It’s Monday morning in Austin, Texas. SXSW 2011 ended yesterday, but I booked a late flight out, knowing that I’d want some time to let things really sink in. My last duty before I leave is to try and express what this experience was like for SpokesBUZZ and the amazing Fort Collins musicians we had the pleasure to showcase here last week. I hope I can do it justice. Luckily, the talented Darren Mahuron of Summit Studios was on site with us and supplied all the photos for this post. So when my words fail, the pictures will prevail! (Thanks, Darren).
While I arrived early to attend SXSW Interactive, many of the board members flew in the week of the music portion of the festival, and the bands arrived via the road — some touring in and playing shows before or after SXSW, some hopping on the biodiesel bus that our friends at ZeroHero arranged and piloted from Fort Collins. (This was immediately dubbed the “SpokesBUSS”).
Thursday night we had a gathering of the Fort Collins folks at Moonshine, one of Austin’s fine patio establishments near the convention center. Many of Austin’s bars and restaurants are built with patios and/or rooftops so you can better enjoy the ambience. Weather during the week was gorgeous, in the ’70s and ’80s, springtime in the hill country at its best. Reuniting in Austin with the FoCo folks was inspiring, to say the least. This was the moment we’d all worked so hard for! It was fun for me, after a week in Austin, to see all the new arrivals and through them, experience the awe all over again. The biggest thing about Austin: there is SO. MUCH. MUSIC. It’s staggering.
Friday was the day of our SpokesBUZZ SXSW showcase at a bar called The 512 (that’s Austin’s area code). We had bands playing on two stages all day long – the main stage upstairs featured our SpokesBUZZ “Class of 2011″ bands, while the downstairs improvisational stage was reserved for our supporting bands, impromptu jams, and performances from partnering bands like Danielle Ate the Sandwich and Denver’s The Heyday. The sound from the rooftop stage filtered down below to Sixth Street, Austin’s main drag and a thoroughfare for literally thousands of music fans. Those that weren’t pulled in via the sublime sounds from the rooftop fell prey to the siren song of FREE New Belgium beer and Coyote Gold margaritas. We also provided some food for those attendees that RSVP’d online to the showcase (more than 4000 people submitted an RSVP in the weeks leading up to SXSW). The festival attracts people from the music industry, the media and of course, plenty of music fans from all over the world. I shared the registration table with a trio of Brits for several hours, who loved the atmosphere so much they hung out for several sets (no small win at SXSW, where the norm is to pop in and move on, over and over, all day long).
All in all, it was one terrific party, for sure. But here’s what it really was: it was one terrific Fort Collins party. The bands said it best, explaining from the stage, “we came a thousand miles to play for you guys – and we’re bringing Fort Collins to you!” And it was absolutely true. Somehow, an Austin bar was transformed into a full-on Fort Collins experience Friday. Summit Studios prints hung above the merchandise table – it was like a mini Gallery Underground. John Long brought in a ZeroHero tent, allowing attendees to compost and recycle waste from the event — just like at home. Shaped Music provided the sound at The 512, both for our showcase AND for official SXSW showcases throughout the festival. And this merely scratches the surface of the support we received and is only a small snapshot of the Fort Collins presence here in Austin.
And then, of course, there was the music: the bands represented life in Fort Collins like nothing else could: creative, energetic, good-natured, fun in the sun. Singing, dancing and smiles all around. And, oddly enough, a sense of community – even in a city filled to the gills with strangers, it was easy to feel like you were among friends.
And we certainly were among friends, literally. One of my favorite parts of the day was watching the bands enjoy each others’ performances and show mutual support – they don’t get to do that terribly often, as when they’re at home, they are frequently playing gigs on the same night in different venues. And, as is our way, the Fort Collins folks traveled the streets of Austin in a big rowdy pack, with people from home pulling in friends who were visiting and making new pals along the way. And when the SpokesBUZZ bands played additional shows at SXSW over the weekend, there was always a contingent of FoCo fans front-and-center, singing along or even offering assistance with equipment before, during and after the performance. Overhead at the Wire Faces show on Saturday (they also played as part of the Denver-sponsored Reverb showcase) “We’re Wire Faces and we’re from Denver …” [half-hearted crowd golf clap] “… AND Fort Collins, Colorado!” [enthusiastic cheer from the dozen or so FoCo friends on the rooftop]. Gotta love that.
In addition to love and camaraderie, I think most prevalent emotion I felt over the past few days, and the feeling I’m leaving Austin with is pride. The city where I live turns out talent, values hard work, and fosters creativity; all that is true. But in Fort Collins we also enjoy – and happily share – a sunny disposition and an outlook on life that I haven’t found anywhere else. Not that I need to look any further than my own backyard.
I’m glad I rediscovered Fort Collins at SXSW. I’m proud of SpokesBUZZ and all the people who support it. And I’m ready to come home now.
- Julie Sutter, satisfied citizen, Fort Collins, Colorado