Well obviously SXSW kicked in pretty good because Days 3 & 4 reports aren’t happening until I’m back here in the Ocean State. A lot of it’s still kind of blurry (though temps in the 30s and wind smacking me in the face today was a definite wake-up call compared to low 80s and balmy weather in Texas for all of SXSW Music). Anyway, let’s recount Friday and Saturday’s shenanigans.
DAY 3 (FRIDAY)
SXSW Friday in past years has always been devoted almost entirely to the Bloodshot Records day party at Yard Dog Folk Art on South Congress (www.yarddog.com). Free beer, raucous music, and wall to wall people crammed into the backyard space of Yard Dog. While Bloodshot was still on the agenda this year, we wanted to try something a little different to begin the afternoon. The game plan was to head to the East Side for an afternoon of Memphis bands at a joint called Shangri-La (no relation to the Memphis record store). Titled “Six Degrees of Memphis” and sponsored in part by Ardent Records, the draw for me was to see Memphis s/s Harlan T. Bobo. With two terrific records to his credit on Goner, Bobo was tops on my list for people to see at this year’s fest. It is amazing how quickly you can get out of synch at SXSW when someone’s a no show and it’s not until 90 minutes or so later that it’s official and the cat isn’t showing. In SXSW day party terms, 90 minutes of waiting is the equivalent of missing 4 or 5 bands. Anyway, after a real tasty breakfast at The Counter Cafe (www.thecountercafe.com) on North Lamar, we headed over to the East Side. Arrived at Shangri-La and the scene in the outside stage area was quiet with people milling around. I sensed no-show from the git-go, so we decided to head across the street to a joint called the Irongate Lounge for the Cash Moneyapolis! party. On stage was Brooklyn duo Kaiser Cartel. While aware of them, this was the first time hearing them and their economic “quiet” pop was real good. Label ‘em one of my SXSW discovery bands. Moseyed back over to Shangri-La and things were no different, though Memphis singer-songwriter Dave Cousar started playing as the Bobo watch continued. Getting both bored & concerned, it was back to Irongate and a band called Romantica whose roots rock was both tight and unremarkable. One more trip over to Shangri-La and 25 more minutes of waiting before someone finally said Harlan was probably laying in the gutter somewhere and not coming. (Side Note: Bobo was also a no-show for his evening showcase. That ain’t good.)
In distress, we needed to replan. Since our car was parked near the Scoot Inn, we headed there to catch JohnPaulKeith & the 145s only to find out they had just finished. Now we were getting depressed. Decided to head back to South Austin and familiar Friday territory. After much musing about where to go (we caught a few songs from Audrey Auld at Threadgills, but it wasn’t satisfying our rocking urges), we headed to Yard Dog and damn it felt good to be in our “comfort” zone. Caught the end of Exene Cervenka and began enjoying the free Shiner. Deadstring Brothers, The Meat Purveyors, and Justin Townes Earle followed all turning in short, but solid sets. Deadstring’s had a new gal singer. After JTE, made a B-line across South Congress to Homeslice Pizza for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. They rocked good and hard for the masses crammed into the small Homeslice backyard. Cold Brooklyn Lager made it all the more better. After, it was back over to Yard Dog for the annual Waco Brothers closer. Sloppy good rock & roll!
Next stop was the Hotel San Jose parking lot for their SXSanJose shindig. Was pretty excited to see Gary Louris and Mark Olson perform. While the harmonies brought back sweet memories (as did their back-catalogue ventures), it just too quiet a set. (Couldn’t we just play a little electric guitar??). The Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra was up next and judging by all the mics on the stage, it was going to be big. Two-plus hours worth big it was with Alejandro backed by 11 singers and musicians covering a large chunk of latest album Real Animal, not to mention mining many chestnuts from his career. Simply put, I’d be hard-pressed to say anything at SXSW could top this performance (and it wasn’t even an SXSW official event). The length of the show and the large band may have had something to do with the rumored filming of the performance by Jonathan Demme for an upcoming project. At conclusion, we were pretty much spent and plenty hungry and after much consternation, we headed to Home Slice Pizza (www.homeslicepizza.com) for some New York-style pizza. I have to say they do a really good job.
DAY 4 (SATURDAY)
Late night pizza = bad night sleep and a pretty groggy start to the last day.
Anyway, got up enough muster for a little Tex-Mex breakfast at the Habanero Cafe (www.habanerocafe.com) on Oltorf. Good chori-migas.
With bellies full, it was over to Yard Dog for a noontime set from Tim Easton who previewing songs from his upcoming album. He rocked pretty good and was a fine hangover cure. It was then down to the San Jose for Amy LaVere’s set. Amy’s like a drug. You want more and her short set was only a tease to these ears, though, we did get a kick out of her trying to see the Manuel skirt she was wearing from onstage. Next it was across the street to Home Slice to see Providence band Deer Tick, but they were a no-show which bummed us out. Back to Yard Dog for sets by local band The Savage Trip which features Michael Hall as lead singer. Loud, trippy rock & roll and really good. Freedy Johnston followed and brought back lots of memories, but too short of a set. Bolted Yard Dog for the G&S Lounge on S. 1st for Cornell Hurd’s annual parking lot shindig. It’s a South Austin tradition and is unmistakably laid back and completely South Austin. Finally got to see legendary honky tonker Frankie Miller (check out his Bear Family Records retrospective!) and despite his age, he did just fine with Cornell’s band backing. Also told a pretty good joke about a ballerina (natch)! Our stay was brief and it was then over to Jovita’s, also on S. 1st, for day 2 of the Twangest/KDHX party. Also high on my agenda this year was a new Memphis band, JohnPaulKeith & the 145s. Their rock & roll sounds did not disappoint and makes me real anxious for their debut recording due out near the end of April on Big Legal Mess Records. We were also real excited about the afternoon’s closer, Eli “Paper Boy” Reed who's a soul shouter from Boston. Excitement turned to disappointment when he cancelled, so we decided to head over to Opal Devine’s at Penn Field on South Congress for the doings at the Third Coast Music party. Opal’s has a great elevated deck and an excellent draft beer selection. We enjoyed both, not to mention sets from Rod Picott with Amanda Shires, Slaid Cleaves, the always excellent Larry Lange & His Lonely Knights reprising that Highway 90 Louisiana-South Texas sound, and all the way from East L.A. the inspired Tex-Mex sounds of Los Fabulocos. With hunger pangs setting in, it was time for some dinner and a venture down South Congress to The Woodland (www.woodlandaustin.com). They do comfort food right with my personal fave their meatloaf. Good drinks, too!
Once again with bellies full and fatigue setting in, it was time for more music. We decided to close the night out with Andre Williams just down the block at the Continental Club. With backing by the Allan Oldies Band and with exotic dancers to boot, it was a good choice and great sendoff to another great SXSW. Andre was in absolute fine form during his 40 minute set which featured faves like “Bacon Fat” and “Pussy Stank” and pointed commentary about what he likes about Austin. As happens all day after seeing band after band, we felt rejuvenated once more.