SXSW Music Festival 2008 - Day 1
Matthew Ryan, Pink Nasty, Shawn Mullins, Jon Dee Graham, Chip Robinson + Eric Ambel, Blue Mountain, The Silos, Stanton Meadowdale, Patty Hurst Shifter, The Drams, Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses, Jen Lane, Dirty Sweet, John P. Strohm, Grady, The Dexateens, Paul Kelly, Antietam, The Duke Spirit
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12-March 2008 2008  /  Photoindex  /  Home

Matthew Ryan @ Scoot Inn (Stage 3)
“He’s not exactly spitting rainbows, but [Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State] sounds less dire than his wrenching 2006 album Tales From A Late Night High Rise. […] He takes an organic approach with the music, replacing the synthesizers and electronic beats of his past few efforts with a live band on songs built around subdued acoustic guitars and mournful accents from violin and piano, with the occasional growling electric guitar. Arrangements aside, these songs are cathartic, a settling of the past with an eye toward the future from a gifted songwriter who’s only getting better.” - Eric R. Danton, Performing Songwriter
After some heavy rainstorms two days earlier Austin weather was pleasantly sunny and warm on this Wednesday afternoon when I began my SXSW2008 by driving over to Austin’s East Side, where Go Entertainment celebrated its recent launch on three stages at the Scoot Inn.
And I was off to a good start, as the first show on the first day turned out to be one of the best of the entire festival. This was my 14th year @ SXSW and that hadn’t happened before, but I should not have been surprised, as Matthew Ryan's SXSW appearances in earlier years had all been memorable affairs.
Despite the early hour a good-sized crowd had gathered at the Scoot Inn and even the sound of the band playing on one of the outside stages seeping in couldn’t ruin his powerful performance which included the following songs: “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, “Misundercould”, “Cars & History”, “Babybird”, “Jane, I Still Feel The Same”, “3rd of October”, “It Could’ve Been Worse” and “Return To Me”.
Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan

Outside on Stage 2, Pink Nasty had just started her set, but the duo's sound didn’t really resonate with me after the terrific performance I had just seen.
Pink Nasty
Pink Nasty


Shawn Mullins @ Mother Egan’s
"After a five year sabbatical, Shawn Mullins' 2006 release was a somewhat unexpected gem that even yielded a minor hit in "Beautiful Wreck." That album not only coalesced all Mullins' strengths as a sharp lyricist, a winning composer, and a distinctive vocalist, but revived a career most would have left for dead, and was one of his finest collections. The 2008 follow-up titled honeydew, inexplicably spelled with a lower case "h," shows that the previous platter was no fluke." - Hal Horowitz, allmusic.com
Stopping at the Guitartown Party on the Wednesday afternoon has become a tradition during SXSW, offering another good chance to re-connect with friends from around the world. When I arrived, Shawn Mullins had just started his solo set, which showcased his remarkable voice and songwriting skills.
Shawn Mullins
Shawn Mullins
Shawn Mullins

Jon Dee Graham @ Mother Egan’s
Although I had just seen Jon Dee Graham at the Swollen Circus the night before I was ready to see and hear more. For this show the “Fighting Cocks” featured some other players compared to the previous day: Mike Hardwick on guitar, Andrew Duplantis on bass and Joey Shuffield (Fastball) on drums.
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham

I had never been a big Backsliders fan, but I stayed to see a few songs of Chip Robinson's set. After performing the first song solo, he was joined by Eric Ambel on guitar and the Patty Hurst Shifter rhythm section (Skillet Gilmore on drums and Jesse Huebner on bass).
Chip Robinson
Chip Robinson + Eric Ambel
Guitartown Party 2008

Blue Mountain @ Mother Egan’s
“Of all the reunions announced these recent years, none was more unexpected than the second coming of Blue Mountain. During the glory years of alt-country - after Uncle Tupelo and before, say, Jenny Lewis - Blue Mountain released five studio albums. Being Mississippians, their tough country punk pollinated with rough-and-tumble country blues, resulting in a sound not just loud and thick, but with a rich folk sensibility, too.” - Mark Guarino, No Depression
I had left Mother Egan's to spend a bit of time at the Canadian Blast Party at Brush Square Park, but the band I wanted to see just finished their set when I got there, so I headed right back to the Guitartown party, where I arrived in time to see Blue Mountain.  It was great to see them again after seven years, but it was even better to see that the band seemed to enjoy the show at least as much as the audience did. They promised a new record for this year, clearly something to look forward to.
Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain

The Silos @ Mother Egan’s
“The band’s austere style inflects the astringent twang of The Velvet Underground with the drone of R.E.M. and adds countryish echoes that recall Gram Parsons.” - Stephen Holden, New York Times
After a quick dinner I returned to Mother Egan's once again time to see The Silos play a longer set than the night before.
Unfortunately drummer Konrad Meissner wasn't able to make this show, so Carl Schneider filled in for him. Jon Dee Graham was back on stage and Tom Freund got up for two songs as well. The set included a couple of new tunes in addition to the usual crowd-pleasers. 
Jon Dee Graham playing with The Silos
Silos
Tom Freund + Jon Dee Graham playing with The Silos
Tom Freund playing with The Silos
Silos

