SXSW DIARY: Scott Schumaker, Bright Antenna Records, Thursday, March 17, 2011
Two songs into their fiery set at Antone's last night, Nick Brown, the lead singer of Mona, rasped, "This is like the first day of 6th grade and cheerleader try outs." The school metaphor couldn't be more apt, though I'd edge up the age level for the industry present.
Cheerleader Tryouts: Nashville's Mona play Austin's Antone's
Wednesday at SxSW, the first official day of the music insanity, is like an industry high school reunion, except it happens every year instead of every five or ten. There are enough high fives, fist bumps, hugs and squealing, "Oh my god, it's so good to see you!!!" to last a life time.
For the bands, it IS cheerleader tryouts though, and you've got to feel for them. They scurry to set up their equipment in 20 minutes-lucky to get a line check, much less a sound check-and the sound system they're playing through is likely to be more abused than Charlie Sheen's internal organs (winning!). All the while, out in front of whatever makeshift stage they're on could be the key tastemaker or industry rep who could take their career to the next level. Of course, each of those industry reps is looking for every reason not to like them: "Damn, the xylophone player has his hair parted on the left instead of the right. That's so 2009. Next." It's like trying to win a marathon when your only training was a 100-yard dash right before the race. However, if a band can sound good at SxSW, it's a strong indicator they'll be able to sound good anywhere.
Last night, in addition to Mona, another band that sounded good was Walk the Moon from Cincinnati. Being that they're unsigned, there was a big A&R love fest going on in the house. Well, A&R love fest probably isn't the right word. Shark tank, perhaps? The band pulled it off though, four-part harmonies, facepaint and all. Well done, Walk the Moon; industry WWF match commence!
Walk The Moon rocking the face paint while rocking.
And, given the growing buzz in the U.S. around Mona and their first single, "Listen to Your Love," it looks like that band will be making the cheerleading squad as well, provided their label doesn't fumble the ball.
The Bright Antenna crew finished the night in our hotel room with The Wombats' management, where, oddly enough, we witnessed one of the best performances of the night. That sounds kinky. It wasn't. We were wrapped around the TV watching The Wombats, who have previously survived the school-yard bullying of SxSW, make their U.S. television premiere on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Seeing as we're putting their second album out ("This Modern Glitch ," on April 26), there was a touch more celebration going on than the photo below shows. OK, maybe it did get kinky after all.
The Bright Antenna/ILG showcase is tonight. It's going to be an insane day. Come by and see me if I'm still standing...
Bright Antenna & Independent SXSW Showcase 
Thursday, March 17th - Maggie Mae's Rooftop
(323 E 6th St between Trinity & San Jacinto)
Geographer  - 8pm
The Chain Gang  of 1974 - 8:40pm
Jimmy Gnecco  - 9:25pm
The Lonely Forest  - 10:20pm
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys  - 11:20pm
Middle Class Rut  - 12am
The Hours  - 1am