SXSW2002 - The Desperation Derby

The days before...

Saturday, 9-March-2002

Beaver Nelson @ Momo’s

"The range on his three albums (and he's currently at work on his fourth) is broad without resorting to patchwork. With a nimble, raspy voice that at times suggests Hank Williams with a sandier set of pipes, Nelson found his mark with Little Brother. […] Undisturbed finds him again breaking stride somewhat with some Kinks-y melodies and keyboard flourishes, yet still playing with some of the same old thoughts, feelings and anxieties turned like a prism, revealing different lights as the end result.” (Andrew Dansby ,

 Beaver Nelson

It was disappointing to see that Beaver’s set was largely ignored by the small, but very chatty Saturday night crowd. Solid work from Beaver along with Mark Patterson (drums), “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb (guitar) and Cornbread (bass), but I’ve seen better performances from those guys. 

Trish Murphy @ Saxon Pub

 Trish Murphy
“The surprising thing about Captured is how well some of Murphy's tunes translate to quieter arrangements after being originally recorded with a full-on band. " Concession Stand Song" is positively riveting storytelling, while some of the psychedelic edge has been smoothed away from "Vanilla Sun," the song reworked into an ethereal mood piece. Of the five new songs on Captured, "The Trouble With Trouble" stands out for its playfulness, and in what's becoming a trademark for Murphy, a hooky chorus. Unlike other live recordings that seem to be a stopgap between studio outings, [Captured] demonstrates that Murphy […] possess talents that continue growing, while admirably displaying [her] capacity to captivate an audience.” (Jim Caligiuri , Austin Chronicle)

Trish Murphy

When I arrived for Trish’s midnight show, the Saxon Pub was not very crowded. I guess a lot of Austinites were resting up before SXSW. Trish sounded better than ever with her first-rate band, which included brother Darin on drums. She delivered a set that drew from all her albums, introduced a new song called “All I Want”, and added a cover version (Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”). A fun show by one my favorite Austin performers.


It has become a tradition: on the Sunday before SXSW these three “S” bands share a bill. After two years at the Continental Club the show was moved to the much larger Mercury Entertainment @ Jazz.

Say ZuZu @ Mercury Entertainment at Jazz

“With their first studio release since 1998’s Bull, Say Zuzu hits a bull’s-eye by rocking hard and honing their hooks. They kick off the disc with "Lonely", a tune that surges with twangy energy. The group, however, hasn’t discarded their quieter, country moments as the closing tune "Still" demonstrates. On the 11 tracks in-between those two, the band never falters, making Every Mile stand as the group’s strongest effort.” (Miles Of Music)

 Say ZuZu

I agree: Every Mile is Say ZuZu’s best studio album to date, as it perfectly captures the energy of a Say ZuZu live set. They kicked off their set with two songs from the new album, and just kept mixing gruff ROCK songs with quiet songs like “Independence Day”. As always, a good solid performance by New Hampshire’s finest.

The Silos @ Mercury Entertainment at Jazz

“If ever there was a band that was impossible to pin down, it's the Silos. The only member who's been in the band since the beginning of their long and storied career has been former Austinite singer/guitarist/songwriter Walter Salas-Humara. Salas- Humara has stripped the band down to guitar, bass, and drums, which can now be lovingly described as a garage rock power trio. Their latest epic, Laser Beam Next Door, retains the raw lyrical beauty of the Silos past work, yet it seems fresh and new. Salas-Humara has always been fascinated with rhythm, and this version of the band allows him to set the drums and percussion up in the mix so that each song is driven by the beat. Like past Silos efforts, Laser Beam Next Door is filled with moments where pretty meets ugly, tension leads to release, flashes of inspired glee follow feelings of intense melancholy, and from a band that constantly keeps you guessing, it's good to know some thing's never change.” (Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle)

 Walter Salas-Humara of The Silos

The current line-up with Walter Salas-Humara ( git, voc), Drew Glackin (bass, lap steel, voc) and Konrad Meissner (dr, voc) is by now one of the longest running incarnations of The Silos. And what an impressively tight unit they have become thanks to countless shows over the last few years. As always a brilliant show!

Slobberbone @ Mercury Entertainment at Jazz 

“You've reached the pinnacle of success when Stephen King lauds your work in his latest magnum opus of horror. The book in question is Black House, and the song in question is "Gimme Back My Dog," off of the 'bone's 2000 release, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (New West). When you're a small-time band from Denton , Texas , this is praise worthy of a press release.” (Melanie Haupt , Austin Chronicle)


What do you expect me to write – it was a Slobberbone show! It was good plain fun. They played favorites like "Pinball Song", but also some more poppy (in a good way) material and ended the night with a raucous cover of “Cinnamon Girl”.

Tuesday, 12-March-2002

7th Annual Swollen Circus hosted by Walter Salas-Humara and Michael Hall

As every year, the ground rule was three songs per band, which allows to squeeze 10 acts into 4 hours and makes for a very entertaining evening.

Jerkuleez @ Hole In The Wall

"Super Seventies sex music" (Ken Lieck, Austin Chronicle)


Another Austin side project, this quartet consisting of Bruce Hughes (Bob Schneider, Resentments, …), “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb (Loose Diamonds, …), Papa Mali and Dave Robinson (Ugly Americans) played a set of funky instrumentals to kickstart the Swollen Circus.

Caroline Herring Hole In The Wall

"Herring's simple melodies and uncomplicated stories, accompanied mostly by acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolin, and dobro come across with such vitality, charm, and enthusiasm that Twilight takes on an energy that's truly distinctive and captivating." (Jim Caligiuri , Austin Chronicle)

Caroline Herring  

Caroline, who was voted “Best new artist” at the Austin Music Awards this year, took the stage accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. Her pure, rootsy material and open delivery reminded me of Gillian Welch. The set was very well received.

