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Don't Mess With Tacoma

The South Puget Sound is headed for the giant music orgy.

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Orgy. It’s not a term I use lightly. While it’s a commanding word — evoking descriptive mental images and the smell of frenzied sweat — the word is appropriate only in certain situations. Try describing midnight mass or a baptism with the word and you’ll see what I mean.

The South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival held yearly in Austin, Texas, is an orgy. Make no mistake about it. Every March a mind-boggling and ever-growing mob converges on Austin. Bands, managers, members of the press, club owners, record labels, PR people, booking agents, groupies, and even a few average music fans all cram into the Texas capital for one of the biggest music industry elbow-rubbing and contact-making hijinks in the history of mankind. SXSW is craziness, creativity, excess, and hype all in the purest sense.

SXSW was first held in 1987, making this year’s music festival the 21st rendition. Starting as a battle of the bands with the modest goal of shining a spotlight on Austin, SXSW has become a massive industry event that continues to get bigger every year. In 1994 SXSW expanded to include a film and interactive media festival, only adding to the enormity of the gathering.

SXSW is not easily described. In the beginning SXSW seemed like an almost mystical experience where all of the “next big things” came to be found and play amazing shows in tiny clubs for the luckiest of the lucky. Then, at some point, stories about lines of badge-holding music industry folks trying to squeeze inside Austin’s music venues to prove their importance started to be the norm. Stories about two-hour waits for cab rides and total inaccessibility for average music fans became synonymous with SXSW.

But don’t get me wrong. The craziness and absurdity of SXSW makes it all the more fascinating. As blown up as it’s become, SXSW is still the focus of the entire music industry for five days in March. Thousands of performers play dozens of venues, and everyone who wants to see the circus is there.

It’s an orgy, and the Weekly Volcano is in with a suitcase full of baby oil. We’ll be ceasing regular working hours and heading to Texas next week — to be pretty and be seen, but mostly to report back on the mayhem for our faithful South Sound readership. A number of local bands are making the pilgrimage to Austin, and we’ll keep you updated on how the acts Tacoma and Olympia know so well fair on the sweat, blood and hype-covered stages of Austin. Look to for all of your SXSW news.

Here are a few local people and bands we’ll be following.

Kimya Dawson

Even those who’ve followed the career of Kimya Dawson (who many first took note of during her time with the Moldy Peaches) are probably a little surprised by the way Juno has made her a household name — or, at least, damn near. Dawson contributed nine songs to the movie’s soundtrack, which spent time at number one on the Billboard Top 200 last month. That’s the kind of success that gets you on The View with Whoopi Goldberg — which actually happened in late January (something those privy to Dawson’s early anti-folk beginnings probably never thought they’d witness).

Based out of Olympia and a proud member of the K Records family, Dawson — who weaves unique and charming minimalist indie folk singer/songwriter style — will be passing through Austin for SXSW as part of a bigger two-month tour, which began in early March. In Austin she’ll be playing the K Records showcase on Wednesday, March 12, as well as a crapload of other gigs (some officially associated with SXSW, some not). Dawson believes playing shows that aren’t affiliated with SXSW is important because “the kids can’t afford the armbands” that get all of the industry types into official SXSW shows.

While Dawson will be just one of thousands of performers in Austin for SXSW, one would assume her situation is, at least, slightly different than most. Dawson is married to fellow musician Angelo Spencer, and together they have a daughter, Panda Delilah, who will be 2 years old in July. Along with the instruments and merchandise, Panda Delilah has a reserved spot in Dawson’s tour van and will no doubt be one of the youngest sets of ears and eyes to behold the insanity of SXSW 2008.

“It’s such a weird festival. It’s an industry thing and complete mayhem. I try to avoid that part,” explains Dawson, who has previous SXSW experience with the Moldy Peaches.

“I really like Austin. We’ve got friends there we’re going to stay with. Before (Panda was born) I would just crash anywhere. I can’t really sleep on couches anymore.”

So how is it touring in a minivan with a child under 2 years old?

“She loves it. She’s already been to 11 countries and 14 different states,” says Dawson.

“She’s a little older now, and I’m an early riser, and she’s not. We’ll probably hit the road early and drive while she sleeps.”

