For many Michigan bands, last week’s South By Southwest was their first Austin adventure. They reveled in that (except for Nathan Walton & The Remedy’s broken van). Check out their takes & highlights.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: South By Southwest returned to Austin in earnest earlier this month, uncorking the world’s largest music festival of its kind and showcasing artists from across the globe, including dozens of bands from Michigan. Some performed at four showcases on Sixth Street (Dizzy Rooster, San Jac Saloon) organized by Yorg Kerasiotis. Others performed at events hosted by The Midwest House (sponsored in part by Opnr), while some played showcases independently. Today, Local Spins shares some of their stories of performing at SXSW and soaking in the festival’s unique vibe, many of them for the first time.
NATHAN WALTON & THE REMEDY – As singer and frontman Nathan Walton put it on Sunday afternoon: “Austin does not want us to leave. The (band) van broke down on our way to the San Jac (Saloon) today.” Consequently, band members have put a call out to fans and supporters to make donations via Venmo here to help them cover repair costs and get back to Michigan. As for highlights from the group’s first ever SXSW experience, Walton kept it short and sweet: “This is my top highlight: 1) The collaborations and the camaraderie. 2) Seeing The Zombies and Jimmy Vaughan live. 3) Street food and scooters.” By the way, by Monday morning — thanks to donations from fans — the band was on its way back to Michigan, set to play the Local Spins Wednesdays at SpeakEZ Lounge series on Wednesday evening.
DESMOND JONES – The Grand Rapids jam band performed at a showcase for The Midwest House. Here are the group’s top highlights from Desmond Jones’ first-ever Austin tour stop: “1) Our show at The Midwest House on Friday (March 10) was the band’s FIRST show ever in Texas! What a way to introduce ourselves. We had fun exploring the city in the short time we were there. We saw some great wildlife at Lady Bird Lake right next to our venue, met Charley Crockett at a bar, and ate some of the best street tacos we’ve ever had.
2) Connecting with The Midwest House and Opnr. We are so grateful to Opnr and The Midwest House for giving us the opportunity to perform. When we got on site we were immediately welcomed by smiling faces, and even saw some old friends who were working the venue for the week. Every artist that performed was from the Midwest and we were happy to be a part of it. We already have new opportunities coming in from making the trip and that makes us feel like our commitment and sacrifice to get to Austin was worth it.
3) Our set: We were blown away by the support from both old fans and new fans during our set at The Midwest House. The crowd was engaged, danced and partied with us from the beginning of our set until the end. We made a lot of new fans, sold some merch, and confidently left Texas knowing we had seized the moment, left it all on the stage, and looked good doing it in our colorful show outfits.
PATTY PERSHAYLA & THE MAYHAPS – Band leader Patty PerShayla shared a few thoughts about her group’s SXSW adventure (which for PerShayla also included performances with Traverse City’s The Accidentals). ”I wish more of these were conference-related, but between both bands I didn’t get a chance to use my artist wristband beyond the shows I was performing at.
1) At the AirBnB The Mayhaps are sharing with The Accidentals, there is this neighborhood cat (we call him Fred) who is always outside when we get back from a gig. The first time we saw him, he walked right up to mine and Lucas’s bedroom window. He lets us pick him up and we even let him inside and Sav made him scrambled eggs. Then he went off on some other adventure, perhaps to eat eggs somewhere else.
2) The Accidentals performed at a showcase for Folk Alliance International and one of our favorite acts of the night was Sara Curruchich. Her band was fronted by women, one of whom expertly played this gorgeous marimba.
3) The food is always a highlight in Austin, but finding $20 on the ground when I was already craving for something sweet was really special. Turns out that’s just enough money to get each crew member a Voodoo Doughnut.”
