SXSW2007 - Day 2
The Hedrons, Tim Easton, Buddy Miller, Rickie Lee Jones, Immaculate Machine, Carolyn Mark, Justin Rutledge, The Drams, Mark Pickerel, Monster Bobby, Christopher Rees, Back Door Slam, Glossary, Tosca String Quartet + Lambchop, Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band, Kelly Willis, Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Sparklehorse, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
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The Hedrons @ Mugshots
“Self-assured and deliciously energising […] The Hedrons debut is a pedal-to-the-metal affair of great promise.” - Mojo
The weather was back to normal on Thursday morning – blue skies, lots of sun and pleasantly warm. Nevertheless I needed something to wake me up, and I found The Hedrons. Original? No. Energetic and entertaining? Definitely! Listen to a song here.
The Hedrons
The Hedrons
The Hedrons


Tim Easton @ Club DeVille
“To be sure, Ammunition couldn’t be more aptly titled.  Easton fires off 13 songs and doesn’t once miss the bullseye. In the mere space of an album, he provides an engaging synopsis of American music, jumping from genre to genre with the grace and agility of an athlete. Even more impressive is this: Easton is only four albums into his career, and has already amassed a formidable legacy. More than simply another in a long line of alt-country saviors, he’s making real contributions to American music. What’s scary is that he’s got a lot more ammo in his guitar…” – Michael Franco, popmatters.com
The New West Records party was my next stop, with a promising line-up. I had expected Tim Easton to perform solo, but he was capably backed by Two Cow Garage for this show. He joked that last year he had played solo and was nearly drowned out by a punk band playing next door and that he wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. Well, if there was a band next door they didn’t stand a chance…
Tim Easton
Tim Easton
Tim Easton

Buddy Miller @ Club DeVille
“Buddy Miller issues a roots gospel album as his debut for New West. Miller effortlessly walks the line between the genre's styles, all the while stamping them with his own unique Americana trademark. […] Universal United House of Prayer feels like it's the record Buddy's been waiting to make his entire career, and as such it is his finest moment.” - Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
For me, the main draw at this party was a rare chance to see Buddy Miller in his only SXSW performance this year. It turned out to be perfect: great sound, great songs (“All My Tears”, “Worry Too Much”, “Wide River To Cross”, “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger“, “Don’t Tell Me” and “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go”), and a great band (Bryan Owings on drums, Viktor Kraus on bass and Steve Fishell on the dobro). It was early, but this was clearly a highlight of the day and the week!
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller

Rickie Lee Jones @ Club DeVille
“Spoken-poetry and Waits-y blues moments are just a small part of a wide variety that includes acoustic folk and raw rock, recalling Patti Smith and the Velvet Underground. [The Sermon on Exposition Blvd. is] mature, inspired, confident.” - Sylvie Simmons, San Francisco Chronicle
This was my 13th year at SXSW and I thought I had seen it all. But I was wrong, as I was about to witness a case of hilarious star behaviour rarely seen at the festival. After a fairly lengthy setup RLJ did one song before announcing that she was not used to having the drum kit directly behind her and that she could not play like that. Then she left the stage, with band and crew scrambling for the next ten minutes to rearrange the stage setup. Back for another song, she started complaining about two people talking in the back, going on and on about it and requesting them to “shut the f*ck up”. Now, if you are a regular reader of these reports you know that I passionately hate people chatting at concerts. But in this case, RLJ was playing with a full band, she wasn’t doing any quiet songs, the guys were far from the stage at the other end of the tent and I certainly didn’t hear anyone talk. Musically the set was actually better than I had expected, but unfortunately it was very hard to focus on the music while she was
making an absolute fool of herself.
Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones

The next stop was the patio at Headhunters for the Mint + Six Shooter Records Hootenanny, another must see annual event. Immaculate Machine were on stage, although you can’t really call it a stage at this tiny place.
Immaculate Machine
Immaculate Machine
Immaculate Machine

Carolyn Mark @ Headhunters’ Patio
“Mark has proved herself to be a sharptongued, tough, funny songwriter, able to stand comfortably on her own wiseacre merits. […] She spins yarns like an old pro, jostles and joshes with deadpan sincerity, all with a candid, homey voice that's equal parts Natalie Merchant, Janis Joplin, and Loretta Lynn.” – Zeth Lundy, popmatters.com
Carolyn acted as the MC for the party, but she also did a short set with Luke Doucet joining her for a song.
Carolyn Mark
Carolyn Mark


