If you talk to anyone music-minded this week, they’ll likely bring up South by Southwest, or SXSW, billed as the biggest music festival in the country.
The Austin, Texas-based event is a big week for well-known acts and up-and-coming bands as well as film premieres, talks (last year, President Barack Obama gave a keynote) and tech industries (Twitter was announced there in 2007).
That's why some top players in the Quad-City music scene say Austin is the place to be this week.
“It's pretty much the holy grail,” said Sean Moeller, a Davenport-based concert promoter who made the trip to SXSW on Wednesday. “I don't know of another gathering that's unanimously attended by people in the industry. There's nothing like the scope of this.”
The team at Davenport-based Daytrotter set up a studio at SXSW and plan to record 40 sessions through Sunday. Those recordings, featuring one with Wyclef Jean, will be archived on Daytrotter's website and recorded live day-by-day on Facebook. You can follow along at facebook.com/Daytrotter.
For Ben Crabb, Daytrotter’s booking manager, it's a "dream come true" to be at SXSW, which started in 1987.
“These are bands we've wanted to record, but they haven't been routed close enough to the Quad-Cities, so this is our chance,” Crabb said. “It's important right now to be here because we have a new team and we want to get that exposure out there.”
Sample of the industry
Another goal, according to Crabb, who joined Daytrotter last summer, is to meet as many acts as possible with the hope of booking them at the Daytrotter venue, 324 Brady St., Davenport, in the future.
“A million careers start here; if you're a band and you're not making an attempt to be here, you're not doing it right,” he said. “It's the most important music fest in the country to sample what's happening now and what's coming next.”
Among the more than 1,000 official acts on the lineup are Quad-City-based bands Condor & Jaybird and Atorias.
“When you get here, to some degree, you can't believe you're here," Crabb said.
This week SXSW, next week Davenport
At SXSW, Moeller's mission is to hunt down acts to book at venues such as Baked Beer and Bread Co., Codfish Hollow Barn and the soon-to-open Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel.
“It's sort of like spring break for the music industry where you actually get a lot of work done,” he said. “I go down there to find musicians that people are not talking about yet to see how they are live and see where they fit in the Quad-Cities.”
Moeller also plans to see musicians he has already booked, including pop-country singer Whitney Rose, who is playing three sessions each day at the festival. Rose is slated to play Tuesday at The Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport.
To Rose, who has lived in Austin for more than a year, SXSW means “a lot more traffic” and a week of seeing what — and who — is new in music.
“It draws from so many genres and so many kinds of music,” she said. “You meet musicians and fans from all over the world and you kind of unite with them."
Rose was so enamored of Austin's scene that she put together an EP, “South Texas Suite,” described as a love letter to her new home. She released the album in January.
“With things like SXSW and the rest of the year, Austin is a really uplifting and supportive place for musicians,” she said. “And that's a very rare thing.”
It's especially supportive of Rose's brand of Ameripolitan music, a genre created by Texas-native Dale Watson.
“It's a freaks and geeks genre; it's certainly different than what's being played on the radio,” she said. "In Austin, it's a huge deal, but that's not everywhere. Some places I go, I'm petrified that no one is going to show up."
Rose, who previously performed here in August, said she doesn't have that fear ahead of her show next week in Davenport.
“In Davenport, it seems like there's people tapped into that underground scene," she said. "There are people paying attention to new artists that are up and coming. They're digging a little deeper.”