From Southeast Minnesota to South by Southwest
Southeast Minnesota musicians found opportunities to perform in tandem with the biggest music festival of its kind in the world.
ROCHESTER — You can spot a Minnesotan in late winter Texas — they’re the ones without coats in 50-degree weather.
Rochester musician Clay Fulton, who played a showcase in Austin during the South by Southwest music festival, enjoyed some outdoor music while wearing a T-shirt.
Fulton made a point to catch other Minnesota musicians playing during the festival.
Events around SXSW offered Fulton and some other Southeast Minnesota musicians a big opportunity to perform in Texas during the biggest music festival of its kind in the world.
Southeast Minnesota band Sleeping Jesus, and Fulton with his full band, Clay Fulton and the Lost 40, made the trip to Austin, Texas.
Both groups jumped at the opportunity to perform for enthusiastic music fans and meet other musicians from around the world.
Fulton was part of a showcase put on by Tinderbox, a Minneapolis-based music promotions group.
“I think my jaw hit the floor,” Fulton said of when he was approached to play the showcase.
Sleeping Jesus played in Austin during SXSW in 2019. Members said they were glad to see some familiar faces and make new friends there four years later.
“It’s such a melting pot of music and musicians,” said Sleeping Jesus band member Nick Elstad, of Winona. “We met so many bands and musicians with similar interests.”
Fulton agreed it was a great opportunity to meet and network with other musicians and play in front of appreciative crowds.
“My thought at first was these shows were going to be like bar gigs,” Fulton said. “We’ll play some covers and try to get the crowd on our side and then play some of our original songs while they’re paying attention.”
Instead, he found an appreciative audience.
“They were paying attention and wanted to hear our original stuff,” he said.
The Minnesota musicians said the trip, while uplifting, was also expensive.
“I’d say this was a pay-to-play format,” Fulton said, adding that he made an exception to his personal policy of avoiding such gigs. “Having your name on any front door there is great.”
Fulton said the whole group kicked in to help pay for the trip including renting a place to stay for a few days. Dawn Finnie, co-owner of Little Thistle Brewing Co., where Fulton also works, set up an online tip jar.
Sleeping Jesus set up a short tour after performing in Texas. The group played shows in Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Chicago and the Milwaukee area before returning to Winona for a weekend show there.
“At the end of the day, you lose money with a band of our size,” Elstad said.
However, members made new friends and opened opportunities to play in other cities through those friendships. Those connections may also bring bands to perform in Southeast Minnesota for the first time, Elstad added.
“It’s sort of a one hand washes the other sort of vibe,” he said.