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Omaha was envious of Des Moines' SXSW embassy

The Des Moines Embassy ended up attracting some attention last week at South by Southwest. Sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership at the Sonic Factory recording studio, the Des Moines Embassy was a tent at the crossroads of the massive music festival in Austin, Texas.

Omaha World Herald music reporter Kevin Coffey stopped into the Des Moines Embassy on Friday, catching part of Holy White Hounds and Bonne Finken's shows. He wrote about his experience in a post entitled "Iowa represents with big event; why doesn't Nebraska have one?"

"It was impossible to miss, really, it was literally right in the middle of where everyone walked through to get to stuff," Coffey said. 'Walking down Sixth, my impression was 'Holy crap!'"

Mary Bontrager, executive vice president of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, said she couldn't have imagined a better result. The Des Moines Embassy reached full capacity (450 people) every day, often with long lines.

"As we were talking to people and educating them on what's going on in Central Iowa, people were walking away saying 'We want to come to Des Moines, we want to see Des Moines,'" Bontrager said. "We were kind of the buzz of South by Southwest."

The Embassy did have the advantage of being one of the few outdoor venues that was completely tented. Friday and Saturday saw rain off and on, with the Des Moines Embassy offering some respite.

Bontrager said she has a number of resumes coming her way and that she spoke with several bands and music fans that were hoping to visit Des Moines on tour this spring or for the 80/35 Music Festival this summer.

In his post on the Embassy, Coffey mentioned a showcase by Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records, and Omaha rapper Jimmy Hooligan hosted his own showcase, but all together there were 15-20 Nebraska bands at SXSW. Coffey thinks those bands would be well served with something similar to what Des Moines did.

"It provides an outlet for the groups and instead of fans having to go all around town to see them, they know where they'll be," Coffey said. "It could give a face to Nebraska music, so that people aren't catching a band and saying 'Where are they from?'"