The Triangle in Austin: Who's going to South by Southwest? | SXSW | Indy Week
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The Triangle in Austin: Who's going to South by Southwest? 

These eight acts aren't the only North Carolina bands heading to Texas to play South by Southwest this year: Austin veterans Chatham County Line, Spider Bags and My Dad is Dead join this delegation, as well as Carolina Chocolate Drops, looking to capitalize on the steady momentum behind their recent Nonesuch Records debut.

But the bands presented below offer a wide cross section of the reasons someone might travel 20 hours to add their voice to the din. The explanation might be humble or a touch quaint—Schooner came for the experience, Bowerbirds to say goodbye to the road for the time being. Or, as in the case of Lost in the Trees or The Love Language, both of whom have big records due later this year, it has everything to do with pushing for a big 2010. For more coverage of this year's SXSW, see our music blog, Scan.

⇒ Want to see this story laid out in a table, as it appeared in print? Download the JPG (1.2 MB) or PDF (516 KB).


click to enlarge American Aquarium - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

AMERICAN AQUARIUM

Who they are: Raleigh's premier alt-country bar boys

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 3

Why they're playing: "For me, it's about seeing a lot of friends that we don't see a lot," says frontman B.J. Barham. "We have lunch dates set up with friends. It's for us not trying to get a record deal or an interview from Paste. It's just fun. We're not looking to be this year's Deer Tick, but if that happened, that's OK."

Why it's hard: "Most of them aren't paying gigs," says Barham, meaning that—for a band like American Aquarium, already, and kind of always, on tour—they've got to find ways to balance the budget.

Getting there, getting back: More than two months deep into a three-month national tour, American Aquarium will play two shows in Austin on Wednesday before playing nearby Denton and Ft. Worth on Thursday and Friday. They'll return to Austin on Saturday for an afternoon show and do a paying gig in Dallas later that night.


click to enlarge Bird and Arrows - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

BIRDS AND ARROWS

Who they are: A married Durham duo harmonizing about living out their love

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 2

Why they're playing: Pete and Andrea Connolly will be seeing and playing Austin for the first time, but they're also hoping to network. "We made some promo discs in hand-sewn cases that we can hand out to other labels or bands," says Andrew. "That's the next step for us—to team up with a band bigger than us or to step up with a bigger label."

Why it's hard: "Both Pete and I do this full-time now," says Andrea, noting that he works as a brewmaster three days a week and that she bartends once per week. When the road isn't paying, they have to be frugal. "But it's like starting a business, and we're investing all we can in it now."

Getting there, getting back: Birds and Arrows used two shows to get to Austin and four to get back. They joined The Love Language and Schooner in Baton Rouge, La., on the way down. Coming back to North Carolina, they'll swing back through Louisiana before playing three shows in Tennessee as they move from west to east.


click to enlarge Bowerbirds - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON

BOWERBIRDS

Who they are: Raleigh songsmiths of tender, undeniable odes to love and the world

Visits to SXSW: Second

Number of shows this year: 2

Why they're playing: "We want to see other bands," Beth Tacular says happily. "That's why we're playing shows on Wednesday and Thursday, just so we can have time to discover bands. We're on the road so much, we don't have a lot of time to discover new music."

Why it's hard: This year, they don't expect it to be. After this tour, Tacular and Phil Moore plan to stay off the road until they finish their log cabin near Pittsboro, N.C. So it's a victory party at the end of three years on the road: "This will be our last celebration of all of this touring," says Tacular.

Getting there, getting back: The Birds took a short Midwest jaunt, including a show with Joanna Newsom and two gigs in Moore's home state of Iowa. After SXSW, it's straight home.


click to enlarge Caltrop - PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE

CALTROP

Who they are: Heavy Carrboro aces with riffs pulled from steel wire

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 3

Why they're playing: In mid-April, Caltrop will head into the studio to record the follow-up to their grand debut LP, World Class, with Nick Petersen. They intended to tour in March, anyway, to prepare these songs. "We said, 'Fuck it, let's just try it and plan to do a tour around it,'" says drummer John Crouch.

