Wednesday, 16-March 2005

This year’s Guitartown Party made it easy to be lazy and to stay at one party on this unseasonably cool Wednesday afternoon. A great line-up, a bigger and better venue, and much improved sound made for an excellent event.


Tom Freund @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Tom Freund
“Venice-based Tom Freund's newest CD, Copper Moon, is something to howl over. Four years into a solo career, there's a poise and growth here that amounts to three steps forward and no steps back. Freund's a hipster troubadour whose albums reflect work he's done with others, like the soulful Ben Harper and rocking Graham Parker. A serenely cool song like "Mercury" has such an assured stride that you just wave and salute as Freund's parade swooshes by.” - Tony Peyser, Santa Monica Mirror
Tom Freund
When I arrived at Mother Egan’s at 11:30am, Tom Freund was just getting ready to play. He was backed by The Silos’ rhythm section, Drew Glackin on bass, Konrad Meissner on drums, plus Steve McCormick on guitar and assorted other instruments. He opened with “Synagogue”, followed by “Copper Moon”, “Mercury”, and “Francie”. By the time Tom closed his set “Pay The Man”, a David Lindley number first released on Tom’s 1992 collaboration with Ben Harper, the tent was filling up nicely.
Tom Freund


Walter Tragert @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Walter Tragert
“Walter Tragert's Lousy With Desire was, very quietly, one of the best local albums of 2004. Likewise, his regular Sunday night gig at the Saxon allowed his dry humor to develop around his punchy, soulful songs. Tragert is a survivor of the music business and his hard-earned wisdom imbues his music with unexpected backbone and muscle.” – Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle
Jud Newcomb
Next, a group of seasoned Austin pros assembled on stage to back Walter Tragert: “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb on guitar, “Cornbread” on bass, Jon Greene on drums and Ron Flynt on piano. They played a well-rounded set, and the first dancers started to show up on the dance floor.
Walter Tragert


Jeff Klein @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Jeff Klein
“Austinite Jeff Klein is a star in the UK, where his songs of heartbreak and the darker side of life cut to the bone. Here too. His third disc, The Hustler, is due this summer, featuring Dave Pirner and Ani DiFranco.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Jeff Klein
Playing together for the first time in public, Jeff Klein and his reconfigured band delivered a strong set of mostly new songs from the upcoming album. You can preview the title track on his SXSW page.
Jeff Klein
Jeff Klein


Two Cow Garage @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Two Cow Garage
“This young trio from Columbus, Ohio, has following the loud and proud roots rock path trampled by the likes of Drive-by Truckers and Slobberbone. Their second blast of cowpunk, The Wall Against Our Back (Shelterhouse), was released in 2004.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Two Cow Garage
By the time Two Cow Garage hit the stage, the tent was comfortably full, and despite some backline problems they proved that there is no need to worry about Slobberbone’s demise - TCG sound like Slobberbone on Red Bull and they are ready to carry on the torch…
Two Cow Garage
Two Cow Garage

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Chris Stamey @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
“From the Sneakers to the dB's to his solo work, North Carolinian Chris Stamey is a seminal figure in the evolution of Southern pop. His new Yep Roc-er, A Question of Temperature, utilizes Yo La Tengo as a backing band, with additional assistance from Carolina bluegrass troupe Chatham County Line.” – Greg Beets, Austin Chronicle
Chris Stamey
Chris Stamey’s plane was delayed, so when he finally arrived at the venue, there was only time for a few songs he performed as a duo with John Chumbris on bass.
Chris Stamey


Jon Dee Graham @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Jon Dee Graham
“As with Eliza Gilkyson and Ray Wylie Hubbard, every new Jon Dee Graham album is better than the last. With 2004's The Great Battle, the local singer-songwriter-guitar-monster notched another critically adored solo disc. Bittersweet and worldly wise, Graham's songs are rich and rewarding.” – Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle
George Reiff
Next up was another Austin favorite, Jon Dee Graham. Mike Hardwick couldn’t make it for this show, so the band (dubbed “The Fighting Cocks“ for this show) consisted of John Chipman (drums) and George Reiff (bass). Towards the end of his powerful set, he asked the crowd to email New West Records to let them know how much fun they had at the show, before launching into an angry “Laredo”.
Jon Dee Graham + Beatle Bob


The Silos @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
The Silos   Drew Glackin
The Silos continued on from where Jon Dee Graham had stopped, with a blistering set. Opening with “Innocent”, they quickly found their groove. “Four On The Floor”, “The Only One”, and Jonathan Richman’s “I’m Straight” were next, before they finished with “Satisfied”.
The Silos

  
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Another change to the original schedule switched Steve Wynn and Stan Ridgway, which created a perfect running order. Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 played to a packed tent and brought the energy level to a new high. No new songs this afternoon, but the set, including many favorites (“Death Valley Rain”, “Strange New World”, “What Comes After”, “There Will Come A Day”, “Amphetamine”, “John Coltrane Stereo Blues”), brought an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Linda Pitmon
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3


Stan Ridgway @ Mother Egan’s (Guitartown Party)
Stan Ridgway
Stan Ridgway had also played the Swollen Circus the night before, but unlike the two bands before him, he played a virtually identical set. The crowd mostly went back to the bar or left for dinner at this point.
Stan Ridgway
Stan Ridgway


Kacy Crowley @ Cedar Street Courtyard
Kacy Crowley
“Kacy Crowley deserves your attention. [2003’s] indie return from major-label purgatory, Moodswing, gave insight to her inner grit and grace. Her upcoming acoustic set, Tramps Like Us, promises even more snarl for your buck.” – Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle
Kacy Crowley
At 8pm sharp, the SXSW Music Festival officially started. After putting on the $110 wristband, I entered Cedar Street Courtyard, which was already filled with a good number of people, especially considering the early hour. Kacy and her band delivered a well rounded set, ranging from radio-ready Pop to quieter numbers. She managed to hold the audience’s attention on the latter, and got a warm response from the crowd.
Kacy Crowley


