By early December, the SXSW team in Austin Texas are putting up their first list of artists playing the world’s biggest music Festival. Then by mid February the full list goes up, in all its glory & I’m on overdrive & really looking forward to getting away from this bloody cold northern winter & watching lots of wonderful music in lovely warmish conditions (& sampling fine Texas platter & good honest hospitality). Not that I don’t like the local Austin talent out there either, so I usually wait until the plane ride over the pond, & scratch out my schedule for the whole week . This year the forecast was for sunshine all week ( & my god, they were right) & with “Searching For Sugar man” screened, in-flight & my good buddies Linda & Keith, Mick, El Sid & Julian for company, well, things just couldn’t be better. We always get to Austin a day before everything starts but with SXSW Fest getting bigger & brasher every year, their showcasing even on Tuesday evening now, However It didn’t stop me having a trip over to Big Stacey’s outdoor pool first thing in the morning , where a couple locals said “thanks for caring” after my free swim !!! yes swim !!! We also went over to Waterloo Records, (as we are oldies & still buy cd’s) & then to the Texas Longhorns baseball stadium for their afternoon game, which was in fact in the evening. Still that was our good luck, for when we travelled back to our Motel, we passed the world famous Threadgill’s (where Janis Joplin cut her teeth) & with live music coming from their outdoor garden, our very first intake began on a very sunny Tuesday afternoon…& So to the nitty gritty – below I give you, my entire week’s SXSW13 live music scoop, Hang on in there- its over 60 + acts !!!
Tuesday (12th March)The Dirty River Boys @ Threadgills. Local hobo’s playing a mix match of earthy roots & Mumford & Sons styled tunes. The drummer looked & sounded especially dirty & their sound was kind of dirty bluegrass & quite a canny start to the week,
Shinyribs @ Threadgills. Twas a bit early for a ‘tears in my shiner beer’ moment, but it happened here, when front man Kevin Russell sang “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on his tiny guitar. Doubt I heard anything better.
Wild Child @ Bar96 – This is the new happening part of Austin & Wild Child are certainly one of the new happening local bands. With girl/boy double vocals, fiddle, uke, cello, keys, drums, we got some catchy sweet music drifting in the teatime sunshine.
The above were all free shows and we needed wristbands for the SXSW evening gigs, which took us some three hours to secure, after running around & around, from venue to venue. So I missed quite a bit that night, but hey ho, I did catch
Erin Ivey with Tosca String Quartet @ Parish Underground – Local urban folk songstress who seemed far too uptight for her own good. It’s a big deal playing these official showcases. The Quartet got behind her though & pulled her through.
The Carper Family @ Parish Underground- I’ve had this young all female - old style Texas swing Trio’s “ Back When” album for yonks.. & it actually came to life here . Very classy musicians they are too with first-rate three part harmonies. The Carper Family must be very proud of their gals .
Wednesday - ( 13th March ) James Hunter Six @ Four Seasons Hotel. Our very own blue- eyed soul boy was appearing live on the local Kutx radio broadcast, so I got up much too early & walked down. When he saw me he said he didn’t think he was playing in the toon !! In interview he said his influences were Clyde MacPhatter, Rolf Harris & Charlie Drake ! Now that’s style, & The band were on top form too.
Mother Falcon @ Jo’s Coffee Parking Lot – A different taste of Austin with this young 17 piece galloping chamber Orch , who looked like extras from a Harry Potter film & sounded incredible. There were all over the bloody place, music wise, just like I was walking in my converse shoes !
Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay @ Lucy’s Fried Chicken. You’ll be seeing this sizzling bluegrass singer/songwriter duo at this year’s Summertyne Festival. I did a deal to get them over here. So don’t miss them, they really are hot guitar pickers & have some fine, fiery & quite funny songs.
Dan Gallardo @ G&S Lounge. I didn’t like this dump of a venue but they had an excellent schedule all week, courtesy of the local Third Coast mag. I came to see Paul Burch, then didn’t go back, as I had better things to do, but first caught young Dan from Nashville, singing songs of small time America.
Paul Burch @G&S Lounge – With Fats Kaplin on fiddle & playing songs both old, new, borrowed & blue. I consider Paul one of the best songwriters living today, & when he played my favourite “Isolda” I’m afraid it was another “ Tears in my Live Oak beer” moments. Yes, I’m a real big softie !
Hot Club Of Cowtown @ The Continental Club, Quite the best authentic Western Swing-jazz trio going in Texas, no doubting. I saw them play to a handful here in 1999 & today I could just manage to get in the door & it was still only 3pm! Hot hot hot they were, & the weather was too.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Band @ Jo’s Parking Lot- Its mad this but I could see Jimmie Dale playing as I creaked my head out The Continental club door @ HCOC, so I just waltzed over the road & saw him. He had a 5 piece band for the occasion & did some cool Flatlanders tunes, a Joe Ely song & a Grateful Dead number or two…wow
Asleep At The Wheel @ Jo’s Parking Lot – There’sno better teatime treat than seeing old’ Ray Benson & his chums having miles & miles of fun & serenading us with their own brand of country boogie & swing tunes in a parking lot. There were smiles as big as Texas on just about everybody’s faces out there.
Marshall Ford Swing Band @ Driskill Hotel – These locals with the talented Marshall on arch top guitar & Emily Gimble on piano & crooning vocals, would have been way cool, if I hadn’t saw Asleep At The Wheel or Hot Club earlier that day.
