Road to SXSW: And Amarillo Will Rock

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Gayle Skidmore plucking some seriously sultry banjo at The 806.
  • Josh Gross
  • Gayle Skidmore plucking some seriously sultry banjo at The 806.

The 806 Coffee + Lounge in Amarillo, Tex., has a fire code capacity of 50 people and is located in the sort of neighborhood your parents warned you to stay out of in a town even the locals are hesitant to admit living in. It doesn't even have a stage. 

But during the month of March it becomes an epicenter for some of the most innovative art in the country, as bands and performing artists making their way to Austin for SXSW are booked into the tiny Bohemia nightly.

A large two-foot glossy poster in the window lists a lineup that includes bands like The Shivas and Nick Jaina that are performing high-profile showcase gigs at SXSW and even some that will be coming to Boise for Treefort later in the month. Adam Barnes, a guitar-slinger on the bill, is here from the United Kingdom. 

And don't think the locals aren't hip to it. 

Maya Tress is in her 40s and says that though she considers herself a fan of the arts, the crowd at The 806 generally skews a little too young for her tastes. But tonight, she wanted to see some music and she came down here blind. 

"All I knew is that it's SXSW month, so how bad could it be," Tress says. 

And it's not just the resident hip coffee shop that sees the talent level surge. 

"I was in some stupid cowboy bar the other night, they're cooking onions in the next room and Yamm is playing," Tress says. 

This is one of the added benefits of festivals like SXSW or Treefort. Acts need intermediate gigs, which gives them an incentive to play markets and venues on the way that might otherwise be overlooked. 

Finn Riggins keyboardist, Eric Gilbert says he has been steering bands to venues in Pocatello, Twin Falls, La Grande, Ore., and Pendleton, Ore., that they can play on their way in and out of Boise for Treefort.

And while the benefit of this sort of increased traffic is clear to music fans, the non-audiophiles can get behind the bottom line.

"For the month of March, we probably see a 15-20 percent increase in business," said an 806 employee. 

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