Sixth Street in Austin on Saturday night. Chaos reigns!
Bruce Springsteen and Eric Burdon © Brooks Frank :
Saturday is ‘see what you can see’ day. Whatever’s left that you didn’t see on Tues-Fri, you try to see today.
We actually slept late and had an actual, non-hotel breakfast for a change at a diner in the S. First St area, which also put us in very close proximity for the second day of “Yard Dogging” on S Congress.
Today’s lineup included: Garland Jeffries, Chuck Prophet, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard, and Ian McLagen and the Bump Band. All were very good – its just a pleasure to hang out in that space and see these acts up close. Prophet played selections from his recent SF themed album, Langford was Langford – profane and witty as ever, and McLagen is a bundle of energy with the same enthusiasm as when he was in the Faces, way back when.
We’ve discovered that Saturday night line-ups are relatively weak compared to Thurs-Fri, and this year was no exception. So between that and general fatigue setting in, we kept our range fairly close to the hotel. Saw Justin Townes Earle at Stubb’s and then spent the rest of the evening at the Red Eyed Fly for the Bloodshot evening showcase. All the same acts I had just seen at the Dog on Thurs afternoon: Wacos, Lydia Loveless, JC Brooks. All were good (again) but the sets were different and longer. Still, as good as they were, the three of us were definitely feeling the effects of the marathon week and were having trouble staying focused and enthused.
We took a final stroll down Sixth but only got about a block before the wall to wall sea of people forced us to the side streets. Certainly attributable to the confluence of St Patrick’s Day, Spring Break, ‘Saturday Night’, and last but not least, SXSW.
So that’s a wrap on the wraps for SXSW 2012. As usual it’s a marathon not a sprint – full of great moments, performances and energy. Yet there are also the disappointments of lackluster shows, endurance of over-crowded, over-heated venues and frustration of not being able to see everything you wanted to see. But the bottom line is that it’s a great getaway to be able to spend a few days in the Music Capital of the World, immersed in the music (good AND bad) and to share a lot of laughs and good times with old friends.
Gotta go. It’s time to board United flight 6477 to SFO.
If yesterday was “Bruce” day, then today is “hodgepodge” day. No clear plan whatsoever.
After the usual rubber breakfast we headed to the convention center to see if we could score “Express Passes” for this evening’s Jack White show. These limited number of passes can get you preferred access to any one venue each night. Unfortunately the “Stages on Sixth” were already gone by the time we got there. So it looked like it was going to be tough to get into that venue for sure.
Saw a brief solo show in the SXSW Day Stage by Gary Clark Jr. Very tasty well done stuff. Richard caught him later in the day with his full band and declared him the second coming of Jimi.
Met an old friend from high school who now lives in Austin and we spent the day on S, Congress. Saw the Mercy Bros from Lafayette, La at the Bug Music party, then moved on to the big Bloodshot show at the Yard Dog Gallery – a small back yard that always has good music and good vibes. All the Bloodshot artists KILLED today! Newcomer Lydia Loveless belted out her brand of country punk, then Rosie Flores took the stage and raised her performance several levels from what I had just seen a couple of nights earlier. She threw out some amazing rockabilly/surf licks from her turquoise, tricked out Telecaster. The crowd even brought her back for an encore which rarely happens there. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – forget about it! This guy and his crack band are the reincarnation of Otis Redding, Sly Stone, and James Brown all in one. Check him OUT! He should have been at the NPR show – would wiped the floor with the Alabama Shakes!
I can’t even begin to describe the Waco Bros performance except that it was totally out of control, masterminded as usual by wild man Jon Langford. If I told you that 70-something Bill Kirchen – in a cameo appearance – punked out and ripped the strings off of his Tele would you believe it? Naahhhhhh.
Ultimately, none of us got into Jack White which appeared was actually going to be a Raconteurs show since Brendan Benson was in town. Bummer – their second album was one of the best of 2010. Instead we saw Peter Case and Paul Collins rock the Continental Club with tunes from their past groups – Plimsouls, Beat, Nerves and others. A LOT of fun was had by all. AND we got to stand in the FRONT row.
Closed the night out at an insanely over crowded venue to see Dinosaur Jr pummel the crowd with their unique brand of sonic overdrive, spearheaded by J Mascis’ triple Marshall stack and Fender Jaguar. A mosh pit of fun was had by some.
I’m BEAT – literally. Good night/morning.
Paul Collins and Peter Case:
Had a LOT of trouble getting up this morning after our 3am dinner. Needed to be in the buffet room for the free hotel breakfast by 9:30am. OUCH!
So today was BRUCE day and we had no idea if any of us would win lottery tix for the Springsteen concert OR even get into the keynote speech at noon. Our Badge access would get us into the conference center but had no idea how long the line would be. Questions, Questions, Questions.
After downing some crappy hotel coffee and something that resembled scrambled eggs we pondered our expectations for the day.
Answers started to come in: Richard received an email notifying him that he did NOT get a ticket, but he was also waiting on help from connections he had inside Sony. Next came MY email – CONGRATULATIONS! I was shocked as I really wasn’t expecting to get in. Larry was still waiting – nothing – and waiting and waiting. Meanwhile Richard still hadn’t heard from the insiders – angst was starting to set in. Soon Richard got the email he was waiting for – he would get in.
No more waiting around – it was 10am, time to line up for the Bruce keynote. They had a supersize ballroom this time so getting in was not a problem. Ran into my old friend Dave while waiting and we exchanged our good luck with scoring Bruce concert tix. Bruce gave a very thorough speech about personal creativity and his own journey through music – funny and inspirational.
