SXSW Music Festival 2008 - Day 2
Kim Richey, Augustana, The Red Romance, Buddy Miller, Elliott Brood, The Pack A.D., Luke Doucet & the White Falcon, Carolyn Mark, NQ Arbuckle, Susan Cowsill, Tift Merritt, Glossary, Alejandro Escovedo, Oh Susanna, Hot Springs, BigBang, Back Door Slam
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13-March 2008 2008  /  Photoindex  /  Home

Kim Richey @ The Tap Room at Six
“Richey has experienced numerous successes as a songwriter, having her songs recorded by some of the biggest names in the country biz. […] On first listen, Chinese Boxes may not be as arresting as Glimmer or Bitter Sweet, but it is a better recording than both ultimately, if not as dramatic upon first glance. It takes the listener inside it gradually but deeply, and leaves them with traces of its musicality, its characters, and its melodies long after the record is over.” - Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
My day started at noon at the American Songwriter Magazine / Crossfire3 party. Kim Richey doesn’t spend a lot of time on the road, so I never had a chance to see her live. She didn't have an official showcase this year, this was my only chance. She played all new songs, including one co-written with Marc Olson.
Kim Richey
Kim Richey
Kim Richey
Kim Richey

Augustana @ SXSW Live: The Bat Bar at the Austin Convention Center
Mellow piano rockers Augustana are a heartland equivalent to Coldplay or Keane, with a little bit of mid-'90s adult alternative throwback (think Counting Crows or the Wallflowers) as well.” – Stewart Mason, allmusic.com
DirecTV had set up two complete studios inside the Convention Center: the “Bat Bar” and the “Lone Star Lounge”, from where they broadcasted live. Shows there were open to everyone, not just badges and wristband holders, which resulted in enthusiastic audiences. Sound and lights were fantastic as one could expect. And Augustana? Not bad, but not exactly earth-shattering either...
Augustana
Augustana
Augustana
Augustana
Augustana

Volume matters during SXSW: Walking along Sixth Street I heard The Red Romance play on the rooftop at Maggie Mae’s and stopped to check them out. It turned out to be the Planetary Skewer Party with some excellent BBQ on offer.
The Red Romance

Buddy Miller @ Club DeVille
The New West Records party is one of the “must-see” events during the week. This year, Buddy Miller’s set was the highlight of the afternoon for me, although the audience only got to hear a couple of Buddy Miller songs (“Don’t Wait” + “Shelter Me”) before a “special guest” took over. Blues and Rock legend “Secret Agent Man” Johnny Rivers strolled onstage mid-song, plugged in and proceeded to sing the next three songs: “Hound Dog”, “Red House”, and “Mountain Of Love”. Their backing band included two (!) drummers (Bryan Owings and Brady Blade), plus Chris Donahue on bass.
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller
Johnny Rivers playing with Buddy Miller
Johnny Rivers playing with Buddy Miller
Johnny Rivers playing with Buddy Miller

Elliott Brood @ Headhunters
"While pop collectives capture most of the musical attention directed north, Canada has recently proven a fertile ground for artists redefining the tired alt.country genre, with Elliott Brood's dark, banjo-laden ballads at the forefront. The Toronto trio's 2005 debut LP, Ambassador, ripped through acoustic stomps and bluegrass roots with a rock fury, pacing the anticipation for this year's follow-up." – Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle
Another mandatory stop is at the Mint / Six Shooter Records party at Headhunters, a tiny place just a block from Club DeVille. Canada’s answer to 16 Horsepower was getting ready to perform when I got there. They proceeded to play a high-energy 3-song set, which inspired one guy in the audience to dance wildly, arms flailing, knocking singer Mark Sasso’s microphone stand
into his face not once, but twice. 
Elliott Brood
Elliott Brood
Elliott Brood

Next was an unsuccessful attempt to see Motörhead at Stubb’s. Getting in was actually not a problem, but they didn’t allow cameras at this private party, so unfortunately I missed out. Instead I went back to Headhunters, where The Pack A. D., a Vancouver-based guitar-drums duo played bluesy, White Stripes style rock.
The Pack A. D.

