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Friday, March 17, 2006

SXSW Observations, Day 2

Posted by on March 17 at 11:27 AM

—Hit a panel on podcasting featuring Nic Harcourt and other white guys with well-modulated voices. It is, undoubtedly, The Future—as is HD Radio. This is the first time I’ve heard the latter term. I am officially Out Of Touch. Another first encounter: Rich Dean of KUT used the term “mindshare.ā€¯ That sounds ominously Orwellian to me.

—Most trite utterance heard in a men’s room (after a long, loud, obscene grunt, a guy steps to a urinal and says to the dude pissing next to him), “Sometimes you gotta unload the clip.ā€¯

—Seattle’s Velella Velella played a fruity, friction-y set of party funk at Velvet Spade to an enthusiastic crowd during the always-challenging 8 pm time slot. VV cast an infectious spell of well-being without pandering—a neat trick. They just get the job done, casually swapping instruments with unassuming professionalism and joy.

—Question I keep expecting to hear, but haven’t so far: “Will you remix my iPod?ā€¯

—At the Mush Records showcase, Thavius Beck, Caural, and Daedelus playfully rearranged hiphop’s DNA, turning its history into a malleable plaything. Keeping it real isn’t even an option with these guys. Surreality is their oxygen.

—This is going to sound corny, but I had a religious experience at a Presbyterian church while witnessing the minimal dronemeister Arnold Dreyblatt and guitar maximalists Jonathan Kane and Rhys Chatham at the Table of the Elements showcase. I’ll wax hyperbolic on this in the next Data Breaker.

—SXSW is way too much, yet also somehow not enough—frustration often trumps satisfaction. This paradox will make sense to anyone who’s ever attended the festival. There’s a gnawing lack at the core of SXSW’s surfeit, a numbing homogeneity among the hundreds of bands, with a small percentage of mavericks/deviants making the whole thing worthwhile, but it takes savvy digging and maneuvering to find these status-quo-quashers. Another paradox: time seems to be moving incredibly slowly despite my massive intake of Vivarin, Red Bull, and Glaceau energy vitamin water. I’m bursting with energy, but the clock isn’t keeping up with my hyper metabolism. I kind of like it.

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HD Radio is the best thing you've never heard because the receivers have enormously lagged broadcasters. Which is just weird. I read years ago that 6,000 television sets had been sold in Seattle before the first TV stations were broadcasting, and then only for a few hours a day.

HD Radio is the flip side. Radio stations are converting like mad. There are something like 700 stations (with a total of 1,300 expected this year) broadcasting in the digital format, with FM predominant. The FCC is concerned about AM interference so HD AM stations may only broadcast during daylight hours.

The Boston Acoustics $299 receiver is the only one that's affordable on the market, and only one of two home receivers shipping. That'll change by summer.

KUOW has receivers and broadcasts three HD channels: HD1 is the digital version of their analog broadcast; HD2 is alternative programming, streamed as KUOW2 online; HD3 is BBC Radio 24 hours a day at a low quality.

HD=Harvey Danger.

I said "mindshare" out loud? Jebus, I'm sorry. Bad buzzword :-(

HD Radio is a technology still years away from being fully baked. It's a technology owned by one company -- as opposed to AM, FM, and HDTV -- and bugs are worked out s-l-o-w-l-y. Radio are grossy overpriced. My advice: listen online until the radios come down in price by 90%.

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