Lucius @ The Parish. I liked this 6th st venue & called in on the off chance with my handy wristband. I saw a young modern duo with double female vocals & a backing band. Ethereal is the key word & also Arcade Fire sprang to mind. I chatted to the young ladies afterwards & bought their album for my daughter…she likes it too!
Corb Lund @ The Blackheart – Their a Canadian country band who played in this new dapper- hip beer parlor, to quite a few Austin – Canadian’ites. I just didn’t quite get the music !
Shinyribs @ The Blackheart - These locals went straight up to No1 in my favourite band chart - They described their music as Dolly Parton crossed with Salvador Dali or New Country disco but its simply music for people who like just about everything.
Las Coronelas @ Copa – A unique opportunity was taken, to witness some late night original time-honoured mariachi music by a San Antonio female ensemble dressed in full Mexican regalia. It was a fiesta of a sound that had all fiddle’s blazing, trumpets blasting & traditional vocals alone & lonesome. Somehow it sounded a bit flat though. However they did look really great & my Motel was only 5 mins walk over the Colorado Bridge!
Kelly Hogan @ ACL forecourt- Bloody Mary’s were free on offer & Tito vodka for this mid morning BMI corporate breakfast. I was quite happy with a couple scrambled egg taco’s & Kelly’s live music. She sounded very much like Shelby Lynne in a zany gal next-door type of way. Nora O Connor was on bass and she’s got a good voice too.
William Tyler @ Home Slice Pizza – Perfect lilting Mississippi John styled guitar instrumentals chimed out, as the clouds quietly disappeared & this long-time Lambchop guitar man, got the afternoon off to a lazy dozy start.
Black Lillies @ St Vincent de Paul. Knoxville Tennessee based Quintet where in my top 3 bands to see here. They had played the Grand Old Oprey 16 times and were simply a top-notch hardcore country band. We sat on the mat in front of the stage, as kettle’s hung from the trees (honestly) & our jaws dropping as all their own tunes, the duo harmonies & hot guitar/steel playing were just awesome.
Hurray For The Riff Raff @ Yard Dog – The best free afternoon shows have long been right here at the back of the arts shop on South Congress & the New Orleans folk hobo’s HFTRR are one of the best troupe’s around. Led by the diminutive singer Alynda Lee Segarra who somehow got that real southern soul sound from out of nowhere, they played songs mostly from the excellent recent album ‘Look Out Mama” & stunned the crowd with their sheer flair & ability.
Lost Bayou Ramblers @ Yard Dog – I like, sorry love Cajun music, especially out of the swamps of Louisiana, & I like a little Austin Texas rock, & hey presto put them together & you got the find of SXSW 13 for me, Lost Bayou Ramblers. You’ve heard nothing quite like this quartet.
Katey Red & Cheeky Blakk @ Yard Dog – I’d never have watched this kind of hip hop stuff if I hadn’t been with the King Of The Cluny- Julian, but I’m damn glad I did. It was something your not likely to ever see again. From the beaten down shacks & projects of New Orleans…. .Genuine bona fide Hot’ booty !
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robinson & Band @ Jo’s Parking Lot – A real hard working country duo & real life partner’s - the reigning couple of Austin, Bruce & Kelly played to a packed parking lot. Bruce’s fine country fare mixed with Kelly’s silky vocals completely won me over. A choice cover of Harper Valley PTA never sounded so good either.
Billy Joe Shaver @ Jo’s Parking Lot- The lot was overflowing as Billy asked the audience, “Can I have my bullet back “ from the man he shot a couple years ago- now that’s a real country outlaw. He then treated us to the new story tale ditty “ Wacko from Waco” & some hard country classics like "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," & "Honky Tonk Heroes. Billy was in dynamic form & his deadpan humour made it even more surreal.
Lake Street Dive @ Creekside – My second band of 3 must see’s. I sat next to Andre from Lost Bayou Ramblers for actually, his favourite vocalist in USA today – the graceful Rachel Price. She did have one helluva voice and the Boston based jazz/soul/funk quartet was a pleasant ‘supper club’ change & totally unique. I was glad of a seat though.
Caitlin Rose @ Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – I went here last year and exactly the same thing happened. The sound was as bad as you’ll ever get. I really felt for the artists & could hardly make out any of Caitlin’s first-rate country music (& I’ve saw Miss Rose many times)
Ray Wylie Hubbard @ Stage On Sixth – However, the three- named songwriter survivor RWH picked the night right up, His rowdy, raw ways & being one of the funniest blokes you’ll ever see… even if he opened with his most celebrated song “Snake farm” was what I came a few thousand miles for. I even met his wife (his agent) to try & get him back over the UK in the autumn.
Carrie Elkin @ 18th Floor of The Hilton- Carrie was engaged on stage to the talented songster Danny Schmidt. Id never experienced that one before. She celebrated with a great set of her lovely folk country tunes. At one time there were more people on stage than in the audience !
Dale Watson @ 18th Floor of the Hilton – I was back in Austin Texas alright, when I got to see my favourite honky tonker Mr “lone star” himself - Dale Watson in a cosy bar high above the main 6th street. I think this fella really is at his peak right now & I didn’t mind in the slightest, even when Dale rather self-indulged, in only playing drinking songs. Blimey there are seven on his latest album !!!
