Dartmouth musicians descend upon Austin
AUSTIN, Texas Campus musicians may struggle to find adequate performance venues in rural New Hampshire, but for Reptar bass player Ryan Engelberger '12, the pickings at last year's South by Southwest music festival were equally slim.
"Our first [show] was at a burger stand across from the [Austin] Convention Center, the next one was at a coffee shop with speakers that had been left outside and weren't really working," Engelberger said.
Dartmouth students flocked to Austin, Texas over spring break for the 25th annual SXSW music festival, which ran from March 15th to 20th. Two bands featuring Dartmouth students made numerous appearances: Reptar, and Filligar, which includes Teddy Mathias '09, Pete Mathias '09 and Johnny Mathias '11 and Casey Gibson.
Reptar which includes Engelberger, Graham Ulicny, William Kennedy and Andrew McFarland, all from Athens, Ga. played a total of seven shows at SXSW, a mix of both official and unofficial showcases.
This year Reptar was contacted by Cantora Records about playing their Thursday night showcase, and the group used connections forged at last year's festival to help set up the rest of its festival program.
"The shows are fun, but you're always rushing from one to another," he said. "We played one that was a 15-minute set and spent more time setting up and taking down than playing, which was ridiculous."
Reptar members took time off from their busy SXSW schedule on Friday to meet with people in the music industry and film footage for a music video that they are working on, Engelberger said.
Reptar's last performance at the festival was a house show, which the band played from the back of a flatbed truck, according to Engelberger.
"At some point someone lit a Christmas tree on fire," he said, recalling the event. "The house show at the end was awesome because after a week of industry there weren't the badges, wristbands and other justification levels that you get at other shows."
Continued networking paid off for Filligar, which played during two festival showcases. The first was part of the official showcase sponsored by the promotional group Sonicbids at the bar Maggie Mae's. The group played again at the "Smoke and Sand" showcase at the Rusty Spurs bar, sponsored by the music blog Ryan's Smashing Life and the Organic Artist Agency.
Filligar entered an online competition for a spot to play at the Sonicbids showcase in Austin, but did not initially win a spot. This did not deter the band, according to Johnny Mathias, and they traveled to Sonicbids' offices in Boston to perform live for its blog.
"The same day that we found out about that [Sonicbids] show, we also found out we would be playing at a show through RSL blog," Mathias said.
Both bands have benefitted from continued relationships with music businesses.
Filligar has been in contact with RSL blog as well as Sonicbids prior to the festival. RSL's founder Ryan Spaulding listed Filligar's album "The Nerve" as one of the best music projects of 2010. The group played at an earlier showcase with RSL blog in New York City, Mathias said.
Reptar has gotten a fair amount of Internet buzz in the wake of their performance and has garnered comments from a variety of music blogs including the U.K. Music Magazine site New Music Express.
"They weren't really that buzzy beforehand, but there's definitely been a word-of-mouth thing about them here," blogger Matt Wilkinson said of the group on NME.
Mathias said that the large Dartmouth turnout at the festival and the wide array of live music made for a great experience during the Filligar's downtime off stage.
"It was great to see the Dartmouth community transplanted in Texas at this cool festival," he said. "On one hand we were a band playing there, and on the other hand we were there as a bunch of music fans. On both fronts it was a great experience."
While music performances are central to the festival, networking opportunities were at the core of Filligar's SXSW efforts.
"From the professional perspective, it's really a nexus for the industry there's people coming from all aspects of the industry, people who you've been having email and phone conversations with. It's an essential meeting point for writers, bloggers, talent and agents," Mathias said.
Since the festival in Austin, both Filligar and Reptar have continued to play at other venues across the country. Reptar finished its tour with the electronic band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. in cities such as Little Rock, Ark. and St. Louis, Mo. Filligar is heading to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for a show on April 1, then down to the Mercury Lounge in New York City where it will be playing on April 8th with Greg Dona '10, a DJ who also performed at South by Southwest.