Boise-based Matt Hopper and The Roman Candles make friends at SXSW

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From left: Ryan Spaulding, Matt Hopper, Adam Duritz and Dylan Cline. Photo courtesy Sandra Nahas

Having performed there twice before, local rocker Matt Hopper is no stranger to the South By Southwest music festival.

But Hopper admits he considered not making the trip to Austin, Texas, this year.

Hopper and his band, The Roman Candles, were offered a last-minute stint as part of The Outlaw Roadshow, a March 16 bash organized by music blogger Ryan Spaulding and Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz. But even after picking up a few shows on the way to Texas and back, the group was bound to lose money on the trip.

Hopper and the Roman Candles wound up playing eight cities during the trek, which took about two weeks. In Denver, they made 62 dollars.

However, after playing The Outlaw Roadshow, Hopper had zero regrets about making the haul to Austin.

“It was worth it for that one show,” Hopper says.

Part of the allure of South By Southwest is the opportunity to network. In the case of The Outlaw Roadshow, it could even be seen as a chance to audition informally for a future slot opening up for Counting Crows, Hopper says.

“Adam Duritz is one of the best lyricists of all time,” Hopper says. “I’ve been a huge fan of Counting Crows since I first heard the line ‘Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.’ I still get chills when I listen to that album and I still want T-Bone Burnett to produce a record for me someday.”

During Hopper’s set, Duritz stood in the front row and snapped photos.

“We got to to talk to him that day,” Hopper says. “He was really encouraging with his comments about our songs, which is nice. If anything, it might turn into some gigs with the Counting Crows down the line, and that’s the strategy. When I found out about the opportunity, I just decided I was going to  make it down there (to Austin), no matter what.”

Hopper and the Candles played a 45-minute set on an outdoor stage. But the group’s work wasn’t done after loading up their gear. Hopper continued to network, he says, making new musician friends.

“I lined up people we can play with in San Francisco and Portland,” Hopper says. “That’s one of the things you can do as an artist there. You end up meeting so many other bands. Actually, a couple of guys in L.A., too. Now they’re potentially going to be coming to Boise to play with us, and we’ll probably go out there to play with them.

“You just never know what will unfold down the line because of what happened at South By. We’re just hoping, yeah, the Crows will look us up when they come to Boise again. Maybe we can get on (tour) regionally with them.

“One of the cool things that did happen is the day after we played the Roadshow, I got an email that Adam Duritz actually had bought one of my records online. That’s a good sign!”

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Michael Deeds is the Idaho Statesman’s entertainment columnist and Scene magazine editor. His column runs Fridays and Sundays. He appears on the 6 p.m. broadcast of "Today's 6 News" on Thursdays and hosts a music show, "The Other Studio," from 9-10 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

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