The sun was out again on Thursday morning, and I was looking forward to
another superb afternoon party! The St. Louis Twangfest
Festival organizers had always put on good parties during SXSW over the
last few years, but this time they had a perfect line-up. And, unlike
other parties, the bands actually got a chance to play for 40-45
Magnolia Summer @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
goes into an album that feels
timeless? Sonics, certainly, and Levers and Pulleys brims with all the right touches, from
the plangent hum of electric guitars and their underlying textual bed
of gently strummed acoustics, to the old-chum familiarity of Chris
Grabau's vocals, to the instrumental nuances (violin, E-bow, Hammond
organ, even sitar and mellotron) that simultaneously lend an old-time
tone and a vibe that's sunshiny and psychedelic - The Band meets the
Jayhawks, maybe.” – Fred Mills, No Depression
I arrived at Jovita’s at noon, just when Magnolia
Summer started their
set, which turned out to be perfect “morning music”. Great melodies
with just the right amount of crunchiness, quite similar to fellow St.
Louis acts Wagon or Nadine.
Richmond Fontaine @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
“Formed in 1995, this
quartet has five time-honored bittersweet country rock albums under its
belt. Their 2004 El Cortez release, Post to Wire, produced by J.D. Foster, features their
love for Hüsker Dü, Willie Nelson, and X.” – Jim Caligiuri,
I had at always liked Richmond Fontaine on CD, but the
one time I had
seen them at SXSW in 1999, their show had left much to be desired. I
guess they had an off-night back then, because today I thoroughly
set, especially the “Song For Dead Moon”.
Trish Murphy @ D&L’s Texas Music Cafe
“She spent most of
last year gigging
with gal pals Kacy Crowley and Renee Woodward as Braless (now
rechristened the New Hot Damn), but Trish Murphy solo is no slouch.
2003's Girls Get in Free
flows with nostalgic reflections on her Houston childhood and stoic
testimonials of her hard-won inner peace.” – Christopher Gray, Austin
Just before 2pm, I made a quick dash over to the Texas Music
Cafe to see Trish Murphy perform under the big tree in the back
yard, along with Rafael Gayol on drums and Mike Moyer on bass.
featured quite a few songs from Girls Get In Free, which is about to be
re-released with full global distribution, as well as older songs such
as “Relentless” and “Outsider”.
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
Jovita’s had significantly filled up by the time I
returned for my
third Steve Wynn set in as many days. Austin Chronicle critic Jim
Caligiuri wrote about this show: “Those who haven’t seen yet seen Steve
Wynn & The Miracle 3 might find this hard to believe, but in this
writer’s opinion they’re the best rock band in town this week.”
The set: “What Comes After”, “Strange New World”,
“Burn”, “Death Valley
Rain”, a new song called “Deep End”, “That’s What You
Always Say”, “Amphetamine”. They got a fantastic reception and had to
come back for an encore (“Days Of Wine & Roses”).
Bottle Rockets @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
I had not planned on sticking around to see the Bottle
Rockets for the
second time in less than 24 hours, but by now Jovita’s was so crowded
that there was little chance of getting back in for Calexico’s set
later on. Brian Henneman joked that they had played the "Duluth Ice
Fishing contest” the day before. “Indianapolis” started the set, which
featured quite a few songs not played the previous night such as “Get
Down, River”, and ended with “I’m Not That Kat Anymore”.
Calexico @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
sweeping vistas of their Southwest home, drawing on spaghetti Westerns,
Latin influences, Fifties jazz, country rock, and surf. They
collaborate with such disparate artists as Nancy Sinatra and Iron &
Wine and played a big part in the upcoming Los Super Seven project.” –
Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
After a Giant Sand concert almost ten years ago, Joey Burns had given
me a cassette tape with a photocopied cover that said Superstition Highway, and I had
been following Calexico’s progress ever since. However, for a number of
reasons I had not been able to see them in recent years, so this show
was a perfect opportunity to see Joey, John Convertino and the rest of
the band in action again.
