Arizona Indie Acts To
Cori Rios lead singer of The Hourglass Cats. Photo by Jeff Moses.
All My Friends, Avery, Bad Lucy, Captain Squeegee, Japhy's Descent, Sun Ghost, The Hourglass Cats Among Bands Taking The Unofficial Road To Austin
Captain Squeegee lead singer Danny Torgersen. Photo by Ben Garcia.
By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine
Jan. 21, 2013 — A big time record label is not necessary to make your presence known at Austin’s South by Southwest festival, and a couple dozen or so indie Arizona bands will make the journey in a quest for fun, exposure and good times.
Naturally, major label artists get the prime locales and time slots, but with literally thousands of musical acts converging on the city March 12 to 17, virtually every hotel lobby, bus stop and porta potty in the city will become a live-music venue.
“Pretty much every bar on Sixth Street has a stage in it,” said Mandy Pals, one of the founders of Phoenix-based Splash Artisans. “Austin is the live music capitol of the world.”
There are two ways to perform at South by Southwest — official and unofficial. The official acts have to get through the SXSW Committee and pay advertising and marketing, while unofficial acts just need to book a venue and make it out there.
“In my experience no matter what I would do unofficial as an indie band, unless I had a major label I would never do it any other way. I'd rather play for a bunch of people who will listen and remember us and buy merch than 300 people who don’t give a (expletive deleted), ” said Pals, whose Splash Artisans company will be hosting a showcase of Valley based talent at Austin’s Lucky Lounge, 209 W. Fifth St., Austin.
“That’s what I think, it’s way better to be unofficial,” said Danny Torgersen of Captain Squeegee who will be playing the showcase. “I mean, we apply officially every year, and they always turn us down, because it’s way hard to get an official spot. It’s just sweet to go out with a bunch of our band friends.”
Marty Sugg, guitarist for Japhy's Descent agreed, “it’s better to have fun with it, going out there by yourself and doing it on your own terms.”
The lineup for the showcase includes All My Friends, Andrew Duncan Brown, Avery, Bad Lucy, Captain Squeegee, Danger Paul, Doctor Bones, Field Tripp, Frequent Kings, Japhy's Descent, Sundressed, Sun Ghost, and The Hourglass Cats.
“As of right now we have 13 bands and they're all pretty committed,” said Pals.
Japhy's Descent is so committed to the showcase that they provided $175 per band to lock down the venue by Dec. 1 so the rest of the bands could have time to fundraise and get the money together for the show.
“That’s just awesome, it is a beautiful thing, and I should thank him more,” said Torgersen.
“It show’s how much they respect and love their music community,” said Pals.
“Just making sure we could secure the venue,” said Sugg. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the bands, I’m really excited to play with Bad Lucy and Avery, glad to be on a bill with them. Frequent Kings and The Hourglass Cats too.”
Captain Squeegee is also looking forward to playing with The Hourglass Cats because according to Torgersen, THC and Captain Squeegee have been sharing a practice space but have yet to collaborate.
“I like those guys, just recently I got the THC thing,” said Torgersen.
“THC have always been my favorite, we threw their first show and they’ve always been a fall to favorite and we’ve been trying to work them into the rest of the music community not just the reggae community,” said Pals.
The Hourglass Cats are more than ready to make a jump from the reggae scene into the indie scene.
“I could not be more excited, it’s going to be a blast. We are going with so many awesome bands,” said THC saxophone player Chaz Fertal.
“It will be nice to be adopted by the indie scene,” said THC lead singer and lead guitarist Cori Rios.
For Japhy's Descent as well as Sun Ghost and Doctor Bones, this is a return trip to Austin for SXSW. All three played the Echo Cloud showcase last year, which Pals also helped promote.
SXSW isn’t like a Coachella or Bonnaroo because it is just as much a gathering for music industry people as it is a music festival.
“We want to bring back more opportunities,” said Pals, as she hopes to network throughout the experience.
Captain Squeegee is going with a similar mindset.
“A successful trip for us is, us on the ground talking to people. And meeting up with other bands that we play with when we are on tour, bands that we know from other cities that are going to be there. It’s about networking, It’s about coming together in the name of DIY music,” said Torgersen.
The other bands are thinking just as industriously by setting up shows along the way to Austin and making the trip to SXSW more than just a festival performance but a full-on Southwestern Tour.
“We are taking a comfortable eight-day road trip,” said Sugg. “We’ve already got shows in Tucson and El Paso, and we are looking for some more. You make your money back on those shows because you give everything away for free at South by Southwest.”
“South by Southwest is more about exposure than anything, you can’t go play a show and have nothing to people,” said Sugg. “Last year we had free download cards and a small sample CD.”
“There is this general essence that people that go there want to make something out of there music, and that all the bands that go there, from wherever they came from in the nation, really care and they're toughing it out and I dig that.” said Torgersen.
Whatever the Phoenix contingent is trying to make out of their music, they are trying to make it together.
“What makes us different is the amount of work that everyone is doing together. We are kind of pushing them (the bands) to buddy up, we are fundraising together it’s not just about individual bands but about representing Arizona,” said Pals. “I discover music every week I think it’s better that they work together and build something positive than all be competing all the time.”
“I’m pumped to spend time with all the other local bands,” said Fertal.
“I think Phoenix is kind of overlooked. I don’t think people think of Phoenix as a music town. But I have tons of friends who have made great music in Phoenix,” said Torgersen.
“Working together makes Phoenix a way better place to play music and it opens up opportunities for everyone,” said Sugg. “It’s just better to work together to put on a great show, then be cutthroat.”
The Splash Artisans showcase will not be the only showcase from Arizona; TMI is also hosting a showcase at the Lucky Lounge on March 15.
A showcase featuring eight Arizona bands including Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special, The Wiley One, Palms, Decker, I am We, Jared and the Mill, Mergence, and Kongos.
Keeping in the spirit of Arizona bands working together Splash Artisans will be promoting with TMI.
“They are two separate showcases but we are very much promoting together, the cards we hand out will have our showcase on one side, and theirs on the other,” said Pals.
Splash Artisans considered some bands local to Austin to fill in the lineup, and hopefully fill in the bar because they are responsible for making a hefty chunk of change for the bar, but Pals said through her experience local bands aren’t much of a help.
Even with the full out of state lineup, Pals said, “we’re expecting a big crowd, in 11 hours we have to make the bar $9,000, but the traffic is going to be big.”
With all the challenges ahead of them Torgersen said, “The only challenge is wanting to come back.”
Jeff Moses is a freelance writer and photographer from Teaneck, N.J. currently living in Mesa, Ariz. He has been published in The Mesa Legend and The Highway Herald. Contact him by calling 727-385-0624.
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