While Sixth Street in Austin was raging with drunken crowds, chaotic bars, and long lines, twenty miles outside of Austin off of a farm to market road, the Music Ranch was mellow with outdoor stages, tents and fire pits. Founded in 2010, The Music Ranch is a camping ground set up for musicians to sleep and perform. A $10 donation is asked upon arrival, but with a pluck of the guitar, the stay is free.
Muraled RV's and busses, tractors and fences set a creative tone, while overgrown grass and full trees are a reminder of how big Texas is, and how small SXSW can feel. On the small stage, Fort Collin's based Slow Caves performed their synth-punk set while wearing matching polka-dotted shirts, and down the road, Denver-organized Boomtown showcase hosted half a dozen Colorado bands: Sarah and the Meanies, Bonnie & the Beard, Qbala, Post Paradise, Wasteland Hop and Shatterproof took the wooden, open-roof stage, with the audience dancing on a gravel road in front.
Sarah Angela of the band Sarah and the Meanies put on the second-consecutive unofficial showcase. "It was an idea that came about over coffee and thinking about SXSW and how hard it is to get bands heard because the mayhem of 6th street is so bonkers and it's hard to take time and get to know bands. So we thought 'let's do something outside of the chaos.'" The audience wooed and danced under the open sky, and the sun went down, the humming of the generator turned on. Until, it stopped. Multiple times in Angela's set. "My first immediate thought was 'at least it's not a band was asked to come out and play,' because it was my showcase, anyone else may have been really disappointed," says Angela. "It was a real learning experience, the whole reason we moved was because the homeowner last minute felt real uncomfortable with the amount of people that were set to be there." So Angela moved the showcase to the pre-staged outside venue, and at the last minute, confirmed there would be a power supply provided in the Austin woods. There was not, however, and the manager of the grounds offered a generator. It took some improvising to keep the show going: As the generator powering the lights snapped off, the microphones and amps stayed on. The audience jumped into action and lit the stage with their iPhone lights. The lights and generator hummed back on, and the show went on throughout the night.
Angela plans to keeps the showcase going year after year during the SXSW week, but says that next year she will hire a professional service to power the concerts. "I definitely plan to continue boomtown year after year and id even like to expand the idea to other cities and festivals such as Underground Music Showcase or Westword Music Showcase." But until then, the Austin Music Ranch rages on with the simplest amenities found in all of Austin, away from the stresses that SXSW brings.
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