The official list of performers at the 2011 South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, last week only made mention of three artists from Maine: Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Jonathan Edwards, and Patrick Hodgkins (of Empress Hotel from New Orleans). Not mentioned were Wesley Allen Hartley and the Traveling Trees (who showed up early, played, and left on tour), the band Bobby (from Western Massachusetts but with a member from Maine), the rapper Astronautalis (who currently has two Mainers — Oscar Romero of Gully and Derek Gierhan of Haru Bangs — in his live band), and O'Death frontman Greg Jamie (who now lives in Biddeford and runs the venue/café The Oak and The Ax). Surely there are more.
While the annual music fest invades the city's already band-laden streets, it has also attracted an ever-growing circuit of micro-festivals, after-hours concerts, and day parties that add to the already swarming masses of musicians and fans filling the streets at all hours. This year, Portland indie-rock band Dead Man's Clothes were among of those additional bands. After an invigorating trip to New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon in October, the quartet were confident about making plans to aim for another major US festival. Months of planning hatched a tour but no SXSW showcase or any dates in Austin. Upon arrival and with the help of some recent Portland-to-Austin transplants, DMC secured a day party. Two thousand miles from home and they were about to play a show at noon next to a giant palm tree for an audience of people eating breakfast tacos and drinking coffee. Not exactly a career-making opportunity, but they had done it — they went to Texas with the best intentions and ended up getting to play a show.
Just two nights prior — between exploring the bars of Austin and asking everyone they encountered if there were any open slots they could fill — the band had attended an official showcase at the Swan Dive, where their friend (and guitarist TJ Metcalfe's former bandmate) Lady Lamb The Beekeeper was kicking off a bill packed with popular acts including Ted Leo, Sharon Van Etten, and more.
And now, 32 blocks north of the main nightlife drag on 6th Street (and where they'd seen Lady Lamb), the band from Maine were making their debut. A handful of friendly faces and Maine-related shirts (Moxie, Novare Res, Bowdoin, etc) welcomed the slightly-too-early-to-rock show by Dead Man's Clothes. The organizers were so impressed by the performance that they invited the band back for another set that evening, when the party would be in full swing with a bigger audience. Ecstatic, the band accepted, but it later turned out that there wouldn't be time for them to play again. However, there was a consolation prize: they were able to land a slot the next afternoon at the West Tent in Brush Park — an officially sanctioned SXSW day party across the street from the Austin Convention Center. Thousands of festival attendees would potentially hear the band. They'd done the impossible. Their name may not have been listed in the program, but they were there, they were part of it.