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SXSWfm showcase adds to HAAM benefit festivities

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published September 24, 2013

Around 7:30 p.m. a lowkey crowd of perhaps 150 gathered at the newly refurbished Woolridge Square Park for a HAAM Benefit Day showcase. Onstage Frank Smith blasted furious bursts of densely packed rock across the newly manicured lawn.

“I hope we’re not too loud,” frontman Aaron Sinclair said, as the band took a brief breather. “I don’t want to make any of the kids cry.”

“I hope we’re not too loud,” frontman Aaron Sinclair said, as the band took a brief breather. “I don’t want to make any of the kids cry.”

The kids were alright. In a crowd comprised of a broad spectrum of Austinites, a handful of families had spread blankets out on the lawn. Toddlers ran up and down the hill in front of the stage, a few older kids rolled around in the grass looking thrilled to be out on a school night.

The showcase section of the park was fenced off and loosely secured with posted signs that advised against packing a flask. For a donation to HAAM wristbands providing access to endless cans of Miller High Life, Miller Lite and (oddly) Leinenkugel Orange Shandy were available. The suggested donation was $13 but the friendly folks working the table said they’d happily take any amount of money, or just a valid ID and a smile for that matter.

Next to the beer table a silent auction was set up with items ranging from band merchandise from participating artists to fairly extravagant packages including wristbands for the 2014 SXSW Music Festival and the second weekend of ACL Fest. With somewhat lackluster turnout, the SXSW Music packages ended up fetching around $150 while the ACL Fest packages went for around $100 (a full $125 less than the face value of the wristband alone). All proceeds from the silent auction were donated to HAAM.

While the bands were changing sets and preprogrammed selections from SXSW fm played over the speaker system, event host Kevin Connor was hanging around the wristband table. The longtime KGSR veteran is now involved with SXSW’s fledgling online radio effort, The “station” consists of a handful of curated shows recorded by Connor along with a small group of SXSW staffers. The only caveat for “airplay” on the network is that the band must have played SXSW at some point in the festival’s history. SXSWfm has been around since shortly before the 2013 festival and they’ve been programming regular shows and hosting one off events. A bigger roll out for the station planned in the next few months. As 2014 SXSW showcase artists are confirmed some will be announced via station playlists, Connor said.

Connor gravitated to online radio for the freedom it grants him in an era where terrestrial radio playlists are becoming more and more limited.

“And, you can listen to it on your phone,” he added. We’re listening to this on my phone right now,” he said before running off to resume his host duties.

After an emotional introduction from SXSWfm Music Coordinator Dempsey Jones, who grew up with the band in Abilene, headline act The Rocketboys took the stage. Though they struggled with sound issues it was obvious that the band has grown immensely since they first landed in Austin back in 2007 as winners of the ACL Fest Sound and Fury new talent competition. They played dramatic, emotional pop buoyed by shimmery swells. They were also completely good-natured as the lead singer’s mic kept cutting out.

Like the friendly volunteers, the SXSW staffers and everyone else at the event they seemed genuinely happy to be contributing to HAAM Benefit Day, an event that gives all of us an opportunity to celebrate Austin music in a meaningful way.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to remove a comment taken out of context.