SXSW 2009 Music Festival - Day 3 - Evening
Micky & The Motorcars, Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra, The Renderers, Ironweed, Valis, De Los Muertos, Woven Hand

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Micky & The Motorcars @ Scholz Garten
“Three albums in, Austin-based country-rockers Micky & the Motorcars have their sound down cold. [The] blend of Springsteen and Willie that's at the heart of the Micky & the Motorcars' sound is a direct descendent of the roots rockers of the mid-'80s: the Long Ryders, Green on Red and their many imitators blended fairly faint, safe hints of country into an otherwise straightforward brand of anthem-heavy bar band rock.” - Stewart Mason,
North of the Capitol, the crowd at the Texas Music Magazine party at Scholz Garten was busy chatting while Micky & The Motorcars provided the sonic backdrop to their conversations. The band seemed to cruise on auto-pilot through their set and didn’t make much effort to connect with the audience. Not a bad show by any means, but a slight disappointment, especially after the marvellous performance by Jason Isbell I had just left.

Back to Jo’s, where the parking lot was absolutely packed and Mark Olson & Gary Louris were just finishing their set to roaring applause.

Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra @ Jo’s
“[Real Animal] is the strongest rock album Escovedo has made since his 1997 album with Buick MacKane, The Pawn Shop Years. It's easy to tag Real Animal as a less ambitious and artful collection than The Boxing Mirror, but viewed on its own merits this ranks with the best and most powerful music of Escovedo's career.” - Mark Deming,
Alejandro Escovedo's shows at SXSW have always been one of the highlights of the event; especially his festival closing performances with the Orchestra are legendary. This show was no exception. This was not an official showcase and therefore not tied to the 40-minute set limit, so the 15-piece orchestra was on stage for a full 90-minute show. The usual lineup of cello, violin, guitar, bass and drums was augmented by a 4-piece horn section, a percussionist, two vocalists and a keyboard player. They started with a 10-minute version of “Baby’s Got New Plans”, followed by a horn-heavy “Always A Friend”. "Sister Lost Soul" is one of the best songs on the new record, and it just sounded breathtaking with the full orchestra. “Juarez” led into “Rosalie”, followed by “Sensitive Boys” with Amy Cook on harmony vocals. The rest of the setlist: “Chelsea Hotel ‘78”, “Real Animal”, “People”, "Everybody Loves Me", "Velvet Guitar", "Castanets", "The Golden Age of Rock and Roll" (Mott the Hoople), "Too Little Too Late" (Doug Sahm), "Slow Down", and "Sway" (Rolling Stones). 

The Renderers @ Spiro’s
“The grimly beautiful A Dream of the Sea is the Renderers' most impressive outing to date, a dark and often harrowing plunge into a world of nightmares and noise. Although rooted in blues and country, the band's music frequently veers out of control, lacerated by peals of feedback and fuzz; images of madness and death abound throughout the lyrics, and the mood on highlights like "Low to the Ground" and "Right from Wrong" is positively funereal. Visceral and enthralling, it's a trip into hell well worth taking.” - Jason Ankeny,
I had no idea that the Renderers still existed prior to seeing them listed for SXSW. Singers/guitarists Brian and Maryrose Crook were joined by Jason Kourkounis (Bardo Pond, Burning Brides) on drums and fellow New Zealander John White on violin for their showcase. There were even fewer lights Spiros than on Wednesday, which perfectly matched the dark and brooding sound of the band. Listen to “Deep Deep Sea” here on the SXSW web site.

Sixth Street was more crowded than ever.

A couple of blocks north on Red River at Room 710 Ironweed were finishing their set in front of just a handful of people.

Valis @ Room 710
Dark Matter may just be the least "spacy" album of Valis' career. Indeed, where previous discs often found vocalist/guitarist Van Conner (ex-Screaming Trees) and his cohorts embarking on interstellar travel like a secondary sister ship to supreme Space Lords Monster Magnet, Dark Matter sees their feet planted firmly on earthly soil, and the end product may just be the group's most diverse and immediate album to date. Now, don't fret none; it's not that Valis have abandoned their post-stoner rock songwriting comfort zone, but rather discovered a newfound desire to suck the marrow out of each and every song idea in order to cash out instant dividends, regardless of their stylistic provenance.” - Eduardo Rivadavia,
Room 710 hosted the Small Stone Records showcase, one of my usual stops during SXSW. I was there for Valis, who I had last seen five years ago when they played the same venue and delivered a memorable performance. This time their set was marred by technical difficulties with the borrowed backline, which resulted in a slightly uneven set. Listen to “Motorbike” here on the SXSW web site.

De Los Muertos @ Habana Bar
“The six Texicans' sound is a blend of honky-tonk, surf and blues pickin' guitar, and European and Texas punk, with a dash of Spanglish.” – SXSW Band Info
The song on the 
SXSW website by De Los Muertos had sounded great (listen to “This Changes Everything” here) and the show was good as well: the San Antonio-based band worked the crowd into a frenzy, and I was happily snapping photos until my camera displayed an error message. I spend the rest of their set on the patio trying to fix the problem, but the workarounds I found via Google didn't resolve the issue.

Woven Hand @ Spiro’s
"Don’t come to David Eugene Edwards looking for a catchy melody to whistle. If there’s something getting stuck in your head while listening to his austere, harrowing Americana, it’s the cutting edge of a heavenly archangel’s flaming sword. Ten Stones finds the songwriter adhering to the stylistic template he’s been refining since his days fronting 16 Horsepower. [...] If this new record departs stylistically from his massive catalog in any way, it’s the infusion of crunching, distorted guitar." - Jason Killingsworth, Paste
Since moving to North America I had been missing out on the frequent European tours by the band, so I jumped at the opportunity to see them at a packed Spiro's. They delivered
one of the best (and loudest) showcases of SXSW 2009, a truly intense set and they even got to play an encore. Listen to “The Beautiful Axe” here on the SXSW website. Unfortunately my camera was not working so I could not take any photos, but thanks to David Ray for his shots below.
 Photo by David Ray
 Photo by David Ray
 Photo by David Ray

My plan was to see Dinosaur Jr. @ Cedar Street Courtyard for the final showcase of the night, but the combination of what looked like a long wait in line and my camera problems convinced me that it was time to go back to the hotel to rest up and plan for the next day.

Continue to next day... (yes, there are more photos)

All photos (c) Steffen Paulus 2009