Josh Ritter @ The Four Seasons Hotel - A$10 entrance fee, that went straight to charity, got you 4 - live morning acts for a Kutx radio broadcast & coffee & a taco. I never quite made it for the 7 or 8am slots but was happy to witness Josh Ritter at 9am. Not only was it much too early for any musician, he also played to 1000 seated locals. Josh was most charming, Dylan es’que in song & with his sidekick Zach Hickman, fingerpicking’ly good.
The Relatives @ The Four Seasons Hotel – I’m a morning person me, so I thoroughly enjoyed the uplifting gospel soul music revue of veteran’ 70’s Dallas act The Relatives @ 10am. That might have been just too much for those SXSW hung-over badge holder’s in attendance! I dearly hoped so !!!
Max Gomez @ Jo’s Parking Lot –I heard this rootsy music drifting up to my Motel at midday & was enticed. Singer songwriter Max is from New Mexico & had a smoky - tex - mex flavoured sound going down. I sat in the shade with a refreshing ‘mountain dew’ & relaxed & listened to his whole set.
Rayland Baxter @ Jo’s Parking Lot – Afterwards, I heard yet another songwriter with easy ways, great grooves & a fine band, worthy of anyone’s attention, Nashville based - Rayland Baxter. He was on my I-shuffle but I didn’t realise until he played, second song in“ The Mountain Song”. I relaxed yet again, put my feet up & enjoyed Rayland's whole set - out in splendid afternoon sunshine.
Lydia Loveless & Band @ Yard Dog – Bloodshot records Yard dog showcase is always one of my highlights of SXSW & on my 14th appearance there (with Julian) it still didn’t disappoint. Lydia was first up for us & was she on fire. Pity, she didn’t come visit UK with her four-piece band. Those extra players gave her a real gone punchy’ hicksville country clatter of a noise, with a far greater depth to the band.
Luke Winslow King @ Yard Dog- Next up was a Bloodshot new signing Luke W King. Twas vintage 1930’s style authentic country music played with style by a lady washboard/vocals, a Stand Up Bassist & lashings of young Luke on his bottleneck blues national & parlour guitar.
JC Brooks @ Yard Dog – This handsome young funky retro soul stirrer can really get the crowd going. He shook his tail feather… & was a far better act, than last time, last March. However he’s still more James Brown of Gateshead rather than James Brown, soul brother No 1.
The Waco Bros @ Yard Dog - My third of the 3 must see shows. Bloodshot’s Brothers Waco from Chicago, had defiantly been up to Uncle Guero’s bar all afternoon. For what you saw here, was a full on rollicking onslaught of their very own wild brand of Cash meets Clash country music ! With loads of attitude & aplomb & chaos falling all around them, I was really glad that I was at the back !
Nikki Lane @ Ginger Man – A couple hours after the Bloodshot Yard Dog shindig, we were still recovering in The Ginger Man pub & this long lean & lovely Nashville songstress was just the right tequila & tonic. Her real hillbilly voice was made for classic country music & her songs of lost love & heartache written from, what else but a divorce, was the ideal pick me up.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears @ Antones - This legendary venue was relocating to 6th st & who better to give it a great big send off than local R&B hotshot Black Joe Lewis & his troupe. The Austin-based act certainly hit the ground running, playing a full on set of scorching guitar-driven Rhythm & Blues, Soul & Funk music, served up with a three-piece horn section. Black Joe tore off, one blistering lick after yet another and finished with the crowd pleaser “Sugerfoot” while playing his flame red telecaster with his teeth.
ZZ Ward @ Stage On Sixth – This young, well - hyped, Hollywood records signee, merges dirty blues & beats & listening to her here, she’s also had devoured a fair bit of Muddy Waters. I liked her.
Vintage Trouble @ Doritos Stage on 5th – Like the snack that sponsored the stage, I quite liked the manufactured product, but it wasn’t the real thing. Check out Black Joe Lewis please…
Steve Earle @ The Parish- Even with a wristband (or badge) sadly, there are always some events you cannot get into. After quite some time in the queue, it was obvious I wasn’t going to this show. Anyway, I like his son better these days !
Kelly Hogan @ Four Seasons Hotel – If you like your breakfast toast with country soul and a great voice then Kelly’s your wake up woman. At 9am she was pitch perfect & really funny while interviewed live on Kutx radio. At last Atlanta Georgia has something to be proud of !
My Jerusalem @ Four Seasons Hotel- What a racket these made at 10am, although the local alt- rockers did give me the opportunity of a walk over to the other live music- radio broadcast event @ W Hotel, 5 blocks away.
Wild Feathers @W Hotel – Nashville based youngsters with 4 singers, ploughed that Byrds/Neil Young country rock trail. They were canny good.
Dawes @ W Hotel- Dawes are massive over here, having toured with Mumford & Sons & guests of Bob Dylan on his next US dates. Then why are they such an really average band ??
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell @ W Hotel- The likable El Sid waited 5 hours to see their Waterloo records show, but I just walked in from getting a coffee next door (to be fair, I didn’t know they were on). Emmylou & Rodney were plugging a new album as a duo, with the addition of a local steel player. After 40 years in the spotlight, these country legends still seemed to have fun and that’s what its all about.