Justin Rutledge @ Headhunters’ Patio
“Justin Rutledge has just written a debut album that recalls all the best spine tingling, emotionally sucker-punching moments of Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker.” - Paul McNamee, New Music Express
The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park was one my favourite albums of 2006. For Justin’s 15 minutes (Setlist: “Robin’s Tune”, “Does It Make You Rain” and “Jellybean”) at the hootenanny his band included
Luke Doucet on guitar, Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) on bass and Melissa McClelland on harmony vocals.
Justin Rutledge
Justin Rutledge
Justin Rutledge

The Drams @ Club DeVille
“After the end of Slobberbone, singer and lead songwriter Brent Best performed some solo shows and started working on solo material. Despite his last group having disbanded, Best brought his old pals Jess Barr and Tony Harper back into the fold for his new group, the Drams and added a new bassist and keyboardist. And while fans of Slobberbone might yearn for the band to reunite at some point, there is plenty of material here to keep them pleasantly happy.” - Jason MacNeil, allmusic.com
I walked back to Club DeVille and arrived just in time to see The Drams blasting through “Hummalong”, my favourite tune from their debut.
The Drams
The Drams
The Drams

Over at Headhunter’s Patio the party was starting to wind down, with three short sets in just 45 minutes: Mark Pickerel and his band were followed by Monster Bobby and Christopher Rees.
Mark Pickerel
Monster Bobby
Christopher Reese

There is just no way to escape music in downtown Austin during SXSW.
Sixth Street


People were lining up early @ Antone's for the Stax 50 Revue that evening...

Back Door Slam @ 318 5th Street
“I heard the spirit of Jimi Hendrix coming from the open, streetside windows of a joint called B.D. Riley's. It was "Red House," executed superbly by a surprisingly young trio called Back Door Slam, from the Isle of Man in the U.K. The club was packed and so was the street outside. Folks were transfixed by this kid on guitar who played with a fiery spirit and sang with conviction, making the song his own. […] I was inspired once again by the passion, the energy, the dedication of musicians who want to make their mark -- or just want to have fun and express themselves when they're young and full of spirit.” – Patrick MacDonald, Seattle Times (about their showcase the night before)
One of the best SXSW experiences is to stumble upon a band or an artist you have never heard of and who makes you forget completely about your planned schedule. While walking along 5th street there was a bare stage set up on an empty lot and I heard what sounded like a reincarnation of Rory Gallagher. The singer/guitar-player looked really young, but his voice and songs seemed to be much older. A really tight rhythm section provided a solid foundation for their hard-rockin’, bluesy sound. It was really fun to watch these guys give it all, and to see how more and more people stopped by to listen and stayed until the end of the set. I just wish Rickie Lee Jones would have been here to see what performing is about – passion, energy and dedication, not bitching and whining.
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam

Glossary @ Habana Calle 6 Patio
“Glossary has been making well respected but underappreciated southern indie rock since the late twentieth century. The band’s latest album (and one of the year’s most stirring releases), For What I Don’t Become, should change all that.” - James P. Fahy, Paste Magazine
Glossary had been on my list of bands to check out at SXSW in previous years, but somehow I had always missed them. Too bad, because I really liked what I saw and heard at this show: they reminded me a lot of Blue Mountain. I picked up their two most recent CDs which are highly recommended. Listen to a song here. A new album is in the works, I can’t wait to hear it.
Glossary
Glossary
Glossary
Glossary

I made a quick stop across the street at the Habana Calle 6 Annex to see the Tosca String Quartet perform with Lambchop. On stage, Kurt Wagner, a guitar player and the four Tosca strings delivered a rare performance, but I had to move on after about 20 minutes.
Tosca String Quartet + Lambchop
Tosca String Quartet + Lambchop
Tosca String Quartet + Lambchop

Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band @ Austin Convention Center (Austin Music Hall Ballroom)
The Boxing Mirror is Alejandro Escovedo's first album in four years. On it he stands at the crossroads of his own life's work. Escovedo has always kept his music balanced on a fine line: on one side is his trademark elegant, poetic brand of sophisticated pop, and on the other is an original, tough, savvy rock & roll that encompasses not only grit but texture and dynamic while keeping its eyes on the street. On The Boxing Mirror, Escovedo and producer John Cale erase the line: rock, pop, country, Tejano, and other folk forms are woven into a rich, colorful fabric without regard for classification. […] The Boxing Mirror is brilliant, and it is his masterpiece.” - Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
The Austin Music Hall, usually a SXSW venue was not available this year due to renovations. Instead, the organizers used a portion of the Convention Center, a huge room that matched the crappy, echo’y sound of the Music Hall quite accurately. Thursday evening was reserved for Alejandro Escovedo and friends in various combinations: solo, with the String Quintet, and with Buick MacKane. The part I saw was billed as the Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band, with Matt Fish and Brian Standefer on cello, David Pulkingham on guitar, Susan Voelz on violin, Josh Gravlin on bass and Hector Munoz on drums. Acoustic certainly did not mean quiet: “Arizona”, “Castanets” and “Put You Down” were played before the band made room for the Poi Dog Pondering reunion set.
Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band
Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band
Alejandro Escovedo Acoustic Band

Kelly Willis @ Friends
“Although the work of new traditionalist singer/songwriter Kelly Willis earned widespread critical acclaim, she found little in the way of comparable commercial success; her sound, a smart hybrid of country and rock, simply assimilated both musical styles too well to gain acceptance in either camp.” - Jason Ankeny, allmusic.com
There were many options for the 10pm slot, but I decided to try to get into Friends for one of two performances by Kelly Willis this year. As it turned out I could walk right in, but the room was absolutely packed and outside a line was forming rapidly. Kelly performed a first-rate set with her fine band, which included Chuck Prophet on guitar and Eleanor Whitmore on violin + mandolin.
Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter @ Buffalo Billiards
“On their third offering [Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul], Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter widen their musical palette ever so slightly. The first noticeable difference is in the grain of Sykes' voice. She is far more world-worn this time out. She's raspier, digging into the meat of her lyrics more and stubbornly holding on to her syllables to open her lyrics enough to let her intent and emotion drip from them like raw, bittersweet honey. The Sweet Hereafter, led by Phil Wandscher, is tighter, louder, and — while still slow and purposeful — more forceful. […] If anything, this is the most satisfying offering from Sykes and her band yet.” - Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
Since I first saw Jesse and Phil at SXSW2003 the band has played countless shows around the globe and has just released their third and best album to-date, so it was no surprise to see that Buffalo Billards was comfortably full. After some initial issues with the sound were resolved the band quickly found its groove and performed a stellar set which included quite a few of the newer, more up-tempo songs.
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter

Sparklehorse @ Antone’s
Mark Linkous - who records and tours under the Sparklehorse moniker - is known for being more than a little weird. Listening to [Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain], Linkous’ first release in five years, one can conclude his rep is justified. The enigmatic multi-instrumentalist drapes his songs in mysterious sounds, and his murmured and whispered vocals barely qualify as singing. But the effect is spellbinding: Echoes of Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles mix with idiosyncratic melodies that evoke Lou Reed and Ray Davis, and fragments of Beach Boys harmony collide with spooky strings, trippy electronics, and fuzzed-out indie rock.” - Andy Ellis, Guitar Player
Antone’s was packed as well, but the crowd had to wait well over 30 minutes before Sparklehorse finally got on stage. Mark Linkous had assembled a superb band for this tour, with Johnny Hott (House Of Freaks, Gutterball, Danny & Dusty) on drums and Paula Jean Brown on Bass, so it was certainly worth the wait.
Sparklehorse
Sparklehorse
Sparklehorse
Sparklehorse

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals @ Cedar Street Courtyard
“While the 22-year-old Grace Potter's vocal influences are obvious — Bonnies Raitt and Bramlett, Susan Tedeschi, and Lucinda Williams — it's what she does with her voice that is most impressive. [Nothing But The Water] gets all the parts right. Even though the band is from Vermont, there is no denying the Southern blues, gospel and swamp rock that course through its veins. Potter's songs, all co-written with her group, grind through a combination of the Band, J.J. Cale (who she namechecks on the opening "Toothbrush and My Table"), Taj Mahal, and Tift Merritt. […] She's got a terrific, grainy voice, but it's her piano and Hammond B-3 playing that really set her apart from the pack.” - Hal Horowitz, allmusic.com
The last stop for the evening was at Cedar Street Courtyard to check out Grace Potter and Band. The songs on her MySpace page had sounded interesting, and the show was pretty good, too. The official showcase ended just after 2am, but the crowd wanted more. While the stage techs proceeded to unplug and collect the microphones on stage, Grace and guitar player Scott Tournet came back for a totally unplugged encore. Not a bad way to end the evening!
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2007