Primavera was a perfect, surreal ending.

BTR:  Any new favorite places?
DD:  Ravenna, Italy — a wild, beach side show preceded by a delicious meal.

BTR:  Discover any lovely new foods?
DD:  A secret cocktail in Venice, Italy consisting of strawberry-banana puree, vodka, and something else.

BTR:  Do any good shopping?
DD:  London for vintage shoes and outrageous stage wear, and Barcelona for Deadstock sunglasses and yet another black dress.

BTR:  How do you entertain yourself out on the road?  Any current favorite podcasts, albums, books, or must-watch hotel TV?
DD:  Yoga podcasts, prank call downloads from Longmont Potion Castle, autobiographies, Rimbaud, and BBC World News.

BTR: Are you inspired to write new stuff on your travels?
DD:  I store it up on tour and it spills out when I get home.

BTR:  Looks like it will be a busy summer for the girls; what are your fall plans?
DD:  New EP, our own USA tour.

Keep that promise for new material on your radar, and in the meantime be on the lookout for four women dressed in black with killer rock hooks headed to a city near you. Plus listen up for music from the Dum Dum Girls spinning here on BTR!

Dum Dum Girls Live:

June 30 – Bottom of the Hill* – San Francisco, CA
July 01 – Echo* – Los Angeles, CA
July 02 – Casbah* – San Deigo, CA
July 03 – Detroit Bar* – Costa Mesa, CA
July 15 – Slottsfjell Festival – Tonsberg, Norway
July 16 – Arvika Festival – Arvika, Sweden
July 17 – Bakken – Copenhagen, Denmark
July 18 – Dour Festival – Dour, Belgium
July 20 – Handelsbeurs – Ghent, Belgium
July 22 – Valkhof Affaire – Nijmegen, Netherlands
July 23 – Glazart – Paris, France
July 24 – The 1234 Festival – London, United Kingdom
July 25 – Tramlines Festival – Sheffield, United Kingdom
July 26 – The Cluny – Newcastle, United Kingdom
July 27 – Cabaret Voltaire – Edinburgh, United Kingdom
July 28 – Sound Control – Manchester, United Kingdom
July 30 – TBC – London, United Kingdom
August 1 – Soundlabs Festival – Rosetto Degli Abruzzi, Italy
August 2 – Soundlabs Festival – Rosetto Degli Abruzzi, Italy
August 5 – Plage de Rock Festival – St. Tropez, France
August 6 – Rote Fabrik – Zurich, Switzerland

* = w/ Crocodiles

Matt & Kim (Photo by Tod Seelie)

Matt & Kim are Brooklyn dance punk darlings Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino. The pair met while attending Pratt Institute, started dating, then started music in 2004 and haven’t looked back since. They prove that necessity is indeed the mother of invention with their full steam ahead approach that found them learning their instruments after deciding to start a band. While the approach might seem backwards to some, it has allowed Matt & Kim a certain freedom to risk, to play and to (gasp!) have fun with their new endeavors—luxuries that some artists, caught up in the worries of “the industry,” can’t always seem to afford.

This is not to say the two don’t take their music and business efforts seriously. Within two short years, they had built a formidable online following through sheer DIY determination, playing in any and every venue possible and utilizing social networks to their full grassroots marketing capacity. Known for dazzling audiences both large and small with an inexhaustable enthusiasm, their success seems to follow a simple but fail-proof recipe: 1)  write a kick-ass pop song 2) spread the word online, then 3) shake your booty in live concert for 45 min to 1 hour. When asked in an Each Note Secure interview about what keeps them inspired on the road, Matt admitted that they often play top 40 hip-hop, defending its potential for creative ingenuity within the industry.

Matt & Kim’s first self-titled album came out in the fall of 2006, followed by Grand in 2009 with the Fader Label. Grand’s hit single “Daylight” has been remixed several times and featured in a whole slew of media slots ranging from NBC’s “Community” to a fully translated “Simlish” version on The Sims 3’s indie rock “radio” station.  2009 brought them both an MTV Breakthrough Video award and a Best Video Woodie for “Lessons Learned” .

No strangers to Siren Fest, Matt and Kim played the Stillwell Stage back in 2007 but this year marks their first return. Even if you can’t catch them on Coney Island, they’ll be touring pretty rigorously through the Midwest until September so do your best to hunt them down!  (Rumor has it that Kim has been known to try crowd-top booty dancing, so stick close to the front.)

