KCRW in Austin: Why SXSW is worth the trip

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KCRW's Jason Bentley at SXSW

Tuesday was the first official day of the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. For the next four days, the city is transformed, as music acts fill every venue. Bands play concert halls, alleyways, rooftops and backyards. They go to Austin in the hopes of making it big, while playing to music journalists, promoters, and fans from around the world.

KCRW music director Jason Bentley is at the festival. “Even though the backdrop and the foundation is blues and rock and country and folk, a short walk down Sixth Street, which is the main drag here, will show you how much of an evolution South by Southwest has prompted,” Bentley told us. “So, it’s exciting.”

In fact, of the 2,000 or so bands playing at the festival, about a quarter of them come from outside the United States.

(Can’t go to SXSW? Read about LAxLA happening now in Los Angeles below)

SXSW’s creative director, Brent Grulke, says bands who’ve reached a certain point in their careers, whether they come from Australia or Sweden or Japan, train their eyes on the United States. “The U.S. still remains the largest market for music, and most acts would like to make the United States part of their career,” he said.

“There’s so much activity here, and so many people who can make a difference,” Bentley added. “It’s just worth trying. If you believe in your art and your craft, you’ve got to give it a go.”

For bands and music fans staying put in LA., there’s a new festival this year. It starts tonight and runs for four nights at the Satellite, a club in Silver Lake. It’s called LAxLA, and it’s organized by Moheak Radio, an online music station that started about a year ago.

“There are bands that go out there and feel like they’re going to be lost, in a sea oflineups and band lists,” said Moheak Radio program director TK (yes, that’s his name). “And it’s expensive.”

There’s a lot more SXSW coverage all week on KCRW and online at KCRW.com.