By Conor Hooley
Austin, get ready to meet Fort Collins all over again. After its wildly successful maiden voyage to 2010’s world-renowned South by Southwest festival, local nonprofit organization SpokesBUZZ is returning to “SXSW” for round two. And this time, it’s bringing reinforcements.
The 2011 edition, which takes place on Friday, March 18, will feature a tantalizing lineup of 11 local bands split across two stages – a main and “experimental” stage, respectively.
The main stage lineup alone is a who’s who of local heavyweights, featuring Head for the Hills, Fierce Bad Rabbit, Wire Faces, Stella Luce, The Nu Classics, Peace Officer and the Honey Gitters. But why stop there?
Apparently, just one all-star local lineup is not sufficient for SXSW. Therefore, a second, experimental stage has also been added to the mix. The stage will feature non-stop music, highlighted by performances from Constitution, Musketeer Gripweed, Danielle Ate the Sandwich and Patti Fiasco – and a few surprise performances from the headlining artists. The showcase will also include live art, video promos and all the quality New Belgium beer one could ever ask for.
The fun is all made possible by SpokesBUZZ, a collaborative, grassroots promotional project between local bands and industry professionals.
“We believe that Fort Collins is a community that deserves national awareness,” says SpokesBUZZ organizer Dani Grant. “Our goal is to encourage economical and social growth in Fort Collins, and [we do that by] incubating and promoting local musicians.”
“In my opinion, our best asset in Fort Collins is our music,” admits Grant. “We’re trying to elevate the perception of local music and the activity that surrounds it.”
The organization’s self-proclaimed “national objective” is its SXSW showcase, and rightly so. Last year’s festival drew a record-setting 13,022 industry professionals (according to Reuters), along with an estimated 100,000 other music lovers. Though speculating on this year’s exact turnout is anyone’s guess, the early interest in the Fort Collins showcase is very promising.
“We have over 400 RSVP’s so far, with people coming in from all over the globe,” boasts Grant. “At this point last year, we had maybe half of that, and last year we were absolutely packed! Our new venue has two floors, and has the potential to turn over 500 people every hour. That tells me that we’re going to have a lot more activity.”
And the kind of activity that SXSW provides – massive amounts of foot traffic and word-of-mouth exposure from industry professionals and music lovers alike – is what it’s all about.
“SXSW is pretty much thousands of people all over the place,” observes Constitution’s Matt “P-Mann” Mahern. “Any time you get a chance to play in that forum it doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s going to happen for a band, but it’s a great opportunity for the possibility alone.”
“We’re looking for national people to work with at this point, [and it] doesn’t seem like there’s a better opportunity than this,” agrees Peace Officer’s Andy “AK” Kromarek.
The exact proof might not be in the numbers, but signatures on the dotted line don’t lie. Last year, genre-bending local luminaries Candy Claws played the SpokesBUZZ stage to a great reception. A year later, they’re returning to SXSW as a signed act. Echoing Kromarek’s sentiments, Peace Officer has already parleyed their Austin performance into other prominent gigs, including the ATX Wildfire Festival. And all this months before they even play SXSW.
“Just getting this foot in the door with SpokesBUZZ has been amazing,” admits Kromarek. “We’ve already booked two other gigs [in Texas] that we were basically able to get just because we’re booked to play SXSW.”
But there’s more to the festival for the bands than just self-promotion. Mahern, who is also organizing the experimental stage, played last year’s showcase with the (now-defunct) group Motorhome and has only good things to report.
“SXSW was really one of the coolest things I’ve ever been to,” he recalls. “The crowd was great, the sound was great, the venue was great; it was really fun, intense and everything I expected it to be – and more.”
More than that, however, is the reward that comes from exposing the Fort Collins scene to new areas of the country
“The fact that we went down there and represented so well for the first year was just amazing,” he admits. “It made me feel really good about what I was doing and the scene in this town. It was a pretty big undertaking and we just killed it.”
Given what SpokesBUZZ has in store for this year, you have to like the chances of history repeating itself.
“We’re bringing Fort Collins to SXSW,” promises Mahern. “We’re bringing the beer and we’re bringing the music.”
Let’s just hope they bring some of it back.
Is your band interested in applying to be one of SpokesBUZZ’s “Class of 2012” bands? Visit www.spokesbuzz.org and click on “Artists” to download the criteria and application!