Alan Jay Sufrin and Miriam Brosseau form Stereo Sinai, a self-described “biblegum pop” band based in Chicago, IL. This week, however, they’re taking it below the Mason-Dixon to report live on the Jewish happenings at South by Southwest, the nation’s largest music festival in Austin, Texas. Here’s the first of three locational reports — okay, and gossip — straight from the country’s biggest collection of concerts.
South by Southwest (SXSW) is not Jewish. At all. The only semblance of religion is the few hopeful Hindus passing out semi-free copies of the Baghavad Gita and complimenting people (me) on their headgear. And, of course, there are the ubiquitous heavy metal crosses dotted on black t-shirts and general rock bling. But the real religion at SXSW is live music. Its worshipers glide from temple to temple, eagerly taking in the words of its preachersâ€¦or dismissing them as false prophets. They also drink a lot of beer.
We spent the entire first day running around the city of Austin, Texas trying to find out where we could find and buy wristbands, which would allow us entry into many of the official SXSW showcases. Since the volunteers and venue employees were of almost no help at all this took literally hours of walking, running, cabs, shuttles, hot sun, and confusion. However, during that time we learned what itâ€™s like walking down Sixth Street. From any given corner you can see countless musicians carrying raggedy instruments around on their shoulders, and artists and fans alike wearing everything from Flock of Seagulls-esque hairdos to Samurai robes as far as the eye can see. A genuine gimmick fest. And at any point, you can hear up to five distinct bands playing. And when you hear a band you like, you go inside that bar and simplyâ€¦ enjoy.
Or not. Some bands suck.
We caught an afternoon show by Mirah, a literate folk-rocker in the spirit of Shawn Colvin. Mirah, a tiny, redheaded, openly lesbian Jew, appeared in front of what was eventually a full house decked in purple jeans and a pink high-collared shirt with frills on every edge. Her quietly powerful set was met with occasional whistles of recognition and dreamy, appreciative smiles from the clearly knowledgeable crowd of fans, even through the multiple technical difficulties.