Couch by Couchwest – The “other” festival


by Kim Ruehl, for folkalley.com

The last few of years, I – like everyone else in the music industry – headed down to Austin in March to join the behemoth festival of cacophonous insanity known as South by Southwest (SXSW). That enormous citywide festival certainly has a certain allure for folks like me, whose tastes and interests are focused on a raw, live, almost improvised sound. Indeed music of every persuasion is blaring out of every nook and cranny. Things often don’t go as planned (Abigail Washburn played a stunning set in a taco shop last year, standing on a booth with her band after the sound system stopped working). That’s just one of many instances where Murphy’s Law proved to make way for great performances.

This year, I decided to stay home and let SXSW go on without me. Instead, I’ve been enjoying a week worth of performances by unknown artists around the country…and some fairly well-known indie folks, too.

Couch by Couchwest made 2011 its inaugural year, inviting artists of any genre to submit video of themselves sitting at home – decidedly not at South-By – playing a song of their choosing. Neko Case joined in, providing a little street cred to the whole thing, and plenty of lesser known artists joined in the fun.

This year, the “festival” has been rocking the internet since last weekend, with some real doozy performances from artists you surely would never have heard any other way. For example, have you ever heard of the Peculiar Pretzelmen from Albuquerque? How about the Smug Brothers from that booming music town of Dayton, Ohio? Italy’s The Heart & the Void? Darn good stuff.

And there’s plenty more performances like these available at CouchbyCouchwest.com. The festival continues through the weekend. Watch or add your own videos.

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