|SXSW Music Festival 2008 - Day 3
Collins & The Rainbirds, Dead Rock West, Collin Herring, Shurman,
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore, Deadstring Brothers, Mark
Pickerel & His Praying Hands, The Big Sleep, Basia Bulat, The Choir
Practice, Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses, Paul Thorn, Shelby Lynne,
Buddy Miller, Blue Rodeo & Friends, Magic Christian
||2008 / Photoindex
turned out to be the hottest day during SXSW this year, with
temperatures reaching 35°C/95°F. My first stop was at Maria’s Taco
Xpress, which had changed considerably from its taco shack roots since
my last visit and provided a perfect setting for the Sin City Social Club party.
Austin Collins & The Rainbirds @ Maria’s Taco Xpress
“Originally from Houston and now an Austinite, Austin Collins released his debut, Something Better,
[in 2005] to a rousing critical reception. The 26-year-old Collins'
brand of alt.country is smart and hook filled, earning him comparisons
to Whiskeytown and Radney Foster.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Collins did an excellent job waking up the tired-looking
lunch/brunch/party crowd at Maria’s Tacos with his 1 pm set. I picked
up a copy of his latest album Roses Are Black, which was produced by
Will Johnson of Centro-Matic. If you are into Leeroy Stagger or Trevor Alguire you’ll like Austin Collins as well.
Dead Rock West @ Maria’s Taco Xpress
“Commandeered by vocalist Cindy Wasserman and singer / guitarist Frank Lee Drennen, Honey and Salt
spans the history of rock, from Elvis to post-grunge. “Pretty Disaster”
packs a punk wallop not heard since X scorched Los Angeles, while power
pop worthy of the Cheap Trick mantle bursts out of “Telephone.”” - Tom
Dead Rock West’s Honey And Salt
was one of my Top 10 albums of 2007, so I was really looking forward to
seeing them live. Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen performed as an
acoustic duo, which provided a good opportunity to hear some songs from
the record in a more stripped-down format: “Rocket From The Crypt”,
“Telephone”, “All I Know”, “Highway One”, and “Burning House Of Love”.
Collin Herring @ Maria’s Taco Xpress
“Fresh off a couple of stops in rehab, Fort Worth's Collin Herring releases his third album [Past Life Crashing],
an unflinchingly autobiographical journey through the heart of a
troubled songwriter. Not surprisingly, the material here is much more
somber (and sober) than that of his fantastic sophomore effort, The Other Side Of Kindness,
but the lower volume doesn't necessarily mean less intensity. […] The
rocking "Yard Cars" is more akin to Herring's earlier work, a glorious
mix of Husker Du and Merle Haggard topped off with his sneering vocals
and his father's aching pedal steel.” - Darryl Smyers, No Depression
Taco Xpress had filled up even more by the time Collin Herring started
his set. This turned out to be a duo performance as well, with Collin
playing electric guitar and his dad Ben Roi Herring accompanying him on
pedal steel. He mostly performed songs from his excellent new album,
starting with “Punches”. You can listen to the studio version of this
song featuring Kathleen Edwards on violin and backing vocals here on the SXSW site. He also played “Dishes”, “Aphorism”, “Beside”, and “Cellophane”.
I stayed for a couple of songs by Shurman (who also performed as a duo) before I had to move on.
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore @ Jo’s
I drove over to South Congress, where my first stop was at Jo’s Coffee
for this still unnamed band fronted by Chris Masterson and Eleanor
Whitmore. Chris is currently a member of Son Volt after stints with
Jack Ingram, Bobby Bare Jr and others. Eleanor has played with Slaid
Cleaves, Kelly Willis and many others. The group sounded good –
hopefully there will be some recorded output soon.
Deadstring Brothers @ Yard Dog
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Gram Parsons in their primes,
transplanted to Detroit, laid off from the Ford plant, pissed off and
ready to pound longnecks (if not rednecks) at the local saloon, and
you’ll have some idea of the emotional weight and sonic power of Starving Winter Report.
There is no best song here; the whole album is great. It’s loud, loose,
ragged, and not far removed from a stomping, beer-swilling
masterpiece.” - Andy Whitman, Paste Magazine
As every year, the tent at Yard Dog was packed for the Bloodshot Records Party. The
Deadstring Brothers are the perfect band to get any party going: it was
my first encounter with this band, but their high-energy set made me
reach for my schedule to see whether they were playing more shows later
in the week. Listen to one of their songs here on the SXSW website.
