SXSW 2004 – Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - Evening

The first evening of SXSW2004 started with an 8pm slot that didn’t have too many exciting choices to offer. My plan was to see French actress/singer Julie Delpy, but the long line in front of the venue convinced me that this wasn’t such a good idea. Instead I headed towards the club where I wanted to be at 9pm, stopping on the way at Cedar Street Courtyard.

Kelly V @ Cedar Street Courtyard
“Singer/songwriter Kelly V and her powerhouse band anchor rock, blues, country and vibe with a rootsy core. Kelly V's self-released debut, [Dandelions], is a musical journey through the many styles that have influenced her.” -- SXSW Band Info
Kelly V
On stage was Kelly V, who hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, where “City Weekly” magazine had hosted a “Battle of the Bands”-type event, the first prize being a trip to SXSW. Whatever the selection process, Kelly V came to Austin and delivered a set of corny Top40-ready material to a sparsely filled and largely indifferent courtyard. She brought along a full band including two background singers and worked through the full repertoire of clichéd rock star moves. After a few songs I was on the move again.

Speer @ Lounge
“The most obvious point of reference for this Austin-based quartet is the Ben Folds Five, with which it shares the characteristics of a piano-playing leader and a sometimes adventurous style of intelligent power pop. Vocally, frontman and songwriter James Speer has more in common with Will Hoge, though he doesn't quite share Hoge's knack for the indelible hook. Sixes & Sevens is a solid debut effort, and it does tend to grow on you.” -- Rick Anderson, allmusic.com
Speer
There was no power-pop quartet in sight and no Will Hoge-like music to be heard when I arrived at the Lounge: iIt was just James Speer with his keyboard and his Powerbook, delivering tunes that left me somewhat wide-eyed and bewildered. After a while I gave up, bought a beer and settled into one of the nice leather couches and to wait for the band I had come to see.

Alex Woodard @ Lounge
"At a time when sensation is celebrated over substance, Alex Woodard is a modern rock poet poised to go cross-genre. His voice is a surreal blend of Arlo Guthrie and Eddie Vedder." -- Rockpile Magazine
Alex Woodard
I first “discovered” Alex Woodard two years ago when he played Momo’s with a full band. Tonight’s appearance was a more low-key affair, mostly unplugged, with fiddle, acoustic guitar and percussion, and included quite a few songs from the Pete Droge produced Mile High album. The Pete Droge connection might have been the reason why I was thinking of The Thorns frequently while listening to the vocal harmonies of Alex and band. Check out the title song of the CD here.

Matt Nathanson @ Antone’s
Matt Nathanson
“San Francisco's Matt Nathanson has released five independent albums and an EP in the past ten years, and through steady touring and a dynamic stage presence, has built up a loyal fan base.
Beneath These Fireworks, produced by Ron Aniello, is Nathanson's major label debut, and he doesn't waste the opportunity, cherry picking a trio of songs from his earlier releases ("Bare," "Bent," "Lucky Boy") to re-record, and with some radio-ready new material, the result is an impressively cohesive pop album. Nathanson's songs are full of the fractured hearts and broken confessions of unhealthy relationships, and while his lyrics stray at times into an ornate despondency, the sheer pop smarts and giant hooks in the arrangements more than compensate.” -- Steve Leggett, allmusic.com
Matt Nathanson
Matt Nathanson started off playing solo acoustic, but after joking that he would do a set of Mr. Mister cover versions, he was joined by his band, with David Garza sitting in on keyboards. Pretty good songs and a good performance - if you like Howie Day you will like Matt Nathanson.

Shurman @ The Drink
“Shurman's just the sort of band radio loves, though they haven't made it onto your dial much just yet. Still, for upbeat infectious rock-pop with a strong country undercurrent (there's some lap steel in these tracks that adds just the right touch when it counts) this band's tough to beat.” -- David Pilot, Rockzilla.net
Shurman
The next stop brought another change of pace. Shurman played a straight-ahead Alt.Country set, not bad at all. Check out the MP3’s on their webpage.

