Music Festivals

Why there's a benefit tonight in Denver for victims of the drunk driving accident at SXSW

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Burned out as a promoter in 2006, and not wanting to become a jaded middle-man who didn't care about music, Albertsen withdrew from the scene almost entirely to focus on getting his International Studies degree. After college, Albertsen worked in the financial planning industry and realized that his favorite clients were those that worked in the music industry. One day he was talking to one of those clients about what he might do related to music and money, and his client suggested he do a panel at SXSW.

In putting together the panel, Albertsen was one of the very few people who asked to talk to the panel organizers about what worked in panels and what didn't and what the best practices might be. For their part, the SXSW panel crew helped out Albertsen in a direct and practical way.

Albertsen was able to line up Andrew WK and former Denver resident Brian Joseph of the sadly defunct Achille Lauro, with whom Albertsen had interned at Dickerson's Suburban Home ten years ago.

Though many look at SXSW as something more commercial than its origins, Albertsen has a slightly different perspective on the issue about the festival's continued relevance.

"I think it still matters, because as big as they are, at least from my encounters with the people that run it, are still very genuine and not rock star-ish," says Albertsen. "They believe in what they're doing and in putting something good together. When you're down there, you can make it what you want it to be. It can be shallow and business-y, or you can have meaningful connections with people you might not otherwise hang out with. I think it matters in that sense that you might not see those people anywhere else in the country. And you can have random experiences just walking down the street and not just because it's SXSW.

"Does it matter? I don't know from an industry standpoint. I think it's brutal for bands to play six or seven shows. But I think it's a good logistical experience for bands. Every band I've talked to down there is exhausted but they've hard to learn where to park their band and who to be in touch with and learned how to get from show to show and how to get on stage quick and end your set on time. They're tired, but at the end I bet they're tighter than they've ever been."

In putting together the event, Albertsen found that he had to do no convincing of anyone in Denver to do a benefit for people in Austin. Instead he encountered a heartening show of support for the event, proof that musical communities and even scenes have ties that transcend what might superficially be considered local concerns. Even the financial firm for which he works has been supportive of his endeavors.

"I've waited for the jerk in my organization and I haven't found him yet," says Albertsen.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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