LA based company IHEARTCOMIX was as they say very "on their A-Game" at SXSW this year and had one of the best promotional tactics that I saw at the festival. It was so simple and yet so effective, just like the Facebook page and automatically RSVP for all IHEARTCOMIX official events under the moniker of "Austin Party Weekend." The straightforwardness of it all instantly put them in a position of power as the majority of the other sites had some glitches in the system. For the latter half of the music portion, iHeartComix took over the Empire Control Room and Garage with events ranging from the daytime OWLSA BBQ that featured electronic superstar Skrillex and a glorious wrap-up with crowning event Neon Gold Showcase through the Australian based Neon Gold record label. It was a plan worthy of expansion into other locales and we really see it pushing forward in the future.
I saw my favorite SXSW performance there by When, which truly proved that music with electronic elements can have just as much soul (especially when infused with an acoustic flavor) as so-called organic music. It was the final night of SXSW and the first event where I felt that I could truly unwind, and also the first party that I took a pedi-cab to directly from Perez Hilton's party because I really wanted to be there. As previously mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of our festival recaps media personnel are fairly nice in general and Steve Lynn was certainly one of the ones that I remembered. He truly made an effort to connect at the events and put me on every VIP list no questions asked. As a young media journalist who worked exclusively from Boston and behind her computer until SXSW it meant a lot to have that access to the likes of Cashmere Cat and Skrillex amongst others with just a simple, "Thanks for coming and hanging out with us." IHEARTCOMIX is currently working the Heineken house at Coachella this year and helping what has traditionally been a dome filled with smaller acts, as you'd say, "up it's game." While not an official presenter, representatives Franki Chan and Sean Glass curated the artist line-up for Coachella. Make sure to check out the line-up for Weekend 2 if you missed Weekend one!
B&W Photos by Gregg Evering and Color by Matthew Reeves
EARMILK: I wanted to do this interview because I thought that out of a lot of the promotions I was seeing that you guys did a really good job of making things accessible, especially in the way that the Austin Party Weekend was set up where you could instantly RSVP for everything.
Steve Lynn: Exactly. You could either use the website or the Austin Party Weekend Facebook, sign up for one and come to basically every show. The majority of the events were free and only the last night of Austin Party Weekend was a badges only situation but we certainly made it a priority to make sure that all of the other people got in throughout the events and even the Empire was very helpful at making that happen. We're extremely happy with how it went this year.
EM: I definitely thought it went well, you guys had some of the most heavily attended events from what I heard because people would get frustrated with the RSVP, line and badge situations elsewhere.
SL: Well that's the basis of our events, we like to have as much control as we can and Empire was very on board with that. We were very happy that we came down for interactive though because it gave us time to figure out what the problems would be (if there were going to be any) and of course there always are.
EM: Of course (laughs).
SL: We found out early that the fire marshals were going to be watching us basically every night and I guess around Thursday or Friday they came in and took a walk through and then upped our capacity, which was extremely helpful. Earlier that week they had cut our capacity inside the garage itself to about 200 so once they upped our capacity to 350 things were a lot easier. With all of the big names playing and up to 300 people waiting to just get into the garage it made things go smoother. Security was also extremely helpful.
EM: The security was pretty nice in my experience, and I definitely watch for that stuff. I remember getting into the Control Room area and although they definitely had to be firm I didn't see them being at all combative with any of the guests. They seemed like pretty decent guys actually.
SL: Yeah, I think that they were fairly specific on the hiring of security this year. Everyone that I dealt with was very informed of the event situations beforehand and I feel like people respect that and just don't want to be left in the dark. People do get frustrated like you said when they just want to see their favorite artist and can't figure out what's going on if there's no order. But when people explain things and tell you where to go and how it works the public is generally more understanding. It's always tough to coordinate when people aren't all on the same page, which we took long and hard efforts to ensure.
EM: What were some of your favorite events that were held at Empire this year?
SL: Well, as you know we try to get a mix of genres at our events, obviously EDM but we also like to have some indie, hip-hop and more experimental electronic acts in there too with the Check Yo' Ponytail Day Party and A Club Called amongst others.
EM: The Neon Gold Showcase was incredible, it was the one that I got to stay at for a long time and I am so glad that I did. I'm sure that you relate to how different it is to worka festival than to just go to one.
SL: Most definitely. I actually had to run artist check-in at the Neon Gold Showcase which was really interesting because a lot of the artists that I worked with during that were people that I'd run into before when I was living in Australia. So it almost felt like a full circle at Austin Party Weekend and it felt really nice to give a little something back.
EM: Definitely. So what were the specific steps that iHeartComix had to take to prepare for Austin Party Weekend?
