Doritos-Bold-Stage

SXSW: Now Comes The Craziness – and the Commercials

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Yeah, there really is a six-story Doritos vending machine and oddly enough, it does look a lot like this rendering supplied by the company.

Although the big South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival starts today (Tuesday), we won’t have sneakers on the ground in Austin, Texas, until Wednesday. That’s okay – we won’t miss much.

Truth is, even if you don’t make it to Austin at all this week (and that’s probably a good thing, because Austin is kind of at capacity) you probably won’t miss much either, because some very big companies have stepped up to help you keep abreast of all the cool stuff happening at SXSW.

For example, one of the most noticeable landmarks in downtown Austin last year was a 62-foot-tall stage rigged up to look like a really huge Doritos vending machine. It’s back this year, and in addition to helping hawk all sorts of Frito Lay products, the stage will also host some cool music.

On Thursday (March 14), the Doritos #Boldstage will host a special concert by LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Doug E. Fresh. But the lineup is the only thing that’s old school: fans can interact with the show by using social media. Doritos will allow fans to choose the opening act, as well as special lighting effects and even LL’s set list.

Concertgoers are encouraged to start making suggestions about what they would like to see at the show by using the hashtag #BoldStage on Twitter prior to the main event. The concert will also stream online at Doritos’ Facebook page.

Perhaps you’ve mellowed a bit since high school, and instead you enjoy some soothing Americana music. Well, Austin’s venerable Waterloo Records is the place for you, with four days of “day parties” March 13-16 featuring live music from a great lineup of artists.

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In case you get lost, helpful signs remind you where you are.

If you’re into that Americana we mentioned above, Friday’s the day for you – the lineup includes the great Richard Thompson, Billy Bragg, The Mavericks and Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell. If you’re in the mood for a little more modern stuff, try Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Tegan and Sara on Wednesday, The Airborne Toxic Event on Thursday and The Zombies and Dawes on Saturday.

Click here to see Waterloo Records’ full in-store lineup, and while you’re there download a free digital sampler of artists performing there for SXSW.

One of the more exclusive parties each year is at a place called the Fader Fort, which is basically a big tent on Austin’s east side. The number of people lined up trying to get in is testimony to this party’s always-sturdy lineup. This year the Fort’s brought to us by The Fader blog and Converse and features acts like Sky Ferreira, French Montana, Delorean, Ra Ra Riot, The Afghan Whigs and Solange (Knowles), among others.

Click here to check out the full lineup for Fader Fort, then go to this place to watch the whole thing live on the internets.

The shoes/apparel company Vans is also a strong presence at SXSW every year, and this year the company is presenting a huge bill at The Mohawk club along Austin’s busy Red River Street.  The roster for the March 13 show includes Ghostface Killah, The Specials and Iggy and the Stooges, along with rising stars Japandroids join Middle Class Rut and Sky Ferreira. Check out the entire roster here, then tune in at the Vans SXSW site on March 13 for a webcast.

Pandora Radio and the TV show “The Voice” present the 2013 Pandora Discovery Den, with live streams of performances March 12-15. Artists include The Mavericks, The Lone Bellow, Surfer Blood, the Eagles of Death Metal and Third Eye Blind. Click here for a full lineup and to get hooked up with the live streams.

Some other live streams: IROCKE features a full schedule of concerts including radio simulcasts from Austin’s KGSR-FM each morning, and Southern California’s KCRW-FM.

National Public Radio will offer streams of a number of events, including Dave Grohl’s keynote speech on March 14, and the official showcase on March 13 featuring Nick Cave, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Alt-J among others.

The über cool public radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle will offer live broadcasts from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop (yes, a real bicycle shop) March 13-16 with acts including Robyn Hitchcock, Chelsea Light Moving (one of our bands to watch this year), Iron & Wine, Telekinesis, The Zombies (yes) and Ozomatli, among others.

Austin’s own KUTX-FM has an awesome lineup of artists performing each morning March 13-16. And finally, SXSW itself will stream a number of conferences, keynote speakers and music performances throughout the week. Go here to see a schedule and hook up.

So you don’t have time to watch/listen in real time. You can still score some great downloads from artists playing SXSW:

SXSW 2013 on BitTorrent: 7.39 GB of Free Music

NPR’s The Mix: The Austin 100

Don’t Mess With Texas: The Daily Rind’s SXSW 2013 Music Sampler

SPIN magazine’s 60-Track Mixtape of SXSW 2013’s Hottest Acts

HGTV/Paste SXSW 2013 Sampler

Finally, you’re actually going to be here in Austin for SXSW this week. But you got in a hurry, became a little too careless and forgot your camera.

Don’t worry, you can still use your iPhone for photos. They won’t be super sharp like the pictures you see in your favorite music magazines, but you can still snap a few to show the folks at home which acts you caught.

Our friend Art Meripol has been a professional photographer for more than three decades. The former Southern Living shooter got his start snapping rock concerts for newspapers in Arkansas and Texas back in the day, and he has some tips for instantly improving those iPhone photos:

1. The photo is taken the moment you let off the button, not when you push it. So to better time a shot keep your finger on the button and let off at the best moment.

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Shot with my “eyePhone” – Robert Earl Keen at John T. Floore Country Store. Should have gotten closer, eh?

2. Before shooting, gently touch your subject on the screen to focus and expose for that exact spot. You’ll see a quick pulsing box as you do that lets you know it’s done. Then let off the button.

3. You can ‘lock’ the focus and exposure for your subject and then recompose a shot. When you touch the area you want to be correctly exposed and focused, keep your finger on it a bit longer until you see a second larger ‘pulsing’ box. You can then move the camera around for better composition and keep focus and exposure where you want it.

Lots of people use the Instagram app on their phones to shoot photos. However, Art isn’t a fan of Instagram for image filtering. “You end up with photos that look like everyone else’s,” he says.  “Too narrow a field.” Besides, Instagram wants you to edit a photo right then and there, which is inconvenient for location photography.

He uses Google’s Snapseed, which allows multiple ways to adjust an image depending on what look the photographer seeks. “That way my images don’t look like anyone else’s and thus stand out,” Art explains. “It takes some practice but it’s well worth it. And I can adjust with forethought at my leisure and just concentrate on shooting in the moment. I do use Instagram for sharing, not filtering or adjusting.”

Now remember, when shooting with an iPhone (or “eyePhone” as Art calls it) you are going to need to get as close to the subject as you can. Wait for a peak movement or a pose to snap, to avoid blurring. And for gosh’s sake, put away the darn phone after a few snaps to enjoy the music and avoid irritating your fellow concertgoers. As Tom Morello said at SXSW last year: “Put away the cell phones and live in the moment.”

Good stuff. Check out Art Meripol’s online photography gallery, and his blog.