SXSW 2004 – The days before…

Monday, March 15, 2004

By the time I arrived in Austin for my tenth SXSW, I hadn't been to a concert for two months. Luckily an overdose of musical entertainment awaited me. SXSW is not only a Music festival, but also a film and interactive conference. The interactive event precedes the music festival, and while the majority of geeks walking the exhibition were mostly interested in tech talk, no event in Austin would be complete without music.

Colin Gilmore @ Convention Center (SXSW Interactive)
“How far can the apple fall from the tree? In the case of Colin Gilmore, it was pretty far removed from dad Jimmie Dale. His new CD, The Day the World Stopped and Spun the Other Way, sports a cover of the Clash's "(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais" and features great players like Rob Gjersoe, Bukka Allen, and Aussie Audrey Auld.” -- Jerry Renshaw, Austin Chronicle
Colin Gilmore
Colin Gilmore delivered a 20-minute solo set of well-crafted songs to a largely indifferent audience busy checking their email at the WiFi hotspot that doubled as the day stage.

Trish Murphy @ Convention Center (SXSW Interactive)
Trish Murphy
“After a therapeutic 18-month sabbatical, Austin's Trish Murphy came back with her best album yet, last year's rootsy, emotionally raw Girls Get in Free. Her rollicking cover of Lyle Lovett's "Cowboy Man" is a gas, but better still are Murphy's own "Crying as Fast as I Can" and "Love Never Dies (It Just Gives Up)." -- Christopher Gray, Austin Chronicle

Trish Murphy
Trish Murphy was a bit more successful in getting the attention of the “audience”. She worked her way through some songs from her new album, throwing in some oldies as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
9th annual Swollen Circus - hosted by Walter Salas-Humara and Michael Hall

After temporarily moving to Stubb’s last year, the Circus was back at the re-opened Hole for its ninth incarnation, and just like in the early days the smaller front room was used. Quite a few of the usual suspects turned up, both on stage and in the audience.

The Transgressors @ Hole In The Wall
“Striking, dramatic pop songs inspired by rock 'n' roll, country and film scores. Haunting tales of loss, mystery and frustrated vengeance. Accented by reverb-drenched twang guitar, rich baritone vocals and mariachi-style trumpet.” -- SXSW Band Info
The Transgressors
The Trangressors kicked off the event, appearing as a lo-fi duo, with lots of reverb and baritone vocals as promised, but unfortunately without mariachi-style trumpet, which might have made the 3-song set a bit more remarkable.

Mary McBride @ Hole In The Wall
“McBride brings the party with her wherever she goes and her upcoming album captures the energy of her live shows and suggests that McBride's fame as a songwriter is right around the corner." -- John Swenson, Rolling Stone Guide to Jazz and Blues
Mary McBride
Since her first appearance at SXSW a few years ago, Mary has always managed to bring along a great band. This year was no exception, with Drew Glackin (Silos) on lap steel and Paul Carbonara (Blondie) on lead guitar. Dan Baird, who played on her Friday Happy Hour gig at the Continental Club, was unavailable for this gig.

Ware River Club @ Hole In The Wall
“With Don't Take It Easy, the Ware River Club concocts a stormy, euphoric brand of roots rock bolstered by alternately ringing and barbed-wire guitars and Matt Hebert's delightfully hoarse pipes. […] This is an admirable effort that rocks from top to bottom.” -- Erik Hage,
Ware River Club
This was a new experience - in previous years I had always seen the Ware River Club in its full electric glory. This time it was just Matt Herbert and Bob Hennessy playing acoustic, but the songs worked well even in the noisy party atmosphere of the Swollen Circus. As a last minute addition to the schedule, they performed only two songs: “Broken Lights” from their superb new release Cathedral, and “If You Need To Leave Me” off the 2000 album Don’t Take It Easy.

Trish Murphy @ Hole In The Wall
Trish + Darin Murphy
Girls Get in Free] is sharper than Sheryl Crow’s last record and catchier than Liz Phair’s. Trish Murphy is back in the independent trenches after a quick taste of the majors, but she’s never sounded more like a superstar.” -- Richard Skanse, Texas Music Magazine
Trish Murphy
Another unscheduled performance followed. David Halley had to cancel, so Trish Murphy returned to the Swollen Circus, where I was first introduced to her music back in 1997. Today she was accompanied by her brother Darin on drums and played “Thelma And Louise” and “The Trouble With Trouble” from Girls Get In Free.

The Lanedrifters @ Hole In The Wall
The Lanedrifters
Next up were The Lanedrifters, previously known as The Fire Marshals of Bethlehem. They are lead by John Croslin, whom you may remember from one of Austin’s finest band ever: The Reivers. Beautiful, nicely crafted pop songs, driven by
“Woodpecker” Julie Lowrey's vocals and Jenny Smith’s violin. I would have loved to hear more, but this band seems to fly somewhat under the radar. Word is that a studio release might be in the works.

