SXSW2006 - Day 1
Eleni Mandell, James McMurtry, Tom Freund, Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3, Walter Tragert, Jon Dee Graham, Glen Phillips, Gina Villalobos, Gumbi Ortiz & The Latino Projekt, Mando Saenz, Collin Herring, Abi Tapia, Cuff The Duke, Curt Kirkwood, Brian Keane, The Silos, Leeroy Stagger, Matt Mays & El Torpedo
Next >
Austin, TX
< Previous
15-March 2006 2006  /  Photoindex  /  Home

2006 was a good year for SXSW organizers. There was buzz leading up to the conference, with a large increase in conference attendees, long lines for people trying to buy a wristband, and scalpers asking (and selling for) $300 on Ebay. And it seems more and more people are willing to buy a wristband to see their favourite band at the “festival” not realizing that most bands will only play 40 minute sets, and how frustrating it can be to hear that act begin their set while being stuck in an endless line on Sixth Street. But for every super-crowded showcase you can find one where the performer plays to a dozen people.
Of course the SXSW organizers always manage to "screw up" the schedule. Three bands you really, really wanted to see play the same timeslot, while for the next timeslot you are at a loss. But that’s also a great chance to discover someone you may have never listened to otherwise. And this is why the dayparties are such an important part of the festival – giving you a second chance to see bands you must see (or must see again).

Eleni Mandell @ Mother Egan’s
„Anyone who was charmed by Neko Case, take notice: Here's a singer with more quirks, more sex appeal and a better set of pipes, making exactly the late-night, film-noir country album that Case's last disc tried to be.” – Boston Phoenix
Despite ever-growing competition on the Wednesday, the Guitartown Party managed to put together a compelling line-up again. Eleni Mandell had the tough task of getting the party going before noon. She did fairly well, pre-viewing acoustic versions of a few songs from her yet unreleased new record, including “The Make-out King”.
Eleni Mandell

James McMurtry @ Mother Egan’s
“Although he's been making albums since 1989, Austin's James McMurtry, son of famed novelist and Brokeback Mountain co-scribe Larry McMurtry, has reached another peak as a songwriter. 2005's Childish Things (Compadre) is a masterpiece of social commentary mixed with Murtry's brand of biting, raw, and rootsy guitar rock highlighted by the fierce protest song "We Can't Make It Here”." – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
I was a bit surprised to see James McMurtry get up on stage without his band, but I’m happy to report that his songs work just as well in an acoustic setting. His 25-minute set included “Saint Mary Of The Woods”, “See The Elephant”, “Choctaw Bingo”, and “We Can’t Make It Here”.
James McMurtry
James McMurtry

Tom Freund @ Mother Egan’s
“Tom Freund has an impressive resume. He has played in a duo with Ben Harper, toured with The Silos and has references such as Graham Parker (who calls Freund, next to Lucinda Williams, his favorite working songwriter) and Victoria Williams praising his work. Copper Moon is Freund's third full-length release, and the record is a culmination of Waitsian jive and SoCal singer-songwriter fare with a stubborn pop sophistication. [...] Freund's voice is somewhere between a rougher-around-edges version of Josh Rouse and a more forceful Joe Henry. Lyrically, he falls between Rouse and Henry as well.” - Zach Peterson, Rockzillaworld
Tom Freund’s usual planning for SXSW involved calling up a few friends to see who else would be in town and meeting up with them on stage. While this has resulted in some great spontaneous performances, his approach was different this time. With a short tour under their belts, his band (“they turn anger into art”) with Ben Peeler on lap steel and Chris Lovejoy on drums delivered a very convincing set. Highlights: “Copper Moon” and a funky version of “For What It’s Worth”.
Tom Freund
Tom Freund
Tom Freund

Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 @ Mother Egan’s
“Wynn continues his recent streak of making neo-classic rock, a blend of open-highway alt-country and back-alley punk.” – Magnet
Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 managed to improve their SXSW 2005 track record – this year they could be seen (or heard on the radio) 10 times. By now the place was packed and and the band delivered another high-energy set:
“Bruises”, “Cindy It Was Always You”, “The Deep End”, “Killing Me” and “Amphetamine”.
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3

Walter Tragert @ Mother Egan’s
“Flying well below Austin's critical radar, Walter Tragert's Lousy With Desire is a tribute to his seldom-noted talents. With a wry, acerbic flair for words and a voice well suited to the bluesy organ that sometimes accompanies him, Tragert's songs are so impressively crafted it makes one wonder where he's been keeping himself.” – Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle
A robust yet unremarkable performance by Walter Tragert and his band, which included “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb on guitar and Ron Flynt on bass and piano.
Walter Tragert
Walter Tragert

