The music portion of South by Southwest got down to business Thursday, with the opening keynote address and city inspectors citing unlicensed music venues. But even during the workday, there was a party vibe as downtown shared space with the festival and St. Patrick's Day revelers.
City checks music permits
City officials pulled the plug as promised Thursday on unpermitted music acts around the central city. Various agency officials working with Public Assembly Code Enforcement curtailed shows with amplified sound at venues including Wahoo's Fish Taco and Home Slice on South Congress Avenue.
City spokeswoman Melissa Martinez confirmed that code-enforcement officers had found some venues Thursday that had not secured the required permits, but she said a complete list of offenders would not be available until this morning.
Earlier this week, the city sent a news release warning that inspectors would be checking for permits as part of a "continuing effort to protect the safety and quality of life of Austin residents and our guests."
Home Slice Pizza co-owner Terri Hannifin said this is the sixth year the business at 1415 S. Congress Ave. has staged an event with amplified music during South by Southwest. She said about a dozen people with badges arrived with a news crew at 1 p.m. Thursday before the shows started.
"They were targeting everything, from amplified sound to if bands were selling merchandise and didn't have a sales tax ID," she said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Hannifin said Home Slice has been unable to get a permit for amplified music because of its proximity to residential areas. She said that for past events, including Home Slice's annual Carnival O' Pizza, "it's been on a complaint basis. If there's a complaint, they'll come and let us know, and it hasn't been an issue, not once."
The free event, called Music by the Slice, went on acoustically and is scheduled to continue today and Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m., with 10 bands each day.
Proceeds from drink sales will go to the Urban Roots charity, Hannifin said.
A little jazz for the Irish
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a chief and Dancing Man may have given Austin a new St. Patrick's Day tradition: a New Orleans-style "second line" parade through the streets of downtown.
About 100 people followed the band from the Ghost Room beginning at noon, but the crowd probably doubled as the procession moved up Congress Avenue, down Sixth Street and back again, making a whole bunch of motorists late for their lunch appointments. (Most seemed to take it in stride.)
Dancing Man and the band kept the party going back at the Ghost Room. "I love Austin!" he said. "That's right. Y'all represent!"
The event kicked off a daylong party for the HBO series "Treme."
Geldof gives keynote
Dublin-born musician-activist Bob Geldof knew exactly what he wanted to say at the Austin Convention Center — basically, that America invented rock 'n' roll in dire times and that it is up to us to keep it alive through music that has meaning and context.
Geldof's talk was a call for a musical revolution amid a vapid pop marketplace. He received a standing ovation after his speech, in which he traced the work of Austin-born Alan Lomax to rock's "racket of democracy."
"Where are our Ramones and our Sex Pistols?" he asked. "Do we need them? Yes. Will they be found? Maybe not."
Geldof said South by Southwest is different from other festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury because "it celebrates simply being musician or a fan or a follower."
On this St. Patrick's Day, he quoted another Irishman, writer George Bernard Shaw, who said, "All change comes from the power of unreasonable people."
Friday eventsYoko Ono speaks at the Austin Convention Center at 11 a.m.On stages: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Hayes Carll, the Bellrays, Blue October and more.
Compiled from staff reports