Shakey Graves @ Jo’s Parking Lot – He’s on a lot of the local hipsters lips as the new act to succeed, & at midday, on a hot- crowded parking lot, Shakey’s one man bluesy band with his dulcet vocals & high energy was good & different enough for me to agree with them.
Nikki Bluhmn & The Gramblers @ Auditorium Shores – MOR music for a hot early afternoon walk in the park, with the weather now hitting 90 degrees, but not the music.
The Spirit Family Reunion @ Auditorium Shores – These NYC Gospel tinged folk hobo’s have been touring with Hurray For The Riff Raff but sounded more like a rootsy Chatham Co Line. They deserved the big stage attention and were another real find.
I liked them loads. However it was an achievement just to last their whole set, as the heat was getting to this humble Geordie (with no shade to hide from the sun either). The full day line up in that park was terrific (James Hunter, JJ Mofro, Robert Randolph, Midnight Ramblers) but I had no chance & went back to the Motel shattered & put my feet up.
Laura Cantrell @ Yard Dog. In the covered marquee at teatime, the country songstress Laura Cantrell serenaded us with lots of Kitty Wells tunes & some self penned favourites. I’m glad I went, as I forgot just how good Laura & band were. It also meant that I’d been to Yard Dog everyday … oh & the beer was only a dollar a glass!
Phosphorescent @ Jo’s Parking Lot. I didn’t realised that Matthew Houck (Phosphorescent) had played the J’Hot club under a different guise, many many years ago, but he changes his musical styles (& name) quite often. Phosphorescent of today were a 7 piece swirling epic - indie rock phenomenal who had massive appeal to the young bearded types. Julian loved them too.
Heartless Bastards @ Jo’s Parking Lot – Playing more of an acoustic set (which wasn’t really a great idea) this Austin quartet still had Erika’s stunning brawny voice blasting out, over the speakers and all the way down South Congress, past the bus stop. So their powerful country blues- rock ditties won over the early evening revellers in downtown Austin.
Bobby Bare @ ACL Live – Sounding very much like the late period Johnny Cash, 70 year old Bobby Bare senior, the original country outlaw, was promoting a new “Darker Than Light ” folk songs album. I much prefer his country classic “Detroit City” to “Tom Dooley” anytime but the highlight of this short set for me, was his duet with special guest Alejandro Escovedo on Al’s tearjerker “I Was Drunk”
True Believers @ ACL Live – Alejandro returned to the stage twenty minutes later with the re- incarnated Austin rock band True Believers (from the early eighties) with brother Javier, Jon Dee Graham etc. They’d got together as a tribute to SXSW founder Brent Gruike, who died last year (his favourite band). That’s always merited & I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at their new wave sound. Also they weren’t as loud as Id been led to truly believe !!!
John Fogerty @ ACL Live – I’ve been an Creedence fan for such a long time, so seeing John play "Born on the Bayou," "Proud Mary," & “Who’ll Stop The Rain” was indeed, quite an honour. His no holds barred attitude & guitar playing was inspiring too. The only trouble was, the drummer was so overpowering I couldn’t stick it. I lasted well over an hour but just after he destroyed a rockabilly number, with James Intveld up front & having had to witness Dawes get up for “Someday Never Comes” I was off like a linty. Legend or not ..
Johnnyswimswim @ St Davids Church- It was St Patrick’s day now, so a church visit was on the cards. I bought a veggie burger & root beer & took in some jazzy self- penned show tunes from the crooning Nashville duet Johnnyswimswim. They’d never get a better acoustic sound, than in this house of worship, that’s for certain.
Junior Brown @ St David’s Church – Id really come to god’s house to see Junior play his astonishing self made guit - steel guitar, & thank the lord that there was more in than say, a regular Sunday service. He said he was surprised as anyone to be playing for god & not the Continental Club. As a quartet (with Tanya his wife, on rhythm guitar) he delighted us sinners with his slick hot rod picking, twangy baritone vocals & deadpan songs that were, unlike a church service, filled with humour, “Hang Up & Drive “ Apathy Waltz” & “ My Wife Thinks Your Dead” with his wife smiling, at his side. He encored with the wonderful “Highway Patrol” & with roars in the rafters & two stepping in the aisles, it was the best send off to SXSW one could of had.
Merle Haggard @ Austin Rodeo – The rodeos well worth going to if you like Lone star beer, Corndogs, hog races, bullfight’s, cowgirls on horses, cowboys taking the cattle's legs with lasso's, your kids hanging on the back of sheep for fun, the star spangled banner anthem etc – an all American grand family day out, topped off with Merle Haggard live on a revolving stage. Luckily there was a big screen, so you didn’t miss much of “The Hag” & the killer set he played. Classic after classic was aired with his red- hot 8 piece band, “ Mama Tried” Today I Started Loving You” Working Man Blues”, Silver Wings” & of course “Okie from Muskogee” that had masses of Stetson hats thrown up in the air in appreciation. Seeing is the thing & at 73 years old, Merle still has the voice. However getting a lift back to town with two proper rednecks was another story. This day was certainly an adventure !
Jon Dee Graham & Friends @ Continental Gallery – Jon invited a who’s who of his local scene to join him on his little sofa or tiny floor stage. About 30 people witnessed Matt The Electrician, Steve Poltz, The Mastersons, Water Salas, James Mc Murtry, Freedy Johnson, Selene, Beaver Nelson, & a few others I just cannot remember, play a song or two with the big guy leading the charge. Their were even more musicians in the audience like JT Nero & Alison Russell, Jess Klein, David Garza, David Puckingham & of course Shippy.