Jon Dee Graham @ Mother Egan’s
“A master songwriter and guitarist, Graham has created in [The Great Battle] a tale of truth and hope.” - Austin Chronicle
Jon Dee Graham was running a bit late – the soundcheck for the Music Awards show over at the Austin Music Hall had taken longer than planned, but his set was certainly worth the wait. Today’s band was different from the night before and featured Andrew Duplantis on bass and John Chipman on drums. The set: “Tie A Knot”, “Swept Away”, “I Don’t Feel That Way”, “World So Full”, “October”, and “Something Wonderful”. For the final song (“Big Sweat Life”), Jon Dee handed his guitar over to Marcus Rubio and left the stage to have a smoke… The 17-year old did a decent job with the song…
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham + Marcus Rubio
Jon Dee Graham

Glen Phillips @ Opal Divine’s Freehouse
“As always, Phillips’ songwriting is top-notch. Producer Neilson Hubbard (Garrison Starr, Kate York) has built on the acoustic sound Phillips has become known for without going overboard with unnecessary bells and whistles. These songs speak for themselves and Phillips trademark vocals shine throughout [Mr. Lemons].” – WayCoolMusic.net
Glen Philips declined requests for old Toad The Wet Sprocket songs and focused on stripped down versions of his solo material. The low-key set also included a nice version of „Between The Bars“ (Elliott Smith).
Glen Philips
Glen Philips

Gina Villalobos @ Opal Divine’s Freehouse
"Anyone who was seduced by Kathleen Edwards' recent Failer should be bowled over by this even stronger singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. [...] Villalobos has the restlessness of the most moving country music but she combines it with a rock spirit that's always forthright and never forced." - Jason Gross, Harp Magazine
I had listened to a few of her songs on Gina Villalobos' Myspace page, and had liked what I had heard. For this show she didn’t bring her full band and was only accompanied by a guitar player and pedal steel. She reminded me more of a rootsier version of Garrison Starr than Kathleen Edwards, but nevertheless she's someone to watch.
Gina Villalobos
Gina Villalobos
Gina Villalobos

Gumbi Ortiz & The Latino Projekt were finishing off their set at Yard Dog when I arrived there. Their percussive latin sounds were infectious and a welcome detour from what I had heard so far today.
Gumbi Ortiz and the Latino Projekt

Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 @ Yard Dog
“Wynn has come up with a new set of songs about obsession, edginess, pain and the fear of pain, immersion in life’s brutal necessity, and running away from suffering. With that type of subject matter, the music might as well hammer itself into tiny, massively powerful pieces. [...] Highlights here are many, but the group is at it’s best on the two-part album closer “No impressive Tomorrow”, a monster of a guitar extravaganza and the closest thing to hope heard on the record.” – Steve Pick, No Depression
The Yard Dog Art Gallery is always a cool place to see a band, well, at least if you are in the front row. “Death Valley Rain” started off my second Wynn show of the day (and the second of three they played on this Wednesday), followed by “There Will Come A Day”, “No Tomorrow” (which drove the audience into a frenzy), “Bruises”, “Wild Mercury”, “The Deep End”, and “Tell Me When It’s Over”. The latter half of the show was marred by some persistent issues with the bass amp, but Steve & the Miracle 3 quickly reacted by changing the setlist, closing the show with a fine rendition of “When You Smile”.
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3

Mando Saenz @ Creekside EMC at Capitol Place
“Mando Saenz's Watertown is a solid album, and alternative country fans will enjoy the straightforward production and rootsy arrangements.” - Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr, allmusic.com
At 8pm, the official SXSW showcases were scheduled to begin. I vividly remembered the library-like atmosphere in this room from last year, and wondered whether things would be any different this year. It was hard to tell, because the room was still being set up 5 minutes before showtime. Mando Saenz and band started on time; off stage, lights were still moved into position and switched on. Well, at least one lighting stand with two bright white lights, while the other one was left unused in a corner. Somewhat distracting, for audience and band, but nevertheless Mando delivered a solid performance. Check out some of the songs on his Myspace page.
Mando Saenz
Mando Saenz

Collin Herring @ Exodus
“This impressively talented young Texan defies the cliches and stylistic strictures that all too often plague the music made these days that falls within the netherworld between rock and country. [...] Herring’s song sense is strong enough to stamp it all with his own trademark, creating music that’s both atmospheric and energetic and fulfills the promise of what Americana ought to be.” - Rob Patterson, Harp Magazine
Wow, what a difference two years can make! I had loved Collin Herring’s debut 
Avoiding The Circus, but was not overly impressed by his performance at SXSW 2004. He has since released another notable album (The Other Side Of Kindness), and this show showed considerable growth as a performer. A good sized audience was on hand to witness a tight band with Alan Durham on lead guitar and his dad Ben Roi Herring on keys and pedal steel. Make sure to listen to “Back Of Your Mind”, the lead-off track from his current CD here.
Collin Herring
Collin Herring
Collin Herring
Collin Herring
Collin Herring

