Some things change while others stay the same. Often times, change is the only thing that does stay the same. Around here the writing contributors have been sporadic, while the “industry” connections and outside collaborators beyond the site continue to grow. Each year, there are moments where I can look back and reflect on what has changed in my life, in relation to that exact same time period the year before. As far as the site is concerned, Feb/March is as good a time as any to gauge and reassess its current state, as press releases and emails flow in regarding Austin‘s yearly SXSW film/music festival. This year, we received a ton of opportunities, which weren’t made available to us during our first 2 years. Although this was encouraging for next year, the unforeseen surge of possibilities versus specific inconsistencies in the current “staff” left me doing some last minute fumbling to pull shit together. Ideas were proposed, ideas were scrapped and, ultimately, all the the disappointments and confusions wound up becoming blessings in disguise. Believe it or not, the cast of Twilight was actually the catalyst that resulted in us coming away with tons of amazing footage like video of Akron, OH blues-rock duo The Black Keys posted below.
Starting in February, I began receiving emails about the new biopic on the 1970s all-girl rock pioneers The Runaways. I quickly noticed that, at the bottom of the press release, 2 things were mentioned in relation to SXSW promotions for the film. The first just listed a pair of screenings, but the second referred to an “opportunity to speak with Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Joan Jett regarding the film“. I easily reread this 30 times, trying to ensure that I wasn’t misunderstanding the insinuation that somebody would actually place my creepy ass in a room with a pair of young Hollywood darlings. “Maybe I AM going to SXSW this year!“, I thought, but I knew that a decent mix of personal tragedy and pseudo-responsibilities wouldn’t make travel a good idea. My hunt to send a correspondent out to conduct the interview began with our Austin connection, but quickly hit a dead end. I couldn’t believe that I was having trouble finding someone who would be interested in being a part of something this ridiculous and those that were, were unavailable. It was just another eye-opener supporter the idea that I needed to retool some shit and find people who were like-minded an on the same page as I am with my vision.
Before completely giving up on the interview with Joan Jett and the Twilight girls, I had an epiphany. I knew that Kimya Dawson was going to be performing at SXSW, so I asked her if she would be interested in conducting the interview. She graciously agreed to do it for us and the publicist, being a huge fan of Dawson, was so excited about the prospect that she agreed to help us make the Kimya/Runaways interview a reality. However, as the events got closer and no real confirmation or details were coming through, I began to worry. Then, after talking to the person in Austin who agreed to film the interview and realizing that he was subtly and passive aggressively backing out, because he didn’t want to have to “park (his) car” or “hold (his) camera“, I flipped out and left my apartment for some air. Fortunately, by the time that I got back home, our writer, Prof. Milton Hersted, had already set me up with a lead for a cameraman. The guy that I was connected to is John Marvin Backstrom III, an accomplished video student who’s only a couple months away from graduating from Cornish College of the Arts, here in Seattle. He was already planning to head to SXSW and is extremely passionate about his craft as well as music. Unfortunately, only days away from The Runways promo events, we were still being strung along without any official confirmation. I arranged for a publicist to call me and she explained that, due to a hectic schedule including events in New York, confirmation wouldn’t come until the last minute, if at all. She also explained that, regardless of implications otherwise, there would not be an opportunity to have a one-on-one interview after-all and that Kimya would be expected to hop from table to table in groups to speak with the musicians and stars associated with the film without video documentation. There was no way that I was going to ask someone who was traveling with her husband and daughter, just flew in from a busy stint at Florida‘s the Harvest of Hope festival, had a schedule of her own to attend to, and was doing us a favor to deal with drama of this shifting game plan. Frankly, I didn’t want to deal with it any more either, so I simply thanked Kimya for her generosity in agreeing to help me out and then scrapped the whole scene for good.
But, what about John Backstrom?… He was still going to be strolling around Austin with video equipment. I had already had earlier feelings that this interview, which way too much focus had been placed on, might be falling apart, so I looked for other opportunities while he was down there. I found some events that we could get him access too, including the amazing MWTX Party which offered us free reign to video tape acts that ranged from Andrew W.K., Yacht, DJ Spooky, MAN MAN, Billy Bragg and more. Not only did John cover that event to death, but he also came away with endless more footage. I didn’t actually meet the videographer in person until yesterday and I was really impressed with the amount of material that he actually documented. It’s insane. The greatest thing about Backstrom is that he pulled off the type of wacky, reckless, and bold shit that I always wish that people will attempt but never do. Beyond house parties, main-stage events, and random parking lot shows, our newest addition found access even when it wasn’t necessarily “granted”, working his way past guest lists and climbing backstage and filming the shit out of everything that he could find any possilbe way to. Please stay tuned to Monster Fresh for a gang-load of additional SXSW live music footage, as it is slowly being posted over time. From what I witnessed yesterday, this kid actually managed to pull off better coverage of many of the events than those who actually threw the showcases did themselves.
One of the most impressive overall lineups during the festival was the MOG.com showcase at the The Mohawk on Saturday, March 20th. John and his accomplice, Ryan O’Neill had plans to fly out the morning of this event, but quickly agreed to push their flights back to the next day to cover it. The lineup of the MOG showcase was impressive, boasting supergroups like Broken Bells (Danger Mouse/James Mercer) and Demolished Thoughts ( Thurston Moore/ J. Mascis playing classic hardcore covers). This was a free event with a huge line of people and an hour plus waiting time to get into. I had managed to get John and Ryan VIP listed for the event, so they were able to walk past everyone and go directly inside. What I hadn’t been able to okay was filming, but they managed to enter with equipment anyway… which is AWESOME! Free whiskey was provided and a solid amount of footage was recorded. This particular video below of the The Black Keys, who headlined the event, is only a taste. The song “Thickfreakness“, from their sophomore album of the same name, was the lead off track to their set and was filmed with a Canon HV40 video camera.
Enjoy folks, and remember, this is only the first of a more footage to come. Our thanks to John, who is currently compiling the rest of it, for being so gangster. This has worked out better than we could have imagined.