SXSW: Toronto lacking presence at Texas music festival

Mar 11, 2014 | Arts, News

By Derick Deonarain

Toronto has a lacklustre presence at the 2014 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas this year, despite having a booming scene and a high profile effort by the mayor last fall.

The music portion of the festival, which begins today, features a handful of Toronto acts, but not nearly as much as some would expect given Mayor Rob Ford’s Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance.

Last October, Ford signed an agreement with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell to help Toronto position itself as a leading music tourist destination and boost the city’s music scene.

In spite of the deal, Toronto seems to have less people representing the city at SXSW currently than they did in the past, said Arys McPherson, a Toronto Hip-Hop artist.

“You figure there would be more Toronto acts but there seems to be even less than last year and now I kind of wonder what the point of signing this alliance even was if their doesn’t appear to be any growth in Toronto,” he told Humber News.

While Toronto is still represented at SXSW with acts such as: Fucked Up, the Darcys, Trust, Timber Timbre, Greys, Lowell and Saidah Baba Talibah, there is still more that could be done to improve Toronto’s presence said Jessica Buck, a North by North East Volunteer Coordinator.

“More Canadian funding would really help to get our musicians to these festivals like SXSW,” she said.

Despite the Toronto acts at the festival, the most telling sign of the city’s lack of presence can be found in the only event it’s hosting said McPherson.

“Toronto has 2 million plus people and hundreds of talented artists yet there’s only one official event for us at SXSW. I think that says a lot for this ‘growth’ we’re suppose to be seeing in our music scene.”

The sole event, which bears the city stamp is an afternoon showcase on March 15 called “Toronto Turns Up” at Canadian Independent Music Associations “Canada House.”

Although there is one official showcase for the city, other Toronto acts have found ways to bring their sounds to SXSW through donations.

SXSW’s International Beat Battle, which features a team from Toronto, is being lead by one of Drake’s producers Boi1da, who helped get the team there through a Kickstarter fund.

Although some of Toronto’s musical acts have used various methods to get to SXSW, Bobby Kimberley, Young Lions Music Club owner said Toronto’s lack of presence might simply be from the festival not being worth it.

“You have to consider the costs of travelling there, the process of getting VISA’s and then dealing with booking. It’s a lot of work to handle,” said Kimberley.

“I think less and less Canadian acts are going to SXSW because they’ve already been and just left empty handed. The festival isn’t what it used to be and it may not be worth the trip,” he added.

To hear the full audio interview with Young Lions Club’s Bobby Kimberley listen below.