SideBar By SouthWest

By Mark Clark

• By day, the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference offered a trade show and a fascinating array of seminars, most geared at band managers and promoters. Topics included everything from how to avoid bad press (!) to how to deal with a band member who is addicted to drugs.

• By night, over 30 clubs welcomed the 400+ bands who gathered in Austin from all over the country for the festival. There are some great clubs in Austin — The Ritz, for instance, which was converted from an old movie theater, and the Bates Motel, which features a neon sign reading "vacancy." The coolest spot in town, though, was Emo's, a hip alternative bar with a partially open roof, which allows trees to grow in the middle of the club. The club also features an, er, interesting mural featuring Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble.

• Many of the bands were quite good. The Killer Bees, a reggae band from right there in Austin, offered a terrific set Thursday evening at Catfish Station. Keep an eye peeled for those guys. Some interesting band names from the event: The Raging Honkies, The Gay Sportscasters, Moist and — my favorite — Suave Octopus.

• The hottest ticket of the event was the legendary Johnny Cash's invitation-only performance at Emo's Thursday night. Cash was the keynote speaker for the event. The weekend's single biggest draw was a free, outdoor show featuring Cracker and Sam Phillips.