SXSW 2010 Texas hana hou
Several acts from Hawaii hope to make an impression on attendees at an annual music conference in Texas
By Gary C.W. Chun
For the second year in a row, a little bit of aloha hopes to make its mark at this year's South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. Starting on March 17, several local acts will be among many from the United States and around the world vying for the attention of its multitude of attendees.
Anuhea Jenkins and Pimpbot return to SXSW for another go-round, this time with Erving "Kona" Chang, Tavana McMoore and Sabrina Velazquez.
"We want to show that the islands are not just about tikis or your typical Hawaiian music," said Pimpbot's Eric Lagrimas.
Hawaii's official music reps gathered at the Manifest downtown bar Tuesday night for a group interview that also turned into a mininetwork gathering, as they traded contact info and conference tips.
On the Austin schedule are two promotional events and a Hawaii artist showcase to be held from March 18 to 20, including a sunset luau on the roof of the flagship Whole Foods Market and a happy-hour gathering at Roy's restaurant.
"I hope to do the same things I did last year, only better," said Jenkins, who's hoping her backup band the Green will get as much attention as she does. Besides a promotion deal with Whole Foods, the current Anuhea Right Love Tour has materialized in part because of her appearance at SXSW last year.
By the time their tour bus arrives at SXSW, the band will have done 10 gigs in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona.
"We should be on fire by the time we hit Texas," Jenkins said.
Warren Wyatt, president and CEO of WorldSound and One Hawaii Music, who also manages Jenkins, said efforts last year were "specifically to bring attention to an unknown artist on the mainland, who even though has Hawaiian influences in her music, is strong enough to go larger than the local and tourist markets."
Things worked out well enough that Jenkins' mainland sales are now closing in on 60,000 physical and download sales.
"She's been the biggest-selling Hawaii artist outside of Jack Johnson over the past six months," he said.
The Green has their own local radio and national download hit "Love I" to promote.
"Hawaii has a renewable resource in contemporary music, much like agricultural products ... and it's an export crop that the state government has recognized by their support of the Hawaiian presence at SXSW," said SXSW's Australia/New Zealand rep Phil Tripp. Tripp organized Hawaii artists' participation alongside the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
One potential trailblazer is Chang, who has been performing music since he was 13. He spent 12 years as the drummer of Tropical Knights; now, with guitar in hand, he is a solo musician in Waikiki. His two albums include last year's "Acousti-me."
"I pray for big doors opening up for my music career that could take me to the next level," he said.
Velazquez, who starts recording her new album in Portland, Ore., three weeks after SXSW, has already made a connection with prominent Austin power-pop band What Made Milwaukee Famous.
"I'm thrilled to be playing there because it's always been on my bucket list," she said.
Even though McMoore is new to the Hawaii contingent, the "bluesman at heart" has taken it upon himself to commute to Austin over the last five or so months, playing upward of four gigs a week in Texas' main music city.
"I originally went there because Stevie Ray Vaughan is my hero," McMoore said of the late singer-songwriter-guitarist. "Now I'm there to really work on my craft. It's really killer to play there, and it's taken my music to a whole other level."
But Austin is just another stop for him on his way to expand his fan base, much like his extended stays in Northern California. "I've been doing this for the last couple of years, and it's a successful way to get to know people."
McMoore will be bringing copies of his new album, "Electric Monkey," back to Austin.
Pimpbot goes back to SXSW better prepared. Since they were not part of last year's official contingent, the ska-punk band relied on their do-it-yourself wits and relentless energy to make the most of being at the event.
"We printed up fliers at the local Kinko's, pasting our faces onto a page bought by DBEDT in the conference's program," said Lagrimas.
The band also worked trade shows in the convention center, where they met a rep from Armed Forces Entertainment. They joined in June, and a month later they were told they would be part of an Asia tour in September of U.S. military bases.
"We'd like to see Hawaii build up a showcase that is as big as other cities that feature their acts at SXSW, like Chicago, Nashville and Seattle," Lagrimas said.
"We're certainly going to be offering up an eclectic group of talent," said Jenkins. "We'll be saying, 'Look, this is the new face of Hawaii's music.'"