Stanton Meadowdale @ Lamberts
“It's definitely a bold stylistic move to make your album sound like it was recorded through a walkie-talkie, but on his self-titled debut, Stanton Meadowdale makes it work. Sounding similar in presentation to the junkyard folk on Beck's One Foot in the Grave, Meadowdale's songs feel timeless in their primitive state. Yearning, heartfelt, and ridiculously lo-fi, in a time when everyone's got a Pro Tools suite in their basement, Meadowdale opts for raw and honest and it shines.” - Matt Charlton, Exclaim.ca
Didn’t know much about this band from Denton, Texas, but the song on the SXSW website sounded pretty good, so I decided to check them out as my first “official” showcase of the evening. Not bad, but not overly exciting either.
Stanton Meadowdale
Stanton Meadowdale
Stanton Meadowdale

Patty Hurst Shifter @ Mother Egan’s
Fugitive Glue kicks off with an absolute humdinger of a classic rock song. The trademark harmonies and meshing guitars of “Evolution Blues” (it’s not a blues, by the way) brings to mind the glory days of Thin White Rope and Big Dipper. The rest is fantastic too, with J. Chris Smith’s yearning vocals and melancholy themes on “Life Is Mostly Waiting” and a sharp take on Neil Young’s “Mr Soul.” […] This band is real. Do not allow it to pass under your radar.” - Oliver Gray, Amplifier
I returned to Mother Egan’s to get my yearly dose of Patty Hurst Shifter.
Patty Hurst Shifter
Patty Hurst Shifter
Patty Hurst Shifter

The Drams @ Mother Egan’s
“Slobberbone’s Brent Best finds his pop side with his new group, creating a chiming and charming disc that echoes The Byrds, Tom Petty and even The Beatles here and there to create his strongest and most varied set of music yet.” – Texas Music Magazine
Well, when The Drams play live the echoes of The Byrds, Petty and The Beatles are significantly weaker than on the album. The band is back to the full-on Slobberbone sound, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The audience in the packed tent loved it.
The Drams
The Drams
The Drams

Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses @ Momo’s
"Bradley's siren vocal performance gliding above as the band surges and swerves in perfect synchronicity. “Alexander” and “All Your Daggers” prowls with all the menace of Patti Smith or PJ Harvey at their best, while “Strange Deeds” is as beguiling musically as its lyric - "Gently kind sir, unfasten me" - is startling.” - Noel Mengel, The Courier Mail
After so much testosterone-fueled Alt.Country and Rock it was time to change the pace, at least for a little while, so I headed across the street to Momo’s to see Kate Bradley. The song that I had heard on the SXSW site had sounded pretty good: Pop, but with an edge. Unfortunately Kate played
only for about 30 minutes, but she's someone you’ll hear more about…
Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses
Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses
Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses
Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses
Kate Bradley / The Goodbye Horses

Jen Lane @ Momo’s
"A strong Talent. Jen has hit a depth in her songwriting that people twice her age are struggling to find. Her many talents also include a truly lovely voice. One day, we in Saskatchewan will be saying, I knew her when....” – Sheila Coles, CBC Radio 1
It would have been nice to see Jen Lane with a full band, but problems at the border prohibited her from bringing her band to Austin. Check out one of her songs here on the SXSW site.
Jen Lane
Jen Lane

Dirty Sweet @ Spiro’s Amphitheatre
"Those in the know will recognize the provenance of Dirty Sweet's name immediately; don't panic, the sound of ...Of Monarchs and Beggars makes it immediately clear that they named themselves after T. Rex's original "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," not the Power Station's tepid '80s remake. […] And while there's more than a little play-acting on display - Stillwater, the band from Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, comes to mind on several tracks, especially the lighters-in-the-air epic "Long Line Down" - the listener never gets the sense that the band thinks they're slumming. (Unlike, say, Jet.) ...Of Monarchs and Beggars is the work of a bunch of young musicians who appreciate the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin alongside Death Cab for Cutie, and it's a highly enjoyable listen for anyone with a tolerance for the long version of "Free Bird." - Stewart Mason, allmusic.com
Upon entering “Spiro’s Amphitheatre” (which turned out to be yet another makeshift stage in a tent) I was immediately transported back to the early 70’s. I had not read the Stewart Mason’s review before I saw Dirty Sweet, but interestingly enough Stillwater was the first "band" that came to my mind when I tried to come up with a comparison. Listen to a song here on the SXSW site.
Dirty Sweet
Dirty Sweet
Dirty Sweet
Dirty Sweet
Dirty Sweet

