Friday, March 20, 2015

A Portrait Of The Artists As A Young Band: A Day With The Rich Hands At SXSW

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 6:09 PM

click to enlarge Cody Mauser and Matt Gonzales of The Rich Hands - JAIME MONZON
  • Jaime Monzon
  • Cody Mauser and Matt Gonzales of The Rich Hands

It’s hard to say how the Rich Hands fit in to SXSW. In theory, the three-piece is exactly who the festival was built for: a rising young band, with no shortage of talent or potential that fits right into the festival’s stated goal of providing “a launching pad for new creative content.” But as anyone who’s walked 6th Street during the week of SXSW over the past few years knows, there’s a definite disconnect between this message and what’s happening on the ground.

[Slideshow: 16 Photos Of San Antonio’s The Rich Hands At SXSW]

From the McDonald’s WiFri Center, down Rainey Street to the StubHub Music Experience, across I-35 to the monolithic Fader Fort (sponsored by Converse), SXSW is now buried in an avalanche of advertisers and marketing campaigns. So begs the question, is there still a place for a new artist emerge from the noise of all this?

I’m sitting with guitarist/singer Cody Mauser, drummer Nick Ivarra and bassist/singer Matt Gonzales at a picnic table, openly wondering this question. They’ve just finished playing their second of three shows this Wednesday, a 7:15 p.m. slot at the Burger Records showcase. The Rich Hands have played SXSW every year since they formed in 2011, and for the time being, they share none of my cynicism about the experience.

“Every year we’ve done this, it’s gotten better and better,” says Mauser. “Like this year, we’ve got a better timeslot, we’re playing with some great people and I feel like people are really catching on.”

I see what he means. After starting their set to a smattering of faces, the band’s sing-along choruses and propulsive energy gradually drew people towards them. The trio clearly progressed immeasurably since they first drew notice as winners of the San Antonio Music Award’s most underrated band in 2011.

I can easily see the band casting a similar spell over audiences at the Mohawk, Parish or any of the other venues hosting more high-profile showcases throughout the week. Of course, we’re a good distance from the SXSW epicenter, perched at the Spiderhouse Cafe just north of the UT Campus.

I ask what the guys think about potentially playing one of the more hyped downtown showcases.

“I feel like these are the better shows,” says Gonzales. “It’s just more fun, with the camaraderie between all the bands and all.”

“We did an official showcase last year,” adds Mauser, “ And it was one of these shows on 6th Street, and it was just really weird: the crowd, the vibe.”

The camaraderie theme is one all three members come back to consistently when I ask about their motivation for playing SXSW.

“That just makes playing these kinds of shows that much better, that there are people we’ve toured with or that are our friends,” says Mauser. “It’s really all a big family.”

Ivarra, who’s taken the lead in organizing Burger Fest this weekend in San Antonio, talks about the strength of these connections.

“Now it feels like we’re all over the map, like we can make a push nationally or even globally. That’s the great thing about having this network.”

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