Back before IAJE's untimely demise (the real story of which has yet to be told and probably never will), their annual conference was kind of like the jazz version of SXSW. Except way smaller, geekier, and more insular. The "deal makers and gatekeepers" (such as they are in our little corner of the music world) were there, of course, creating an atmosphere thick with schmoozing and self-promotion. (I know I certainly contributed my share of that when we played the last-ever IAJE last year.) But despite all this, there was often a lot of great music to be heard -- it's just too bad that it was always confined to hotel ballrooms and reserved for IAJE passholders exclusively. It meant that jazz's biggest annual party had no engagement with the host city, no reach beyond the conference center walls.
The contrast to SXSW, which completely takes over Austin for a week and change, could not be more extreme. There's so much genuine excitement there -- huge numbers of people actually getting caught up in the thrill of discovering new music.
SXSW also garners a truly insane amount of coverage, from new media and old. I've been enjoying the experience vicariously through my buddy Amanda Marcotte's posts, which give an Austinite's perspective on the madness:
For a more exhaustive take, you could do worse than the All Songs Considered podcasts, which I've been listening to over the weekend:
UPDATE: Of course, not everything in SXSW-land is sunshine and power chords:
Some of you may have heard about this "secret" show that Metallica played at Stubb's Friday night. Or the Kanye West show Saturday night at the Levis/Fader Fort. Or the Playboy-sponsored Jane's Addiction show the night before. And, I'm sure many of you wished you could have been at one or more of them.
Well, I have a question for you: What the hell is your problem?
For all those who've forgotten, SXSW is supposed to be for unsigned bands, the place where fans and industry types go to discover new talent. Having a platinum-selling band like Metallica play a show in support of their new version of Guitar Hero isn't just a distraction, it's downright offensive.
Pete's not wrong, but that is yet another reminder how inadequate the IAJE Conference was -- the idea that there could be a large industry-oriented annual festival that was even ostensibly devoted to the discovery of unknown jazz artists seems pretty far out. To an optimist, the gap left by IAJE's implosion might look like an opportunity to build something better in its place. But I don't get the sense that there are a lot of optimists out there right now.