Todd P Goes to Austin
A Documentary About Doing It Yourself

Todd P Goes To Austin is a behind-the-scenes look at independent New York promoter Todd Patrick, better known as Todd P, and his efforts to put on a five-day event in the midst of the insanity that is South By Southwest (SXSW). SXSW is essentially spring break for music geeks, with hundreds of artists and thousands of fans saturating the streets of Austin, Texas every March. Seemingly simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the scene, Patrick decided to stage his own mini-version of the festival at a small bar away from the main drag of SXSW.

Subtitled “A Documentary About Doing It Yourself,” the film only lightly touches on that subject. Instead, the majority of the flick revolves around Patrick and his crew, as well as the bands (Team Robespierre, the Death Set, Mika Miko and Matt & Kim) making their ways to Austin. But even that is slightly a side note. It’s more an opportunity to show a bunch of performances and moments in the life of touring bands in all of its crappy crammed-van glory. Sure in this case they’re all heading to Austin, but it could really be any tour at any time.

It’s ironic that while Todd P is the title character, he’s really not that large a presence in the movie. While there are definitely featured moments, his involvement is largely limited to wraparound interviews as he explains his motivations, philosophy and gives some background on the featured bands. He largely exists in the context of working with his crew on show logistics and setting up and tearing down and then on the rare occasion taking time to actually enjoy the show.

What Todd P Goes To Austin succeeds at in spades is showing that while life on the road may be hard it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. It’s also reveals that hipsters are hipsters no matter where you go in the country. This is highlighted by the editor’s deft job of splicing together songs from different performances where the only real difference is the clothes the bands are wearing. If you’re playing Hipster Bingo as a drinking game, you’ll be wasted before the 70-minute playing time is up.

Where the movie, recently released on DVD, is lacking is in giving context. The timeline is loose as a goose. So you roughly hear time estimates of how long it will take to get to Austin and you know the event is booked for five days, but past that who knows when anything happens. There’s also no mention of what year (2008) this is actually happening, which is kind of an important thing. And if you have no idea who Todd P is beyond he’s a guy who books shows, the film never explains his history. You do get a lot of the why, which is simultaneously inspiring and eye-rolling, but none of the how. To be fair, Patrick does say early on that he sees the whole thing as being pretty simple: “You just need something to make the music louder and someone at the door to make sure people chip in so bands can be paid.”

Also, while there’s lots of talk about how Patrick wants his event to be an alternative to what SXSW does, there’s very little actual contrasting. Even when he gets the opportunity to do an official showcase headlined by Matt & Kim “his way”—meaning all ages, five-dollar tickets—you never see how that’s different. Even when Matt mentions a problem at the door at the official showcase, there’s no explanation of what that problem is. The one pure moment of stark differentiation comes during the midst of all of this when Patrick decides to throw an illegal show at 4:00 a.m. in a parking lot, bringing a generator and hopping a fence to borrow power.

As a guide, Todd P Goes To Austin isn’t that effective. But as a travelogue and showcase of, as Patrick states in the film, “Bringing the rock show back down to its simplest version of itself,” it’s a stunning document.
Dorian S. Ham