Violet Crown Hole In The Wall

“[Music with] grace and truth while keeping the edge and quirk ever present" (Austin Chronicle)

 Violet Crown

I’d seen Violet Crown at SXSW in 1996, but hadn’t heard from them since. Larry Seaman played a tedious solo set at the Circus in 1998; now he was back with bass player Cindy Toth (ex-Reivers ) and cellist Frank Kammerdiener, who has played with Alejandro Escovedo in the past. Rhythmic and very melodic songs, with the cello adding a nice airy feel. Not bad.

Michael Hall & The WoodpeckersHole In The Wall

“Too country to be alt.rock, too rock to be, and still, we should all count our lucky stars Austin's Michael Hall doesn't 'alt altogether. The Wild Seeds founder and longtime solo artist has assembled yet another fine combo in the Woodpeckers, including fellow former Wild Seed Randy Franklin and several members of the local Diamond Smugglers. Hall has yet to put together a team that didn't do justice to his offbeat tunes of love, loss, and redemption, nor does he seem to have any trouble continuing to dole out helpings of sometimes dark, sometimes funny slices of life. In fact, if dependability is a flaw, it would be Hall's weak point; there's nothing to say about this disc that wouldn't fit a review of any of his output from the past decade.” (Ken Lieck , Austin Chronicle)

 Michael Hall & The Woodpeckers

With a new album (Lucky, Too) ready for release, the Woodpeckers, who recently added Julie Lowery on keyboards, tambourine and backing vocals to their lineup, focused exclusively on new material, which is best described as raw Garage Rock.

Tom Freund Hole In The Wall

"Listening to Sympatico, Tom Freund's second solo release, I find myself just as impressed as I was after hearing North American Long Weekend, his solo debut. His songs fill me with an interesting mixture of yearning and melancholy that is somehow thoroughly uplifting at the same time. I get shivers down the spine on almost every tune. Along with Lucinda Williams, Freund is the best singer/songwriter operating today." (Graham Parker)

 Tom Freund

“Welcome to the Drums & Bass portion of the evening”, Tom joked after his first two songs, for which he played stand-up bass, being accompanied only by Konrad Meissner (Silos) on drums. Some audience participation ( fingersnaps) was required for the second song, and Drew Glackin (Silos, Tandy) added some beautiful lap steel to Tom’s final song “Synagogue”, one of the standout tracks from Tom’s debut.

The Silos Hole In The Wall

“The Silos as a power trio? Compared with the rootsy reveries of albums past, Laser Beam Next Door delivers a wake-up slap of fuzztone guitar over a whipcrack rhythm section. Remaining constant within this ever-evolving band, is the bittersweet impressionism of Walter Salas-Humara, whose laconic vocals and bareboned melodies compliment musical epigrams of hardboiled spirituality.” (Don McLeese, Revolver)

 The Silos

A good, loud and concise set by the Silos Power-Trio - three songs in 10 Minutes: “I Believe”, “Don’t Want To Know”, and “Satisfied”.

Git Hole In The Wall

"…sweet, sassy gal-twang from down under” (Band info)


It was very nice to watch the effect the three Git girls, who share guitar and vocal duties, and the Git guy, who plays stand-up bass, had on the audience. After taking to the stage in matching dresses (well, at least the girls), it took them only a few seconds to get the undivided attention of everyone in the room. They did a great job of changing the pace and putting a smile on everyone’s face with their irresistible, old-fashioned harmonies. Really cool stuff.

Tommy Womack Hole In The Wall

“A onetime member of the post-punk unit Government Cheese, singer/songwriter Tommy Womack later resurfaced in the roots-rock band the Bis-quits, finally going solo in 1998 with the LP Positively Na-Na. Stubborn followed two years later. As an author, he also won acclaim for his memoir Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock & Roll Band You've Never Heard Of.” (Jason Ankeny,

 Tommy Womack

Tommy and band (Scott Esbeck on bass, Mark Patterson on drums and Kevin Carroll on guitar) did only two songs, but the second one turned out to be the lengthy but hilarious history of “The Replacements” in 8 Minutes and 27 seconds from his Circus Town album.

Gingersol Hole In The Wall

Los Angeles band Gingersol plays delightfully melodic, rough-edged rock that recalls the Replacements, early Wilco, or a more scruffy Gin Blossoms — but with their own, distinct sonic stamp. The group came together when Steve Tagliere and Seth Rothschild realized they had a musical affinity after running into each other at various live shows in L.A. Tagliere had led a previous version of Gingersol that had disintegrated; with Rothschild on board, he decided to resurrect the band. While numerous members have moved through the group, the two persevered to record 2000's Nothing Stops Moving in Rothschild's garage studio. 2001 found the Gingersol lineup solidified with the addition of drummer John Florance and bassist Chuck Bramlet.” (Erik Hage ,


It was the first time that I’ve seen Gingersol live, and I was pleasantly surprised by their all-out Rock sound, which sounded much better than what I remembered from their CDs. Drew Glackin was back on stage playing lap steel for this set.

Amy Rigby Hole In The Wall

"With each successive release, NYC-er gone Nashvillian Amy Rigby has found a new way to prove that she's the coolest voice of a slightly older generation that refuses to let go of its former cool. The cynicism of her ultra-fab debut, Diary of a Mod Housewife, seems to have subsided enough so that her last effort, The Sugar Tree, actually had a positive song on it.” (Michael Bertin, Austin Chronicle)

 Amy Rigby

Amy did three songs acoustically, starting off with “Balls” from her most recent album. She had time left for another song and finished the night together with Tommy Womack’s band.

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