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March 16, 2011

SXSW 2011: Greetings from Austin, Texas

bat barWell, a big Texas hello, Midnight Sun gang!

I'm Sam Sessa. Some of you may remember me as the guy who used to write stuff for Midnight Sun. These days, I edit stuff and boss people around.

If you haven't guessed already, I'm in Austin, Texas, covering the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival for 89.7 WTMD and The Baltimore Sun. A gracious grant from WTMD members helped make the trip possible.

While not the country's biggest music festival, SXSW is perhaps the most important. About a thousand up-and-coming bands descend on Austin every March to try and make an impression on the roughly 10,000 journalists, music industry folks and fans who come to see them play.

I'm here to write a piece about why Austin is such a great city for live music (they call it the "Live Music Capital of the World"), and how Baltimore can be more like it.

I'm also going to catch up with Baltimore musicians who made the trip, including J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Wye Oak, Junestar, Ami Dang, and hopefully a few others. SXSW even has a film side: Eric Hatch, director of programming for the Maryland Film Fest, is here, scouting for this year's festival. Oh, and I'll also be checking out some other on-the-cusp artists.

waterloo recordsYesterday, I talked to James Moody, who runs a club called the Mohawk, and is an advocate for musicians and fellow club owners. And I sat down with blues singer/pianist Marcia Ball, who moved to Austin in 1970 and watched the city's music scene take shape. More on that later.

Austin is saturated with live music this week. Walking down Sixth Street, which is lined with bars and clubs, one song would bleed into another, and guitar solos shrieked out onto the sidewalk.

Stopped by Waterloo Records, which is the Sound Garden of Austin, only cleaner (zing!). Picking through the huge selection of vinyl made me pine for the days when you actually held music in your hands. Remember those days?

Waterloo posted a list of the top selling vinyl LPs of 2010, and Baltimore's own Beach House was No. 6. Yeasayer, who grew up in and around Baltimore, were No. 14.

I'll be here until Sunday morning. My goal is to post once or twice a day on Midnight Sun. But you should also follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@samsessa) for more frequent updates.

(Photo: Sam Sessa)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:07 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music, Sessa's Weekend Watch


"when you actually held music in your hands". wow- dunno how I'm gonna explain that to my kids. And don't even start on the long distance carrier home phone theory that I think was a reality once.

Austin is a great place with awesome music. 6th Street is the place to be. I wish I could be there, but at least I 've been there. Go Longhorn.

Deep south is where you get large T- bone steak ( bigger than you can handle ), and awesome live rock and roll. Awesome weather, rocking music... enjoy your time. I am so jealous.

Congratulations on finally making it to SXSW Sam! Have fun and keep those interviews coming. Glad to see a good number of Bmore bands represented.

I heard your WTMD bit regarding your trip. I've never heard the festival called by the name "South By". Do people really shorten the full name to call it that? Please find out and report back.

Looking forward to your thoughts on how Baltimore can become a music town like Austin.

@JMW -- People who go to the festival a lot shorten it to "South By." Since I'm a newcomer, I'm sticking to "South by Southwest," but for the WTMD promo, they had me say "South By."

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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