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Big Easy will have big presence at SXSW: AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Musicians from New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast will perform free show and other gigs at March gathering.

By Michael Corcoran

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A free concert on Town Lake's Auditorium Shores featuring acts from New Orleans. A 400-square-foot trade show booth promoting Louisiana labels, studios and musicians. A Friday night showcase at the Continental Club featuring such notable Gulf Coast veterans as Clarence "Frogman" Henry and Barbara Lynn. An industry mixer billed as a crawfish boil.
The Crescent City beat is marching to the 20th annual South by Southwest music festival, to be held March 15-19, as Louisiana officials see the Austin confab as a key to jump-starting a music industry hurt by Hurricane Katrina.

"It's important for us to use marketing opportunities like South by Southwest to remind the music industry that Louisiana is open for business," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said, referring to music as "Louisiana's calling card."

Although much of the music business infrastructure was devastated by the hurricane, the sound of New Orleans and environs has never been hotter.

"If there's a positive (to the tragedy), it's that there's been a huge global outpouring of support for music from Louisiana," said Scott Aiges, director of Louisiana Music Export, a nonprofit founded after Katrina. "In this crazy, modern, iPod world, I'm astounded at just how relevant our music is."

Aiges said SXSW, which he's attended the past 10 years, provides the best opportunity to capitalize. "Our goal is to create a branding umbrella that everyone can benefit from," he said. "South by Southwest is the perfect vehicle because it's the biggest music industry event in the world built around live music, which is what Louisiana is known for."

To that end, Louisiana state departments of culture, recreation and tourism, as well as economic development, have contributed most of the $60,000 budget earmarked for SXSW. "We've always had a strong presence (at SXSW)," Aiges said, "but this year's going to be bigger and better."

Aiges said SXSW organizers have given his group a 30 percent discount for the jumbo-sized trade show booth, where plans are to promote, among other things, April's return of Jazz Fest to New Orleans and a newly passed tax credit incentive for labels that produce records in Louisiana studios.

The centerpiece of the effort to market Louisiana music at SXSW is a free, all-day concert at Auditorium Shores on Saturday, March 18, which will feature a Louisiana-based lineup including Beausoleil, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Buckwheat Zydeco and a group called New Orleans Social Club, featuring Ivan Neville and members of the Meters. SXSW music coordinator Brent Grulke said other acts will be announced later.

The displaced Ponderosa Stomp festival of vintage bands, meanwhile, will be represented by a show at the Continental Club on March 17, with such acts as Henry, Lynn, Johnnie Allan, Warren Storm and Archie Bell, all backed by Lafayette's Lil' Band o' Gold.

Aiges said that with so many New Orleans musicians now living in Austin, SXSW will be "a big reunion for a lot of folks."

Louisiana is also sending a brass marching band for guerrilla street marketing. "We're going to be hard to miss," Aiges said.
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