Matt & Kim Live:

July 3 – The Piazza at Schmidts – Philadelphia, PA
July 6 – Lupos Heartbreak Hotel – Providence, RI
July 17 – Siren Festival – Brooklyn, NY
August 1 – Naeba Ski Resort – Niigata, Japan
August 6 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL
August 20 – Pukkelpop Festival – Kiewit, Hasselt, Belgium
September 15 – The Westcott Theater – Syracuse, NY
September 16 – The Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
September 17 – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
September 18 – Majestic Theater – Detroit, MI
September 19 – Metro – Chicago, IL
September 21 – Majestic Theater – Madison, WI
September 22 – First Ave – Minneapolis, MN
September 23 – The Granada Theatre – Lawrence, KS
September 24 – Ogden Theater – Denver, CO
September 27 – Rickshaw Theatre – Vanouver, BC
September 27 – Showbox at the Market – Seattle, WA
September 29 – Roseland Theater – Portland, OR
September 30 – The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
October 1 – House of Blues – San Diego, CA
October 2 – Henry Fonda Theater/Music Box – Los Angeles, CA
October 6 – The Clubhouse – Tempe, AZ
October 8 – House of Blues – Dallas, TX
October 9 – Austin City Limits Festival – Austin, TX
October 12 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA

Wye Oak (Photo courtesy of Wye Oak)

This year’s Siren Fest has a bit of a romantic theme with quite a few musically gifted duos playing the festival. Falling in line with this theme, Baltimore’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are the pair behind the indie folk rock sounds of Wye Oak. Like their pop counterparts Matt & Kim, Jenn and Andy also formed through necessity, looking fruitlessly for other members before realizing they would need to be self-sufficient to find the sound they sought. So, while Andy keeps busy on simultaneous drums and keyboard, Jenn works with guitar and sings lead with a voice both tough and tender. The sound they create, like fellow Baltimore-based duo Beach House, is surprisingly powerful for such an intimate set-up. Personalizing the political and vice versa, the duo has drawn comparisons to indie vets Yo La Tengo, but if there is an invocation to be detected here it lies more with the roots-folk vibe of Fakebook than the “iconic” YLT sound of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One.

Their debut If Children was first released independently in 2007, then again after signing with Merge in 2008. A sophomore album The Knot came out in 2009 to resounding critical praise, the band having successfully deepened the music and solidified their identity. With lyrics like “My creator/Doesn’t make a good neighbor,” April’s EP My Neighbor/My Creator bodes well for the new material ahead, too. At the start of a tour that will take them up and down the East Coast, they’ll be out on July 17 along with Matt & Kim, BreakThru Radio, and, hopefully, you!

Wye Oak Live:

July 17 – Siren Festival – Brooklyn, NY
July 20 – Johnny Brenda’s^ – Philadelphia, PA
July 22 – Rock & Roll Hotel^ – Washington, D.C.
July 25 – Whartscape – Baltimore, MD
August 17 – Daniel Street Club* – Milford, CT
August 18 – Rock & Roll Hotel* – Washington, D.C.
August 19 – Cat’s Cradle* – Carrboro, NC
August 20 – Grey Eagle* – Asheville, NC
August 21 – The Basement* – Nashville, TN
August 23 – The Frequency* – Madison, WI
August 26 – Schubas* – Chicago, IL
August 27 – Grog Shop* – Cleveland, OH
August 28 – Horseshoe Tavern* – Toronto, Ontario
August 29 – Il Motore* – Montreal, Quebec
August 31 – Iron Horse* – Northampton, MA
September 1 – Mercury Lounge* – New York, NY
September 2 – Middle East* – Cambridge, MA
September 3 – Johnny Brenda’s* – Philadelphia, PA
September 4 – Maxwell’s* – Hoboken, NJ

^ = w/ Deer Tick
* = w/ Lou Barlow

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– Britt Sondreal

Live from SXSW: Amy Lavere



Amy Lavere live from the Six Degrees of Memphis showcase at SXSW! Check it out here !

00:22 Washing Machine
03:56 That Beat
07:47 Nightingale
11:14 Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em
15:01 People Get Mad
18:43 Killing Him
23:19 Pointless Drinking
27:28 Died of Love

Upcoming Shows:

Mar 28, 2008    Spirit of Suwanee Music Park   Live Oak, FL
Mar 29, 2008    Spirit of Suwanee Music Park   Live Oak, FL
Apr 1, 2008       Mercy Lounge     Nashville, TN
Apr 3, 2008       Sun Studio           Memphis, TN
Apr 10, 2008     Madison Hotel    Memphis, TN

Live from SXSW: Blair Combest

Check out a performance from Blair Combest at the Second Annual Six Degress of Memphis Official Showcase and Day Party at SXSW 2008.

00:34 Rock and Roll
03:34 Can’t Waste A Sunday
08:06 Love Me Tonight
11:08 Crack in the Door
13:46 Did You Hear Him Calling My Name
19:33 Going Back
24:53 Maiden
30:57 Diamond
35:53 Dreams

The Mixtape Show- Best of SXSW



I’ve just returned from SXSW! After five days in Austin, I am still reeling from all the amazing shows I saw. Check out this mix I made of all the great music I heard and saw! We had a ton of great BTR artists represented down in Texas, so enjoy.

Live from SXSW: Jump Back Jake


Check out our first performance from the Six Degrees of Memphis SXSW Official Showcase and Day Party. Directly developed from the BTR specialty show 10 Degrees of Memphis, Rachelandthecity kicks things off with the day party headliner Jump Back Jake. They are currently at Ardent Studios working on their first full-length album. They played a great set –  don’t miss it!!


00:32 Terrible Mistakes
03:47 The Flood
07:49 2 Cool 4 Luv
11:58 Say a Prayer for Me
17:07 Treasure
23:00 Sampson
27:34 Easy Answers and a Bad Reputation
32:20 Big Bird
35:00 Boogie