Originally published March 8, 2012 in the Chicago Journal's 'Metropolis' section
This winter, with temperatures barely dipping below freezing and not one opportunity to call “dibs” on a parking spot, the distinctions between the seasons might be tough for us Chicagoans to recognize.
For music fans across the country, though, there’s one unmistakable sign that spring is in the air: the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas.
Beginning in 1987 and growing exponentially in recent years, SXSW has become a Mecca for indie rockers, aspiring filmmakers, tech enthusiasts and moustached philanthropists.
In honor of Chicago’s contributions to the 10-day extravaganza, this Saturday, March 10 The Hideout will host its sixth annual sendoff party for local bands headed to the Lone Star State. In an attempt to recreate the all-day whirlwind experience of an Austin bar, the first band takes the stage at 1:30 p.m. and 10 more acts will perform before midnight. At $10 a ticket, that’s less than $1 a band.
The whole idea, as The Hideout’s president and co-owner Tim Tuten explained, is to help smaller Chicago artists finance the journey south.
“All these unsigned bands have no money to begin with, so it actually costs them money to go down,” Tuten said.
With Chicago gas prices topping $4.30 a gallon and a 30-rack of PBR pushing $15, a cross-country road trip can get awful pricey for a starving artist. Cash from the show should help to cover at least the beer money.
Tuten points out that Chicago bands have a historic connection to the SXSW festival, and have been making their mark in Austin for decades.
“Every year Chicago now sends 25 to 50 bands,” Tuten said. “We’ve got alt-country, we’ve got post-rock, we’ve got the jazz scene, and they know we have this multitude of different styles. Chicago bands get a lot of love down there.”
Highlighting this year’s delegation to Texas, the lineup at The Hideout showcases Chicago talent from across the musical spectrum.
If fuzzed-out, 90s-inspired indie rock is what you love, Unicycle Loves You is the band to see. Steeped heavily in the sounds of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., ULY brings indie to its roots while adding the occasional electro-pop overtone. With the recent release of their third studio album Failure, ULY is starting to get some serious local buzz. Taking the Hideout’s stage at 3:30 in the afternoon, this group gives you a reason to come out early.
As night falls and the music plays on, hip-hopper Hollywood Holt is set to perform at 8:30. From all ostensible evidence, the rapper suffers from no lack of confidence, and his beats are as big as his stage personality’s eccentric ego. Unabashedly goofy (his website features a zombie-inspired track entitled “Brains!!!”), if there’s anything to be said about this performance, it’s sure to be fun. And, after the last band clears the spotlight, Hollywood Holt will take over again at midnight for a dance party DJ set.
For something completely different, 9:30 will welcome Mike Musikanto. With a Midwestern brand of alt-country in the tradition of Uncle Tupelo or the Jayhawks, this singer-songwriter croons away with his guitar and harmonica. Representing a bit of the simpler Illinois aesthetic, Musikanto is a testament to the beauty of stripped down folk-rock.
Next up is a band that takes folk in another direction entirely. With a sound that matches up to its name, In Tall Buildings brings a lofty, atmospheric element draped over otherwise understated acoustic guitars. Like a densely packed cityscape, there’s plenty of electronic ambience to keep the listener mesmerized.
Kids These Days, performing at 11:30, is the final band to take the stage. These Chicago teens made a trip to SXSW last year and will return again in 2012, bringing with them their hybrid of hip-hop, funk, reggae, and blues-rock. The ensemble cast of youngsters present a mix of American musical roots with a fresh new spin.
So, stop by The Hideout this Saturday. Support the local scene, dance to your heart’s content, and help our hometown heroes pocket a little more cash for the big trip.