Food, extras sometimes steal the show at music festival -
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Stefanie Drootin-Senseney of Big Harp performs on the patio at Mean Eyed Cat in Austin.


Food, extras sometimes steal the show at music festival
By Kevin Coffey

Read all of Kevin Coffey's updates from Austin at his blog, Rock Candy. Or you can follow him on Twitter.

VIDEO: Check out an interview with Saddle Creek band Big Harp at SXSW.

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AUSTIN, Texas — You probably don't realize it, but South by Southwest feels the ups and downs of the national economy, just like everyone else.


Kevin Coffey's blog, Rock Candy, has moved to a new home on

You can find the latest updates from South by Southwest at

Rock Candy began almost three years ago with Kevin's coverage of Lollapalooza and continues with regular posts featuring exclusive interviews, reviews, news, lists and more that you won't find in the paper or elsewhere on


Jack White

The White Stripes alum is back with a solo album after performing with various bands and projects. “Blunderbuss” will drop in April, but the lovely “Love Interruption” is available now at and on iTunes. Listen to it. You won't be disappointed.

Bruce Springtseen

The Boss is the keynote speaker of the festival with a big panel speech planned. He's also playing with the E Street Band at a small venue, but tickets are limited and available only though a raffle.

Miike Snow

The electro-pop band will show off some new material from its coming album, “Happy to You,” which comes out March 27. It was one of the best bands from SXSW 2010, so it will be great to see what the members have been up to since then.

Magnetic Fields

Led by Stephin Merritt, the indie rock-pop group is back with “Love at the Bottom of the Sea,” an album of 15 short songs that have a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar and synths.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

A few years ago, the indie rock band took a break. In 2011,it released a brand new album, “Hysterical,” and fans and critics are happy it's back.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

Not only do they have one of the best band names ever, but they're pretty darn good, too. Hailing from Scotland, the rock band is from the same scene as labelmates The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit. The group's second album, “In the Pit of the Stomach,” was released last year. They kick off their U.S. tour at SXSW.


He won't perform during the music portion of the festival, but will during the interactive portion Monday at a promotion for a credit card company. Still, it would be great to see one of the best rappers out there.

The Shins

One of the most anticipated (and best, so far) albums of the year is The Shins' “Port of Morrow.” The first single, “Simple Song,” from the indie rock band is anything but simple with its crashing melodies, guitar chords and drum beats. We also recommend watching the song's fantastic music video.

In years past, giveaways were a huge part of SXSW. Go to a party, get free booze, food, prizes and all kinds of other stuff.

Then the economy went sour.

No more free vodka.

Until this year. While things were kind of sparse in 2011, free goodies are making a comeback in 2012.

Various unofficial SXSW showcases are put on by magazines, blogs and other companies and are usually teamed up with some kind of corporate sponsor. The magazine wants to show you some cool music, and the sponsor wants you to hear about its brand. So they give you free beer, vodka, pop, energy drinks, food and plenty more beer and vodka.

Most people are at the shows for the music. But if you went to see Neon Trees on Thursday night (their showcase was sponsored by the Nike online video site Vevo), you could drink free Corona beer, Patron tequila, Red Bull and Deep Eddy Vodka.

Some other thoughts and observations from Austin:

» Speaking of Neon Trees, they played a fantastic set at the previously mentioned showcase.

Even better than seeing the band was seeing Omahan Neal Duffy as the band's sound engineer. Duffy actually started his gig with the band at last year's SXSW, and he continues to go on tour with the group whenever they go out.

» There was an informal Nebraska meetup Thursday at Uncorked, a wine bar here. While Eli Mardock and his band performed songs from his coming album, I ran into several folks from, a nonprofit website promoting Nebraska music. A few minutes into the set, the entire lineup of Omaha band Icky Blossoms walked into the bar.

None of this was planned, but I was impressed by how many Nebraskans made the trip to support others from their home state. We produce good music.

» You gotta love the food down here.

Omaha hasn't quite embraced the food truck revolution, but if the fare that Austin offers is any indication of what's to come, Omaha should get to it.

So far, I've eaten food from a variety of trucks and walk-up windows, and I've yet to be disappointed. I'm a big fan of Hoek's Death Metal Pizza, which not only has a great name but also plays death metal all day long inside the parlor. Their pizza has great flavor with a thin but chewy crust. There's just enough toppings and just enough crust. It's just about perfect.

The best thing I've eaten so far came from Grub House. The food truck served a variety of tacos. I ordered steak fajita tacos. They didn't at all taste like traditional fajitas, but the tacos were made with warm, fresh tortillas and tender steak. They were topped so high with lettuce, tomato and cheese that they spilled all over. Anyway, they were fantastic. The spicy red salsa they came with didn't hurt, either.

» So, you want to know about music? OK.

On Thursday, I caught a set from indie dance band Icky Blossoms before I went to catch their Saddle Creek brethren in the folk-rock duo Big Harp. Both are newer bands but looked to garner a lot of new fans at SXSW. Later, I caught a set from M. Ward that was much better than his sleep-inducing set I witnessed on Tuesday.

After Ward, I saw indie rock kings the Shins, who perform at Stir Cove this year. If you haven't bought your tickets to that show yet, do so soon. They're fantastic to see live.

I ended the night with Kaiser Chiefs, a British rock band that I'm sad to say hasn't performed in Omaha, at least not in a while. Someone in town should get on that. They're one of the best bands I've ever seen. They're somewhere between the blues rock of Kings of Leon and the crazy riot-rock of Muse. I'd pay good money to see them again.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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