As for the success Juno has brought, Dawson seems as surprised as anyone.

“It’s OK that people like it. I just hide. I had no idea this would happen,” says Dawson.

“I feel like the movie is a really sweet, relatable story, and that’s why people like it.”

The same could be said to describe Dawson.

The Supersuckers

Technically, the Supersuckers are from Seattle. They’ve been around forever, and anyone who’s been paying attention should know the band calls Seattle home. I certainly do. However, longtime Supersuckers guitarist Rontrose Heathman now lives in T-town and, in fact, co-owns Satellite Coffee, which sits above Supernova Hair and Tattoo.

In mid-March don’t expect to find Heathman pulling shots at his coffee shop. He’ll be in Austin with Eddie Spaghetti and company dishing out the Supersuckers’ trademark rocket-fueled punk cut with whiskey-breathing country and preparing for the release of the band’s latest record, Get it Together. Heathman also will be trying to enjoy SXSW while staying far enough away from the madness to not be engulfed.

“The industry part I’ve never known much about. Frankly, it bores me,” offers Heathman.

“We tend to stay away from that part of it. It’s important to sanity. We haven’t done (SXSW) in awhile. The industry has changed. It used to be a place where young bands came to be found. We’re not trying to be found.”

One of the things the Supersuckers are trying to do is promote Get it Together, which Heathman describes as the band’s best effort to date. Considering the Supersuckers are in their 20th year and have released more physical albums than most people own anymore. That’s saying something. Get it Together will hit shelves in late spring or early summer.

“It’s kind of a grown-up record — in a good way. I think it’s a more mature record, thematically. It’s not about drugs and cars and women. That’s not really what we’re about anymore,” says Heathman.

“We didn’t make a conscious decision to make a mature record. We don’t think like that. If we did, we’d probably be more successful.”

The Supersuckers will play Emo’s Annex Friday, March 14. The Weekly Volcano will be there to let you know how Heathman and the boys are holding up and how the four new Supersuckers songs in their set compare to the earlier, less mature work of one of the coolest bands of all time — which is now, at least partly, from Tacoma.


Of all the hundreds of bands scheduled to perform at SXSW 2008, only one officially lists Tacoma as their hometown. That band is Lozen — a metal breathing, all-female twosome set to make their second appearance at Austin’s annual industry fracas.

Like Dawson and the Supersuckers, though lesser known, Lozen won’t arrive in Austin with hopes of hitting it big. For drummer Justine Valdez and guitarist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, who took the name Lozen from the female Apache warrior and have been dishing out heavy melodic metal since ’04, SXSW is more about having fun than making a name for themselves.

“We’re not expecting to be discovered. We’re just expecting to have a good time,” says Valdez.

“We don’t think we’re going to get anything out of it. It’s really just another show. We still play to ten or fifteen people at SXSW.”

Signed to Australian Cattle God Records, an Austin-based label specializing in hard rock, Lozen will play a label showcase at Room 710 on the opening night of the SXSW Music Festival. They’ll be joined by label mates Megazilla and Gorch Fock (among others).

However, like so many bands that struggle to balance the industry madness of SXSW with their indie ideals, Lozen also will take part in Fuck By Fuck You — a now 10-year-old event that’s an “alternative to the overly marketed and commercialized SXSW.” According to Lozen, Fuck By Fuck You is free and offers free beer to all in attendance. It’s something like a backyard house party that flourishes and feeds off the influx of artists who flock to Austin for SXSW and have mixed feelings about the festival’s industry-based intentions.

That’s not to say the ladies of Lozen don’t see the value in SXSW; they just try to keep the madness in perspective.

“There’s so much to do. As a band, if you have the opportunity to play SXSW, how could you not?” explains Valdez.

“I don’t like the chaos, but you run into a lot of people and make a lot of friends. It’s like a meeting spot.”


Those three bands — along with countless others — will be a part of SXSW 2008. So will the Weekly Volcano. SXSW runs from Wednesday, March 12, through Sunday, March 16. Check out for pictures and updates throughout the entire music industry spectacle. Everyone loves a good orgy, and SXSW 2008 is a huge one. 


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