Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gimme More: SXSW 2009 (Wednesday & Thursday)

I was going to lead off with how important music is to me and how critical it is to my sanity and creativity but I really just want to get to the music so .. let's do this:

SXSW 2009 as heard through the ears of yours truly.

Wednesday night.
The goal was Echo and the Bunnymen at Emo's main room. I'd had a beer earlier at the Thirsty Nickel and watched a few songs by Boston frat rock band Lansdowne. Not awful. Not remarkable. They even had their fan base in front- college-ish looking guys in plaid shorts and golf shirts raising their Bud Lights in the air.
Unfortunately, I didn't make it into the show at Emo's. The long line of badge holders continued to grow as we wristbanders could only look on with scowling faces. But I learned an important lesson:
Learn what you can from your line buddies. I became line buddies with 4-5 people that night. We compared notes on past shows and what SXSW acts we planned to see (provided we could get in of course). It was as much a part of the experience as watching the bands themselves- and you can learn a lot.

I headed straight to Red 7 for the Found/Quack Media Party. (Found Magazine - go there. Wonder if you'll ever recognize something form your past. Dismiss it. Laugh it off. And find yourself checking the site on a semi-regular basis. Or maybe that's just me).

There I caught the end of the Hard Lessons' sweat inducing set. I need a second shot at these guys. They put on an energetic stage show and the guitarist/vocalist was the first of several acts to incorporate the tent supports into the act (he hung his guitar by its strap from one of the metal beams and let it play while he crawled like monkey above the crowd.
Lucero and the Hold Steady followed. I enjoyed Lucero quite a bit- but I'm still needing to be sold on the Hold Steady. The enthusiasm of the crowd is causing some dissonance with my perception of the band- why am I not into them?

Leaving the Red 7, I lingered at Emo's annex for Micachu- a girl who's making a name for herself in experimental dance music. I'm not going to rush out and buy her songs- but if she opens for a band I like, I'd arrive at the show on time to check her out again.

Peter Murphy was next on my schedule- I waited in line an hour with some really cool people and was finally allowed into the dark shadows of Elysium. Gay or British? Who cares? He owns it. Peter's voice has an uncanny resemblance to Neil Diamond's which I find both alarming and comforting at the same time. Primarily due to my Electra-like fascination with Neil Diamond. He didn't sing any of my favorites off Cascade- but he played to the audience the whole time- with extended dramatic poses and arched eyebrows. He engaged the audience- responding to questions and asking his own.

Forgive me. I am totally blanking on what I did between about 8:45pm and 11.

At 11pm I went to the Velveeta Room for Elliott Brood. The Canadian trio has been referred to as a "black grass" or "hellbilly" band. With the incorporation of mandolins, banjos, a pedal bass and the obligatory train drumbeat- they twist all preconceived notions once they begin singing. Between the singer's raspy vocals and their lyrics- you know this isn't some other alt-country band. Not only that, but for one number, they passed out pots and pans with wooden spoons so the audience could bang along. Awesome, I'm keeping mine in the bar.

So its true. I came for the Brood but I stayed for Doucet. Luke Doucet. The man can write songs. And the man knows his way around a guitar. the lyrics of his songs are dark, introspective, and direct. "You've got to have a heart to have a broken one." Ouch. Now come over here and tell me all about it, sugar.

Again... I saw some more bands that I can't remember offhand- until it comes to Phil Marshall. an unassuming fellow until the music starts. Of all the 6th Street bars that hosted unofficial SXSW showcases, Spill was one of the best equipped. From what I could hear, Phil presented some of the more commercial stuff up front- but I felt his set got better with each song. He's got a sweet longing in his voice without sounding desperate or whiny.

Again, I lose a little time. Unsure if I called it a night after that or if there were more bands... I'll check my notes. And include anything I left out in the Friday write up.

Treat yourself to something new:
Elliot BROOD

One of my favorite songs

The video that started it all (note that the character Joseph Bower, the character who gets the telegram in the beginning of the video, is my great grandfather. Read more about him and the bridge.

Why I ended up with a baking pan and a wooden spoon at the end of the night

New discovery: Luke Doucet

Luke's other project, Veal.

Phil Marshall

Stay tuned for Friday and Saturday posts!