Why it's hard: "Well, definitely our financial future," says Crouch, laughing wearily. "We all had to put a lot of money into the van to get it ready, and we're all more or less broke at the moment. Taking off 10 days of work at the moment is not ideal."

Getting there, getting back: Caltrop played one show in Louisiana on Monday, one in Mississippi on Tuesday and another in Louisiana on Wednesday, before sprinting to Trekky Records' Carolina Jubilee by Thursday afternoon.


click to enlarge Hammer No More the Fingers - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS

Who they are: Agile, addictive indie rockers from Durham

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 4

Why they're playing: "The best press we've gotten for our a résumé is as 'one of the 25 must-see CMJ artists last year,' so we're just trying to get more exposure and keep our name in people's minds as much as we can," says guitarist Joe Hall. They're also looking for a new label for their second full-length LP, currently about half done. This may be a chance to find it a home.

Why it's hard: They've been busy this year, with a European tour and the first sessions for a new album in Baltimore completed just last week. This just makes for one more early-year conquest, and as Hall says, "It just made the drive six or five hours longer."

Getting there, getting back: They'll drive through the night from Baltimore to Durham on Monday to do laundry and repack, and then they'll head to Birmingham and hit Austin sometime Wednesday. They won't play heading to Texas or heading home.


click to enlarge Lost in the Trees - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON

LOST IN THE TREES

Who they are: Carrboro chamber pop ensemble with gliding arrangements

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 5

Why they're playing: On May 11, ANTI- will release a new version of the band's 2008 LP, All Alone in an Empty House. They hope these shows get them in front of the press and promoters. "We'll network a little bit, but I'm horrible at that," says frontman Ari Picker. "We're pretty much nobody on the national stage, I suppose, and we want to try to drum up some interest."

Why it's hard: "I certainly felt the tension and financial stress and taking almost a $3,000 hit of going down there," says Picker. "Our band is horrible at that—a dozen people and this 15-passeneger van. I'm sure some bands do it much cheaper."

Getting there, getting back: They head straight to Texas, but they'll play one show in Shreveport, La., on the way back to Chapel Hill.


click to enlarge The Love Language - PHOTO COURTESY OF MERGE RECORDS

THE LOVE LANGUAGE

Who they are: Shambling soul-pop exclaimers from Raleigh

Visits to SXSW: Second

Number of shows this year: 11

Why they're playing: The Love Language publicly debuted its new five-piece lineup. Aside from promoting last year's self-titled debut and previewing the band's upcoming Merge debut, Libraries, it's simply a chance to get the band tight very quickly.

Why it's hard: "It's just physically demanding to do all of this," says Stu McLamb, "but it's our job to go and promote it, so it's nothing to complain about."

Getting there, getting back: The five-piece premiered at a Durham benefit last Friday, followed by a show in Wilmington on Sunday. After a show in Atlanta on Monday, a show in Baton Rouge, La., with fellow North Carolinians Schooner and Birds and Arrows on Tuesday and the SXSW gauntlet, they'll head straight home.


click to enlarge Schooner - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

SCHOONER

Who they are: Dreamy Carrboro pop quartet graced by country and soul

Visits to SXSW: First

Number of shows this year: 1

Why they're playing: Trekky Records is hosting a Carolina Jubilee of local bands in Austin. Schooner decided it was time to try Austin. "We haven't ever done it before," says frontman Reid Johnson. "I'm all about getting this community recognized by people outside of the area, and this show is with a bunch of bands that we like a lot, so it was kind of serendipity on this one."

Why it's hard: Everyone took a week off from work to play, and keyboardist Chris Badger, who's in law school, will fly into Austin to meet the band.

Getting there, getting back: They'll play as a three-piece on the way to Texas, with stops in Asheville, Alabama and Lousiana on the way down. Headed back to North Carolina, they'll play in Mississippi and South Carolina before joining Deerhunter and Free Electric State at Cat's Cradle Sunday, March 21.

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