SXSW 2009 Music Festival - Day 1 - Evening
Willem Maker, The Summer Wardrobe, Katzenjammer, Heartless Bastards, Those Darlins, The Dt’s, An Horse, The Silos

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Willem Maker @ Emo’s Jr.
“Willem Maker's 2007 debut, Stars Fell On, reissued last year by Fat Possum, unloaded the Alabama native's rugged blues and folk that surged behind his Eddie Vedder growls awakened to Southern rock revelation. Lo-fi and mean, Maker's follow-up, New Moon Hand, cuts his backwoods poeticism with help from like-minded members of Lambchop.” – Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle
Due to the long delays at the Leonard Cohen tribute I had to change my plan for the evening a bit. After a short stop at the hotel I headed straight to Emo’s Jr. for my first official SXSW showcase of 2009. In the weeks before the festival I had listened to MP3’s from over 800 of the 1800 artists scheduled to play this year. Willem Maker’s  “Old Pirate’s Song” from New Moon Hand was one of the most memorable songs (listen to it here on the SXSW web site). Despite the almost empty club Willem Maker delivered a great solo performance, playing both acoustic and electric guitars. Another album added to my shopping list!

The Summer Wardrobe @ Submerged
“On Cajun Prairie Fire, the Summer Wardrobe play music that evades easy categorization, though overall it's Texan in character in its blend of swampy roots rock and retro psychedelia. It's no accident that they cover Roky Erickson's "Mine Mine Mind" on this CD, not only because Erickson is also part of this strain of Texas rock (albeit with a far more frightening wacky edge), but also because the Summer Wardrobe have actually toured with Erickson as his backing band.” - Richie Unterberger,
There are quite a few places with bad lights this year, but Submerged combined bad lights and bad sound. The Summer Wardrobe was playing in front of an illuminated artificial waterfall, with no other lights. More importantly, the right PA speaker was broken and crackled. Good performance from the band, but at a crappy place to see live music. Listen to the title track from Cajun Prairie Fire here on the SXSW web site. 

Katzenjammer on Sixth Street
“So lively are the live performances by Oslo, Norway’s Katzenjammer that they’re enough to wipe the bored expression off any jaded indie scenester and replace it with a big, stupid grin. Of course, that’ll happen when you’ve got four exceptionally talented female multi-instrumentalists performing an odd, hyperactive hybrid of folk, country, cabaret, and rock loaded with gorgeous four-part harmonies, the quartet maniacally alternating lead vocals and swapping instruments, including accordion and a gigantic contrabass balalaika, in between songs.” –
It was only Wednesday, but Sixth Street was absolutely packed with people dashing to their next showcase. In the middle of the madness I stumbled upon Katzenjammer, who managed to compete very well with the cacophony of sounds pouring from the many bars around despite the fact that they played totally unplugged. More and more people stopped and the crowd grew thicker and thicker, joining the band in infectious sing-a-longs. Pretty cool - this is what SXSW is about.

Heartless Bastards @ Stubb’s
“After cutting their first two albums as a lean but muscular power trio, the Heartless Bastards have grown into a somewhat different creature on their third LP, The Mountain. Vocalist and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom is the only survivor from the group's original lineup, and after leaving behind her hometown of Cincinnati, OH for Austin, TX, she's assembled a new version of the Heartless Bastards. Along with new members Billy White on bass and Doni Schroader on drums, The Mountain features violins, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, and banjo as well as a few guest guitarists, and though this music is still rooted in Wennerstrom's full-bodied vocals and thick, no-frills guitar work, The Mountain is a more introspective and rootsy sounding album than this group has released to date.” - Mark Deming,
Although I had first heard about the Heartless Bastards three years ago at SXSW, I did not see the band at the festival back then. Shortly after they came through Toronto and played the small Silver Dollar Room. A year later they had moved up to the El Mocambo (photos) and now they were playing to packed house at Stubb’s in front of 2000+ people. They were playing quite a few shows in town this week, but I had looked forward to seeing how they would do in front of a large audience. There was a long line for non-badge/wristband holders in front of Stubb's which circled around the block, but I managed to get in without a problem.
They started off with three older songs (“Into The Open”, “Done Get Old”, “Blue Day”), but the rest of the set was all from their latest album (“The Mountain”, “Hold Your Head High”, “Sway”, “Out At Sea”, “Nothing Seems The Same”). The addition of the second guitar worked very well for their sound, and they delivered a terrific show.

Those Darlins @ Club DeVille
“Cowboy boot-clad, guitar-wielding southern girl group, Those Darlins, have been making the rounds in the hype machine since they opened up for the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach a few weeks ago. It's not surprising. Take three girls from Tennessee who look better in cowboy boots and short shorts than Daisy Duke herself, then listen to them play their amped-up version of classic whiskey rock, and you've got yourself a certified candidate for the next "It" band.” – Liz Stinson, Paste
I briefly considered staying at Stubb's for the Avett Brothers and The Decemberists, but decided to move on. Which turned out to be a great decision, as the evening just kept getting better and better. If you google "Those Darlins SXSW" the number of hits you get will quickly tell you that Those Darlins created quite a stir at SXSW. They were playing all over town, and managed to impress quite a few journalists and bloggers. Their official showcase at Club DeVille was no exception: they got the crowd going from the very first song. The guys from Deer Tick joined them on stage for a song. If technical perfection is your thing, look elsewhere. If you are interested in a wildly entertaining live show, make sure to catch Those Darlins. Listen to “Wild One” here on the SXSW website.

A video of “Wild One” from this show can be found on youtube.

The Dt’s @ Habana Calle 6
“If AC/DC decided they wanted to hire a female vocalist and become an R&B band, the results might sound a lot like the Dt's, and that's a serious compliment. As the world's leading purveyors of "hard soul," the Dt's play rough but passionate rock & roll with a punch worthy of Highway to Hell or If You Want Blood You've Got It, and while singer Diana Young-Blanchard might sound a bit like Janis Joplin (and does a killer version of Joplin's classic "Move Over"), she's got the speaker-shattering lung power of Brian Johnson.” - Mark Deming,
Another barely lit room, but the Dt’s didn’t seem to mind: their set was loud and energetic with some marvellous guitar work by Dave Crider (of Mono Men fame), who also has a remarkable repertoire of guitar faces. ;-)

An Horse @ Maggie Mae’s Rooftop
"Frontwoman Kate Cooper originally started out as a solo act, partner Damon Cox joined later, and Brisbane's gramatically challenged indie pop duo was born. Cooper was discovered by Tegan & Sara in 2008, and the first An Horse full-length, Rearrange Beds, just dropped stateside." – Melanie Haupt, Austin Chronicle
Not bad: they do sound a LOT like Tegan & Sara but there's nothing wrong with that. The good-size crowd on the rooftop was clearly enjoying the show. Listen to “Postcards” here on the SXSW website.

Watch a short video from this show on youtube. 

The Silos @ Ale House
After 13 hours of music and 29 acts I was starting to feel my legs: I briefly thought about skipping the 1am slot and going back to the hotel, but The Silos were playing nearby and their new songs had sounded great the night before, so I decided to stop at the Ale House for their official showcase and bring the number of bands seen on this day to an even 30. No Jon Dee Graham tonight, he was playing his own showcase at the same time. The recipe for a great SXSW is finding the right mix of new discoveries and old/new favorites, so after all the new discoveries this was a nice way to end day 1. Setlist: "Keeping Score", "Tell Me You Love Me", "Drunken Moon", "Coming From The Grave", "Teenage Prayer", "Getting Trashed", "Four On The Floor", "Innocent"  > "The Ring Of Trees", "The Only Love".

Continue to next day...

All photos (c) Steffen Paulus 2009