Mark Pickerel & The Praying Hands were next. They had added a cellist to the line-up since I had seen them last, who nicely augmented their sound.
The Big Sleep @ Guero’s Taco Bar
trio the Big Sleep, whose largely-instrumental brand of darkness rolls
in apocalyptic waves, with traces of early (pre-“The”)
Verve-meets-Sonic Youth-meets My Bloody Valentine-meets the awesome
dream you once had after you stayed up for three days straight.” -
Crispin Kott, New York Press
Justin Townes Earle was next at
Yard Dog, but I was planning to see him later in the week. Instead I
went in search of something slightly louder and noisier: they arriving
late at Guero’s, but The Big Sleep were worth the wait. Check out one
of their songs here on the SXSW site.
had planned to see Dead Confederate next, but across the street at Home
Slice Pizza they were behind schedule as well. I caught half a song
there by a band called The Strugglers, who sounded really good. Check one of their songs here
on the SXSW website. By now the heat was getting to me, South Congress
was very crowded and I was hungry. It was time to get out of the sun,
away from the masses and to find food.
Basia Bulat @ Caswell House
singer/songwriter Basia Bulat came seemingly out of nowhere to become
one of the most talked about new artists in both Canada and the United
Kingdom with the release of her first full-length album, Oh, My
Darling, in 2007. […] Bulat's rich, expressive voice is the ideal
vehicle for her songs, which deal with love and life with a combination
of sadness and wonder, and her melodies are bolstered by a band that
incorporates strings and keyboards along with the traditional drums and
guitar.” - Mark Deming, allmusic.com
barbecue offered shade, excellent BBQ and cold Moosehead Beer. I would
also venture the guess that there won’t be too many chances to see
Basia Bulat play in a living room setting in the future. Listen to one of her songs here on the SXSW website.
Outside The Choir Practice played a short set on the lawn, then it was time to get ready for the official evening showcases.
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses @ Momo’s
latest in a long line of West Texas songwriters scrambling to catch up
with the late Townes Van Zandt, 26-year-old Ryan Bingham, now of
Austin, gives it his best shot on last fall's Mescalito.
He's got that rocks-in-the-throat voice, smart songs, and gets a boost
on disc from producer Marc Ford (Black Crowes)." – Dan Oko, Austin
Several people had recommended Ryan Bingham to me
in the past, so I was looking forward to seeing him at Momo’s. The
place was packed with enthusiastic fans, but the show was
disappointingly lacklustre. The band played well, but showed zero
enthusiasm and while I was initially excited to see that Marc Ford was
playing with the band, his contribution included of some of the most
clichéd guitar work I’d heard all week. Maybe I should check out the
album, but this performance certainly didn’t make me run to the merch
table to pick it up.
Paul Thorn @ The Tap Room at Six
Thorn got started in show biz at the age of three when he got on-stage
to perform with his father, a Pentecostal preacher. Since then he's
been a furniture maker and boxer, which may explain his rough-hewn,
hard-hitting style. […] His blend of gospel, R&B, rock, blues, and
country is called Americana these days, but it's a throwback to the
early days of rock when all Southern music, black and white, infused
the songwriting of working-class guys and gals looking for a way out of
their poverty with nothing but a guitar and a compelling story to
tell.” - j. poet, allmusic.com
I hadn’t been familiar with Paul Thorn before I heard one of his songs
on the SXSW site. Paul and his four-piece band delivered a solid
performance, dominated by his soulful voice (think Marc Cohn).
Shelby Lynne @ Austin Music Hall
songs are a fascinating selection of blue-eyed soul classics, several
of which are closely associated with Springfield, such as “I Only Want
To Be With You” and “The Look Of Love.” […] The album’s overall
sparseness may come as a surprise to some listeners at first but it
immediately puts all of the focus on Lynne’s irresistibly sultry voice,
one that is the perfect antidote for those fed up with the histrionics
of younger singers. At the very least, Just A Little Lovin’ may be the ultimate Sunday morning record.” - Jason Schneider, exclaim.ca
the years, Shelby Lynne has received a lot of critical acclaim for her
work, but her albums never quite lived up to the hype for me. I had
hoped that seeing her in a live setting might change my perception. She
brought an ace band with her, the sound was good, but the “Sunday
morning” music didn’t quite work on a Friday night in a big venue,
where a large portion of the audience talked throughout the performance.