SL: A large part of it is in the event and artist booking that comes beforehand, making sure that people are going to be there and what the set times are going to be and what their stage set up is going to look like. So all of those prior preparations are really important and make things run smoothly during the day. That's where all of the work comes in on the back end, but as far as production during the day all of your sound and lighting guys, security, bartenders and all of the Empire staff already know their roles and come in prepared. We were just happy to have the numbers to bring them in. Really once it starts our job becomes running the stage, making sure that the VIP and artist check-in is going smoothly, talking with fire marshals and making sure that numbers are cool and that everyone is safe and just having a good time, which is really priority number one. This year there were only five of us from IHEARTCOMIX and we sort of alternated shifts and most of our time off was time spent preparing. We did manage to catch a few shows other than our own, but Empire was definitely our home for the majority of the weekend.
EM: I feel like a lot of people don't understand the amount of planning that goes into this.
EM: So how do you think that the events went overall? What were some of your highlights from Austin Party Weekend?
SL: I definitely think that one highlight to kick off Austin Party Weekend was the OWLSA BBQ. All of the OWLSA guys are extremely talented and then of course with the addition of Skrillex and all of the fanfare that he brings. We were happy to have him, but made a last minute decision to bring the DJ booth outside so that we wouldn't have the capacity issue. So we had half of the audience inside of the garage and half of the audience outside of the garage. It was packed and we wanted to make sure that he was playing to a crowd that was deserving of the performance and that was certainly a highlight to start off. After that I think definitely Mad Decent, which was an awesome show and basically the entire first night so we had people inside and outside since the stages were fairly balanced as far as talent was concerned. We didn't want people to feel like they were missing out on something good somewhere else so we made it possible to go back and forth from two stages with awesome shows. On Friday the Fool's Gold show in the garage was simply out of control, A-Trak and a bunch of producers and when they roll in they roll deep. So it was difficult to manage numbers backstage but at the same time it makes for a great party. And then in the Control Room that night we had A Club Called Rhonda, which was incredible and visually astounding. It always draws a super interesting crowd, super fashion forward and we're always happy to have those guys in our corner. Saturday, I'd definitely say Check Yo' Ponytail and Neon Gold. Check Yo' Ponytail was basically the entire day and I think that a lot of us were running on fumes at that point because most of the actual event was labor intensive. Most of it was located in the garage and we had a fair amount of DJs and they were awesome. A lot of people that we've had in the past and others that we plan on having at other Check Yo' Ponytail events in the future. Neon Gold was a great way to finish it off, where we had all of these Australian producers and performers such as Tove Lo and When. It was a lot of bands that people may not have heard of before and will certainly know now.
EM: Well, based on everything that I experienced at Empire you guys certainly put on a great show overall.
SL: That's really good to hear, we definitely put in countless hours on the events for sure. It was my first one and so it was definitely hectic at times but that is pretty much what I expected going into it. And when you have that expectation and just put your head down and dive in things will turn out well. I loved having liaisons with all of the artists more than I typically do, I'm usually more on the marketing and PR end of things so it was really great to be able to personally thank them for playing the show and to build future relationships.
EM: I heard about Empire from almost everyone that I met in Texas, and whenever I would go back and forth with anyone about what they were doing that night it would be mentioned.
SL: It's really great to hear that, we're doing some stuff at Coachella this year as well. It's all been very exciting and we're looking forward to the future for sure.
EM: So what are you going to be setting up at Coachella?
SL: We're going to be working the Heineken house this year, which has normally just been a dome inside of Coachella with smaller acts but this year they called on us to curate some line-ups along with Sean Glass. It's been pretty busy for the past week and half putting all of those acts together but it's definitely going to be a lot more big names than usual. This year it's also going to be an actual house instead of just a small stage within the grounds of Coachella.
EM: Very exciting.
SL: Definitely. The first year you sort of get put through the ringer to see if you can take it and then when you succeed things often expand from there. We're looking forward to it and it'll be great to get some sun in the desert.
EM: I can definitely relate to that, being put through the ringer and ending up pulling it off in a great way. It was a great experience for everybody I think.
SL: Well we were really glad that you could come by and hang out.
EM: So how was your post SXSW wind-down?
SL: (Laughs) Well… it was quite the come down, I really didn't expect it to be as profound as it was. I got back and you're back in the office, putting together press releases again and email blasts, doing all of the social networking. And when you're back in the office there just isn't the same thrill of being in the live production setting. So there was some adjusting to get used to, but after MMW was over it was full on again and you're right back into it. It's always peaks and valleys with show promotions, a big build-up and then it's over. But we're really trying to make that feeling last through our events with all of the media available… to take what happened on stage that night and let it live on longer.