12th annual Swollen Circus - hosted by Michael Hall and Walter Salas-Humara
Markus Rill, Dumptruck, Gore Gore Girls, The Teenage Prayers, PreNup, Michael Zapruder's Rain Of Frogs, Michael Hall, Jud Newcomb, The Silos, Carrie Rodriguez, Patty Hurst Shifter, Emily Zuzik, Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands
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Swollen Circus 12

Markus Rill
“Rill's latest, The Price of Sin, is born in the moseying folk storytelling of legends like Guy Clark, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and, more recently, Robert Earl Keen, full of homespun tales of hoboes, desperation, and lost love that usually double as morality tales. That Rill is a German who produces his records in Nashville with some of Music City's biggest names only serves to make his records all the more intriguing. The album was, in fact, produced by the legendary George Bradfute and features multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin on every track. The result is a twangy country-folk hybrid that is both catchy and minimalist.” - Tracy M. Rogers, Puremusic.com
The annual Swollen Circus has been a must-see event for me since its inception, mainly for two reasons: It’s obviously a good opportunity to check out bands you might want to see again for a full set during the actual festival. But just as importantly it’s a great place to re-connect with people you rarely see for the rest of the year, both on-stage and off-stage. When I was living in Germany I was able to see Markus Rill play regularly, but now the Swollen Circus offered a rare chance to see him perform. Markus and Mark Viator started off with two songs from The Price Of Sin, clearly Markus' best album to date: “Broken Puppet” and “Me & Bonnie Parker” were followed by a new song called “Sarah Stein”.

Markus Rill
Markus Rill

Dumptruck
“In a better world, Dumptruck would have been heroes of the college rock boom of the 1980s — both Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan were great songwriters, they were an impressive guitar team (when Swan left the group, Tiven also proved he could more than handle the songs by his lonesome), and they made three quite-good-to-truly-great albums between 1984 and 1988.” – Mark Deming, Allmusic.com
When Dumptruck played the Swollen Circus in 2004, it had been the first time Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan were onstage together since Kirk had left the band in 1986. They played a memorable show back then, but this time around they had just finished recording basic tracks for a new album and delivered a much tighter set with their amps cranked up to 11. Fun!

Dumptruck
Dumptruck

Gore Gore Girls
“When you're dealing with an all-female band who wear kicky matching outfits and have named themselves after a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick, it's temping to think "novelty act," but the Gore Gore Girls have both the talent and the cojones to convince anyone that they're a top-shelf rock & roll band.” – Mark Deming, Allmusic.com
For most bands the 3 song-sets at the Circus translate to about 12-15 minutes on stage: The Gore Gore Girls’ set clocked in well under 10 highly entertaining minutes. They turned the Hole into a garage and guitar-player/singer Amy Surdu even found time for two excursions into the tightly packed crowd.

Gore Gore Girls
Gore Gore Girls
Gore Gore Girls

The Teenage Prayers
“This Brooklyn-based sextet finishes its debut album with a cover of Solomon Burke's "Goodbye Baby" produced by the soul legend himself. While having Burke's stamp of approval is nice (he flew them to L.A. for the recording), this group didn't need it to confirm what one listen through Ten Songs reveals: they're one of the most soulful indie rock outfits to come out of New York in years.” – Steve Reynolds, Trouser Press
Amps stayed at 11 for the Teenage Prayers. Not bad - full of energy, although I couldn’t detect much soul in vocalist Tim Adams’ shrill, over-the-top delivery.

Teenage Prayers

PreNup
“What happens when members of two of the greatest bands in Irish rock history get together? Something incredible… Back from their lengthy US tour, Fiachna O Braonain and Dave Clarke of the Hothouse Flowers met up with Cait O Riordan of the Pogues, and the result is... Prenup.”  - Band bio
Things got a bit quieter for the next set: only 2/3s of PreNup showed up, unfortunately Cait O’Riordan could not make it. Fiachna O’Braonain and Dave Clarke played an acoustic set of songs from a new album to be released sometime in 2007.

PreNup

Michael Zapruder’s Rain Of Frogs
"Collaborating with some 20 musicians, including Jonathan Siegel of Camper Van Beethoven and Nate Query of the Decemberists, Michael Zapruder makes beautiful folk-pop ballads resonant of the voice of Rufus Wainwright and wordplay of Andrew Bird" – Andy Dubbin, Pitchfork
I first met Michael Zapruder when he was a member of Bay Area band The Naked Barbies, but I hadn’t really followed his career after he left the band. I should have – this set was pretty cool, good songs and a fine band!