Abi Tapia @ BD Riley’s
"In the sensitive singer-songwriters field, a little bit of charm and a knack for melody that goes beyond meditative brooding goes a long, long way. This bodes well for Austin newcomer (by way of New England) Abi Tapia, whose fine Texas debut (and second album to date) [One Foot Out The Door] balances its quieter moments with a refreshing sparkle reminiscent of Terri Hendrix's Wilory Farm or Shawn Colvin at her most unguarded." - Richard Skanse, Texas Music Magazine
BD Riley’s is another hard-to-play venue for singer-songwriters. With the windows open to Sixth Street and its noisy patrons it was hard to hear Abi Tapia over all the commotion. Last year's One Foot Out The Door featured Glenn Fukunaga and Mike Hardwick.  You can listen to a few tracks on Myspace.
Abi Tapia
Abi Tapia
Abi Tapia

Back at the Creekside EMC, Cuff The Duke didn’t do much for me, so I moved on to the 18th floor.
Cuff The Duke

Curt Kirkwood @ The 18th Floor at Capitol Place
“Gone mostly is the speed, noise, and heavy psychedelia that made the Meat Puppets Curt Kirkwood's most famous creation, a college-radio touchstone back in the day. But the man's no casualty. Now living in Austin, his first-ever solo release Snow, (Little Dog), reflects a hard-won peace of mind, although there's room for the occasional 20th-century tweak-out amid the acoustic strains.” – Dan Oko, Austin Chronicle
It had been over 14 years since I had last seen the Meat Puppets, and the scene was certainly much different for this show. Curt Kirkwood played solo acoustic, but he mixed some old Meat Puppets material such as “Comin’ Down” and “Backwater” with songs from his latest solo release.
Curt Kirkwood

Brian Keane @ BD Riley’s
“There is not one hint --- not even the tiniest --- that [I Ain't Even Lonely] is the debut recording of a twentysomething "newcomer." This is polished work, and not the slick, over-produced, computerized pop sorta polish. This is polished as in shining at the peak of possible luster. [...] The music is well-rounded, versatile and handled with great care. The songwriting is a testament that good songwriting truly is an art, a difficult one at that. Keane is a heartfelt, knowing and playful wordsmith.” - Danté Dominick, Rockzillaworld
I continued back and forth along Sixth Street. Brian Keane had brought his band (including Will Sexton and Eldrige Goins) to BD Riley’s and used that firepower to deal much better with room and audience than Abi Tapia a few hours earlier.
Brian Keane

The Silos @ Soho Lounge
“The Silos return with their edgiest, most punchy record since... well... since never before. Not to slight their earlier, beloved material, but When The Telephone Rings is one of their most cohesive and solid releases.” – Miles Of Music
I was ready for another dose of The Silos, but the Soho Lounge proved to be yet another crappy venue with bad sound. The band started off with “Keeping Score”, and continued with more songs from the new album: “Tell Me You Love Me”, “I Won You Won”, Come On Like The Fast Lane”, and “People Are Right”.
The Silos


Leeroy Stagger @ Creekside EMC at Capitol Place
"Taking a page from the Ryan Adams’ songbook — leaving his punk-roots behind to pick up an acoustic guitar and mellow out as a singer-songwriter — Stagger has been blazing his own musical trail since his Six Tales of Danger EP was released in 2002.” - David McPherson, Exclaim
I was very happy to see that Leeroy Stagger had brought a full band along. He is certainly worth checking out even when he plays solo shows, but the band did add another dimension to the sound. Check out a few songs on Myspace.
Leeroy Stagger
Leeroy Stagger

Matt Mays & El Torpedo @ Creekside EMC at Capitol Place
“On [Matt Mays & El Torpedo], his sophomore solo album, the singer has utilized an almost pristine balance — fusing at times the jagged, loud garage rock of Neil Young into a tighter, more polished Tom Petty format. This gorgeous combination makes it easily one of the more impressive albums you'll hear, exemplified to a T on the rollicking opener, "Stand Down at Sundown." The nearly six-minute track grabs you by the throat and dares you not to hit the replay button time and time again […]. An hourlong album that will take you three hours to listen to.” - Jason MacNeil, allmusic.com
“Matt Mays & The Torpedos” (how the MC introduced the band), had a stellar year since playing SXSW last year: “Cocaine Cowgirl” became the third-most played song on Canadian Rock Radio in 2005, and opened for Blue Rodeo and stayed on the road for most of the time. Their set included a few new unreleased tracks, plus El Topedo material such as “Travellin’”, “What Are We Gonna Do Come The Month Of September”, “Move Your Mind”, “Stand Down At Sundown” and “Cocaine Cowgirl”.
Matt Mays & El Torpedo
Matt Mays & El Torpedo
Matt Mays & El Torpedo
Matt Mays & El Torpedo Matt Mays & El Torpedo


All photos (c) Steffen Paulus 2006

< Previous 
2006  /  Photoindex  /  Home Next >