The latest from our team at South by Southwest in Austin

SXSW: The Musical Highlights

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Categorized Under: Music, South by Southwest

On Sunday, I spoke with Greg Kot about the new artists he discovered this year at South by Southwest. You might know him as the music critic of the Chicago Tribune and the co-hose of Sound Opinions. You can listen to our conversation below, where I’ve also posted music by the artists he mentioned.

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SXSW Music In Photos: Day 2

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Categorized Under: KXT, South by Southwest

Take a look at the highlights from our media team’s second day at the SXSW Music Conference.

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Photos: Public Radio Rocks Day Stage at SXSW

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Categorized Under: KXT, Music, South by Southwest

KXT is broadcasting live from the Public Radio Rocks Day Stage from noon to 6 p.m. The event culminates with a performance by Dawes at 4 p.m. and Vampire Weekend at 5. We will be live blogging photos from the show, so be sure to check back in to see the bands you’re listening to.


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The Big Screen: Reviewing ‘Stoker,’ Recapping SXSW

This week, Art&Seek’s Stephen Becker and Dallas Morning News movie critic Chris Vognar discuss Stoker, Korean director Park Chan-Wook’s English-language debut based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. And we run through the highlights of South by Southwest and make a few suggestions for how the festival can deal with its growth spurt. Be sure to subscribe to The Big Screen podcast on iTunes. Stream this week’s podcast below or download it.

For a shortened version of our Stoker review:

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SXSW Music in Photos: Day 1

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Categorized Under: Music, South by Southwest

Take a look at the highlights from our media team’s first day at the SXSW Music Conference.


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Top Tech Trends At SXSW Interactive

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Categorized Under: South by Southwest

The ‘Jawbone UP Band’ is one of many self-tracking tools people are talking about at SXSW Interactive. The wristband, which has been updated several times, now tracks your steps, your sleep, and can even be programmed to nudge you with a vibration if you’ve been sitting for too long. (CC, Arthbkins)

South by Southwest’s tech conference is winding down in Austin. More than 25,000 people were in town talking about the latest in the tech world. KERA’s Lauren Silverman talked with host Sam Baker about a few big trends this year.

3D Printing

Now that the price of a desktop 3D printer has dropped to only a few grand, it’s become accessible to people who might never before been able to get their hands on the new technology.  There are doctors printing custom prosthesis, manufacturers printing components for aircraft, even fashion designers printing jackets.

Check out other objects people are creating using 3D printers.

Self-Monitoring For Health

This year at SXSW it’s all about apps to learn about you. Especially popular are apps like FitBit and Jawbone Up, which you pair with a wristband to monitor your health and fitness goals – how many calories you’ve consumed, how high your blood pressure is, hours you’ve slept.

At one SXSW Interactive presentation, Leslie Ziegler described a full year of tracking everything from how much time she was spending in meetings to her weight gain and blood sugar levels.

Ziegler says there are two major problems with the wristbands and apps currently on the market: precision and usability. For example, right now many of the sleep monitors available aren’t accurate, if you toss and turn they think you’re awake and that can mess up your data. The other problem, Ziegler says, is that the hardware you wear around your arm or clip on your shoes isn’t always comfortable, or you forget to bring it with you. So for self tracking to really catch on, she says it needs to be much more passive and not require strapping on so many clunky gadgets.


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Thursday Morning Roundup

LOS LANDSCAPES: The Meadows Museum at SMU is currently hosting the first-ever retrospective of Spanish landscape painter Martín Rico y Ortega. It’s the only American stop for the show, which was organized by the Prado. But you can be excused if you’ve never heard of him. “He was a Barbizon School painter in the time of impressionism, and this helped relegate him to the history of also-rans,” Gaile Robinson writes in her dfw.com review of the show. “During a time of the artistic avant-garde, Rico played it safe.” Still, she says his landscapes – particularly his pictures of Venice – are “perfectly pleasing.” If you’d like to take a quick European vacation and be home in time for dinner, this sounds like a solid option.

DSO TOUR DIARY: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is enjoying a few days rest before continuing its European tour Saturday in Vienna. And the players should be riding high after a very well-received performance in Jaap van Zweden’s hometown of Amsterdam. If you want to keep up with the orchestra from a behind-the-scenes perspective, senior principal associate concertmaster Gary Levinson is keeping a tour diary for theaterjones.com. His first entry is now up, in which he recounts his rocky trip across the Atlantic.

DAVE GROHL SPEAKS: Dave Grohl will deliver the music keynote address at South By Southwest this morning at 11 a.m. Not in Austin? No worries – our friends at the NPR mothership will live stream his sure-to-be-entertaining speech. For more on all things Grohl, maybe revisit my post about the documentary he made, Sound City.

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KXT’s Mark Abuzzahab Talks SXSW Buzz – And Appropriate Footwear

KERA news reporters Lauren Silverman and Stephen Becker are on their way home from SXSW’s interactive and film conference, and the crew from KXT 91.7 FM is gearing up now for the music conference.  KERA’s Sam Baker asked KXT Program Director Mark Abuzzahab what band was getting the most early buzz leading in to the conference.

  • Listen to Mark and Sam on KERA FM:
  • Or read a summary:


Mark Abuzzahab: I think Chvches is the band that is the most universally written about in the music press. They’re an electronic band from Scotland, they toured here in the U.S. last year, opening for Passion Pit. Their new record isn’t out yet and there’s a lot of excitement about them because they have this supposedly incredible live show.

Sam Baker: Well, they spell the name CHvrch?

