Milwaukee Won't Have Much of a Presence at SXSW This year

Fewer local bands are making the trek to Austin

Mar. 11, 2013
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It was only two or three years ago that Milwaukee musicians were flocking to Austin’s SXSW music festival in droves, if not in hopes of capturing a little bit of press or industry excitement then at least for the experience of playing a few memorable shows. For a time, more than a dozen Milwaukee acts were playing the festival each year, some in an official capacity at SXSW’s showcase shows, many more in a less formal capacity at some of the many day parties shadowing the festival. Those days appear to be over, though. Last year saw a notable drop in the number of local bands making the drive down to Austin, and this year will see fewer still, with Milwaukee looking to have the smallest presence it has at the event in more than a half decade.

Arriving at a final tally of Milwaukee bands playing SXSW is difficult, since there’s no way to account for every band playing every day party, but this year only three Milwaukee bands are playing the event in an official capacity (four if you count French Horn Rebellion as a Milwaukee band, which is a big stretch at this point): Jaill, Blessed Feathers and Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. No surprises there: Those are three of the city’s more established bands, and each of them is working with a decent-sized label or a paid publicity team. In addition to that trio, Field Report will be at the festival again, playing a fair amount of day parties and showcase shows. It’s a safe bet that a few other Milwaukee acts will be down there in some capacity, too, but even assuming that three or four more make the trek, that total is a far cry from the 15 or so local outfits that played SXSW in 2010.

Feel free to speculate about the reasons behind that drop. Like bands from across the country, a lot of Milwaukee acts are finding that the trip simply isn’t worth the time and gas money. In truth, though the festival is great at buoying rising buzz bands, it hasn’t been good at breaking new bands for some time now, and as its day parties have grown and attracted greater corporate sponsorship, independent artists find themselves in increasingly impossible competition for press against blowout Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen concerts and giant, four-story Doritos vending machines. Nineteen hours is a long way to drive to be upstaged by a prop advertisement.


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