SXSW Music Festival 2011 - Day 4 - Evening
An Horse [Jump], Laura Stevenson & The Cans [Jump], Amanda Shires [Jump], Ruido Rosa [Jump], Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion [Jump], Shannon McNally [Jump], Kenneth Brian Band [Jump], Bleu Edmondson [Jump]
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Austin, Texas
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19-March 2011
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An Horse @ Maggie Mae's Rooftop

"No surprise that Brisbane, Australia, duo An Horse caught a break through the initial support of Tegan & Sara, with both acts unloading emotionally ripped pop. LP debut, 2009's Rearrange Beds, surfaced touches of Matt & Kim and Mates of State in the surges of urgency behind Kate Cooper's guitar and Damon Cox's drums. This spring's sophomore effort, Walls, matures in both sound and thematic complexity." – Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle
I usually stay away from guitar/drum duos, but I do make an exception for An Horse. It was a bit of Déjà-vu: the last time I had seen An Horse had been at the exact same venue during SXSW 2009. In 2011 it was just as hard to get a good spot to take photos, although the lights were much improved.

On my way east I ducked into Barbarella to check out a few songs of Laura Stevenson's set. She began playing solo, but was joined by The Cans for the remainder of the set. Watch a video of "Master Of Art" from another show during SXSW here.

Amanda Shires @ Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn

“Shires is an accomplished musician and writes her songs with as much attention to melodic sophistication as deft lyricism.” -The Oxford American
The Creekside venue room has been used by SXSW for many years, and the only thing I liked about bands playing in astandard hotel meeting room was the fact that there were chairs to sit down. This year I discovered another pro - I don't think there was another place in Austin where beer was cheaper than Pepsi. PBR, Miller and Bud Lite cans were $1, Pepsi and water were $2 and Shiner a reasonable $3. Anyway, I didn't come for the cheap beer: After seeing her with Jason Isbell and the Thrift Store Cowboys earlier in the week I decided it was time to hear Amanda Shires play a few of her own songs. Playing with Rod Picott on guitar and a Todd Pertll on pedal steel, her voice and songs sounded great, but the highlight for me was a cover of Barbara Keith's "Detroit Or Buffalo". Watch her do a duo version of that song at another show here.

Ruido Rosa @ Mi Casa Cantina

Don't know much about this all-girl band from Mexico City. Heard the mp3 of "Dentro" (watch the official video here) before the festival and decided to check them out.They sounded pretty good and were fun to shoot....

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion @ The Ale House

Another SXSW venue I strongly dislike is the Ale House, yet every year the place hosts at least one showcase that I really want to see, and 2011 was no exception. They used to have a single stage light in earlier years, and while that had been upgraded to six, they were all set to blue. And for the first time this week I encountered the type of crowd SXSW is notorious for - people more interested in chatting at the bar than listening to the band on stage. After seeing Sarah Lee & Johnny's stunning set at Jo's earlier in the week I wanted to see them again. And while they tried hard, with help from members of Vetiver once again and Zeke Hutchins (Tift Merritt) on drums, they never really connected with a disinterested crowd.

Shannon McNally @ 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn

"The Mississippi-based singer-songwriter’s Western Ballad is her most spiritual offering yet. Anchored by a title track written by poet Alan Ginsberg, the disc is a collaboration with renowned New Orleans producer Mark Bingham, who co-wrote nine of the album’s 11 songs. [...] Although a bit more subdued than her previous work, Western Ballad shows McNally is capable of a range that knows no limits." - Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
To be honest, I wouldn't rate Shannon McNally's most recent albums as high as some of her earlier output, but I rarely get a chance to see her live so her showcase was on my list of must-see's. And it turned out to be even better than expected thanks to her ace band featuring Cary Hudson on guitar and George Reiff on bass. The setlist drew mostly from Western Ballad and the previous album Coldwater: "Bohemian Wedding Prayer", "Thunderhead", "True Possession", "Lonesome, Ornery and Mean", "Western Ballad", "Memory Of A Ghost", and an extended jam of "Down And Dirty". Very cool.

Kenneth Brian Band @ BD Riley's

As it has often been the case, the Saturday evening line-up wasn't the strongest of the festival, so for the midnight slot I decided to check out Kenneth Brian after listening to the song "Welcome To Alabama" (here). At BD Riley's it's easy to tell how well a band is received by the number of people stopping outside on Sixth Street and checking out the show through the open windows. There were plenty for this set, which made me forget how tired I was. For some of the songs their sound was very much in Drive-By Truckers territory, and this comparison apparently isn't too farfetched: after all former Trucker Jason Isbell appears on a (hopefully) soon-to-be-released new record, which was produced by Johnny Sandlin.

My final stop for SXSW 2011 was at Momo's. Located close to the hotel it's usually a good place to end an evening, but Bleu Edmondson's songs were a bit too cliche for my liking and excessive volume didn't help. Add the fact that they were out of Shiner Bock at the bar and it seemed like a good idea to call it a night.

All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2011