All quiet on the Austin front, I went on a wander around the shops & found a signed first edition “Of Men & Mice” in a new 2nd hand bookstore on Sth Congress, I bought “ Hell-Bent For Music- Life Of Pee Wee King though, then later, onto my favourite beer parlour ( OpalDivines) & then to the following
Jitterbug Vipers @ The Elephant Rooms- I don’t know why I hadn’t been to this jazz cellar bar in years, as it was such a good place. The Jitterbug Vipers were very good too with their 30s/40s jazz & Sarah Sharp sounding like a young Peggy Lee & some stylish swinging guitar picking from Slim Richey. A warning though - The Bass player screeches on almost every tune, and was most annoying.
Dale Watson & Friends @ The Continental Club – Never mind the great pretender Bruce Springsteen, on his regular Monday night residency here, Dale Watson played for 3 ½ hours solid. What a perfect way to end our visit. He also got Brennen Leigh, then Raul Malo up to sing & like a northern soul special, dancing was witnessed, well into the wee small hours. However only El Sid managed to last the whole night, drinking rather than dancing the night away !
& Finally anybody who likes music can’t help but like Austin Texas. Austin Texas likes music enthusiasts too, as SXSW Fest is their second biggest money - spinner ( The F1 grand prix made slightly more). The sun shone brightly all week for the first time ever & made things even better, but the only thing Id query would be - do you really need a SXSW wristband.?? I’m not convinced anymore.
Tuesday 12 March - Things kick off at Threadgills in red hot afternoon sun, sinking some ice cold beers to combat the heat. Shiny Ribs play a storming set with a kick ass version of Waterfalls by TLC. Raucous country grooves and lots of humour feature in a great start to SXSW. Hell its not even SXSW yet as it doesn't start till the evening.
With a whole wealth of showcases optons to choose from we decide to stay local and make our first visit to The Continental Club for Swollen Circus. First band up is The Howling Brothers who played a great set of acoustic driven Americana. Next up were The Bluebonnets from Austin who were an all females garage rock band with Cathy from the Go Go's and they really rocked the place and went down very well, regretfully I didn't have the camara with me. Chris Mills now residing in NYC came with a young band and his voice is just full of hurt and emotion, he played tunes from his new record and very good they were too. Susan Cowsill suprised us by playing with a drummer and blasted out tunes from a low slung Les Paul, legs apart like a female version of Jimmy Page circa 1975. Certainly different from the acoustic set I was expecting. The Wild Seeds really rocked the place and turned out to be half The Silos with a different singer, a quick change and Walter Salas Humara comes on and hey presto it is The Silos next but playing in a much more laid back groove than usual. Ken Stringfellow was a bit disappointing as I'd expected more from him. But Tom Freund was great and to our delight his hot Austin band featured Bruce Hughes on bass and the first sighting of Scrappy Jud Newcombe on guitar and naturally they play with that Resentments / Beaver Nelson vibe. By now it was well after midnight and after a full day it was time to hit the hay.
Wednesday 13 March - Now everyone tries to sqeeze as much out of each day at SXSW but things are getting ridiculous as we headed down to GuitarTown Conqueroo KO Party at 10.30 to arrive in time for Willie Nile who opened proceedings at the un rock n roll hour of 11.30, thats AM people. Due to the early hour it did cross my mind that Willie might play a solo acoustic set. WRONG. The place was packed and at precisely 11.30 Willie and his band, Johnny Pissano on bass with a new drummer and his usual USA guitarist blasted into "House of a 1000 Guitars" followed by "Heaven Help the Lonely" and he wasn't taking any prisoners. Lordy I couldn't believe the intensity at such an early hour. He played a couple of tunes from his forthcoming record American Drive which is a fabulous road song and an epic possibly called Gods War? They brought the ceiling down with a killer version of the Jim Carroll song People Who Died which is also gonna be on the new record. Phew I needed a drink after that. We ran next door to Dogwood (Willie played indoors at Molotov) for Shurman who played a really classy set of guitar driven southern rock with great harmonies from Aaron Beavers and Mike Therieau (bass). We then hot footed it back to Molotov for reformed Shoes who played the most exquisite power pop promoting thier new record Ignition and the oldish crowd are really digging this, obviously reliving thier 80's youth with some dodgy dancing or shuffling perhaps would be more apt. But I got to admit its lovely, chiming guitars and sweet harmonies recalling the Flamin Groovies at times. Linda thought they were the best band on this year (Chuck Prophet wasn't here) Back next door for Anne McCue who was plagued with amp problems but did a great version of As the Crow Flies showing off some great slide guitar. We took a lunch break at this point but were back for Mike Scott who sadly was pretty poor but the place was chocka block. He bust a string took ages to change it (no second Guitar?) and he asked Steve Whickham to tell jokes which he did for 10 mins of a 25 min slot. Did a respectable Fishermans Blues at the end. American Aquarium probably have the worst name, but they are a great band from Raleigh N Carolina play great southern tunes. Whit Wright their young pedal steel player excells and singer B J Barham sounds like Steve Earle 20 years ago. I hung around for Steve Poltz and Linda went back to freshen up for the evening session. Steve was, as always hugely entertaining completely making up a song on the spot for 3 young 15 yr old kids who had been talking to him pre show. He was amazed that some kids so young had even heard of him never mind dug his music. He made their day very special. Hes that type of bloke a true diamond.
