The country's busiest music conference gets underway today in Austin, Texas. South By Southwest, in its 13th year, incorporates a massive artist showcase involving roughly 750 artists performing at 36 venues, as well as music panels, workshops, meetings, a golf tournament and other activities.The musical highlights are far too numerous to list, but aside from the vast numbers of relatively new acts, there are also more than a few veterans. The schedule includes Tom Waits (see "Tom Waits To Take His Case To SXSW, VH1"), legendary guitar god Jeff Beck, X's Exene Cervenka, Bad Boy Entertainment's Fuzzbubble, Imperial Teen, the Bottle Rockets, the Fastbacks, Guided By Voices, Inspectah Deck, Ben Lee, Mojo Nixon, Pansy Division, the Waco Brothers, Australia's Powderfinger, the resurfacing of the 'too sexy' Right Said Fred, and other Brits including Lo Fidelity Allstars, Asian Dub Foundation and post-teen idol Robbie Williams.
The local Austin talent also makes an impact. Just a few of the natives include Lucinda Williams, Fastball, Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra, Joe Ely, drum whiz Terry Bozzio and Doug Sahm.Beth Orton, who had been recently hospitalized, has recovered and will be performing. Seattle's Verbena will be using Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh and not Dave Grohl as rumored, although it's possible Grohl, who produced their last album, may show up anyway. If he does, he'll likely see his former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novelselic who will be in attendance with L7. Another potential surprise, according to the Austin Chronicle, might be Social Distortion singer Mike Ness showing up with Reverend Horton Heat's back-up band. For the business part of the conference, the keynote speaker will be the aforementioned Lucinda Williams. Typical panels include a record company A&R reps demystifying the process of signing bands; a gathering of record producers who will be bringing some of their songs
along to explain their techniques; a group of artist mangers discussing the coordination of their clients; a panel on legendary rockers MC5, and one on country legend Hank Williams.We'll have reports from the conference as it progresses.