1pm, it was time to pick up the tix and wristbands to secure entry for the concert. Larry went along and asked if there was a record of his registration and his status – there was and he was IN! So we had our unexpected trifecta of Bruce tix.
That was enough stress for one day so we veg’d for the rest of the afternoon with a pickup dinner from the massive Austin Whole Foods flagship store.
Fast forward to the show:
Low Anthem opened – I found them tedious and a little annoying. The crowd, not so much.
Second was a brief 30 min set from the ubiquitous Alejandro Escovedo who seems to be everywhere, all the time. Rockin’ as you would expect, and some new tunes from an upcoming album.
Finally the Boss at 9:30. A typical tour deforce (of nature) for a solid 2 1/2 hours. Lots of new, but some great classics, too – Badlands, Thunder Road, E St Shuffle, to name a few. The 17 piece band was as tight as you would expect and the crowd at the 2,700 seat Austin City Limits/Moody Theatre was out of their minds for the entire 150 minutes. Bruce was obviously thrilled to be playing a much smaller than normal venue – he even did a little stage diving into the crowd. Not bad for a 62 year old.
A few guest appearances of note: Tom Morello, Jimmy Cliff and Eric Burton (who Bruce had praised as an influence earlier in the day).
A mind blowing time was had by all.
Note: the keynote speech is archived at NPR.org.
That’s all folks.
Day 3 Morning :
“I am SHOCKED. I won a lottery ticket for Bruce tonight. YOO HOO!!” Hello Brooks Frank
SXSW PRESENTS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND ACL Live at the Moody Theater Thursday, March 15th at 7pm (Doors at 6pm)
After scarfing down free hotel buffet b’fast we swung by the convention center to check out the trade show. Very disappointing – usually at least half of which was music related in the past is now 90% Internet/techie stuff. They also have a “gear” show, but it’s very small and not well represented.
On to the day shows:
Went to Antone’s for the Pandora party to see the Heartless Bastards who my friends told me put on a great live show. They got about 2 minutes into the first tune (sounding GREAT) and the stage power went out. Turns out that the club had hired an outside generator to supplement their power for some reason and it RAN OUT OF GAS. Insane! So the ‘Bastards’ played a literally unplugged set and everyone went away happy. Still need to see them in full blown electric mode though – maybe tomorrow night.
Next caught Brendan Benson in a small, too hot bar. He’s half of the songwriting team in the Raconteurs with Jack White and a talented performer in his own right. Put on a solid set of power pop mostly from his upcoming album. He really deserves to be better known.
The next plan was to see Titus Andromicus and Cloud Nothings, but after standing in a non-moving line for far too long we decided to call it an afternoon and catch a few winks back at the hotel before the evening festivities began. Wed evening was a mixed bag of ups and downs. My friends decided to spend the evening at the NPR showcase @ Stubb’s BBQ. I took in the first couple of acts, opening with Fiona Apple playing her first show in over 7 years. Very impressive performance with an A-class band. I would see her again in a minute. Next up was the much hyped Sharon Van Etten. Not sure what the hype is about, it was a fairly lackluster show and the tunes weren’t all that interesting.
I left early to catch Sleepy Sun at Buffalo Billiards. This SF psychedelic band has all the moves and sounds DOWN. it’s time to see them on their home turf. Nice to see this new wave of psychedelia making a comeback. It’s big here in Austin, too. They now have an annual “Psych-Fest”. Would love to come to THAT.
Afterwards I returned to Stubb’s to catch the Alabama Shakes, who were hyped as a high energy soul/blues band. The soul/blues was there, but not the high energy. The lead in the band has a ton of potential, but she needs a new band.
I could have (should have) stayed for Andrew Bird, but opted to see a band called “The Big Sleep” elsewhere. Big mistake – they had one beat and one riff and they played it to death for 40 minutes. At the end of the night I heard that Bird was great. Oh, well …
Went to Magnolia Cafe for LATE 3am dinner, and that’s ‘all she wrote’ for Day 2 – SXSW
Heartless Bastards at Antone’s for day show. Power went out and had to go unplugged. Will have to catch them again later this week
After a 2 hour delay leaving SFO I finally arrived in Austin around 7 pm. My friends Richard & Larry picked me up and we sped into town just in time for me to pick up my conference Badge, register for the Springsteen tix lottery, and put my bags down in the room. We instantly headed up Red River St to see a budding jazz-rock band called Bee vs. Moth – entertaining, but they could use some work.
It’s only Tuesday and downtown Austin is already crammed – especially the typically chaotic Sixth St.
Next up, an up and coming local punkish/rock trio with lots of buzz, “Ume”. Fronted by a young female singer/guitarist they never lacked energy. On the other hand most of their songs were pretty indistinguished. The packed venue loved them.
Moved on to Frank, a hot dog restaurant, to see the ageless Rosie Flores. She rocked the joint with her own brand of rockabilly/surf energy. Played a few tunes from an upcoming album for the first time. Worth seeing next time she visits your town.
She was followed by Dash Rip Rock, a hard rockin’ paycho-billy trio from Louisiana. Very entertaining with a definite ZZ Top influence. I was exhausted after half of their 40 min set.
Closed out day 1 with an indie favorite, Built to Spill. The outdoor venue was packed with “Spill-heads” who were on top of every meandering solo and tempo change. A ‘jammy’ band somewhere between Phish and Radiohead, they have a lot of presence and technique. Probably more enjoyable if you know their music ahead of time.
Ended the evening with a spicy BBQ sausage sandwich from one of the MANY food trucks scattered around downtown.
… and that’s just day ONE
Built to Spill:
Our friend Brooks Frank will be sending us daily dispatches from SXSW Music in Austin this week.