At 8.00pm we were at the doors of The Continental Club (I know again!) for the always fabulous Bloodshot Records showcase. Even better we didn't have to pay as the SXSW staff hadn't turned up and the CC guy let us in. Luke Weston King was the first band up and Luke is simply a wiz on any 6 sringed instrument he could lay his hands on. Acoustic, electric, dobro, you name it he could play it very well can sing a bit too. Murder By Death didn't impress at all and seemed to bang on for an age. Deadstring Brothers with yet another incarnation of this great band now down to a 4 piece but tonight had a guest on pedal steel, but still play Exile on Main Street style rock n roll all telecasters and drawled vocals. Lydia Loveless was next and I was delighted that she had her band with her and they really cook. Guitar guy Todd May plays what looks like a home made axe but gets such a great sound from it, truely dirty. Lydia played a bunch of new tunes amongst the Indestructible Machine stuff. J C Brookes and the Uptown Sound are hi energy soul and we needed the lift as it was well after midnight. JC is a charismatic performer way over 6ft tall and does the James Brown thing. Then the moment everyone had been waiting for, well me at least. The return of The Waco Brothers reclaiming their closing slot at 1.00am bringing things to a raucous close. Four blokes high kicking in unison barging each other outta the way to get to the mic stand and playing like their very life depended on it. Scott McCaughy guesting on bass as Alan apparently missed his flight? Or hashe rejoined Jesus Jones? Jon Langford quipping " As you can see Alan has been ODing on hair restorer pills". (Alan is shaven headed McCaughy very hirsute beard included) Always dependable to bring a party to a close, we retired totally knackered.
Thursday 14 March - Today we were picked up by our pal Jay who took us to The Broken Spoke for the first day of Twangfest who have relocated there following the sad demise of Jovitas, for reasons we can't go into here. The FBI are on the case though. Lone Bellow opened things up in the dance hall. Hailing from Brooklyn they play country with a soul twist and have great singers in Zach Williams and Kanene Pipkin building that road from Brooklyn to Nashville. Very impressive. The Spoke is weird for Twangfest. Signs all around proclaim " No standing on the Dance floor" well most of the normal Twangfest attendees don't dance and one by one creep onto that hallowed dance floor and stand watching the band. Kelly Hogan is next and she has Nora O'Conner on bass and they play more songs in a torch vocal style with a bit of country swing thrown in. On the bar stage White Horse (Luke Ducet and Mellissa McClelland) are laying down a great grroove with Luke on his Gretch White Falcon and Mellissa on bass using a range of effects and echo units with percussion to produce a mighty sound unleashing a brilliant if bizarre "Who Do You Love" (The Hook) Well its not to the taste of The Spokes Manageress who is hustling around shouting "Who's the guy in charge?" she wants them off asap. She screams at the sound guy to pull the plug and he looks bemused. She then gives the duo themselves the sharp side of her tounge and after a couple of more tunes they quit. Not sure if they completed their set but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth and the first time I've seen the conservative side of Austin Texas. God alone knows what she will make of The Waco Brothers who play on Sat. We hit the dance hall for Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison who is so tall he has to bend down so his head doesn't hit the ceiling. They play a great set of country tunes from thier current record and brings the two steppers out. We catch a few numbers by the angel voiced Ron Sexsmith in the bar before Betty E runs us down to Threadgills as she has managed to snag us passes for the New West Records day Party.
Typically we get caught in traffic and manage to miss John Hiatt completely but get in after parking up in time for Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. They are really cooking and the joint new record they are promoting sounds terrific. Buddy is on fire peeling off lick after lick bringing the short set to a climax. Richard Thompson was a bit disapointing playing his whole set from his new record but I guess thats why he's here so shouldn't moan. His understated guitar work certainly has some jaws dropping. Who should we see hanging over the fence? That well known cockney cowboy and Jumpin Hot regular (El) Sid. He had walked down from The Broken Spoke so I slipped Lindys pass into my "skyrocket" and handed it over to Sid so he could come in. Shame he missed the free bar. Max Gomez was completly new to me and was OK. The much publicised suprise guest ( Steve Earle/ Emmylou Harris/ Prince etc etc) was obviously not going to show so we high tailed it back to the Motel in the Bettymobile, Sidney riding shotgun.
The evening saw us heading for Ten Oak on Colorado Street for the Detroit music night. Jade Idol (from Austin?) were a loud trio who came on like Scott H Biram backed by the MC5 engine room. Next were the prime reason we were there. The Sights who played a storming set of rock and soul. Main man Eddie Baraek is a bit of a Steve Marriott wannbe but I'm cool with that, as he is backed by a great band including keys and sax. "How do you sleep" and "Gulity" are great tunes and the new record Right over Left sounds pretty great too - so great they only had it on vinyl as they sold all the cds. Amazon here I come. Feeling the pace after Bloodshot decided to have an early night and the only night we were back in the room for midnight. Must be getting old.