Trespassers William @ Copa
Trespassers William
"Singer Anna-Lynne Williams has one of those crystal-clear voices made up of shyness, loneliness and quiet despair, while her band dream up the kind of space country that might have sound tracked 'Twin Peaks: The Comedown Years'.” - NME
Trespassers William
The SXSW schedule listed Holly Williams in the 9pm slot at the Fox & Hound, but she had to cancel on short notice, so I moved on towards Sixth Street and stopped at Copa to check out Trespassers William. They performed well-crafted songs in the vein of Azure Ray or Hope Sandoval. Check out one of their songs on their SXSW page.
Trespassers William


The Amazing Pilots @ Vibe
Hello My Captor is the stateside debut from Dublin Ireland’s The Amazing Pilots. Brothers Phil and Paul Wilkinson create eleven tracks of tear-jerking, heart-tugging, brain-teasing, genre-bending pop that will have you humming for days. The album was mixed by Mercury-nominated producer David Odlum whos credits include The Frames, Josh Ritter and Gemma Hayes (who also guested some vocals on the record).” – Undertow Records press info
The Amazing Pilots
Organizing over 1300 showcases is not trivial, and it’s always amazing to see how the folks at SXSW do it year after year. But finding so many venues and sound crews is a challenge, especially on Sixth Street, where most SXSW venues don’t even host live music throughout the rest of the year. The Vibe was a good example, looking more like a construction site than a venue, and at 9:45 they were already way behind schedule. That was actually not so bad, because otherwise I would have missed the second half of a solid set by The Amazing Pilots.
The Amazing Pilots


Willard Grant Conspiracy @ Vibe
Robert Fisher - Willard Grant Conspiracy
“Willard Grant Conspiracy, fronted by Robert Fisher of Lancaster, Calif., features a rotating cast of 31 from around the world. With songs of remarkable sweep and vision, Fisher and friends create vibrating soundtracks to the wide-open spaces of the American Southwest. Last year's Regard the End found worldwide critical acclaim.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Willard Grant Conspiracy
While the Willard Grant Conspiracy got ready for their set, the reason for the delay became apparent. The person in charge of the monitor mix seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Then, shortly after the band finally started, he just disappeared and left the board unmanned. The person doing the front-of-house sound ended up doing double-duty, trying to patch things up. The sound in front of the stage was actually okay, but the band members had a hard time hearing themselves on stage.
Robert Fisher - Willard Grant Conspiracy
Jason Victor from Steve Wynns Miracle Three had been playing with the Conspiracy since their European tour last year, and his guitar work added yet another dimension to their sound. Unfortunately, just when Robert Fisher was getting ready to ask Steve Wynn to sit in for a song, their set was cut short after 30 minutes.
Jason Victor - Willard Grant Conspiracy
The setlist: “Ghost Of The Girl In The Well”, “The Trials Of Harrison Hayes”, “Soft Hands”, “Day Is Passed And Gone”, “Fare Thee Well”, “The Suffering Song”.
Robert Fisher - Willard Grant Conspiracy

   
Michelle Anthony @ The Lounge at Crowne Plaza
Michelle Anthony
“The Lounge” turned out to be a simple meeting room, complete with chairs set in front of the make-shift stage. While it felt good to get of the cold and to sit down for a few minutes, the room felt more like a library than a venue for concerts, let alone rock performances.
Michelle Anthony
I was there to see Michelle Anthony, whose 3 song set at the Swollen Circus the day before had been much too short. Michelle switched back and forth between bass, piano and acoustic guitar, and certainly made the best out of the situation and location.
Michelle Anthony


While the 10pm slot had been crowded with several “must-sees” such as Willard Grant Conspiracy, Susan Cowsill, The Wailin’ Jennys and Jennifer O’Connor, the options at midnight weren’t overly exciting. The plan was to stay at the Lounge to see Brandi Carlile, but the depressing atmosphere there made me move on before she began her set.
I briefly stopped at Buffalo Billards, but Blue Merle's sound was way too far in Jam band territory for my liking.
Blue Merle
The crowd loved them, but I headed over to BD Riley’s across the street, where Austin’s own Dime Store Poets played to an almost empty room.
Dime Store Poets


The Bottle Rockets @ Fox & Hound
Bottle Rockets
“Their home is in Festus, Mo. (though one lives in Austin), but the Bottle Rockets' hearts lie squarely southwest of the Mason-Dixon Line. Their 2003 release, Blue Sky, produced by Warren Haynes, was their seventh and more solid songwriter rock.” – Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle
Bottle Rockets
By now it was 1am, and the temperature had dropped to below 40F (or 4C), and I was standing at the parking lot stage behind the Fox & Hound. I was cold and ready to head back to the hotel. But then Brian Henneman welcomed the crowd joking: “It’s good to be back in Duluth, Minnesota”, and as the Bottle Rockets began their set the audience crowded together in front of the staget.
Bottle Rockets
A healthy looking, newly married Brian Henneman and the rest of the band warmed their fans with old chestnuts such as “Gravity Fails”, “I’ll Be Coming Around”, “$1000 Car”, “Kerosene”, “Waitin’ On A Train”, and a long, long version of “Cortez The Killer” to end the set just before 2am.
Bottle Rockets   Bottle Rockets
And that was the end of day one. A real fun afternoon followed by a cold hit and miss evening, which ended with a memorable show.
Johnny Hickmann enjoying The Bottle Rockets

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2005