Innocents in Austin: A reporter’s notebook
Culture A collection of observations on faith, politics, courtesy, and magazine-reading habits at South by Southwest 2013 | Warren Cole Smith
AUSTIN, Texas—With more than 200 movies and (no joke) thousands of musical performances, there’s no way to cover it all, so I’m going to use this report download a few not-so-random observations of South by Southwest 2013.
Paste proud. Paste Magazine is not a Christian magazine, though Christians run it. The publication has a visible presence at SXSW 2013, co-sponsoring the Stages on Sixth from noon to 6 p.m. every day. I’ve found these stages consistently have the most interesting bands and solo artists, including Dawes, Josh Ritter, Ron Sexsmith, and Buddy Miller, to name but a few of the more than three-dozen acts there. Not all or even most of these performers are Christians. (I interviewed Josh Ritter a couple of years ago and he told me that while he was raised in a Christian home, he is now an agnostic.) But they all take ideas seriously, and are challenging in positive ways.
Dawes, shucks. One of the bands, Dawes, has become something of a darling of SXSW. The group played the Paste stage Wednesday afternoon to a packed house, and its been playing other events throughout the week. I had a chance to interview Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith yesterday. Taylor is the band’s lead singer and main songwriter, while younger brother Griffin is the band’s drummer. I’ll have more to say about that interview in a future report, but one thing I’ll say here is that they are just really nice young men. I had met Taylor very briefly the day before, and when I introduced myself to him for the interview, he made a point of saying, “Oh, yeah. We met yesterday at the show.” Having met and interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of celebrities over the years, I can tell you this sort of personal touch is rare. The Goldsmiths credit their father, Lenny, who was lead singer with the pop-soul band Tower of Power with teaching them the ropes of the music business.
Inclusive Austin? While in Austin I couldn’t resist driving south out of downtown to Saxon Pub, a legendary Austin music venue owned for the past 23 years by Joe Ables, one of the “granddaddies” of the Austin music scene. Ables is a member of the board of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association, which oversees the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame. And he’s a conservative. “I don’t publicize that,” he said. “Making a political stand can sometimes hurt you. There’s a percentage of them that are pretty hard-core and would hold it against me.” There’s liberal tolerance for you, I guess.
Coin of the realm. In a previous SXSW report I mentioned the band Coin. The Nashville synth-pop group came to my attention because a WORLD reader, Shannon Baker, recommended them to me. She had gone on a short-term mission trip to Guatemala with the band’s lead singer, Joe Memmel. Though they don’t bill themselves as a Christian band, all four of the guys are believers. Joe and Chase Lawrence founded the band after sitting next to each other in a music theory class at Belmont University, a Christian college in Nashville, Tenn. When I interviewed the four guys in the band (the other two are Zach Dyke and Ryan Winnen), Chase told me he was raised reading WORLD Magazine. “At first, they made me read it,” he confessed. “But now I love it.” All of which just goes to show you: You never know who you’ll run into at South by Southwest.
Copyright © 2014 God’s World Publications