Austin music festival drums up spillover shows

Evan’s Distorted Dallas

By Evan Henry

Music Editor

If there is one week that features the best variety of independent musicians and artists, it’s the week of the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas.

Last year, SXSW reported 2,371 music festival showcasing acts, 553 of which were international. The festival brought $315.3 million to the Austin economy, and 60,458 room nights were booked in 71 hotels last year. SXSW brings music lovers from all over the world and crams them into Austin and spinoff festivals crowd the surrounding areas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. 2015’s festival will span March 17-22 and will attract a large crowd.

To accommodate such a massive amount of talent, festivals such as 35 Denton and Spillover Music Fest, curated by Dallas talent agency Parade of Flesh, have begun to stir their own pot of music in North Texas. 35 Denton begins the weekend before the SXSW Music Festival, while Spillover takes place the last day of the festival.

Numerous bands will play at all kinds of venues March 8-28, and that is hardly the end of it. Even though I find 20 days of non-stop music stemming from a single festival somewhat ridiculous, it does give new bands a chance to be seen.

Without SXSW, blogs and labels wouldn’t have anyone to buzz about, agents wouldn’t discover new bands to manage, and the surrounding music scenes would grow stale.

It’s this sort of thing that keeps music fresh. Bands that can’t handle playing 10 sets of more than a dozen songs in five days during SXSW are not likely to participate in this musical marathon.

Bands that can, however, such as San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees, have used the opportunity to build a near-permanent fan base. For about 10 years, thousands of fans have come to Austin just to see Thee Oh Sees rip it up in some splintery, grimy basement in the city. Nowhere else in the country, at any point in the year, can that happen.

During 35 Denton, downtown Denton is flooded with a trove of talent, the majority of which are bands on their way to Austin. They perform at nearly all hours, and some of the best performances don’t take place on the main stages.

Instead, in true Denton fashion, the basements and garages of the many residences spread across the city turn into musical venues. Two years ago, during the day in someone’s living room, the sounds of an amazing two-piece synth and guitar act caught me by surprise. I have never heard them since, and that’s the beauty of the spill.

Before I was old enough to attend festivals like SXSW, I went to several “Bro-fests,” the precursor to Parade of Flesh’s aptly named festival, “Spillover.” For only $20, I was able to see more than 20 bands. That’s what’s so great about SXSW – bands can come early and stay for the whole week or just the weekend, while 35 Denton and Spillover provide an opportunity for them to play a show or two in between.

North Texans can’t ask for much better. There is so much talent right in our own backyard, albeit for a limited time. If someone can’t stand a day’s or a weekend’s worth of music, there remains no shortage of three-band venue shows.

From a promotional standpoint, these shows are a real lifesaver amid the full lineup. Only a handful of bands have to divide the revenue from cover charges, and the shows take up just a couple of hours in an evening instead of an entire day. No one is in any rush.

In Texas, the month of March floats the rest of the year for bands and music lovers alike. It kicks off festival season, brings new exposure and inspires all kinds of new music.

Sure, it can be stressful getting from venue to venue, struggling to find parking or rushing through a crowd of people to see your favorite band. But in the end, you not only make new friends but also new memories.

Give the spillover a try. You won’t regret it.