John P. Strohm @ 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn
“John P. Strohm played in a number of indie pop projects during the '80s and '90s, from his roots in playing drums in an Bloomington, IN, punk band to guitarist in Boston's legendary Blake Babies. After their demise, Strohm went on to play guitar in a number of acts, including his own Antenna, Velo Deluxe, Hello Strangers, and even backup for Polara and the Lemonheads while on the road. Strohm released his first solo album, Caledonia, in 1996. Vestavia (a reference to the small Alabama city in which he made his home) followed three years later. Strohm took a break from music in order to focus on his studies after the album was released, graduating from University of Alabama in 2001 and earning a law degree from Stamford University three years after that. He released his third studio album, Everyday Life, in 2007.” - Mike DaRonco, allmusic.com
Predictably, the R. E. M. show at Stubb’s was a badges-only affair at that point of the evening, so I continued on to the 18th Floor. This is one of my least favourite SXSW venues: it's quite a walk away from everything else and the sterile hotel bar atmosphere is not really conducive for great shows. On the other hand the view is quite nice and there are chairs, which is
always a big bonus after being on your feet for about 9 hours straight.  John played solo for the first few songs, before bringing up Hayley Taylor on harmony vocals and Alex Yaker on keyboards.
John P. Strohm
John P. Strohm
Hayley Taylor singing with John P. Strohm

Grady @ Habana Annex
"Grady's second album [A Cup of Cold Poison] of roughneck blues is a long way from Sunday school; frontman Gordy "Grady" Johnson unleashes his guitar like a starving hellhound with a fresh whiff of raw meat.” - Christopher Gray, Austin Chronicle
Every two years or so when I see Grady they seem to have a new drummer. Founding member Chris Layton (Double Trouble) was replaced by Billy Maddox in 2006, and when I got to Habana Annex I was suprised to see prolific Austin drummer Nina Singh behind the kit. Otherwise the sound of the band hasn't changed one bit over the last five years: loud and brash Rock + Blues at its best.
Grady
Grady
Grady
Grady
Grady

The Dexateens @ Habana Annex
“Three albums into their career, Tuscaloosa quartet the Dexateens have all but entirely abandoned the punk rock of their early records. Produced by the somewhat unlikely team of Sugar bassist David Barbe and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, Hardwire Healing is ironic in that this is certainly the least Drive-By Truckers-like album the Dexateens have yet released. This album still rocks effectively, but particularly on its second half, a newfound restraint appears. […] One hesitates to use the word "mature" in this context, but where a lot of the Dexateens' retro-punky compatriots have either started the slide into self-parody or already broken up, Hardwire Healing shows a more than welcome level of progress.” - Stewart Mason, allmusic.com
On this evening there was no trace of maturity to be found: they cranked up their amps to 11 and returned to their punk-rock roots, like the Drive-By Truckers channelling The Replacements. But they had fun, especially the bass player, who had a big grin on his face for the entire set.
The Dexateens
The Dexateens
The Dexateens
The Dexateens
The Dexateens

Paul Kelly @ Esther's Follies
“Considered Australia's premier singer-songwriter, Kelly has drawn comparisons to such heavy hitters as Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello for his energizing story songs. His 25th album in a 30-year career, the diverse Stolen Apples, was released Down Under in 2007, with a North American release forthcoming.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Esther’s Follies, usually used as a Comedy Club, was an interesting choice as a SXSW music venue. But acoustics and lights were good, and there were seats as well! Paul Kelly started out solo acoustic, before nephew Dan Kelly joined him for the rest of his set.
Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly

Antietam @ Smokin’ Music
“One of the more underrated bands on the early-'90s indie rock scene, Antietam is the South's answer to Yo La Tengo, injecting the studied urban coolness of the Hoboken trio with some fiery Southern rock brio, especially in frontwoman Tara Key's impressive guitar work, which at times suggests a post-punk Lynyrd Skynyrd making nice with Neil Young after that whole "Sweet Home Alabama" thing. - Stewart Mason, allmusic.com
The Lemonheads were playing at Emo’s Annex when I walked by, but I had plans to see them later in the week and continued on to Smokin’ Music, which turned out to be the old Copper Tank. The empty building was used as a SXSW2008 venue with sponsorship provided by a tobacco company, which explained the name and the excessive use of smoke machines.
I own some of Antietam's music, but had never seen them live before and was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately not too many people attended this show, although the members of Yo La Tengo could be spotted in the audience.
Antietam
Antietam
Antietam
Antietam
Antietam

The Duke Spirit @ Buffalo Billiards
“Fronted by laconic blonde IED Leila Moss, the Duke Spirit have exploded New Wave and bluesified Blondie, resulting in a driving groove that, especially in single "Dark Is Light Enough," can sterilize surgical instruments better than a platinum autoclave. CBGB's is calling.” – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
The Duke Spirit used every minute of the last showcase slot of the evening and continued to play until the house lights came up at 2 am. I had heard a couple of songs from the Chris Goss produced record and I liked their set enough to check whether they had more showcases scheduled later in the week. Listen to a song on the SXSW site here
The Duke Spirit
The Duke Spirit
The Duke Spirit
The Duke Spirit

Not bad for the first day, with 19 different acts over 12 hours. Maybe a bit uneven musically, with very loud and very quiet sets all mixed up, but a good day nevertheless.
Continue on to Day 2...


All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2008