The Rise and Fall of the Great SxSW Empire ©
From where I stand, 2011 was the turnaround year for the SxSw Festival. Interactive registrants outnumbered Music, with music becoming a more-than-anticipated part of Interactive. The Music part of things very nearly got out of hand. The perfect example is where greed and egos combined to make a very poor performance by the Strokes into a news-worthy near-disaster.
On closing night, with Kanye doing the Kanye thang at Seaholm until 4 AM (how was that OK’ed or allowed by P.A.C.E.???), Red Bull at 4th & Congress, and other shows, both official and fringe, going violently overboard in their attempts to garner attention, it hardly felt like the good SxSW vibe of as little as 3 years ago.
Permits for the unofficial, unsanctioned Levi’s event, during SxSW, had been somewhat tricky, ever since 2005, when the temporary event popped up an outdoor venue at the Habaña Annex at 709 E 6th St. After 2 successful years, SxSW rented that venue out from under Levi’s, and went around town bragging about sticking it to Levi’s, and me.
So, I scouted and helped negotiate a new home, at the former American Youthworks warehouse, at 4th & Brazos. 2 more great years there.
Here’s where, from my viewpoint, it started to turn weird, and downhill … precisely at 12 Noon, at the very moment that the Levi’s-Fader “Fort” opened its doors, on the opening day of SxSW 2008, the SxSW organization hired a fairly large group of homeless folks, gave them PETA signs, and proceeded to march them adjacent to the entry line that was stretched around the block, allegedly protesting Levi’s cruel treatment of animals(?!). I started to intervene … I couldn’t help it … I was so taken aback by the “dirty pool” nature of the tactic, I started confronting the “protesters” … but quickly got shooed out of there, and rightfully so, by the event production crew. It wasn’t any of my business anyway, so, I left, even though I was shocked and ashamed of how low SxSW would stoop, to fuck things up.
For SxSW 2009, the planning arm of the SxSW org, High Beam Events, leased the Levi’s, venue location out from under them, again.
However, even though I had been explaining the set-up that made the Levi’s-Fader event possible, High Beam and SxSW couldn’t figure out how to use the property for a music event, much less one that would include alcohol. Lame So, what did they do with the space, having negotiated a $40,000+ lease, for a 4 day event? High Beam/SxSW let American Apparel (the company known for its ads that featuring offensive photos of 18 year olds that look like 15 year olds) put a bunch of cardboard boxes of not-so-sellable clothing out in the parking lot, for sale. I have no idea how that went, but Yuk!
Sooo .. in 2009, I found a nice little spot just east of downtown for the annual Levi’s-Fader event, even suggesting a name the owner liked, “Pine Street Station”, and got that fully permitted for a great outdoor music venue. Unfortunately Kanye West announced a closing night appearance at the venue, 4 days prior to the 2009 festival, and caused major problems. The next year, 2010, the City’s guard was understandably up, but we worked everything out, even as Transmission Entertainment’s “Mess with Texas” event (also my client that year) moved in across the street.
Not long after SxSW 2010, I came to the difficult realization that I did not want to be the one to pull the Permits for the event in 2011. That, it ends up, was a lucky call.
The Fader Fort is celebrating its 10th anniversary of annoying South by Southwest officials with a new partner and plans to stream performances live in conjunction with MySpace Music. Expected to be held at the same Pine Street Station location at East Fifth and Waller Streets, the four-day invitation-only event will be called the Fader Fort by Fiat this year.
Rumors have been swirling about Fiat flying in some big names (the Strokes?) this year. In the past, such acts as Amy Winehouse, Lou Reed, Kanye West, M.I.A., Kid Cudi, the Black Keys and more have played the Fader Fort.
… Although officially-credentialed SXSW-goers usually get some sort of priority entry, the Fader Fort’s practice of admitting some lucky fans without music business ties, has made it the hottest fringe party spot of SXSW.
As it turned out, Levi’s payed for the official, free SxSW Strokes show at Auditorium Shores. Was there a lack of proper security measures? Notice the guy in the video with “SAFETY” on his T-shirt. He isn’t a licensed Security provider, and has no idea what to do:
and how did it go at the “unofficial”, but behind the scenes – SxSW-won’t-try-to-block-your-permits-this-year” Fader Fort byFiat? You decide: