The Michigan House pop-up venue hosted an opening reception amid brilliant, summer-like weather in Texas, followed by an evening rock show at an Austin hot spot. (Photos, videos)
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South by Southwest in Austin is the kind of place where Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys can draw record lines of fans for his side project The Arcs’ corporate gig in an old Post Office here, while diverse stars such as Kenny Gee, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Break Science try to impress industry reps, conference attendees and fellow musicians on the opening night of the world’s biggest music festival.
But it’s also a place where lesser-known Michigan acts can start to develop an audience for their music while immersing themselves in the spectacle that is SXSW – and they can do it in a comfortable and inviting environment hosted by Michigan House, a pop-up venue setting up in Austin for the second year in a row.
And if Monday’s opening day is any indication, SXSW 2016 is off to a roaring start for the Great Lakes State.
Grand Rapids’ The Outer Vibe put an exclamation point on Michigan House’s opening afternoon on a gloriously cloudless 90-degree day – which included an ArtPrize conversation with Sarah Urist and a Michigan Film & Digital Media Office reception – with a fetching semi-acoustic set uncorked from a tree-house stage in Michigan House’s backyard.
That was followed by Monday evening’s Founders Brewing tap takeover at the Stay Cold nightclub just down the street, an event that proved the state’s mettle as a music industry upstart.
VIDEO: Michigan House-Austin and Stay Gold, Day One
Traverse City’s The Accidentals and Grand Rapids’ Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish impressed a standing-room-only crowd – Texans as well as Michiganders – with sets that represented different ends of the musical spectrum: Jesse Ray’s loud-and-brash blues-hued rockabilly and The Accidentals’ instrument-swapping, genre-blending magic, from a mind-blowing cover of prog-rock’s Rush to hyper-energetic indie-folk originals that showcased Savannah Buist, Katie Larson and Michael Dause’s unassailable charm.
(New York’s Mal Blum and Austin’s Dana Falconberry also performed. It was the first of several SXSW performances this week for The Accidentals and the sole Austin set by Jesse Ray and crew, who play a show later this week in Indianapolis.)
INTIMATE AUSTIN VENUE, APPRECIATIVE AUDIENCE
With literally thousands of performances over the course of a week or so in venues official and unofficial, Michigan House gives the state’s musicians an inviting home base to hang out as well as a place to display their talents in an unpressured atmosphere.
“It’s just intimate enough,” The Outer Vibe’s Lisa Kacos said of the rented Michigan House home just off the main drag in Austin, “and everybody that we talked to here seemed to appreciate the music. And that what it’s all about.”
For pop-rock’s Outer Vibe, making its second straight trip to SXSW after spending 67 straight days on a coast-to-coast tour, it’s also about making connections at showcase concerts and finding some measure of recognition in the music industry.
“There’s magic in the streets,” gushed Outer Vibe drummer Noah Snyder. “Anything can happen here at any time.”
Added guitarist Nick Hosford: “Everybody’s here, everybody you need to know is here. They’re all here, they’re all walking up and down the streerts. Yyou can run into your favorite artists, and you can run into (NPR’s) Bob Boilen. Everything’s here. ”
That includes a bevy of Michigan businesses and organizations, from representatives for Founders Brewing and Bell’s Brewery to those representing Start Garden and ArtPrize.
Indeed, five “house bands” – The Accidentals, Heaters, ONEFREQ, In Tall Buildings and Flint Eastwood – are recording songs at Michigan House during South By Southwest this week, recordings being engineered by Peter Fox of Grand Rapids’ Stone House Recording.
The tracks will be entered into the 2016 ArtPrize competition and one of the five bands will be chosen to play this year’s ArtPrize kick-off concert. Return to Local Spins later this week to listen to those songs.
PHOTO GALLERY: Michigan House-Austin, Day One
Local Spins coverage of Michigan House-Austin and SXSW provided with support from Walk the Beat. Find out more about this unique Grand Haven event online at walkthebeat.org.
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC