SXSW Music Festival 2008 - Day 3
Austin 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
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14-March 2008 2008  /  Photoindex  /  Home

Friday 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.
Maria’s Taco Xpress

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
Austin 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.
Austin Collins & The Rainbirds
Austin Collins & The Rainbirds
Austin Collins & The Rainbirds

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 Semioli, Amplifier
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”.
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West

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
Maria’s 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”.
Collin Herring
Collin Herring
Collin Herring
Collin Herring

I stayed for a couple of songs by Shurman (who also performed as a duo) before I had to move on.
Shurman
Shurman
Shurman

Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore @ Jo’s
Next 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.
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore

Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore
Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore

Deadstring Brothers @ Yard Dog
“Imagine 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.  
Deadstring Brothers
Deadstring Brothers
Deadstring Brothers
Deadstring Brothers

Deadstring Brothers
Deadstring Brothers

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.
Mark Pickerel & The Praying Hands
Mark Pickerel & The Praying Hands
Mark Pickerel & The Praying Hands
Mark Pickerel & The Praying Hands

The Big Sleep @ Guero’s Taco Bar
“Brooklyn-based 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. 
The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep

I 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
“Canadian 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
The NXNE 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.
Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat

Outside The Choir Practice played a short set on the lawn, then it was time to get ready for the official evening showcases.
The Choir Practice
The Choir Practice

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses @ Momo’s
"The 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 Chronicle
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.
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses

Paul Thorn @ The Tap Room at Six
“Paul 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).
Paul Thorn
Paul Thorn

Paul Thorn

Shelby Lynne @ Austin Music Hall
“The 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
Over 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.
Shelby Lynne
Shelby Lynne
Shelby Lynne
Shelby Lynne

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. 
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller
Bonnie Bramblett performing with Buddy Miller
Bonnie Bramblett performing with Buddy Miller
Buddy Miller

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.
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
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”.
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Next was “This Town”, before Oh Susanna joined them for “Greyhound Bus” and “Filled With Gold”, both from her recent Short Stories album.
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
After “Til I Am Myself Again”, Rhett Miller (Old 97”s) performed “Barrier Reef” and “Over The Cliff”.
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
“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.
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
Blue Rodeo & Friends
This 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
“Former 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, Austin Chronicle
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.
Magic Christian
Magic Christian
Magic Christian
Magic Christian
Magic Christian
Magic Christian
Magic Christian

13 hours, 16 bands, another great day. Continue to read about Day 4

All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2008