From The Accidentals to Nathan Kalish to Heaters, West Michigan bands are making a splash in Austin like never before at the massive South by Southwest music conference.
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This year, it could be called South by West Michigan.
This week’s South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, is getting a tasty slice of West Michigan with a bevy of bands familiar to Grand Rapids audiences performing – and recording ArtPrize song entries – at the Creative Many Michigan House, where AMI Entertainment, dizzybird records and other local companies have set up shop in this residential abode to promote Michigan products and music … and beer.
Starting on Monday with Grand Rapids’ Love Fossil and singer-songwriter Nathan Kalish & The Lastcallers (with Eric Soules and Robbie Saunders), Michigan House has been turned into a recording studio for one-song sessions recorded by engineer Peter Fox of Grand Rapids’ Stone House Recording, with resulting songs entered into this year’s ArtPrize competition.
Kalish and his band aren’t official SXSW performers, but with more than 50,000 music industry representatives and registered attendees in Austin (and thousands of others), they’re using it as an opportunity to show off their music and play several different venues around town.
“I’m mostly just here to promote the album I’ve got coming out in July,” Kalish told Local Spins after recording his song, “How Am I Supposed to Get Back Home,” at Michigan House.
Local Spins is doing SXSW, too, with photographer Anna Sink and a team of “correspondents” providing a diary of sorts of the impression that West Michigan’s music scene is making on Austin and vice versa. Overall, more than 2,000 acts are playing Austin this week, making this a hectic place to be. (Return to Local Spins for more updates later this week.)
“SXSW is one of our favorite music conferences,” said Nicole LaRae, co-conspirator behind Grand Rapids’ dizzybird records label, which represents the likes of Heaters and Gringo Star, who play a dizzybird showcase at the Michigan House on Thursday afternoon. “We adore Austin and are excited to have a home for an unofficial showcase for the label.”
Dizzybird has helped curate the one-song ArtPrize recording sessions at the Michigan House. And so far, the vibe has been “stellar,” according to LaRae. “Right now, there is a panel on ‘Detroit: You Can’t Make This Shit Up” happening on the patio while a band sets up for a session. Ideas are floating around, collaborations are occurring, and lots of Michigan products are being explored and shared. The atmosphere feels like home.”
Connections are being made, too. LaRae noted that a Detroit promoter was so impressed by Flint Eastwood’s session at Michigan House that he’s “making a bunch of phone calls regarding the band.” The house also was featured on National Public Radio on Tuesday. “The bands have been great, they really love the house, the idea behind it and were all excited to perform their song,” she said.
In addition to Love Fossil and Kalish, most of the acts recording songs as part of this week’s sessions are from Michigan, including: Grand Rapids’ Heaters, Traverse City’s The Accidentals, St. Joseph’s Slim Gypsy Baggage, Detroit’s The.Black.Opera, Flashclash, Jamaican Queens and Flint Eastwood, and Luke Winslow King, a Michigan native who now makes his home in New Orleans.
Others are Atlanta’s Gringo Star, Brooklyn’s The Bergamot, New York’s The Mystery Lights and Mal Blum, London’s Happyness, and Austin’s The Ghost Wolves and Dana Falconberry.
Here’s a gallery of images from early-week activity at the Creative Many Michigan House, courtesy of Local Spins photographer Anna Sink.
SXSW 2015 TAKE ONE: PHOTO GALLERY BY ANNA SINK
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