Our band Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons has been around in its present form for about four years or so. We have short attention spans and enjoy bright colors, so our songs rarely exceed three minutes and we have a lot of costumes and glitter.
My friend and brother Christian Burnson (the bassist) and my friend Steve Shah (the drummer) are the musicians of the band, while Shane O'Neill (the singer and keyboard player) and I (the guitarist and occasional shouter) try to take care of the jumping around and vanity. People who like us point towards our funny lyrics, fast songs, and an energetic live show. Those who don't allege a lack of seriousness, often sloppy performances, and an over-emphasis on superficial aspects, like clothing and make-up.
Shane and our dear friend Grace have been going to South By Southwest in Austin, Texas for fun for a few years now. I went last year for the first time. My two favorite things about this year are: one, Steve and Christian are coming too; and two, I don't have to pay for a wristband. The way the wristband works is a bit complicated, and I might not have all the details down, but hey, I'm a blogger, not a journalist.
Every band, industry person, and other people registered at SXSW get a badge. These badges cost upwards of a million dollars, as far as I'm concerned, and give you two privileges: getting in first at shows, and the right to purchase one wristband. Not an actual wristband, just the opportunity to buy one. After you've bought it, your badge gets punched and you can't buy anymore. Common folks can't just go to the wristband store and buy one; only Austinites can do that at some pre-ordained time and place prior to SXSW.
So, what do we do? Saunter into the convention center, where everyone has badges, and try to convince someone to stand in line with you at the wristband store so you can buy one. I get frightened when walking my dog off-leash in parks and when drinking water on the bus, so I was really nervous about this plan. I decided to try the girl's bathroom, where a little female camaraderie might help. After fifteen minutes of rejection, I remembered that I don't really have any camaraderie with women and that I should try elsewhere.
Lo and behold, the first guy I approached agreed. We stood in line for ten awkward minutes, in which I promised I would definitely go to some show or another that he was involved in, laid my $150 or so down, and got the coveted wristband. Hooray!
The moral of this story: I get a wristband automatically by playing a SXSW show, and that saves me both money and anxiety.
One of the biggest misconceptions about SXSW is that having a show there means having a big crowd and lots of "exposure." In fact, I will be gratified if all four members of my own band show up. Tons of super awesome shows that I was at last year were absolutely dead. And of course, it makes sense. In Madison, have three or more good shows that might attract an overlapping crowd on the same night pretty much guarantees a pretty dismal turnout.
SXSW is an over-saturated market times a million, especially if you're not famous. Shane and Grace keep a notebook with all the bands they want to see at SXSW, broken down by hour and frequently with plans A, B, C, and D. Dolly Parton has canceled? How about Turbonegro, then? Okay, let's try The Briefs. No luck? How about those awesome metal dudes we met last night? There is no plan "let's try out this random band that I've never heard or heard anything about." This also means that opening for an awesome band doesn't mean anything, because people bounce around so much.
I'm not trying to be cynical or at all imply that you all shouldn't fly down and come to our show, but I'm not going to burst into tears if we're not discovered by Kill Rock Stars or carried out of the show on the shoulders of our new adoring mob of fans.
We have two shows booked for SXSW next week. One is our official SXSW showcase for Crustacean Records at the Molotov Lounge on Thursday night. We play at 10 p.m., hitting the stage with Droids Attack, the Gusto, Ouija Radio, Birthday Suits, and Peelander-Z. Our other show is GayBiGayGay, a backyard festival on Sunday, March 16, when we play at 5ish. Shane and I went last year and had a great time.
I feel like my hopes and dreams for this year are pretty reasonable: experience warm weather, see some awesome bands, see some terrible bands that make me laugh, stay up totally late, eat tacos, and play a show that I won't be ashamed of.
Cyn Cyn will be checking in with reports from the Pons' performances, other live music shows, trips to taco shops, and other experiences at South By Southwest starting next week.