Michael Hall & The Woodpeckers @ Hole In The Wall
“[Lucky Too] swings cleanly from small-hours, indie-boy sadness to roughed-up roots rock to gruff garage rock to guitar jangle. […] This is a strong, varied effort from Hall and the Woodpeckers.” -- Erik Hage,
Michael Hall & The Woodpeckers
Michael and the band in its usual line-up played three new tunes in typical Woodpecker style: “Song About America”, “If You See Me” and “If We Can Make It Through Summer”. Maybe we can interpret this as a sign that the time is right for another Michael Hall album? I hope so!

The Silos @ Hole In The Wall
The Silos + Paul Carbonara
“The Silos' Cuba has become something of a low-flying classic since its release in 1987. The band's brand of rock & roll qualifies as pre-Uncle Tupelo alternative country, highlighted by the addition of Mary Rowell's violin. [...] While songs like "Tennessee Fire" and "She Lives Up the Street" have given the Silos a reputation for rock & roll, they also excel with gentler ballads. These quiet moments offer a nice contrast to slashing guitar and drum tracks, and both styles come together to form a satisfying whole on Cuba.” -- Ronnie D. Lankford Jr.,
Walter Salas-Humara
The normal Silos line-up with Walter Salas-Humara, Konrad Meissner and Drew Glackin was enhanced by various guests throughout the set. For “The Only Love”, the lead-off track from their upcoming album When The Telephone Rings, Paul Carbonara played electric guitar. For “Innocent”, Chris Searles worked the tambourine and for “Take A Hit” Tom Freund joined on acoustic guitar and vocals.
The Silos + Tom Freund

Tom Freund @ Hole In The Wall
Tom Freund
“A KCRW favorite and longtime critics' darling, this Venice-based singer-songwriter and Silos alumni returns with his third solo set,
Copper Moon, a collection of gorgeous melodies and compelling narratives that suggest he'll uphold his reputation for turning in magnificent SXSW performances.” -- Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle
Benn Peeler, Drew Glackin + Konrad Meissner
For his sixth Swollen Circus appearance, Tom was backed by Drew Glackin on bass and Ben Peeler on lap steel. Konrad Meissner and Chris Searles were behind the drum kit for different songs. The set included “Copper Moon”, the title track of Tom’s latest album, and “Business Of Knowing” from his debut, which remains one of his strongest songs.

Gingersol @ Hole In The Wall
“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.” -- Erik Hage,
Gingersol’s performance was marred by sound problems, which resulted in a somewhat unfocused set.

Mary Lou Lord @ Hole In The Wall
“Mary Lou Lord has gone from busker (catch her on Sixth Street!) to major-label songbird and back again. Blending folk and indie influences has landed her tours with Shawn Colvin and Guided by Voices, her new Baby Blue just hitting stores.” -- Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Mary Lou Lord
Mary Lou Lord started her mini-set with an acoustic version of “Stars Burn Out”, before Gingersol, who had served as her backing band on a month-long US-tour, joined her for “The Wind Blew All Around Me”, also from her new album Baby Blue, and “Lights Are Changing” from Got No Shadow.

The Fighting Brothers McCarthy @ Hole In The Wall
“Post-power-pop. The Fighting Brothers are like a sucker punch to the ribs -- you're gonna feel 'em for a long time after. Guitars, vocals, great songs -- it's rock done right.” -- SXSW Band info
Fighting Brothers McCarthy
Kevin and Steve McCarthy have been fixtures on the Austin scene for quite a while: Steve has been the drummer for the Woodpeckers for quite some time, and they have been playing together in the infamous Diamond Smugglers and the Dung Beatles tribute bands. This was the first time I actually saw them play their own material.

Dumptruck @ Hole In The Wall
“Essentially a two-man project of Massachusetts natives Kirk Swan and Seth Tiven, with a rotating rhythm section, Dumptruck was, for a brief moment, among the favorites of U.S. college radio in the mid '80s. They combined the jangly power pop sound of the Southern alternative scene with intelligent lyrics and a melancholy twist.” -- Chris Woodstra,
Following the release of Dumptruck’s first two albums Kirk Swan left the band in 1986. Kevin Salem came onboard, but due to legal issues the band packed it in shortly after that. Seth Tiven moved to Austin and kept the Dumptruck name alive with a number of releases throughout the last decade. On this evening they were billed as “Rock Odyssey”, it turned out to be the first time Kirk and Seth had played together on-stage since 1986. It was the real thing - duelling lead guitars, both Kirk and Seth singing lead vocals - much better the Kirk-less Dumptruck shows I had witnessed in recent years. The band seemed to have a lot of fun as well and continued to play until closing time.

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2004