Friday 15 March - Its Friday Its 12.00pm Its Bloodshot BBQ at Yard Dog. These days the Bloodshot at YD is much more comfortable, its not overcrowded and you can actually get a drink and see the bands. The guys who run the label are so friendly and seem genuinely pleased that you are here and we are more than happy to support this little independent maverick record label, amazingly heading towards its 20th anniversary. Almost as long as J&H Club. Rosie Flores is up first and plays a selection of tunes from her current Bloodshot release Working Girls Guitar. With a minimalist band , double bass and drums, leaving plenty of space for Rosie to display her immaculate chops ! (Can I say that?) on her patented turquoise telecaster of course. She even had matching nail varnish. A great start to the day. Deadstring Brothers are next, this time without the pedal steel and really hitting the lazy Stonesy groove to perfection. Lydia Loveless and band are much better than they were at the Continental perhaps enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere at Yard Dog and not playing so much new unheard material. Unfortunately at around 2.30 we have to leave the homely surroundings of YD and head downtown. Lindy has a date with Emmylou Harris and I want to catch garage rock sensations The Woggles at Gingerman. Naturally we have a plan.
First we go to Gingerman back yard which is packed and to Lindas delight Shoes are playing again and once more deliver a great set in red hot afternoon sun. The cosy confines of the backyard are dwarfed by the recently erected high rise apartment blocks but as Alejandro sang "Austins changing" Following Shoes at about 4.45 Linda heads off to Waterloo Records to hitch up with Betty and catch The Mavericks and Emmylou and Rodney Crowell.
Meanwhile down at Waterloo. El Sid has been in the Waterloo Car Park right on the front barrier since 11.00. The music didn't start until 12.00. In 88 degree temps he never left his post not even for a toilet break or to grab a bottle of water. He even stood through Alt Jay and a bunch of other acts. A heroic effort for which he bore the scars on his sunburned cheeks. By the time Linda shows up the place is overflowing and she is unable to get into the car park. However she grabs a perch which affords a great view of the stage. Until some secuity guy tells her she cant stand there. From plucky Wallsend stock our girl ain't for moving. The locals nearby support her "Hey lady don't move, its your right to stand there, he can't make you move" The guy knows when he has met his match and retreats to cheers from the bystanders. Regretfully he returns with a State Trooper. "Maam can I ask you to step down from there please?" "Why I have a great view and I'm not in anyones way" Once again more support "Yeah Lady don't move etc" " Maam can you step down from there I don't want to arrest you" Now the crowd are really behind our girl "Dont move Dont move" The young cop apoloogetically but firmly states "Lady if you don't step down I will have to arrest you" "You won't arrest me will you?" "Maam I'm afraid I will unless you step down" The drama comes to a close and Linda has to find an alternate spot despite still having the support from the crowd. Emmylou was worth it I think, but shes looking forward to the Sage. I'll keep her in check folks.
Back at Gingerman I sit through Bensard Lakes who play dreamy pysche almost trance music before, hailing from Atlanta Georgia The Woggles obliterate all before them with a magnificent display. All decked out in red shirts, things get off to a terrific start as they punch into "Take It To The People" a great garage soul stomper. They pull a few Shadows style stepping routines all at a frenetic pace. The Gingerman is going mental and it only drives the band on to push even harder. Soon the whole place are up on tables and benches and punching the air in delight. The band leap from the stage and into the crowd joining them on the tables and dancing thier sox off.
Wish I had a video camara to capture the excitment. Wow just WOW. Their new record The Big Beat sounds fantastic.
Next up are Split Squad who I only found out about on the plane coming over. A sort of supergroup featuring members of The Fleshtones, Blondie, Steve Wynns Miracle 3, Minus 5 and REM. Turns out its a Scott McCaughy project with Clem Burke on drums Keith Streng (Fleshtones) guitar and Scott on guitar. Although they are good, following The Woggles was an impossible task. Still on a high I trek off down 6th Strret to hook up with Lindylou and its off to Marias Taco Express in the Bettymobile for Sin City. A day party we've never been to before. We spot Mick Curry at a front table and grooving to Ian Moore who is very impressive. Jesse Dayton is great playing with a fiddle player and doing a more country set than I've seen him do before. Two Hoots and a Holler featuring Rick Brousard who sports a white stetson and they have Fighting Cocks guitar slinger on pedal steel. They bring the party to a close playing a set of country rock n roll thats gets the toes a tappin. Have to admit I didn't get the "special vibe" that I've been told this party is supposed to have.
We get drooped off down town and without a hitch make our way to 18th Floor at The Hilton to catch Steve Poltz deliver a brilliant midnight show. Just as the trio (Poltz, bassist, and girl singer/fiddle player) are sound checking the PA blows up. "No problem I'll do it unplugged" shouts Steve to the sound desk . He then begins with "In it for the long Haul" a 15 minute epic of love, cringing hilarity, and stellar story telling that bonds the crowd, several of whom have no idea who Steve Poltz is. Long Haul has them all with arms around strangers swaying and singing their heads off. Its special as Steve wanders around standing on chairs sitting on girls knees serenading them. After that the sound guys have fixed the PA and they do the show. Sweet harmonies and bass adds something to Dreamhouse and other tunes. At 1.15 we leave the plush Hilton and make our way through town back to the Motel.
Saturday 16 March - So much action on South Congress today, great line ups at Yard Dog, St Vincents Thrift Shop Stage, Mojo Nixons Mayhem at the Continental, Guero's Garden and the big stage at Joe's Parking lot.
