Last week, thousands of artists swarmed the streets of Austin for the annual musical whirlwind known as South By Southwest. The festival included tons of official and unofficial showcases, but plenty of artists made the trek here, whether they had booked formal shows or not.
By Kristin Evans
Fitting into the “or not” category were street performers like the traveling folk punk band Blacked Out Naked, ukulele player Eem, uaxophonist Patricio Dieck and drummer Rachel Jael. In between marathon sets, the artists talked to ORANGE about life as street performers.
Blacked Out Naked
How’d you end up playing at SXSW?
Matthew Holley: We all lived down at a ranch together in East Austin, the Music Ranch, and why wouldn’t you play downtown? Of course you would during SXSW, because we come here to spread our music around.
Do you mostly do street shows, or do you do venue shows?
Jon Simmons: It depends. We’ve played on the street way more than we’ve played venues. I just prefer it, and it pays better. You don’t have to deal with all the bullshit.
If you had to describe Blacked Out Naked to someone, what would you say?
Reuben Jasinski: Really drunk, loud, and nobody in the band actually cares. We just keep playing music because it’s what we like to do. We also keep drinking because it’s what we like to do.
Simmons: It’s all or nothing.
Jasinski: We were a bunch of kids that met each other with nothing to lose other than get drunk every day and play music. So we got drunk every day and sometimes we play music.
What brought you to SXSW?
Eems: Back home in Kansas City, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for musicians. There are, but you gotta be in to get in, know somebody who knows somebody — so we take it to the streets. Get our own gear, battery packs and do eight-hour shows every weekend. And it’s a way to make money. You know people tip, you sell CD’s, people buy merchandise.
What inspired you to start playing the ukulele and loop pedal?
Eems: I started off rapping, actually. That’s my thing. I was rapping, and I just got bored of rapping. Everybody back home raps. Ukulele, it was on sale. I had some extra money sitting around. I bought a loop pedal, I bought a ukulele, and I have way too much free time at home. I just practiced — sun up, sun down. Eventually I just started playing out and taking chances. And everyone liked it, it was different. Dread-head guy playing ukulele, looping. So I ran with it.
How long have you been playing together?
Dieck: A couple years now. So the cool thing about this, is that we’re like a much tighter group than most, because we’ve been playing so long. I know him [Drummer Noah Colbeck] personally and musically, and we’re both pretty different as you can see. He’s more of a metal guy, I’m more of a classical guy, because my main instrument is the clarinet. So it’s kind of combined really nicely.
What inspired your SXSW street performance?
Dieck: Just to play for people. We get some money on the side, but really we just want to keep the tradition going, and spread our music to whoever is willing to listen.
What inspired you to become a street performer?
Jael: It started a really long time ago in 2011. I just didn’t want to work for anyone else. I wanted to just be free. I was like "let me think of something to get me away from that so I can start exercising my freedom." That’s where that started.
How long have you been playing music?
Jael: I was doing music before I was born. Since I was born, I feel. I don’t know it’s in my family. I have nine siblings. We’re all musicians. I’ve only been doing this personally for about four years.