HANNAH ROSE GRAVES – Grand Rapids singer Hannah Rose Graves called her sojourn to Austin “an incredible couple of weeks. I am still in shock a bit. And as the dust may have settled in Austin, it lives forever in my heart. The crowds have gone home, and now it’s time for us all to rest. It’s truly beautiful to see all the moving parts. The prep work behind the scenes. The venues working late hours. The sound engineers running from venue to venue. The artists. Graphic designers. People from every walk of life. Coming together with one love in common: Music. Bands from all over the world sharing their hearts. Pent-up energy from traveling. Inspired as if we are human batteries charged up by our peers and their creativity and life stories. The talent at SXSW is out of this world. I learned so much. Highlights for me:
1) Seeing my favorite Michigan artists in a new setting. It’s like seeing something in a different light. Through a different lens. Seeing my already extremely talented friends in front of such a loving and appreciative crowd on the streets of Austin is something difficult to describe. The way the audience made them light up was a sight to behold. I am so proud.
2) The magic you stumble upon just wandering the streets of Austin during SXSW. This particular highlight took place in the peak hours of Saint Patrick’s day. Full house. Esther’s Follies on Sixth Street. The band and I are wandering around and we hear a crowd screaming and crazy energetic drums. We follow the crowd into Esther’s, squeezing past another band that was leaving. First thing we see is an old piano with a fish tank in it. We follow the music to a giant open room with a few hundred people in it. Chanting. And to our surprise, a Celtic metal band is absolutely throwing down, and they are from Dublin, Ireland. This was a highlight of SXSW and of my life. To get to experience authentic Irish music on Saint Patrick’s day at SXSW was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only that, but they asked if anyone else in the audience could sing. After some encouragement from my bandmates Zach Doobie and Jeremiah Wenger, I went up and they directed my singing parts with the band for a few minutes. The energy built so high in the room that I will be floating for weeks. They were extremely supportive of me as an artist and told the audience my name this or four times. The Scratch from Dublin: amazing group.”
VIDEO: Hannah Rose Graves at SXSW
MARK LAVENGOOD – For West Michigan musician Mark Lavengood, familiar to audiences for his Dobro and guitar work, the return to Austin offered several highlights:
1) Sitting in with all of the Michigan homies my first day I landed.
2) Listening to all of the incredible hip-hop acts curated by Kosha Dillz for the official Oy Vey Showcases.
3) Playing with Tyler Sjöström and Lyons & Co.
BRIE STONER – The Grand Rapids indie-dream-rock artist performed as part of The Midwest House showcase.
“The highlight for me was definitely playing the Midwest House showcase in partnership with Opnr music. The team at Midwest pulled off an incredible venue with amazing sound and have established themselves over years as a buzz-worthy stage and location at SXSW. In multiple other parties and events I heard people talking about how Midwest House was THE place to be this year. I can’t say I’m surprised.
“Midwesterners have the reputation for hard work and creative collaboration and ingenuity. So, I’m totally thrilled for the Midwest House team and honored to have had the chance to play there.”
More on The Midwest House Facebook page.
THE GASOLINE GYPSIES – “I don’t think we’ve ever been more proud of what Michigan music has to offer the world,” said band business manager Jack Hunger. “Yorg and all of the sponsors he aligned brought a Mitten mix of everything from hip hop to rock, pop to bluegrass, singer-songwriter, country, Americana, and everyone shined.
As we visited the myriad of venues between our crazy schedule, every audience was moved by what the our state was bringing to the table. I overheard two couples talking at San Jac Saloon “Yeah, that’s another act from Michigan,” while watching Patty PerShayla & The MayHaps. “They must have one hell of a scene up there.”
I know we already know that. Texas is now figuring it out.
Though our passion is in writing original music and performing it, competing for crowds walking by multiple venues showed us how an occasional, well-placed cover can grow a crowd, quickly. We can’t forget that we make art for people who not only appreciate it, but also want to be entertained. Everybody loves to occasionally sing along.
Austin really knows music. Austin music fans are mavens. We met show goers who blew us away with their knowledge of music and musicians.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Michigan Bands at SXSW 2023