This years SXSW was the busiest yet. I knew going in that 25 bands spread out over 3 venues in just 4 days would be tough, and that was just the music portion of the festival.
The majority of our broadcasts were in the lobby of the Hilton downtown and Momo’s Club, with a little Convention Center thrown in there for good measure. The Hilton almost didn’t happen due to permit issues and the ISDN line at Momo’s didn’t connect for the first time until 24 hours before the first broadcast from the club, despite having it installed two weeks early.
The major challenge at the Hilton was getting the audio to our broadcast truck without using a traditional snake or laying a snake across any sidewalk. A traditional analog audio snake would have meant propping a door open, and even in March, Austin can get uncomfortable weather wise. Laying a snake across a sidewalk would have meant pulling permits from the City of Austin and getting SXSW’s permission also, 6 weeks before the festival this looked impossible. Enter Axia Audio.
We have been using Axia at KUT for more than two years now and have been very impressed by the system. Basically it is a network based audio distribution system using off the shelf gigabit tcp/ip network equipment. Sources in a studio are connected to nodes that are all then connected back to a central switch. Once a source is connected to the network, it can be used, and in some cases controlled, in any other studio in the building.
One very cool feature of the Axia nodes is their ability to act as a snake, if you directly connect two nodes, you can use them just like a regular 16×16 audio snake. Only you can do it with a single cat5 cable rather than the two inch chunk of cable normally required. Since the truck was going to be within 200′ (Gigabit network cables have a maximum length of 300′) of the stage this looked like the perfect solution. Another thing that worked to our advantage were these metal shades that hang off the west side of the hotel, right next to the valet area. By attaching a truss to these shades and parking our truck in the valet area, we were able to drop two custom made 200′ networking cables (a primary and a backup), a coax cable for video and all our power on to the top of the truck without touching a sidewalk. Furthermore, the two network cables and the single coax cable were small enough that the door they ran out of closed no problem. The power was run from power outlets outside so there was no need to worry about the size of those cables.
Using the direct outputs on the front of house console in the lobby, we used Studio Hub adapters to get audio into the Axia nodes. Regular cat5 cables are used to connect the adapters to the inputs and outputs of the Axia nodes.
The broadcasts were then mixed in the truck and shipped back to the lobby over the same Axia snake, as our ISDN connection was next to the stage in the lobby.
Musical Guests at the Hilton included Carrie Rodriguez, Brazos, Dawes, Frightened Rabbit, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Elliott Brood, John Hiatt, Courtyard Hounds, Danny Barnes, Exene Cervenka and The Gourds.
The broadcasts from Momo’s Club were fairly straight forward. We took an isolated split at the headbox of the stage and fed that over a traditional analog snake to the broadcast truck, mixed it in the truck and shipped it back to the station via ISDN (once it was working). Our setup at the Hilton made it easy to disconnect the truck and move it back and fourth between the two venues also. A special thanks goes to Will Evans and Brian Cates at Momo’s.
THE AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER DAY STAGE CAFE
3 PM Wednesday afternoon, KUT took over the Day Stage Cafe in the Austin Convention Center. These sets were multi-tracked to an Alesis HD24 and a stereo recording was done in Pro Tools LE. John Craig and I were beat by this point already so Jeff Jakubowski graciously mixed these for KUT. Guests at the day stage included Bobby Bare Jr. with David Vandervelde, Jason Collett and Nneka.
Carrie Rodriguez’s performance at the Hilton was great, as always.
Nneka’s set at the Day Stage Cafe was very good, particularly “Heartbeat” at 39 minutes into her set.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops were a crowd pleaser. Their cover of Blu Cantrel’s “Hit Em Up Style” (15 minutes in) was one of my favorite songs of the festival.
Gong Myoung did some very cool stuff with traditional Korean music, lots of drums here.
30 minutes into Kat Edmonson’s performance there is a lovely version of “Lucky Me” featuring hand bells.
Sarah Jarosz is joined by Black Prairie, the guitarist, bassist and accordion player from The Decemberists.
When it came time for Citizen Cope to perform he was no where to be found and the place was PACKED. There were also lines around the club of people wanting to get in (1 line for badges and 1 line for everyone else). He finally starts his set and I noticed several people gather behind the broadcast truck, as the back door was open and you could hear the mix and see the performance on the tv in the truck. I ended up completely opening the back of the truck, cranked it up and me and a couple dozen new friends sat and watched the Citizen Cope show.
Jon Dee Graham was HILARIOUS. He played some great music too.
The Gourds were great. We had our only technical issue of the week during this broadcast but it was still fun.
The audio for all these performances,plus pictures and videos, are all available at sxsw.kut.org.
Special thanks to John Craig, Brian Urban and Jim Reese, none of this would have happened if we didn’t work together.