SXSW 2004 – Friday, March 19, 2004 - Evening

Willard Grant Conspiracy @ The Blender Balcony at the Ritz
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Regard the End is a listening experience that's ultimately uplifting and remarkably powerful. Traditional tunes like "River in the Pines" and "Day Is Past and Gone" mix with Fisher originals like "Beyond the Shore" and "Fare Thee Well" in such a way that it's impossible to tell which is which. Of course the subjects of death, misery, suffering, and hardship have long been a part of Gothic folk traditions. But WGC has found a way to express it in an unusual way, one that builds on that heritage to create a sound that's truly inspired and unique.” -- Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Robert Fisher continues to re-invent his music based on the people he plays with. The sound is always distinctly the sound of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, but the “ingredients” are often quite different. Tonight WGC included David Michael Curry (viola), Dennis Cronin (trumpet), Pete Sutton (Bass), Tom King (drums), Drew Glackin (lap steel), Drew O'Doherty (electric guitar), and of course Robert Fisher (vocals, acoustic guitar).
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Despite the low frequencies seeping in from the Sub Pop showcase next door, the WGC was able to demonstrate their full dynamic range, from the quiet “River In The Pines”, over the pure pop of “Soft Hands” to the sonic build-up of “The Suffering Song”, with all songs in the set drawn from the latest release Regard The End. The capacity crowd was rapt and listened intently throughout the set, which is a rarity at an event like SXSW!
Willard Grant Conspiracy

Collin Herring @ Coyote Ugly Saloon
“This is a helluva debut, from the wide open ambiance and the deft acoustic/electric balance to the tunes themselves." -- Harp Magazine
Collin Herring
Another victim of the Coyote Ugly Saloon: Colin was already well into his first song when suddenly “I Love Rock’n’Roll” started to blast over the house PA. Collin played with a full band which included his Father on Pedal Steel and keyboards. I guess his Dad had told him not to look at the girls dancing on the bar, because he had pulled his hat well over his eyes and seemed to be fascinated by his shoes. Performer skills aside, there were some good songs to be heard. Listen to one here.

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter @ The Parish
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
“Taking what talents they've garnered from previous bands such as Hominy and Whiskeytown, lead singer Jesse Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher are onto something far bigger than the two could have foreseen. The opening title track lends itself as much to Margo Timmins as it does to a latter-day Lucinda Williams à la "Lonely Girls" in its almost morose tempo and arrangements, making the nearly seven-minute song glide along effortlessly.” -- Jason MacNeil, allmusic.com
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Just like last year, Jesse Sykes claimed to be hung-over from partying the night before, and just like last year she and the band managed to mesmerize the audience, playing a set that included many new songs from her upcoming record Oh, My Girl.

American Minor @ Hard Rock Café
American Minor
“As befits an outfit from the Kanawha River Valley of southern West Virginia, American Minor offer authentically crafted blooze that recalls early Skynyrd and midperiod Georgia Satellites.” -- Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle

American Minor
BMI had decided to squeeze as many bands as possible into their showcase at the Hard Rock Cafe, foregoing the normal hourly schedule. I managed to see the tail end of American Minor’s showcase, which included a cover of “Mississippi Queen”. Highly unoriginal, but fans of Kings Of Leon or Jet will love them…

Charlie Mars @ Hard Rock Café
Charlie Mars
“The well-hyped Charlie Mars, a Mississippi singer-songwriter whose self-titled V2 debut isn't due until May, already has AAA radio programmers salivating.” -- Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle
Charlie Mars
Despite all the hype, there was hardly anyone left at the HRC by the time Charlie Mars began his set of ultra-smooth radio-ready songs without edges.

Acid King @ Room 710
Acid King
“Acid King draw a hiatus to a close with an upcoming Small Stone debut, the S.F. trio expecting a full-length heir to their Man's Ruin split of years back. Lori S. is still head chemist of death-valley delusions.” -- Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle
Acid King
At this point I was more than ready for some heavier stuff, and headed over to Room 710. Acid King had what I was looking for: long songs of slow-burning, ultra heavy riffs, some good old doom-stoner rock.
Acid King

Valis @ Room 710
Valis
“In 1996, following the final Screaming Trees album, Dust, bassist Van Conner formed a loud, spaced-out, psychedelic metal band called Valis, with himself on lead vocals and guitar. When it became clear that the Trees' hiatus was likely to become permanent, Conner focused his attention on his onetime side project, which took its name from a Philip K. Dick novel.” -- Steve Huey, allmusic.com

Valis
“[Valis] crosses Kiss with Kyuss in a way that could have larger labels demanding another toke.” -- Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle
Valis
The main reason I was at Room 710 was Valis. Van Conner (Vocals/Guitar), Patrick Conner (Guitar), Sean Hollister (Drums), Adrian Makins (Bass) and Wes Weresch (Guitar Synthesizer) did not disappoint me. This band deserves to be heard - with the Queens Of The Stone Age apparently disintegrating, maybe Valis can take over their MTV airtime? Check out the song “Indian Giver” on their webpage. As with every great show, time passed much too quickly, but then all strings were broken, guitars were flying into the drum kit, the houselights came on, and day 3 was over.
Valis

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2004