Luke Doucet & The White Falcon @ Headhunters
“Ever the consummate professional, Toronto-by-way-of-­Vancouver singer/songwriter Luke Doucet has constructed an airtight alt-country opus with his third solo studio full-length Blood’s Too Rich. Doucet’s crystalline Jeff Lynne–styled production values capture the finest nuances of his sturdy songcraft: precise guitar work, well-enunciated vocals and an able team of studio musicians and notable guests. […] Throw in Doucet’s country-fried improvement on The Cure’s classic “The Love Cats” and heap on the guitar solos, and there are more than enough highlights to make the trip worthwhile.” – Chris Bilton, Eye Weekly
Luke Doucet has been recognized as world-class guitar-player and producer for a while, but he has tremendously grown as a songwriter over the last few years. The White Falcon, which included wife Melissa McClelland on guitars and vocals, provided a solid base for Luke to showcase some of the songs from Blood’s Too Rich. Listen to the title track here on the SXSW site. 
Luke Doucet & The White Falcon
Luke Doucet & The White Falcon
Luke Doucet & The White Falcon
Luke Doucet & The White Falcon

Carolyn Mark + NQ Arbuckle @ Headhunters
Next, host Carolyn Mark joined forces with NQ Arbuckle. They kicked off the set with three of her songs (including the duet “Fireworks“), then Carolyn sang harmony vocals on NQA’s “XOK”, before they ended the party with “In Another Time”.
Carolyn Mark + NQ Arbuckle
Carolyn Mark + NQ Arbuckle
Carolyn Mark + NQ Arbuckle
Carolyn Mark + NQ Arbuckle
Carolyn Mark

Just after 6 pm it was time to head back to the hotel and to get ready for the evening. Sixth Street was already buzzing with activity…
6th Street during SXSW
6th Street during SXSW

Susan Cowsill @ Central Presbyterian Church
“It's taken until 2005 for Susan [Cowsill] to record and release a solo album, after cutting three discs with the Continental Drifters and singing backup with seemingly everyone from Dwight Twilley to Giant Sand, and one listen to Just Believe It confirms she wasn't about to waste a single step once she finally had her moment in the spotlight. Just Believe It is a rich and mature album that blends rock, pop, folk, and alt-country influences into a coherent and compelling whole that provides a perfect backdrop for Cowsill's songs.” - Mark Deming, allmusic.com
This was the first SXSW performance I saw in a church. A slightly odd venue choice, but Susan Cowsill put on a terrific performance and didn’t even swear once: “Palm Of My Hand”, “Drunken Angel” (Lucinda Williams song), “Peaceful Waking”, “The Rain Song”, “Crescent City Snow” (with former band members Chris Knotts on guitar and Rob Savoy on bass), “River Of Love” (Barry Cowsill song), and “I Know You Know”. You can listen to the studio version of the last song here on the SXSW site.
Susan Cowsill
Susan Cowsill
Susan Cowsill
Susan Cowsill

Tift Merritt @ SXSW Live: The Lone Star Lounge at the Austin Convention Center
“[Another Country] is not an obvious progression in Tift Merritt's career, but one that comes from the heart and sounds it. Sometimes you have to look backward to move forward, which makes Another Country ring with a personal touch. It resonates with emotion, tenderness, and a sense that she has found comfort in life and her songwriting that may have been missing before.” – Hal Horowitz, allmusic.com
Tift Merritt was still soundchecking when I arrived for my second DirecTV set of the day, this time at the “Lone Star Lounge”. Again, lights and sound were outstanding, and so was the performance of Tift and her band, which included long-time collaborators Jay Brown (bass) and Zeke Hutchins (drums), plus Danny Eisenberg (keyboards) and Scott McCall (Guitar). The 8-song set drew exclusively from her new album: “Something To Me”, “Broken”, “I Know What I’m Looking For Now”, “Hope Too High”, “Keep You Happy”, “My Heart Is Free”, “Morning Is My Destination” and “Another Country”. Charlie Sexton, who played guitar on the record, joined the band for the last two songs.
Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt
Charlie Sexton playing with Tift Merritt
Charlie Sexton playing with Tift Merritt

Glossary @ Habana Calle 6 Patio
“Joey Kneiser and wife Kelly […] harmonize over slashed electric guitars and glinting pedal steel like they know the country of their native Tennessee - but Glossary plays like it knows it's a rock band that only has songs, not showbiz tricks, to make a connection. With heart, without affect, and loudly - it does.” – Roy Kasten, Riverfront Times
I had seen Glossary at the same venue in 2007, and had picked up their CDs
immediately after the show. Since then they have released a new album (The Better Angels Of Our Nature), which can be downloaded for free from their website. After seeing Blue Mountain a day earlier, the similarities between the bands were easy to see and hear. This was another thoroughly enjoyable set, except for the dire lights which made taking photos quite challenging.
Glossary
Glossary
Glossary

