SXSW2000: 8 Days, 54 shows
The first day of the SXSW2000 Music festival - so what was new? More "acts", almost 1000. This was made possible by adding more DJ-type acts, which typically perform shorter sets and don't need 20 minutes to set up. Obviously this does not necessarily improve the overall quality of the festival and it makes it even harder to find the "Nuggets" in the ever-growing list of band bios...
Prices for wristbands reached a whopping $75 this year...
Some of the "old", traditional venues had closed throughout last year - Liberty Lunch, Steamboat and Electric Lounge were all gone. Well, at least the E-Lounge made a comeback for the festival as the "Gallery Lombardi Lounge". Several of the new venues are a disgrace for a music-loving city like Austin and a festival like SXSW. The Blind Pig Pub or Lucy's make the appropriately-named Hole In The Wall look and sound like an opera house.
Also, some of the venues were blessed with incompetent stage managers + soundmen: at some venues the change-over took much longer than the scheduled 20 minutes due to technical difficulties, and the stage managers weren't as effective at enforcing the timeslots, which can really screw up your schedule for the night if you are planning on club-hopping. Especially when some of the clubs are not within walking distance. Maybe the organizers should think about organizing shuttle buses between Sixth Street and some of the other clubs.
Having said all that, SXSW remains the musical highlight of the year, with plenty of brilliant shows. So, let's start with the first day, which offers the "Austin Music Awards" and showcases at about half of the SXSW venues...
The Boondogs @ Hole In The Wall
"Smarter Than Some, the debut record from the boondogs, defines a band that defies category. With 14 songs of intelligent songwriting, americana traditions, and engaging arrangements, the boondogs create a sound that is at once both familiar and baffling -- all within the framework of a four piece rock and roll band. The between the old and the new in a band--and album--that is forward thinking while nodding to those who came before them." (Band webpage)
The Boondogs from Little Rock, Arkansas recently won a $250,000 recording contract competition for "best song" on Garageband.com (against 1000 bands). They started off with a few solid, but average Roots-Pop songs. Things improved when Cindy Grotto changed from bass to acoustic guitar and took over lead vocals. Well-crafted songs, and nice melodies.
Lisa Richards @ Speakeasy
"A New York-based Australian native who spent many hours honing her craft on the East Village songwriting scene, Lisa Richard released her self-titled debut in 1997 to rave reviews in Billboard, among others. She has since relocated to Austin where she is finishing her next album with producers Mitch Watkins (Abra Moore) and Gina Fant-Saez and touring with her band." (SXSW band intro)
Squeaky voice, syrupy Pop songs. The set didn't go anywhere, so we did - to the next club...
Diana Darby @ Cue Lounge
"Pretty music to commit suicide by" is how one fan recently described the songs of Diana Darby. Influenced by equal parts Steve Earle and Patti Smith, Diana takes her listeners on a rickety carnival ride in the dark. She will be bringing "Naked Time", her just completed debut CD, to SXSW2000 in hopes of learning how best to promote her odes to teen angst and anti-depressants -- from the POV of the anti-depressant to the world." (SXSW Band info)
"Haunting image-poetry, austere instrumentation, and the absence of an attempt at indie cred combine to create some of the creepiest, most lonesome, most achingly yearning music in years." (listen.com)
Diana's dark and intimate songs were lost at this fairly spacious, well-lit place. Listening to her depressing lullabies made me sleepy...
Richard Buckner @ Gallery Lombardi Lounge
"If there were any justice in this world, Richard Buckner would be on top of the charts and Christina Aguilera would be working in a box factory. Alas, the nomadic Northern Californian is too honest, too raw, too ... too ... too depressing for superstardom (and a bit too old for teen stardom). Despair has never sounded so moving and powerful" -- Michael Bertin (Austin Chronicle)
Five years ago at SXSW a friend urged me to see Richard Buckner @ Waterloo Records and I have been a fan ever since. As always, a very intense affair and clearly the first highlight of the festival. Richard's band consisted of his wife Peggy Jo on drums and Eric Heywood on Pedal Steel.
For the second part of the show, he was joined by Alejandro and members of his band, who came directly from the Austin Music Awards where they had played the Sterling Morrison tribute set with John Cale. Richard and Al played one song together, but as Peggy Jo was missing (and the drummer's seat was deserted), Richard went off to look for his wife and Al took over...
Jeff Klein & This Beautiful Mess @ Antone's
Having heard Jeff on the radio while driving in Austin last year, I was glad to see he had a slot at SXSW this year. I was even more impressed when I saw the line-up of his band: Scott Garber on bass, Mike Hardwick on guitar, plus keyboards, cello + drums. Jeff has released a 6-song CD so far, with a new full-length CD almost ready. Jeff's voice is somewhat similar to Jacob Dylan's, the music is similarly relaxed, with enough of an edge to make it interesting. The sound at the near-empty Antone's sucked, but the band did not. A remarkable way to end Day 1.
Troy Young Campbell, Damon Bramblett, Ana Egge, Jo Carol Pierce, Prescott Curlywolf, Sarah Harmer (Weeping Tile), Trish Murphy, American Paint, Mount Pilot, Damnations TX, Richmond Fontaine, Slobberbone, Will Sexton, Peter Bruntnell, The Gourds
Show count: 23 ...