The day KO's pre breakfast at 10.00 at the Continental with Allen Oldies Band delivering their usual set of obscure 50's and 60's covers they always entertain an enthusiastic Bloody Mary drinkin crowd. After a couple of tunes its off to Gueros for some breakfast. Up to Yard Dog, although the severe heat deters us walking up to Amelias for the mighy Phil Lee. Instead we content ourselves with The Silos who are followed by a joint set of Minus 5 / Split Squad who are much better than yesterday doing a great version of Can't Explain and have to swap drummers mid set Linda Pitman vacating the drum stool for Clem Burke. "When you said I'd have to follow a girl drummer you never said she would be so damn good" exclaimed Clem as he took his seat and pounded the traps for the second part of the set. Ian MacLagan & The Bump Band are next and Mac just looks happy. Could anyone imagine Rod or Ron Wood doing this? Scrappy peels off some great slide Mac tinkles the ol johanna and plays "You're so Rude"
A bad decision is made here as we scoot over to the Continental for Jesse Dayton and Kinky Freedman. We have to stand in line for about 10 mins but when we get in some young dude with an acoustic guitar and cowboy hat is on stage? "What happened to Jesse and Kinky?" I ask the sound guy. "They came on played two songs, sent this kid on and they left the building. We don't even know who he is" Not a happy bunny.
Next a weird choice. In a moment of madness we leave S Congress jump in a cab and head way out to E 12th Street to Legendary White Horse. This is in the middle of nowhere. Its white hot as we exit the cab. The comforting sounds of garage rock are emerging from this joint across the street. It is indeed the LWH. Settling into a booth we endulge in cheap rounds of beer and Southern Comfort. The Go Wows from Australia play a great rocking sound. Rickenbackers to the fore and sounding like The Groovies Jnr. Brendan Kibble on vocals playing a nice set and they gave us a cd. I brave the oppressive heat to take a look around the neihbourhood. Sams BBQ is the next block down. We intend to pop in after The Woggles who once again put on a tremendous show this time all decked out in grey Beatles jackets. Manfred the energetic singer collapses onto the floor drenched in sweat asking for a girl to sit on his chest and massage his heart back to life. Plenty more high jinx with lots of tunes from The Big Beat. On our way to Sams a bus shimmers out of the heat so we jump on it. Enduring a lengthy but entertaining ride when an old black guy tries to sell me "primo puff puff" for the whole journey. Although I think neither of us can understand a word each of us is saying we are both laughing and doing the handshake thang. We are too late to make it back up S congress for the music so decide the plan for the evening. Lamberts has a great bill, Shurman are on at TheSaxon but as we're knackered after our afternoon adventure we take the easy option and hit the CC. The Wagoneers are followed by Split Squad who once again get better with each showing, Probably making up for minimal rehearsing. Chris Shifert and The Dead Peasants are another jangly guitar band followed by Ian Moore and we can't make it for Bobby Bare Jnr so retire as its a long night tomorrow.
Sunday 17 March - We avoid the St Paddys Day madness thats going on down town and stick to South Congress where only about a quarter of the population are wearing green. Alejandro and Friends at the CC starts at the unreasonable hour of 1.00pm. But for 20 bucks if you had the staying power you could get 13 hours of music. We decide 6ish will be soon enough to enter and take a picnic in with us. Even manage to pounce on a couple of seats. Sorted. Rosie Flores is the fist act we see and she brings on a whole host of girl singers to help her out Kelly Hogan Anne McCue among them.The Mighty Steff from Dublin start off good but end up dull. Music fatigue is setting in. Willie Nile delivers another brilliant set and gets our host Alejandro up on stage to sing along. Alejandro is looking like a latino pimp in white snakeskin jacket and shades. Lindy and I leave Mick to guard the seats and strech our legs with a boogie down the front. Barfield do their Texas funk thing but I think the bass is too high but they are still excellent. Peter Buck Group are entertaining with Peter on vocals and guitar. He wheels out Mike Mills so that "At least one person on stage can sing" Its all very informal and Peter Buck himself comes around with a bucket collecting as all proceeds are going to a charity he supports in Central America. Drivin n Cryin who I have thus far manged to just miss on two previous half hearted attempts. Well they are fantastic. Kevin Kinney has recruited a great young guitarist Sadler Vaden into the ranks and they get the club going, playing thier brand of rootsy rock n roll. Songs from the series of EP's they are putting out. (Definately reccomended) They wheel back out fellow Atlantans Peter Buck and Mike Mills for thier song "REM" which has an infectious OOH OOH chorus.
On the last lap now and I'm looking forward to The True Believers. Last time they played as an extended encore to Alejandros set, it was mainly a guitar jam. This time they had rehersed a full set of tunes from both thier Hard Road album and the second album that never got released ue to record co mess ups. Jon Dee Graham looks like a man mountain next to the Escovedo brothers. Strangly Alejandro leaves the singing almost exclusively to Javier. Classic forgotten tunes are rolled out "The rain won't help you when its over", "So Blue About You" featuring great harp playing from Denny Degorio (bass) and the all out rocker "I get so excited" We have left the seats way back and dancing down the front along with an estatic CC crowd. News that the "Troobs" may record a new project in the future. They all line up and take a bow except John Dee who stomps off alone, not into milking applause. In fact he was like a bear with a sore head all night. Still a classy end to another SXSW.
Phew. Time to sleep.