Alejandro Escovedo @ Stubb’s
“More than 15 years after the release of his solo debut, Gravity, Austin icon Alejandro Escovedo goes meta with his ninth solo release, Real Animal, over which Escovedo retraces his own career from local punk to revered songwriter. Escovedo is also the subject of an upcoming Jonathan Demme concert-film doc.” – Michael Bertin, Austin Chronicle
The lights were much better at my next stop: I always enjoy Alejandro Escovedo playing small clubs, but he has no difficulty in keeping much larger audiences spellbound. He performed quite a few songs from Real Animal, including the title track, a Chuck Prophet co-write called “Sensitive Boys”, and a stirring “Sister Lost Soul”, but also added older crowd-pleasers such as “Rosalie” and “Castanets”. The band on that evening was: Brian Standefer (cello), Susan Voelz (violin), Josh Gravelin (bass), David Pulkingham (guitar), and Hector Munoz (drums).
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo

Oh Susanna @ The Velveeta Room
“On her 2003 self-titled disc, Suzie Ungerleider added decidedly rock elements to her troubadour template to oft-bracing effect. She returns to her roots [on Short Stories] by emphasising her voice and lyrics, and rises to the challenge with graceful ease. That voice really is a marvel, a haunting, expressive instrument that can proudly stand alongside those of Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch in the roots elite.” - Kerry Doole, exclaim.ca
This year SXSW allowed some artists to play more than just one official showcase, giving you two chances to see bands you really want to see. This was Oh Susanna’s first show, and it turned out to be sparsely attended and in a small club with tables in front of the stage. But none of that mattered when she started to play: the quality of her songs was evident from the first note. She played “Pretty Face”, “Miss Liberty”, “River Blue”, “You’ll Always Be” and “Right By Your Side” before I had to move on.
Oh Susanna
Oh Susanna
Oh Susanna
Oh Susanna

Hot Springs @ Maggie Mae’s
“Giselle Webber has a voice as ferocious as it is precious, and on Montreal quartet Hot Springs' debut LP, Volcano, she lets loose. Less pickled than Grace Slick, Webber runs her intense vibrato hot and cold, and she's not afraid to freak out, crawl around, howl in the mic, and gyrate. The fury of "Headrush," with bass solo (!), is bound to break through stateside.” – Darcie Stevens, Austin Chronicle
I had planned to see Hot Springs at the Canadian Blast barbecue the day before, but had arrived just as they were finishing their last song. The official showcase gave me another chance, and as always they delivered a high-energy performance. Listen to one of their songs here on the SXSW website.
Hot Springs
Hot Springs
Hot Springs
Hot Springs
Hot Springs

BigBang @ Viper Room at Orchid
“They seem to have perfected melding Allman Brothers-like harmonies, the hum-along quality of a really good Tom Petty, and the guitar outbursts of a J. Mascis moment.” - Evan George, LA Alternative
BigBang did not have an official showcase this year, but I got the chance to see them at the Orchid. The Norwegian band, currently residing in Los Angeles, is another act which consistently delivers outstanding live shows. The show finished with singer/guitarist Ĝystein Greni climbing up the speaker stacks, and the whole room dancing and singing along to “Welcome To The Mountain”.
BigBang
BigBang
BigBang
BigBang
BigBang
BigBang
BigBang

Back Door Slam @ Opal Divine’s Freehouse
“Hailing from the UK's Isle of Man, this scrappy, young blues-rock trio made its American debut at last year's SXSW. Since then, they've toured virtually nonstop behind their potent debut, Roll Away. Getting inspiration from late-1960s blues rockers like Cream and Hendrix, with hints of SRV, they leave their mark with incendiary live shows.” – Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle
Now it was time for one of those tricky SXSW decisions: where to go for the 1 am slot? The BoDeans or Back Door Slam? It had been 20 years since I first saw the BoDeans, and almost 17 since I saw them last. Back Door Slam had been one of my main discoveries of SXSW2007, when I saw them play on a stage set up on an empty lot, and watched more and more people stopping to listen to their set. I picked Back Door Slam, who got to play a much bigger venue this year for their official showcase in front of a small but dedicated crowd. 
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam
Back Door Slam

One of the advantages of ending the evening at Opal Divine’s is the fact that the venue is very close to the hotel. After 14 hours of music a short walk to the back at 2 am is certainly a bonus. Day 2 was another perfect day: not many new discoveries, but a lot of great sets from long-time favorites. Continue to read about Day 3

All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2008