SXSW: If I Had a Wristband Badge …

Last night didn’t go quite according to plan. Apparently 9:00pm is not quite early enough to show up to a moderately popular showcase without a wristband. We ended up standing in line downstairs at the Soho Lounge listening to Butterfly Explosion‘s set upstairs; I liked their sound quite a bit, although the backing vocals and harmonies might have sounded better if not filtered through the floorboards. The SXSW staff were frank about our poor odds of getting upstairs, but optimism reigned and we lined up behind 12 other hopefull patrons.

At 9:00, things were quiet, so the SXSW workers had things well in hand; a few paying fans left, and 10 people in front of us got filtered upstairs by around 9:30pm. Things looked pretty good for us until 9:45, when the situation got comical. The Butterfly Explosion wrapped, but the expected outflow from upstairs never materialized. Instead, the influx from the street picked up dramatically in anticipation of the Gemma Hayes set. It was about this time that the two burly guys went off to count patrons, leaving two ladies (one frenetic, the other disinterested) downstairs to monitor traffic flow. This they did with approximately zero effectiveness, with a meek “um, sir?” as their half-hearted attempt to verify credentials on the dozens of people who slipped upstairs unimpeded.

The burly guys came back from their count and relayed that the club was getting close to breaching fire code. The frenetic woman then began shaking the “badges only” sign like a Crawford protestor, and achieved about as much meaningful change. An impromptu line of wristband buyers appeared next to the stairs while several people, with and without badges, continued pushing their way upstairs. The big guys finally shut down the skippers and got some semblance of control on traffic, but by this time they had already created a fuming mass of confusion and anger among the various badge-holders, wristband wearers, and unadorned bystanders.

I know that most SXSW workers are on the volunteer plan, but the crew at Soho Lounge left a lot to be desired in managing entry to the show. If they had exhibited some consistency and backbone, then the situation would have gone much more smoothly. We likely would still have not gotten in without a wristband, but who knows? I heard every lame excuse in the book as to why certain people without badges or even wristbands should be (and were) given access to the show. “Oh, that’s my guitarist.” “You know me, I was here earlier with [NAME].” etc. etc. If I had more balls, I would have led with “Hey, I’m the ghost of Layne Staley. I’m incorporeal, so I don’t need a badge. Say goodbye, don’t follow, bitch.”

But I ddn’t, so we left. We probably should have tried for somewhere other than an Irish showcase on St. Patrick’s Day, but there was Irish folk music (Pubcrawler?) coming out of B.D.Riley’s to ease our pain.

Lesson learned, I probably won’t try spitting into the wind tonight. Which is a shame, because there are some more bands I’d like to see. Just not enough to spend $175, apparently. Maybe next year …

8:00 Weary Boys – Continental Club (1315 S. Congress)
9:00 Grady (Austin) – Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th)
10:00 Matthew Sweet and Suzanna Hoffs – Drink (325 E 6th)
11:00 The Longcut (Manchester) – Exodus (302 E 6th)
11:00 Blackbud (UK) – Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th)
11:00 Deathray Davies (Dallas) – Buffalo Billiards (201 E 6th)
11:30 Cayto (Glasgow) – Karma Lounge (119 W 8th)
12:00 Nine Black Alps (Manchester) – Exodus (302 E 6th)
12:00 Living Things (StL) – Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th)
1:00 Charlatans (Manchester) – Exodus (302 E 6th)
1:00 Black Moses (UK) – Ritz Downstairs (320 E. 6th)
1:00 Duke Special (Belfast) – Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th)
1:00 Cinematics (Glasgow) – Soho Lounge (217 E 6th)

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