in 1995 when I first came to Austin for SXSW the Music Festival started
on Thursday night. Over time more and more showcases and parties were
added on the Wednesday and this year Tuesday night had showcases at
about 40 venues. Since 1996 the "Swollen Circus" hosted by had been the
traditional Tuesday event to get together with friends before the
madness started, but Walter Salas-Humara and Michael Hall decided to
take a break this year given the overlap with the festival.
gritty tunes, some as sweet as honeysuckle and others ferociously
jagged [...] reminiscent of Levon Helm, Neil Young and the Allman
Brothers, but they still boldly radiated a sound and southern charm all
their own” -- Kalene McCort, Metromix Orlando
Clearly organizers weren't ready at 7:45pm when I arrived at Empire
Auto / Club 606, a compound which hosted three venues, fed by a single
entrance. However, given the lack of signs there were plenty of people
running up and down the sidewalk trying to figure out how to get in. By
the time I made it in and found the right venue Thomas Wynn & The
Believers had already started their set. Loud, energetic with lots of
soul - not a bad way to kick things off. And, as I usually whine about
the lack of decent light at SXSW it should be stated for the record
that the lights were great at this particular venue.
Audio: Thomas Wynn & The Believers - Brothers & Sisters (SXSW event page)
Video from SXSW 2011
the sound is bigger than a folk record, the dark lyrics are wrapped in
familiar Americana. The instrumentation is meticulous—nothing sounds
out-of-place, especially the aching pedal steel, which is used with
remarkable restraint." - Kate Kiefer, Paste Magazine
The schedule was very convenient - Club 606 was just meters away
and clearly was the hottest (as in Sauna-hot) venue this year. I wasn't
familiar with Joshua James before hearing his song "Coal War" as part
of the SXSW audio Torrent. Nevertheless, a single good song doesn't
gurantee a good live performance, but in this case I was pleasantly
surprised. If you like AA Bondy, you'll enjoy Joshua James.
Audio: Joshua James - Coal War (SXSW Event Page)
Video: 3 Songs from a show in August 2011
"Arrow is a rock & roll album that hits harder and straighter than The Mountain[...].
From a musical standpoint, this is the most accomplished, ambitious,
and well-crafted music the Heartless Bastards have created to date, but
while this album sounds more polished than their previous work (it's
still far from slick), the heart and the soul of this music still lies
in Wennerstrom's powerful vocals and evocative songwriting. [...] Arrow
finds the Heartless Bastards working on a broader and more colorful
canvas than they have in the past, but the images are still as honest
and haunting as ever, and Arrow
is a brave and powerful work from an artist who isn't about to give up
on her vision, regardless of where it takes her." - Mark Deming,
I had seen the band just a few weeks
ago in Toronto, but I wanted to experience them in a more intimate
setting. Intimate and hot is what I got. With even more people crammed
into the tiny room than during Joshua James' set, the temperature rose
even more, and the Bastards did their best to heat things up even more
with a tight set that included five songs from Arrow ("Parted Ways", "Got To Have Rock And Roll", "Simple Feeling", "Only For You", "Late In The Night") with "Sway" from The Mountain closing the set.
Audio: Listen to Arrow on the Heartless Bastards website.
Video of "Parted Ways" from this show.
"Climactic guitar-centric trio from Taiwan, epic and fun, not grand and weighty." - Bob Boilen, NPR
schedule for this evening wasn't overly busy, leaving time to see some
of the bands that had impressed me with the MP3 they had posted on
their SXSW listing. I'm usually not a fan of Instrumentals, but "Those
Forgotten" sounded intriguing, so I managed to see the last couple of
songs of their set. Would've loved to hear more, but this was their one
and only performance during the festival.
Audio: Silverbus - Those Forgotten (SXSW Event page)
Video: A short snippet from the show can be found here.
"Fans of catchy,
nuanced local indie-pop got quite a jolt of bad news last year when
Fort Worth's Calhoun announced their impending breakup, or at least a
long hiatus, complete with a "farewell show" and everything. But the
disappointment was tempered only a few months later with the news that
frontman Tim Locke and guitarist Jordan Roberts, the two remaining
original members, were heading to the studio with producer Jim Barber
(Ryan Adams, Courtney Love)." - Jesse Hughey, Dallas Observer
The 11pm slot was especially bare in my schedule. But thanks to Calhoun
it wasn't a complete write-off, despite the crappy venue with the
by-the-front-door "stage", and a bar full of confused regulars not
interested in Calhoun's pure power-pop.
Audio: Calhoun - Knife Fight (SXSW Event Page)
trio that knocked me out at SXSW was Amplified Heat - Hispanic-American
brothers Jim, Gian and Chris Ortiz on guitar and vocals, bass and
vocals, and drums respectively - who destroyed a smaller crowd than
they deserved with boogie-war vengeance. Rock dreams that quickly came
to mind: Stevie Ray Vaughan fronting the Groundhogs; ZZ Top with Blue
Cheer running in their veins." - David Fricke, Rolling Stone
I usually wait until later in the week to
see the heavier, harder-rocking bands for when a certain fatigue sets
in, but again my Tuesday schedule had a few holes that needed to be
plugged. The Main used to be the Main Room of the legendary Emo's which
closed down in this location at the end of last year. The venue was
resurrected for a few days during the festival, and it certainly
brought back a lot of memories to be back in this room. Not too many
people showed for this showcase, but the band delivered a tight and
Audio on the Amplified Heat webpage
Video from SXSW 2009.
"The Cincinnati quartet's brand of punk is raucous, melodic, and leaves a mark. Strawberry's
more electronic than previous output – check out the fuzz on "Asteroid"
– but there's a taut stateliness to what Wussy does, recalling the
Mekons. Chuck Cleaver of Nineties wiseacres the Ass Ponys matches his
Jon Langford to Lisa Walker's Sally Timms blow for blow." - Jim
Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
I had seen
Wussy during SXSW 2006 and had not been overly impressed. This time
they were a bit more focused, so I hung around for a good portion of
their set before moving on to my final stop of the night.
Audio: Wussy - Pulverized (SXSW Event Page)
Video: Wussy appearing at the Twangfest at Jovita's during SXSW 2012
connecting the dots between the chugging side of Neil Young and the
slightly warped alterna-pop of the Flaming Lips, Built to Spill
continue releasing some of the most affecting, beguiling indie rock of
the 2000s." - John Bush, allmusic.com
been long lines outside the Belmont earlier in the evening, but as the
venue was on my way back to the hotel I decided to see whether I might
be able to get in. Luckily there was no line, so I got to end my day
with a somewhat unexpected treat. The band was in fine form and
continued to play until they were told to stop by the club. It was
2:30am when I finally made it back to the hotel - so much for my slow
Video from this show.
Continue to next day...
(c) Steffen Paulus 2012