By now the venue was completely packed, with
many people listening to the show from the parking lot. The band
delivered a fantastic set, capping it off with “Corona”.
dinner I stopped briefly at Antone’s on my way to Sixth Street.
The Duhks played their folky blend of
styles, but I was ready for some slightly louder sound by now, and
continued on to Flamingo Cantina, which was an official SXSW venue for
the first time this year. Kissinger were just finishing their set
when I arrived.
Southern Bitch @ Flamingo Cantina
“Musically […] the
band has shifted
direction, closing the gap between their aggressive live shows and
their roots-ish past. 'The band has really come into its own and has a
unique sound, I think now,' explains guitarist Wendy Musick. 'It's gone
more in a rock direction and is a little less country… a little less
twangy.' […] But for now, Southern Bitch remains one of the most solid
rock bands in Athens.” - Will Brooks, Flagpole Magazine
Fresh from a stint opening for the Drive-By Truckers,
came to Austin to deliver a very convincing show. Their sound is can be
compared to Raging Slab, but with much stronger songs. Check out one of
them here on their SXSW page.
Southern Bitch finished early, and next door at Bigsby’s
things were running late, with Magnolia Summer
still playing to a
half-empty room when I arrived.
Milton Mapes @ Bigsby’s
songwriter Greg Vanderpool's
frequent references to windswept deserts, lonesome sunsets, and
blood-stained river rocks only emphasize the cosmic insignificance of
mankind's endeavors – except for the price they exact on the soul. His
characters drift aimlessly through the songs, looking for a way out of
their dead-end lives but finding only empty rooms and emptier bottles.
Musically, the scenery gradually shifts between the Nebraska-like
austerity of "Bowie AZ" to the early Crazy Horse stagger of "When the
Earth's Last Picture Is Painted," as the subtle variations in mood and
tone match the forlorn tenor of the lyrics.” – Christopher Gray, Austin
Last year I had seen Greg Vanderpool perform solo, and was eager to see
him perform with the full band, based on the strength of their CD Westernaire. It might have been the
sound, or the fact that the band essentially played in the dark, but I
left the show somewhat under-whelmed. I’ll give them another chance
The Reputation @ Friends
“Led by former Sarge guitarist/vox
Elizabeth Elmore, the Reputation combines tough guitar with melodic
pop, but it's the ebullience and vulnerability in Elmore's voice that
sets the Chicago quartet apart.” – Greg Beets, Austin Chronicle.
Sometimes things go wrong. It’s just bad luck if they
go wrong during your 40 minute SXSW showcase. Ten minutes into The
Reputation’s set, a
tuning peg fell out Elizabeth Elmore’s guitar. After it was “fixed”, it
fell out again. Then the keyboard plummeted into the audience. And
finally, during their last song, there was power outage.
All this made
it hard to focus on the music, but when they actually played, they
sounded quite good. Check out a song here.
I stopped briefly at the Hard Rock Café
where Australian guitar virtuoso Jeff Lang played
solo, before continuing on to the Crowne Plaza.
Nini Camps @ The Lounge at Crowne Plaza
“Nini Camps [is] a
with a looped guitar who recently finished touring with Los Lonely
Boys. Born in Miami, she now calls NYC home and brings together these
two urban streams into heartfelt, tropically spiced, urban-fueled power
folk.” - David Lynch, Austin Chronicle
I dreaded going back to the Lounge, but last year I had
seen Nini Camps
in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the sober surroundings,
she delivered a very enjoyable show. Nini was backed by Will Sexton on
bass and Nina Singh on drums, who provided a solid base for her
fantastic guitar work
Tegan & Sara @ Eternal
“These Canadian twin
sisters and band
of swarthy back-ups specialize in nongrating folk punk. The ladies,
barely in their 20s, released third LP, So Jealous (Vapor), last year.” – Melanie Haupt,
I managed to squeeze into Eternal just before the line
too long. It was good to see the twins again; since I had seen them
last two years ago, they had expanded their band by an additional
guitar player, which resulted in a much fuller sound. A fun show which
featured many songs from their latest release. If you don't know the
band yet, listen to a song on their SXSW page.
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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2005