By Molly McCowan
A day after returning home from a 24-hour bus ride from Austin, my spine still feels like an accordion tried to teach it how to dance.
That’s what you get when you sign up to ride a repurposed airport shuttle from Fort Collins to Texas, round-trip, with 13 well-known names in the local music and arts community, and it’s more than worth every stiff muscle.
Our mission? South by Southwest (SXSW) or bust. We piled into the smiling caravan on Wednesday, March 16, not quite knowing what to expect, but with open minds and enough beer to make anyone fast friends.
The shuttle was driven by John Long, founder of ZeroHero, Inc., a local company that helps events and businesses support sustainable living through zero-waste management. Fellow passengers included Darren Mahuron, esteemed photographer and owner of Summit Studios; members of local bands Constitution and Musketeer Gripweed; Tomas Herrera, local actor and videographer; Susanna Dominguez, art director for A-Train Marketing, and more.
We arrived on the evening of Thursday, March 17 a bit discombobulated from the long haul. The energy and enthusiasm filling the streets during South by Southwest’s Music and Media Conference quickly invigorated us, however, and we set off on a walking tour of Austin – a gorgeous city with art and music pulsing through its defiantly un-Texan veins.
SXSW, for those who haven’t yet attended, is an absolute whirlwind of amazing music and enthralling sights, sounds and smells. People-watching is at prime status on 6th Street, where over 80 official SXSW venues (and dozens of unofficial ones) open their windows and doors and let the live music spill out onto the streets.
Friday, March 18, saw a full-day showcase of Fort Collins bands, organized and hosted by SpokesBUZZ and their sponsors.
The showcase took place at a venue called 512, located on 6th and Trinity Streets. An official SXSW bar, 512 is at a prime location to draw a large crowd.
With plenty of free New Belgium beer and Coyote Ugly Margaritas a’flowing and two stages offering diverse line-ups of talented musicians, 512 was soon packed to the gills with people from all over the world who had come to check out our small town’s musical vibe.
The event was such a success, in fact, that Grant stated that she is working to secure a larger venue for next year’s showcase – a much-needed upgrade in order to house the large crowds that SpokesBUZZ draws in each year at SXSW.
Bands that played at the showcase included Wire Faces, Fierce Bad Rabbit, Peace Officer, Musketeer Gripweed, Constitution, Stella Luce, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Nu Classics, The Heyday, Barley Davidson and the Honey Gitters.
Musicians were quick to show their gratitude to SpokesBUZZ for giving them the opportunity to play such a prestigious show, often stopping to thank the organization during their showcase performances.
Jeffrey Swager, production manager and event coordinator for SpokesBUZZ, felt that the showcase represented the culmination of the efforts of the Fort Collins music community as a whole.
“It was great to see everyone’s hard work come together like this. This was such an awesome promotion of everything that SpokesBUZZ, their sponsors and the bands themselves have worked for over the last year.”
Swager wasn’t the only person excited about Fort Collins’ representation at SXSW.
Jason Downing, lead vocalist/guitarist for Musketeer Gripweed, was taken aback by the positivity and enthusiasm for music that he felt at the conference as a whole.
“I had an amazing time. I was immensely surprised by how great of an experience [SXSW] was.”
South by Southwest was eye-opening, jaw-dropping, skull-splitting good fun. It infused me with a fresh vivacity for my work as a supporter and promoter of local music. It made me wish that it could start all over again so I could catch more of the bands and panels I missed.
To all my friends, old and new, thanks for a wonderful experience at this year’s South by Southwest festival. I will definitely see you all again next year for another showcase of Fort Collins’ musical prowess!
Want to see the SXSW musical mayhem for yourself? Check out the photos, below!