Music Venues of SXSW: Parish

Written by Rory Burbeck | February 21, 2014

Mikey Wheeler & Austen Bailey of the Parish

Looking to see some marquee acts in a very intimate setting at SXSW this year? You might want to include evening showcases at the Parish in your plans. The club is located on 6th Street between Sac Jacinto and Brazos, and has played host to acts of all shapes and sizes over the years. The guys who run the venue day-to-day, Austen Bailey and Mikey Wheeler, clearly take pride in offering live music fans the chance to see bigger acts in a more intimate space. Read more about them, their SXSW experiences, and what to look out for at the Parish this year.

RB: State your names and occupations.

AB: I'm Austen Bailey and I take care of talent buying.

MW: I’m Mikey Wheeler and I’m the General Manager - I oversee pretty much everything besides talent buying.

RB: How and why did you guys get started in the music industry?

AB: I started passing out flyers so I could get into shows for free when I was in college and broke. I think the community aspect of music is really what speaks to me. I like the general sense of togetherness and the dissolution of ego that takes place when everybody is in the same space dancing and enjoying life.

MW: And of course all of that contrasts with the all of the egos involved in getting the show together. [Laughter]

AB: Music festivals were a big part of it too. That was where I decided, “Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to create environments that are conducive to people getting together, having a good time and connecting with one another.”

MW: I’ve always known that I wanted to be in some sort of entertainment industry. Basically, since I was a teenager, I’ve been going to shows. I was the kid that had the garage that everybody came and hung out in and whatnot. I’ve always been hosting. Really, I just found a place in this building. Started off small and fell in love with the room up here from being a waiter downstairs. I’ve just stuck with it ever since.

RB: How long has the Parish supported SXSW as an official venue?

MW: Since before I’ve been here. I’m pretty it’s been an official venue since the Mercury days, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m going to throw it out there - 10 years or more, when Parish [changed its name] from Mercury.

RB: Do you have any stories from past SXSWs at the Parish that you would like to share?

AB: This is my first South By in-house. I’m trying to think if there is anything that happened as a patron that I can remember. I honestly can’t remember, so I guess that’s a good thing. Mikey?

MW: They all kind of blur together. At SXSW, even when I was just working security for the venue, I was still pullin’ 10-12 hour days for the entire week and now it’s even more so.

The first year I was working here was the most amazing thing that I know of ever happening on our stage. Perry Farrell was doing a solo acoustic showcase [with] Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Dave Navarro I think.

AB: Yeah, Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction, Slash. Was it the same time that Tom Morello played here?

MW: Yeah, they were all playing together. That was intense. I was working at the bar downstairs and managed to get the barback to cover for me for all of 30 seconds. That was crazy.

AB: Last year was really cool. I was doing a showcase downstairs and upstairs Alt-J was playing. There were like 15,000 people in line, we’re a 450 cap room.

There’s a little lounge area downstairs, and they were using that as the green room for upstairs. I was sitting down there and the Alt-J guys were chillin’ down there too. This was kind of close to the beginning of when they were just getting huge.

It was cool talking to those guys and getting perspective from those dudes who were kind of just thrown in to it. Doing twelve shows or whatever during South By. I’m not into a whole lot of mainstream stuff, but for a band that can sell out Stubb’s their first time through town, it was cool to see that kind of [fan] devotion and musicianship.

RB: What are you looking forward to seeing at the Parish this South By?

AB: I’m most stoked for Bob Mould. Merge Records is doing a showcase here on Thursday the 13th. Bob Mould is a legend, so it’ll be cool to see him. I think Wye Oak is playing that night as well.

RB: What does it mean to you, the city of Austin, and live music in general to have SXSW here in town?

MW: I think that the SXSW Festival is probably one of the big reasons why we have our reputation of being the Live Music Capital of the World, honestly. Especially for the type of festival it is - a multi-venue festival, and growing from just showcasing local artists primarily to being an international festival that every band in every country across the world wants to come and play.

AB: It means a lot of sleepless nights for Mikey and I for at least ten to twelve days. But South By is part of what, as Mikey was saying, makes Austin’s culture what it is. It’s a bold move to say that you’re going to do a festival over ten days with largely free shows, bands playing in extreme underplay situations, and still be able to do it for around 30 years.

Not only does it touch live music; there’s a lot of mixing of ideas and trying to revolutionize the fan experience utilizing all of the wonderful technologies that we have to deliver better qualities of shows to people.

There’s bands from all over the world. There’s an Australian party happening somewhere, and there’s a South Korea party happening.

MW: We had a Scottish party one year.

AB: Bet that was good for the bar. [Laughter]

RB: What’s the favorite show you’ve ever see at the Parish? This doesn’t have to be a South By show, just anytime.

MW: I’m gonna go with Gogol Bordello. They did a huge underplay here - it was absolutely insane. I switched to bartending at the little bar next to the stage and probably didn’t pay near enough attention to my customers.

AB: I'd have to say the sold out Motet show we had this past November was pretty great. Holds a special place in my heart because the band hadn't been to town in over a decade and we were able to pack the house. Great feeling.

Seeing Thom Yorke do a DJ set - that was cool too.

MW: It was even better seeing one of the security guards deny him access to the green room. But he didn’t have his credentials!

AB: It's so hard to choose really, recently Bonobo did a DJ set for a Fun Fun Fun Fest after party. That’s kind of what this room is - massive underplays. Getting to see these amazing acts in a very intimate setting with high quality production - that’s what we’re all about.

RB: Last question - desert island albums?

AB: Artifact by STS9. There’s a Led Zeppelin album in there but I’m trying to think of which one it would be… Houses of the Holy probably. I’m Good Now by Bob Schneider. The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. Greatest Hits by Creedence. And Fate by Dr. Dog.

MW: I’m gonna go with Amon Amarth, Deceiver of the Gods, their new one that just came out. Dropkick Murphys' Live on St. Patrick’s Day, just because it’s a good variety of all their stuff. The Three Hanks, Men With Broken Hearts, just because that gets all three of them in there, all at once. I’ll go with a Rat Pack album just for a chill time.

Photo by David Fox