Buddy Miller @ Cedar Street Courtyard
“Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and composer Buddy Miller released the spiritual Universal United House of Prayer
on New West, after six fine albums of electric high lonesome on
Hightone. He's backed Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, composed for the
Dixie Chicks and Hank Williams III, and collaborates regularly with Jim
Lauderdale.” – David Lynch, Austin Chronicle
The two songs
Buddy Miller played at the New West Party the day before weren’t enough
for me, so his official showcase at Cedar Street Courtyard offered a
welcome opportunity to see and hear more. He started his set with Brady
Blade on drums and Chris Donahue on bass, but was joined by several
guests later. He started with “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go”, a song
written by his wife Julie from the Cruel Moon album. “Worry Too Much”,
“Wide River To Cross” and “Shelter Me”, all from his Universal United
House Of Prayer record, were next. He then asked Bonnie Bramblett
to join him for “Cover Me”, a song he recently recorded for his next
album. Bryan Owings, who had rushed over from playing with Shelby Lynne
at the Austin Music Hall, jumped up on stage during “Hole In My Head”
to add some percussion. “We had two drummers last night, today we have
one and a half”, Miller joked before launching into “Don’t Wait”, the
final song of the night.
Blue Rodeo & Friends @ Smokin’ Music
“In 2007, the Canadian sextet celebrated its 20th year together by releasing its 11th album, Small Miracles,
another inspired collection of roots rock tethered by hearty
songwriting and spirited ensemble play. Earlier this year, they were
nominated for three Juno Awards, including Group of the Year.” – Jim
Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
The 11 pm slot on the Friday
offered quite a few “must-see” showcases. I headed to the Blue Rodeo
show, as I welcome any chance to see them in smaller or unusual
settings and the “& Friends” part indicated that this double-length
showcase could turn into a remarkable event. They started off with
“What Am I Doing Here?”, followed by “Blue House” and “C’mon” from Small Miracles.
The first guest of the evening was Luke Doucet who had completely lost his voice since I had last seen him just 30 hours earlier. Wife Melissa McClelland sang a song he recently wrote while on tour with Blue Rodeo, and Neville Quinlan of NQ Arbuckle took over vocal duties for Luke’s “Blood’s Too Rich”.
Next was “This Town”, before Oh Susanna joined them for “Greyhound Bus” and “Filled With Gold”, both from her recent Short Stories album.
After “Til I Am Myself Again”, Rhett Miller (Old 97”s) performed “Barrier Reef” and “Over The Cliff”.
“Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” followed, then Dallas + Travis Good (The Sadies) took over for “Wearin’ That Loved-on Look”, “Higher Power” and “Somebody Touched Me”. “Lost Together” was the big finale, with almost everyone back on stage.
was the best show of the festival so far: the only complaint would be
that even at 80 minutes it seemed way to short. It’s always hard to
decide what to do next after such an outstanding performance. I briefly
contemplated calling it a night and heading back to the hotel, but
after consulting my schedule I decided to make one more stop.
Magic Christian @ BD Riley's
Flamin' Groovies head Cyril Jordan leads this Bay Area quartet of
power-pop all-stars, which also features Blondie drummer Clem Burke and
former Austinite Eddie Muñoz (Plimsouls, Skunks) on bass. The meaty,
beaty buzz of songs like "Too Close to Zero" and "Turn Up the Heat" is
a cinch to curry the favor of Badfinger fans everywhere. If that
doesn't move you, their tasteful covers arsenal will.” – Greg Beets,
BD Riley’s is a dreadful place for live
music: the stage is fenced in and it’s hard to find a spot from where
you can actually see the band. A good place is actually outside on the
sidewalk, where it’s easy to watch and listen through the open windows.
I managed to squeeze into the bar and didn’t regret my decision:
Magic Christian played a terrific set and ended the evening with a
glorious version of “Shake Some Action”. Listen to one of their songs here on the SXSW site.
13 hours, 16 bands, another great day. Continue to read about Day 4…
(c) Steffen Paulus 2008