There is at least one Madison-based band that embarked for Austin earlier this week. The trio of Mike Huberty, Ben Jaeger, and Wendy Lynn Slaats, better known as Sunspot, are making a second trip down south in as many years to bring their harmonic rock to eager music fans during the South By Southwest multimedia festival.
One major impetus for the trip is to network with other musicians, particularly in terms of organizing tour stops in other city. "We met some really good bands form Austin, others from Philadelphia and New York, and hung out with friends fro Wisconsin and Ohio," explains Jaeger, the guitarist for the banc, "so it was really great networking going on."
One impetus for the trip is to promote their new album Neanderthal, which was released last month. "It's exciting to go to these cities and play at these bars that aren't even regular venues as they turn into exciting places to see live music," he notes.
"We actually made money on our tour last year," Jaeger continues. Sunspot performed four times of the course of the 2006 festival. "It was all guerilla marketing, as they weren't official SXSW showcases," he notes. Their schedule is less certain this year, owing largely to the fact that they didn't make their final decision on whether or not to take the trip until a couple of days ago.
Sunspot currently has a single show lined up this time round in Austin, their ninth trip to the capital of Texas. They'll be playing at Trophy's on Thursday, Mar. 15 as part of the Invasion of the GoGirls, an showcase devoted to indie women musicians.
And they hope to organize more shows on the fly, simply to participate in the live music free-for-all that is SXSW, inside and out.
"There are hundreds of bands that go down there and do the independent circuit," Jaeger explains. "Last year, one of my fondest memories was going to the local showcase, where the hometown organizers try as hard as they can to keep the official festival at arm's length."
Of course, SXSW isn't all music; the partying includes plenty of eating and drinking too. Ben and his wife Allison (also a Madison middle school music teacher) recommend a pair of options for Latin cuisine and slow-cooked meat, the two hallmarks of dining in the Texas city. She suggests Habana Calle 6, a Cuban restaurant that recently relocated to 6th Street from its longtime home in the SoCo section of town. He recommends Rudy's, a southwestern barbeque chain with three locations in Austin and one in neighboring Round Rock.
The band is also in the thick of the local and regional music awards flurry that gears up in Madison and Milwaukee each spring. Jaeger spoke at the Madison Area Music Awards nominee party and fundraiser on Monday night, thanking the organization for their donation of 11 guitars and two basses to Madison schools, directly helpful in his role as a middle school music teacher. The band was also nominated for the Pop/Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year in the 2007 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards. They previously won WAMIs in 2004 and 2005 for Rock Artist and overall Artist of the Year, respectively.
For people stuck in up north, the band will be publishing updates of their return trip to SXSW on their blog
"Any band in their right mind should go down to SXSW," Jaeger concludes. "It's easy to get gigs."