Michael Zapruder
Michael Zapruder

Michael Hall
“In the decade-and-a-half-plus since Austin's Wild Seeds called it quits, the band's guiding light, singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Hall, has chosen a number of different configurations within which to present his increasingly expanding artistic vision. […] Alternately witty and dreamy, wistful and hopeful, his wordsmithing is tight and his storytelling gripping.” – Jeff Tamarkin, Allmusic.com
Michael Hall and band (Randy Franklin + Jud Newcomb on guitar, Walter Salas-Humara on drums, and Brian Zoric on bass) played three songs from Michael’s most recent album
The Song He Was Listening to When He Died: “Out Where the Highways Rolls”, the title track and a rocking “Captain, Captain”.
Michael Hall
Michael Hall

Jud Newcomb
“Since he's remarkably active as a producer and guitarist for the likes of the Resentments, Ian McLagan, Beaver Nelson, Matt the Electrician, and too many others to mention, you might forget that Austin music scene staple "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb is a talented songwriter. Byzantine, his second album, is not only his best work as a solo artist, it's his best work period. Each track, from Stonesy opener "Plain & Simple" and shimmering summer song "Is That Any Way?" to the urgent "Baby, Let's Break the Rules," finds Newcomb at his most self-assured.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
“Scrappy” Jud stayed on stage for his own set, which included a rocking version of “Something Real (Gettin' Down)” from Byzantine. Fellow Resentment Bruce Hughes got to sing a song as well.

Jud Newcomb
Jud Newcomb

The Silos
"A ragged scorcher of an attack that combines the mercurial feel of the Velvet Underground with the assertive middle-finger of Exile-era Stones." - Lee Zimmerman, Amplifier
Out of nowhere Chuck Prophet appeared at the Hole and joined the Silos on lead guitar for an extremely well-received set which included “Keeping Score”, “Behind Me Now”, and “Only Love”. I hadn’t seen Walter and Chuck on stage together since 1996, so this was a nice surprise.

Silos
Chuck Prophet + The Silos

Carrie Rodriguez
“She's not just Austin's sweetheart made good; after three acclaimed CDs with Chip Taylor, she's got her own knockout solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle, and a heap of her own four-star reviews to paste in the scrapbook. Singer, songwriter, violinist, muse.” - Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle
I had never seen Carrie Rodriguez before, neither as a solo artist nor during her years with Chip Taylor. Her 3-song set was great: she’s certainly a gifted performer, the band is terrific (Brannen Temple on drums, Hans Holzen on guitars and Kyle Kegerreis on bass) and the three songs (“Seven Angels On A Bicycle”, “50’s French Movie”, “Never Gonna Be Your Bride”) they played made me want to hear more.

Carrie Rodriguez
Carrie Rodriguez
Carrie Rodriguez

Patty Hurst Shifter
“Having drawn comparisons to the True Believers and Replacements, Raleigh's Patty Hurst Shifter could be the next great American rock band. The young foursome have a new, limited-edition EP, Fugitive Glue, featuring live recordings, acoustic material, demos, and outtakes, and soon begin work on a follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed Too Long on the Losing End.” - Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Patty Hurst Shifter can always be trusted to deliver a fine performance, and tonight was no exception.

Patty Hurst Shifter

Emily Zuzik
“Emily Zuzik's voice ranges from a sweet and alluring croon to a low growl that would charm even the most world-weary." - Time Out New York
PHS are a tough act to follow and, unfortunately for Emily, a large portion of the crowd left after their set. She did two songs solo acoustic before Konrad + Drew from the Silos joined her for the last song.

Emily Zuzik
Emily Zuzik

Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands
"Pickerel's vocals carry a Chris Isaak/Lee Hazelwood bottom end to them, or perhaps it would be safer to say he sounds like Roy Orbison on sedatives. The songs swing like all classic country should, but what separates Pickerel from someone like Wayne Hancock is the surreal, almost psychedelic haze he paints his songs with. It's Americana, for sure, but via David Lynch. If Blue Velvet were set in a Bakersville dance hall, it would sound like this." - Seattle Weekly
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Mark Pickerel was the drummer for the Screaming Trees, one of my favourite bands at the time. While I had followed the output of singer Mark Lanegan and the Connor brothers, it took Mark Pickerel quite a while to release his solo debut. I hadn’t heard last years’ album and I certainly didn’t expect him to sound anything like the Trees, but I had been looking forward to his set nevertheless. Accompanied by keyboards and pedal steel, Mark played guitars + kick drum and delivered a well-rounded set.

Mark Pickerel
Mark Pickerel

All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2007