Mark: I think that goes back to the running joke that all the great band names have been taken.

Sam: One of the great things about living in North Texas is so many bands playing at South by Southwest make a pit-stop,  playing in this area.

Mark: Yeah, artists have to travel to perform at the festival in Austin. So either on their way there, or the way out, they want to make some money. We really benefit from geography in this case. One of the artists I’m really excited to see this year is Dana Falconberry. She played at 35 Denton this past week.

The Relatives

Dallas band the Relatives played SXSW 2 years ago. They’re playing again. And they’ve got their first new record out in 40 years. It’s such a great story, and the Relatives play here at the Kessler Theater coming up on March 22.

Sam: KXT is part of a unique collaboration at the music conference this year?

Mark: KXT is joining with four other public radio stations in New York, Austin,  Philadelphia and Minneapolis, and we’re all sharing a public radio day stage. We’ll all be broadcasting the  sets live, starting Friday at noon. Artists like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Vampire Weekend, Divine Fits, Iron &Wine. It’s a great lineup, seven bands in all. And the whole thing will be live on KXT on Friday.

Sam: How is SXSW different from festivals like Austin City Limits?

Mark: The big difference is SXSW is bigger. Also SXSW is mainly for the music industry.  However, SXSW has also evolved into a spring break destination, since its the same week as the spring break for most colleges in the area. There are a lot of day parties that happen and you don’t have to be registered for the conference to attend them. And you get this phenomenon of college students staying with friends in Austin, responding to invites on Facebook for  the day parties.  So it’s really multiple festivals going on all across the city of Austin. Whereas something like Austin City Limits is really concentrated in Zilker Park during the day, with a few after-shows in the evenings.  SXSW is just massive and engulfs the whole city.

Sam: Any advice for anyone headed to Austin this weekend?

Mark: Wear comfortable shoes.



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Fred Armisen and Marc Maron Talk Alt Comedy

Fred Armisen Photo: IFC

AUSTIN – You can call it a panel discussion, but anytime you hand four comedians microphones, it’s really a comedy club you’ve entered. That was the case Tuesday afternoon when Fred Armisen, Marc Maron, Scott Auckerman and Chris Gethard gathered to discuss transitioning alternative comedy to TV.

“I’m an alternative comedian that IFC is trying to figure out how to transition to TV, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing the advice of our panelists,” Gethard, the defacto interviewer, said by way of getting things started. The other three (Portlandia, Comedy Bang! Bang! and Maron) each have shows on the network.

Alternative comedy at this point is more a sensability than anything. Maron said the term began to describe comedians who worked outside the club circuit in alternative spaces – places where they could stretch the boudaries of convention a little more. Now, when you hear “alternative comedy,” you’re really describing anything with a certain level of quirk. And it doesn’t have to necessarily fall outside the main stream – plenty of what Saturday Night Live does these days qualifies.

So how did these guys get here? Aukerman and Maron mostly have very successful podcasts to thank. The beauty of the podcast, Auckerman said, is that, “Hundreds of thousands of people want to hear you, just not all at the same time.” And now that many people have DVRs and subscribe to services like Netflix and Hulu, they can also watch your show whenever they get around to it. But don’t get a podcast as a stepping stone to a TV show, they all said. (Easy for them to say.)

Maron said he knows the tricky transition to television well. He auditioned back in 1995 for Saturday Night Live and didn’t really connect well with Lorne Michaels (Armisen theorized that since he never really heard back from the show, maybe they’re still considering him.) And he pitched plenty of pilots to networks before IFC picked up Maron, which debuts this spring.

In the past, when other networks passed, Maron said he would just wait out his time on the bench.

“Then you hope your life becomes more interesting or worse so you can pitch it again two years later,” he said. “No, I’m not that guy anymore – I’m much sadder!”

After about a half hour, the floor was open to questions. And a useful lesson was learned: Be careful when you approach a table of live comedians. The first person who approached the mic asked about how the comedians’ humor translates internationally. Armisen explained that he was recently in Sweden and happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any cultural gap in understanding Portlandia. The woman seemed satisfied with that response and began to head back to her chair as Maron was about to add his two cents.

“Stand up! Get back at that microphone – we’re still answering your question!” Armisen shouted with mock rage. “What kind of a person asks a question and just walks away?”

After that, each audience member with a question politely asked if they could be seated once they received their answer.

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SXSW Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion


Wearable Technology designer Jennifer Darmour created this garment to help people improve their technique in Pilates. Multiple sensors detect positioning and provide feedback to the wearer. (Leo Lam)

3-D glasses, sleep-monitoring headbands, energy-generating jackets…Wearable technology is on the verge of becoming mainstream. But can ski goggles with a built-in GPS and leotards that remind you to sit-up-straight actually be stylish and not just, well, geeky?

Steve Mann, a pioneer of wearable technology in the 1970s, demonstrating three of his inventions (CC, Glogger).

The world of wearable technology has come a long way from the “wearable computer” of the 1970s. Back then, researchers at the MIT Media Lab in Massachusetts were experimenting with attaching computer parts to their bodies and clothing. The early prototypes were  not exactly stylish.

Today, there’s a movement to blend technology and fashion more seamlessly together. Designer Jennifer Darmour came to South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive to talk about how we can literally weave technology into our clothing.

“Let’s face it,” Darmour says, “if we are going to be making these wearable devices and gadgets and we’re asking people to wear them, they need to look good.”

She says it doesn’t matter if your sweatshirt can protect you from UV rays and your shoes can track calories if their  uncomfortable and unattractive.

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