Austin, Texas – Every year, thousands of musicians, filmmakers, assorted industry types and dedicated fans flock to South by Southwest with hopes of finding a label deal, an audience, free food and booze, or simply a reason to dance. Among the myriad of artists from 38 countries that bombarded Austin March 14-18, Atlanta was well-represented in '07 with showcase performances featuring a variety of acts including the Black Lips, the Woggles, Tiger! Tiger!, Daddy a Go-Go, Trances Arc, Mastodon, Outformation, the Heart Attacks, Carbonas, the Futurists, Moros Eros, Showbread, Snowden, Crime Mob and Zoroaster. Most of them left their jobs and families (except for John "Daddy" Boydston of Daddy a Go-Go, who brought his kids along as part of his band) to mix and mingle at one of the world's premier music festivals. But the question is, was it worth it?
5 p.m. Wednesday, Rank Outsiders day party
"We are the Woggles, from At-lanta, Georgia," proclaimed Manfred "the Professor" Jones as the Woggles kicked off the first of their five SXSW shows at a tiny club. The band still maintains a local identity, yet the members all gathered in Austin from their various locales (California, Georgia and Alabama). "We had a good rehearsal last night," says drummer Dan Elektro. "Good, that is if you like comedy with your music." Onstage, however, the band launched into a rousing set that had the teeming club dancing with a nice selection of songs from its previous releases and a few from its current release on Wicked Cool Records. Since they are signed, the Woggles weren't looking for a record contract, just to expose their choreographed garage rock to a few more fans. "The Woggles are in constant motion," Jones says. "We just love to play." And play they did, making the most of the shows, leaving a trail of delighted fans and a few new converts along the way. George Hamlin, a music enthusiast from Austin, says he actually decided not to go on spring break in order to see the band. "I'll see them every time they play," he said as the band packed up to go on to the next gig.
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Red 7 Mess With Texas party
The Black Lips have played during SXSW three times, but this year's trip must've been a record-breaking outing. "We played 12 shows," says Jared Swilley, his voice raw from the grueling endurance test. "We just played as much as we could. And it's not because we need a label – we have that – but it was just good to do." When a show was cancelled because a balcony had collapsed, the band just went over to a nearby bridge and played a late-night set. "We can play anywhere," he adds, "but the only real downside was, sometimes we can barely talk from singing so much." He didn't seem too bothered, offering a great, shambling garage-punk set Saturday at the Mess With Texas comedy and music party, curated by former Atlantan David Cross, with help and sponsorship from Henry Owings' Chunklet magazine. The young crowd that gathered to see the Lips at Red 7 watched intently as an A-list group of modern comics performed to a jam-packed house in the main room of the club. "Aw yeah, I love it," Swilley said as he packed his guitar. "I haven't paid for a drink or food all week."
9 p.m. Friday, Habana Calle 6
The two tigers of Tiger! Tiger!, Susanne Gibboney on bass and vocals (Doll Squad, Catfight!, Lust) and lead singer/guitarist Buffi Aguero (Subsonics, White Lights), have played nearly every club in Atlanta. "And there's not a club in Austin that Lust hasn't played," Gibboney says. "But this is good because it's a great way to see a lot at once." No strangers to the road, the five-piece Tiger! Tiger! entourage made it to the first of two scheduled shows with no time to spare. "We got there just in time to do the show yesterday," says keyboardist Sam Leyja. "Tonight, we actually had time to see other bands," continues Aguero, who enjoyed seeing the Cynics as soon as her band wrapped up an intense and concise performance. Since the band is already signed to the feisty Austin Chicken Ranch label, why play the showcase? "Why not?" Gibboney counters. "Will it lead to bigger things? I don't know, but it's fun and we can do it, so let's see what happens."
Daddy a Go-Go
11:45 a.m. Saturday, SXSW Dew Music Festival
Sandwiched between Palm School Children's Choir and the Sippy Cups in an early morning slot, John "Daddy" Boydston's Go-Go gang included his sons, 15-year-old Jake on bass and Max, 12, on lead and rhythm guitars. Jonathan Paz, 15, was on drums, with 13-year-old Daniel Cohen on keyboard. Former CNN News producer Boydston is a tad older at 48. He releases his albums on his own label, so he used the showcase to highlight the band's family-friendly punk rock in a live setting. When they weren't playing, the Boydston bunch saw as much live music as possible. "I've never seen a nicer bunch of concert-goers here," Boydston says. "You know how at Music Midtown you always [saw] fights, wasted people and dumbass kids vomiting? I didn't see a single instance of that. Maybe I just stayed out of the rougher places, but even at the Stooges show people were cool."
But was it worth it? "There was a lot of trouble, effort and expense to play our show," he says, "But it was for sure worth it. I'm not a young band trying to grab the attention of a record company or anything, but I was hoping to raise Daddy a Go-Go's profile a bit, meet a lot of people and ultimately push my CD and download sales down the road. But even if that doesn't happen it was such a unique and fun experience to be here as a performing band. Hell yes, it was worth it. And for my kids, WOW," he laughs. "Can you imagine being 12 or 15 and having a SXSW experience – not to mention performance – under your belt?"