Echoset @ Coyote Ugly
Echoset
“Echoset is one of the hardest working bands out there. Their sound is a cool mixture of great rock with an accessible pop-edge. Fans at an Echoset show experience solid songs and a true rock-performance!” -- Jenn Garrison, KGSR Radio
Echoset
"Echoset is one of the most promising rock bands I have seen in Austin; fine songwriting, solid musicianship and a stunning lead singer." -- Woody Roberts,  Austin Music Network

Echoset
Before coming to Austin I had listened to over 200 MP3’s from bands scheduled to play SXSW. Some were crap, many sounded okay, quite a few were good, but only a handful really stuck after the first listen. One of them was “Pinwheel” by Echoset. Catchy as hell, I couldn’t get the song out of my head for days. They opened their set with this song and I was intrigued to find out how the rest of their material would stack up: I was not disappointed, the rest of the set was up to par, and the performance was energetic and convincing. I have a hard time coming up with a good comparison - Spain’s Dover come to mind, but that’s not exactly it. Decide for yourself, check out their website, listen to their music on garageband.com and buy their CD “Four Mile Marker” if you can find it.
Echoset
By the way, I’m not alone in thinking that they are good: Echoset was all over the Austin Music Awards this year: #9 Song of the year (Pinwheel), #7 Pop Band, #11 Electric Guitar, #5 Rock Band, #9 Bass Guitar,  #2 Best New Band, #12 Best Female Vocalist (which puts singer Beth Puorro right after Trish Murphy and in front of Tish Hinojosa), #2 Best Video/DVD.
Echoset

Lucero @ Buffalo Billiards
“In the Great Southern Explosion of 2003 spearheaded by the Drive-by Truckers, My Morning Jacket, and Kings of Leon, Lucero's That Much Further West (Tiger Style) was unjustly overlooked. The Memphis quartet's third LP is nothing fancy, just solid, tuneful heartland rock that thrills you at the club and consoles you on the lonely drive home afterward.” -- Christopher Gray, Austin Chronicle
Lucero
I had heard lots of good things about this band, and apparently other people had, too. Buffalo Billiards was filled to capacity by the time the band stumbled on stage and started to play an extremely sloppy set, marred by false starts and terrible sound. Slobberbone-wanna-be’s on a bad day? Maybe, luckily there was more to see and I moved on…
Lucero

Richard Buckner @ The Parish
Richard Buckner
“Briefly an Austinite but now calling Brooklyn home, Richard Buckner is the latest signing to [Merge Records]. A new disc, recorded with a group of Austin noise rock all-stars is on the schedule for this fall.” -- Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle

Richard Buckner
What a band: King Coffey (Butthole Surfers), Jason Morales and Andrew DuPlantis (Tia Carrera), and Jacob Schulze (Moonlight Towers). What a show: a noisy, heavy, loud and feedback-laden affair. A good song is a good song, no matter whether it’s played on an acoustic guitar or whether it’s buried under layers of sonic intensity. And with a voice like Buckner’s the passion of his songs is carried across any backing. An extended feedback orgy ended the last official showcase of the day. Brilliant.
Richard Buckner

Mary Lou Lord @ 6th Street at Brazos
Mary Lou Lord
“[Mary Lou Lord is] a sweet, gentle modern folksinger whose delivery is so unassuming it can be easy to underestimate her skills as an interpreter. More than ever, she's interpreting the songs of her longtime friend and collaborator Nick Saloman (otherwise known as the Bevis Frond), who wrote all but three songs on the album (two of the songs are collaborations with Lord). Musically,
Baby Blue isn't far removed from Got No Shadow — if anything, it's even more subdued than that largely laid-back affair — but Saloman's production is warmly homemade, lacking the sheen of her major-label album, which, while sonically appealing, didn't quite fit Lord's deliberately low-key music. This, however, does fit, which is to the record's benefit.” -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com
Mary Lou Lord
After leaving The Parish just after 2am I found Mary Lou Lord holding court at her usual spot. She seemed to have a few more difficulties with the cops trying to bust her this year, but nevertheless she continued to play and sign CD’s...

That was the end of Day 1: 16 hours ours of music from two dozen performers. Not everything was great, the evening was a bit inconsistent, but overall it was a pretty good day. After I dragged myself back to the hotel, opened another Shiner and started planning for the next day I had the nagging feeling that I might have to slow down a bit to survive the rest of the festival.

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2004