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Hitch a ride, music advertising on the side.

Hitch a ride, music advertising on the side. (photo)

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Attention, SXSW-goers, welcome aboard the “Together” bus, with complimentary shuttle service from the airport to downtown Austin. Please enjoy the free bar. We have stuff for mimosas, Bloody Marys, and bourbon & cokes. For your listening pleasure, we’re going to blare the new New Pornographers album, “Together,” out May 4 on Matador Records. The band isn’t playing SXSW, but this is the first time a fan can hear the album.

“If you’re not gonna like the album under these circumstances — a free ride and booze — then you’re not gonna like it,” says Gabe Spierer from Beggars Group, a parent label comprising 4AD, Rough Trade, XL, and Matador.

“[Matador founder] Chris Lombardi wanted to buy a ’71 Cutlass and park it on Sixth Street and let people hop in and out, and listen to the record,” colleague Adam Farrell adds. “But imagine having that car parked out there that long.”

The “Together” bus is one of the guerrilla-style marketing campaigns prevailing at SXSW, where making an impression on the swarm of festivalgoers already desensitized by Twitter memes, Gowalla updates, and a billion other messages competing for brain waves is no easy feat.

But Spierer and Farrell boast of early success aboard the school bus converted into something approximating the Merry Pranksters’ Further, equipped with inside walls aswirl in orange, blue, purple, red and green, and a bitchin’ stereo system. They say on their first run, at 9:30am, they got all of their passengers plus half the cab line. “We’re crushing SuperShuttle right now,” Farrell says.

On the 11 o’clock ride, the second of five total runs on Wednesday, the bus is packed with approximately 20 people. On board is the Matador band Fucked Up. Bystanders outside the airport terminal, and on the street en route back to downtown, are definitely scoping out the banner on the outside of the bus. Although they’re probably wondering what the hell a New Pornographer even is, the music playing inside is doing the trick on its target market.

“I’ll buy this record just because of this bus,” says one loud-mouthed, tattooed longhair. “I promise, dude.”

03192010_ThirdManRecords.jpgMeanwhile, across town, another innovative marketing tactic is also cutting through the noise. At the gourmet hot dog restaurant Frank, Jack White’s Third Man Records is setting up a “pop-up” shop, the fourth of its kind in the past year for the Nashville-based label. Prior cities include New York, Los Angeles, and London. The idea, first and foremost, is to extend the White Stripes brand.

“We have a really strong, hardcore fan base because of the White Stripes,” says Ben Swank of Third Man. “We want them to know this is a label for the fans, where they can come in and meet us and talk about music.”

The pop-up is situated in the back of the dining room, where for $8.50 you can order a White Stripes hot dog, topped with red pepper strips, BBQ sauce, and white cheddar. Two boxes of pins — one with “I ♥ Jack” and one with “I ♥ Meg”–rest side by side on a counter, along with other odds and ends.

But vinyl is king. The serigraphs made especially for this occasion say, “Y’Alls Turntable Ain’t Big Enough.” Indeed, Third Man has pressed special Texas-sized vinyl — 13″ instead of 12″ LPs and 8″ instead of 7″ 45s — that fellow Third Man label head Ben Blackwell says are “the perfect match for the tens of thousands of music industry schlubs descending on Austin like locusts.”

Beginning Friday, the first 50 customers to purchase a “The Ghost Who Walks” single by Karen Elson, Jack White’s model wife, will gain admittance to Elson’s concert upstairs at Frank on Saturday night. (The Dead Weather are in Australia, so don’t expect a surprise visit from White.) Third Man is also pushing a reissued vinyl of the Jon Wayne album “Texas Funeral.”

“It’s an amazing lost Texas record,” Swank says.

“That record is why I moved to Texas,” adds a customer who overhears Swank.

03192010_XXBus.jpgOf course, some bands or entities aren’t about loud statements like these two. The handlers for the London band The XX, who are playing multiple SXSW shows in support of their narcotic, minimalist self-titled debut, have taken a downright subliminal approach. XL Records, also under the rubric of Beggars Group, whose marketing efforts are also handled by Adam Farrell of the “Together” bus, bought bus-tail wrap ads on the back of two Capital Metro buses, featuring the band’s single “X” logo.

“The XX’s allure and power is in the subtlety of their music,” Farrell says. “Our marketing campaign has never been about overpowering that.”

But how is the success of a campaign like measured? Farrell says, “If our marketing campaigns were subject to any sort of quantifiable return on investment, I would have been fired years ago.”

[Photos: “Together” bus, Michael Hoinski, 2010; Third Man Records, Kathy Hoinski, 2010; The XX, Beggars Group, 2010]

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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