A quick introduction – my name is Amy Mantis and I play guitar in and write songs for Canary, a five-piece rock n roll band comprised entirely of Berklee students. You can download our new EP (for free!) at www.canarytheband.com.
For most young bands, playing at SXSW is a dream come true, and it definitely was for us. We submitted officially through SonicBids and were denied. Over 10,000 bands submit and about 2,000 are accepted (and probably 1,000 more play in Austin throughout the week).
About a week after SonicBids announced the final line-up of bands, which Canary was not on, I received an email from Jeff Dorenfeld:
Contact me tomorrow or next Tuesday. Canary is the HRR band going to SXSW. Lots of work to do going forward.
First of all, I had no idea Canary was on HRR so that was awesome, and second of all, we’re going to South by Southwest!? Wait. Seriously!? It took a solid week or so for that to sink in, and I don’t think it truly sank in for me until we were there.
Fast-forward about a month to March 13th and the five of us are on a plane headed for Austin to play at Berklee’s 7th Annual SXSW Party. Having never been to Austin, we were all looking forward to the entire experience – both playing and exploring the city. Shortly after we arrived, we went down to 6th Street (the main drag in Austin’s downtown) to check out the action.
Unless you’ve been to SXSW, it’s kind of hard to describe the enormity of it. Sixth Street is bar after bar after bar on both sides with music pouring out of every window along with an endless stream of people walking around. You can stand in one spot and hear at least five different bands at once. It’s pretty crazy. And it’s all day long. You could probably see close to 40 bands in one day just in one bar. It’s a lot to take in. Our first night there I remember walking by Friends Bar (which is where we were playing on Friday) and it was one of the coolest feelings ever.
After three days and three additional shows, Friday, the day of the Berklee Party, arrives. We load our gear into a cab at our hotel and head downtown. The party started at 1PM. We had a couple of hours for ourselves and it was interesting to see how empty and quiet 6th Street was before the music and the droves of people took over.
Our set time was 2:15PM and we had 20 minutes to show everyone there what we can do. We played a five-song set and gave it everything we got. I’ve never worked harder or had more fun in 20 minutes in my entire life. There was one minor technical difficulty, but we made it through and definitely learned a thing or two from it. All in all, the show was a blast. There are videos of us as well as the seven other incredibly talented bands that played here.
The next day we headed out of Austin to Clear Rock Ranch in Johnson City to play at the 3rd Annual Berklee SXSW Barbeque. It was a barbeque contest and a party all at once. Again, none of us had experienced a real Texas barbeque so this was awesome. And the ranch was gorgeous. We played a semi-acoustic set, enjoyed some delicious barbeque, met a lot of awesome people, and then had an acoustic jam session with Roger Brown. There were other Berklee students there as well as alumni. Emily Elbert and her band a few songs, and Devon Yesberger held it down on the melodica during the acoustic jam.
We rolled back into Austin around 11PM and went down to 6th Street one more time before we flew back east and arguably back to reality.
This was, without a doubt, one of the greatest experiences any of us have ever had. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and returned to Boston (where the weather is the same as Austin right now!) completely reinvigorated and inspired. We’re already planning for 2013’s SXSW – hope to see you there!
Amy Mantis is an 8th semester Music Business/Management student and a Senior Peer Advisor at Berklee College of Music. She plays guitar in and writes songs for Canary. She can be reached at email@example.com