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Blog & News

April 7, 2009

Ask the Attorney-April 2009

Filed under: Columns from Our Towne Magazine, General — Paul Czech & Associates @ 3:56 pm

I just returned from Austin, Texas.  If you’ve never been there, you might want to put this central Texas city on your list of “must see” future travel destinations.  Austin is the Texas State Capital and home to the University of Texas.  It’s also one of our country’s premier artist communities known for its incredibly vibrant and active music scene.  When it comes to music, Austin is as important as Nashville or Chicago or Los Angeles and it shows, given the number of live performance venues this amazingly friendly and tolerant City has to offer.  Public Television has been paying homage to this music Mecca for decades now by broadcasting its “Austin City Limits” program which showcases performances by our country’s best singers and songwriters from all genres of music.

I was in Austin to attend the South By Southwest (or, as it is commonly known, SXSW) conference.  SXSW runs for ten days and I was there for most of that time.  Things start off with a film festival and an interactive festival, then, midway through, the SXSW folks take a day off to breath before the music & media conference begins.  I got to town on Sunday, the 15th, two days after the conference officially started, and after checking into my hotel room, I walked over to the Austin Convention center, registered with the powers that be, got my all important platinum badge, then hit the ground running.

For the film portion of the conference, there were 9 screens spread throughout the city where attendees could go to view the various films that were being exhibited.  In addition to the screenings, there was a trade show where a whole host of companies had booths and displays and there were panels of film industry experts who were giving their input on a wide range of industry related topics.  There were over 130 full length movies, both narrative and documentary, to watch and, if you could find the time and the energy, just as many short subject films to sit through and enjoy.  That’s a lot of movies.  The highlights for me were Spike Lee’s filmed Broadway play “Passing Strange”.  It was a treat to see this on a large screen at Austin’s Paramount Theater and to hear Mr. Lee introduce the film and answer questions when it was done.  I attended a few interesting panel discussions as well.  Renowned filmmakers Richard Linklater and Todd Haynes talked about how they got where they are and Robert Rodriguez and Henry Selick talked about making films in the latest incarnation of 3-D.  Seth Rogen, whose latest film “Observe and Report” premiered at SXSW, sat on a panel with his co-stars Anna Faris and Michael Pena and the films director Jody Hill, all of whom had interesting stories about the making of their latest project.  There were certainly enough opportunities for conference attendees to rub shoulders with the rich and famous while networking and learning up to the second information about the industry they aspire to.

By Wednesday when the Music portion of the conference began, things really shifted into high gear.  There were thousands of bands from all over the country and all over the world showcasing their talents in the many music venues that are spread throughout Austin.  The most condensed grouping of clubs is along Sixth Street where performance spaces occupy seven city blocks.  To say it was overwhelming is a gigantic understatement.  I found myself listening to a band for two songs before moving to the club next door to do the same thing.  There was so much interest in the musicians that were playing that the city closed down Sixth street and one of its crossroads, Red River St., to traffic so attendees and spring breakers could move about freely.  I’m glad my hotel was walking distance to all of this.

And the music conference was even more star studded than the film festival.  Quincy Jones, who delivered this years keynote address, shared intimate stories about his life in the music industry working with Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Oprah and Michael Jackson to name just a few.  He was so into talking with us that his address went over time by at least an hour.  Little Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band  talked about the vast mediocrity of today’s music blaming this on the lack of development the industry offers to aspiring bands.  The Oak Ridge Boys, out of place at this very rock event, talked about their years in the industry and the state of their current comeback.  Kanye West, Metallica, PJ Harvey, Devo, Third Eye Blind, Erykah Badu, Billy Bob Thornton and many others all performed.  I don’t have enough space in this column to write about everything that took place in Austin.  You’ll just have to trust me when I say this conference rocked!  I can hardly wait for next year when the whole thing happens again.

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