More Bands for the Money

South by So What Festival moves into big time with 3-day music spree

South by So What Festival moves into big time with 3-day music spree

South by So What?
The South by So What?! Festival, March 14-16 at QuikTrip Park, is celebrating its seventh year and its first as a three-day event. South by So What?!/Facebook
Mike Ziemer
South by So What founder Mike Ziemer has helped grow the festival into what it is today. Photo courtesy of Third String Productions
South by So What?
Mike Ziemer

You wouldn't guess it by the name, but the organizers of the South by So What?! Festival, holding its seventh annual edition March 14-16 at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie, are actually huge fans of South by Southwest. In fact, their festival wouldn't exist without it.

"South by So What was always based around the bands from South by Southwest," says Mike Ziemer, founder of Third String Productions, which puts on the event. "This guy that I was working with said, 'Man, you should just call your festival South by So What because you’re bringing all the bands that the kids want to see.'"

 "We’ve sold tickets in probably every single state in the United States and multiple countries," says Mike Ziemer, founder of Third String Productions, which puts on the event.

The festival is aimed at the 15-25 age range and is similar in theme to Bamboozle or Warped Tour. Essentially, if you're into rock, metal, hardcore or punk music, you'll find something to like at South by So What.

The idea has proven increasingly popular for bands who want to play in Austin but need to make extra money.

"There are not a lot of paid shows down there for bands in this genre," Ziemer says. "For them to be able to come to our festival and have an outlet to make money and still showcase in Austin is really cool for them."

As South by So What has grown, though, it has also needed more space. It started at the Plano Centre in 2008, tried Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco in 2010 and Palladium Ballroom in 2011 before settling into its current home in 2012.

Ziemer says QuikTrip Park offers an ideal setting for the festival.

"We sold out in advance at the Palladium, and that was the turning point of realizing how big our festival had gotten and that the only way to do it was to do it outdoors," Ziemer says.

"It has to be something that you can fit anywhere from 5,000-10,000 people without limiting where they can view the bands from. There’s really nowhere indoors where you can do that."

As the festival gained notoriety, it became easier to attract bigger bands, which ultimately led to the decision to bump up the schedule from one day to three.

"It’s become something where we went from begging and pleading to getting some of these bands at our festival to the agents coming to us and saying, 'Here’s everybody that I have, and we’d really like to get them all in the show,'" Ziemer says.

The quality of the bands they booked was also a factor in spreading out the festival over three days.

"We had bands like Bring Me the Horizon, Taking Back Sunday and The Used, and when you have that many bands at that level, you can’t just pick and choose and have a band like Bring Me the Horizon play at 4 in the afternoon," Ziemer says.

"And then we found out that Between the Buried & Me, The Devil Wears Prada and a bunch of these other hardcore bands were coming around, so we said, 'You know what? Let’s just go all-out and do a three-day festival.' Most destination festivals are three days, anyway."

With the festival getting so large — around 150 bands — the focus went from having a 50-50 split between Texas and national bands to a lineup that would have a broader appeal.

"I really like the majority of the festival being national and international bands, because that’s what brings your out-of-state appeal," Ziemer says. "We’ve sold tickets in probably every single state in the United States and multiple countries, and I think if we did what we’ve always done, 50 percent of the lineup would be bands the rest of the world doesn’t recognize."

In addition to the ones named above, headliners include Asking Alexandria, August Burns Red, Of Mice and Men, Motionless in White, Attila and The Story So Far. Those bands are mostly separated over the three days in order to give fans an equal chance to catch their favorites.

And if for some reason you don't like this year's band roster, know that Ziemer and his co-workers are always looking for feedback on ways to make the festival better.

"We constantly say, 'What bands are you really looking forward to this year? Who’s the new up-and-coming band? What record are you most excited for?,'" Ziemer says.

"It’s definitely a process keeping up with which band is going to be hot or which band is starting to really take off, but it’s definitely worth it when you see your ticket sales going crazy because everyone is really excited."