SXSW Dispatch: The Show Must Stop

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strangers.jpgI’m coming back from SXSW sleep-deprived and my ears still ringing. My final hours in Austin went a little something like this:

After catching hip-hop sets from Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, and Jean Grae, I stopped by this outdoor courtyard at dusk to hear local Austin band Combo Mahala play Hawaiian music from the 20s and 30s. A couple in their 50s from England (both wearing cowboy boots) told me they came all the way to SXSW so they could hear bluegrass, country, and Hawaiian music. “The real gems are bands that aren’t even part of SXSW,” the woman told me.

Time for a break from music. I caught a screening of Heavy Metal in Baghdad, a documentary film about the lives of members of Baghdad’s only metal band. The film’s endearing look at a group of friend’s goal to be a band in the middle of a bombed-out war zone also elevates some mind-numbing facts about the lives of Iraqi refugees since the war started. When the group finally enters a Damascus studio to record their first album, it doesn’t matter if you like metal or not; you’re just glad they made it there alive.

Next I caught a Brooklyn “total sonic annihilation” band called A Place To Bury Strangers. Their set closer was more than 10 minutes of sheer noise. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many people cupping their hands over their ears or just walking away from a performing band. The sheer wall of ear-splitting chaos was surreal. Here in Austin, at 12:30 at night, a performance like this felt sublime.

I took a chance and decided to close my last night with a low-volume set from Denver’s Greg Harris Vibe Quintet. Hearing jazz music (fronted by a vibraphone) was a niece reprieve from the slew of noise elsewhere, although a visibly drunk woman dancing around tables and flirting with members of the band (while they were playing) kept things interesting.

“Thank goodness all the freaks are leaving,” A friend said as she pulled up to drop me off at the airport. “But I guess we’ve got a few of them that live here, too.” As I checked in, another friend bid me farewell with the following text message: “Come back, but let the rains clean up this city of mine for a month or so first. ‘Cause as usual this town looks like it has been sh!*t on for the past two weeks. Now back to normal…”

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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