This might surprise local music fans, but Austin’s annual South By Southwest conference is the perfect opportunity to discover music from Delaware and Philadelphia.
While big names dominate the official conference venues at SXSW, it’s in the smaller, free venues where the magic of discovery occurs. For fans, SXSW is the perfect opportunity to hear new music and to discover talent hidden in their own backyard.
For years, individual bands from the region played the festival, but there was never an official Philadelphia or Delaware presence among the many city-specific showcases.
Enter Boy Wonder
Andre Cole, also known as Boy Wonder, is a man who makes things happen. A singer, songwriter, producer, and promoter, Boy Wonder takes the art of self-promotion to the next level.
Instead of throwing in the towel when doors closed early in his career, Boy Wonder decided that if others didn’t share his vision, he would bring that vision to life himself. More importantly, when creating his own opportunities, he also wanted to open the door for others.
“Early on, I kept going to Tritone in Philly,” Boy Wonder recalled. “I kept bothering them and they kept turning me down. Instead of giving up, I started putting my own events together. I’ll do a whole evening. Then, I give other musicians the chance to play, and I can play.”
‘Best assemblage of talent that I’ve ever seen’
Boy Wonder first went to SXSW with Boston-based rock band BangCamaro. While he was walking around, he noticed that many of the unofficial parties had “Best of Cities” shows. However, there wasn’t a Best of Philly show, so the next year, he reached out to venues and found the bar 219 West.
The result: two shows where they gave people free beer and a taste of music from Philly.
For the next few years, going down to SXSW wasn’t in the cards for Boy Wonder, but that changed this year when he teamed up with Bose and HearoFM, a new music social media site that connects fans to new musicians.
HearoFM wanted to make a big splash with a Riverboat showcase, and decided to feature Boy Wonder’s good friends and fellow musicians Jamie Kent and the Options.
Boy Wonder, however, wanted to add another element, a Philly showcase, so he again contacted 219 West. They remembered Boy Wonder and welcomed him back.
The plan for this year featured 30 artists.
“I knew I had twelve hours and two floors,” he said. “Instead of overwhelming potential audience members with one big show, I split the day into seven separate shows that allowed me to promote it at a macro level.”
The second Philly showcase at 219 West split artists by genre into distinct shows: Hearo Soul, Hearo Rocks, Hearo Songwriters, Girl, Hearo Folk, and Indie Rock SuperHearos.
The diverse community of musicians from Philadelphia that Boy Wonder helped create ranged from Jennifer Logue, a Philadelphia singer-songwriter and owner of the website Rock on Philly, to Delaware’s dork-rock band Hot Breakfast!
While some of the musicians came to SXSW because of the relationships they already had with Boy Wonder, others won their spots through the World Cafe Live’s Philly Rising contest. Either way, audiences enjoyed a wide range of musical options.
“It’s the best assemblage of talent I’ve ever seen down there,” Boy Wonder remarked.
From SXSW to World Cafe Live
Currently, Boy Wonder hosts World Cafe Live’s weekly Open Stage and progressive Talent Competition, where performers are judged by a panel each week. The weekly winners compete in The Best of Philly’s Rising at the end of the month, ultimately vying for a large prize package in an annual year-end showcase.
When World Cafe Live at the Queen opened in Delaware, Boy Wonder hooked up with HearoFM and 93.7 WSTW for UnSungHearo Open mic.
Both competitions give musicians a microphone and a chance to be heard.
“Many musicians have something to contribute but [might] not be selling, but [that] doesn’t mean they can’t put on a good show,” Boy Wonder observed. “They can entertain a roomful of people.”