Saturday, March 26, 2011

SXSW 2011 Wednesday 16th

Yes, it has taken me over a week to start getting these posts out. But, the music came first, then sleep. So... Here is what happened on Wednesday...

Wednesday is the first official day of SXSW and I’m already tired. :-) Luckily, I wasn’t planning on getting up early, so after sleeping in I grabbed a shuttle to downtown (they run throughout the conference week). The shuttle drops you off on the East side and I was heading to Waterloo on the west side (about a mile and a quarter). As I walked down 6th Street, memories of my first visit to Austin 10 years ago started rushing back to me. 6th Street, which is closed, is filled with people young and old (mainly 20 somethings) and there is music coming from every direction. At about Guadalupe Street I realized that I would rather be walking across downtown during SXSW then across Zilker Park during ACL. The list of why I already love SXSW over ACL is growing by the hour.

Waterloo Records has converted their entire parking lot into a music venue for this week. Arriving just before 2pm, I had no problem getting fairly close to the stage. Within minutes, Wild Flag started playing. They are a girl band. Let me rephrase that... They are a hard rockin’ girl band. As hard as their music was, they also came across a lot sweeter than you’d expect. I think the Runaways set the tone years ago and if you’re an all girl band these days you are either a sweet pop band or a hard, angry rock band. Wild Flag rocked hard, but when they talked to the audience, they were like the girls next store. It was a nice contradiction as they won over the audience.

I moved up to the front of the stage for Fitz and the Tantrums. Even though they are a So Cal band, I hadn’t seen them yet, so this was one of my must see shows; and they didn’t disappoint. Filled with the energy of a dozen bands, Michael Fitzpatrick lead the band through a blue-eyed soul experience filtered through 80’s pop (and I don’t think that really describes it). Now take all of Michael’s energy and multiply it by two and that will give you Noelle Scaggs who sings backup, some lead vocals and works hard to energize the crowd. It is just one fun crazy show that never lets up. Do not miss them when they come to your town.

It was now late afternoon and I had a few hours to kill. I found a bar that served food and waited patiently while Shurman, an Austin band, played. By the end of their set, a waitress had not even considered talking to me, so I wandered around downtown, and found a restaurant that I had walked quickly past earlier. Exene had been playing on their porch at the time and it was packed. Now it was fairly open so I grabbed a quick burger and continued on.

It took a bit to find The Ginger Man. They were doing concerts on their back patio and it was like a big country picnic. I sat through a couple of interesting bands while awaiting The Latebirds from Finland. Marcus is their lead singer and I met him a few years ago waiting in the band will call line for tickets to the Springsteen shows at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. He was a really nice guy and from there I ended up getting a couple of his CDs which we play regularly here on The Promise. His voice has always reminded me of Al Stewart and the band’s arrangements are always full and exciting. They played a few new tunes along with a few from the CDs that I have, doing a great job of converting those nicely produced songs into live pieces that worked well.

Downtown was getting more crowded by the minute and by the time I hit the Red River District, the streets were jammed with people. I decided to go early to the Red Eyed Fly to catch Liam Finn (Neil’s boy) which meant sitting through a couple of bands while waiting. Again, it was a backyard patio, but it was covered with an attic above the stage (I know this because we watched a raccoon climb a wall and go up above the stage into the attic. There were plenty of problems during the two band’s sets, from losing their drummer because of visa issues to not being able to plug in the keyboard because it was designed for English plugs not American. Still, the two bands played well and the fans seemed to love them. I somehow found myself at the front of the stage by the time Liam hit and was blown away by the manic energy he delivered with his small but loud band. It was a great test for my video recorder, which I thought did pretty well. When he wants to, Liam can write great melodies. But, there is an anger in some of his music and if you aren’t ready for it, you may not be able to handle it. Imagine crossing Neil Finn with Nine Inch Nails. It is an interesting combination, and we got a nice half hour of it.

I slipped out a bit early to make sure I could get into Sharon Van Etten’s performance at the Swan Dive. Not having a wristband, both the Finn and Van Etten shows cost me $13 each (for 20 to 30 minutes). But they were well worth it. It also meant that I had to wait for all of the wristbanded people to go first. Luckily I got in and found a nice spot on a riser against the side wall. The stage was set up in the front of the bar with white drapes surrounding it and most of the lighting coming from the floor. This gave it a home concert feel which was perfect (if not for pictures) for the music. Sharon’s current EP is so good it is scary and her and her two piece band delivered it during their 20 minute set. Easily one of the highlights of a highlight filled day.

After the show, I walked back to the convention center and caught a shuttle back to the hotel. It seems that everyone in Austin has two jobs (Deborah told me she thought that the second job for most seemed to be a masseuse) and our shuttle driver was an urban farmer who teaches others how to set up farm coops. No, this isn’t Texas, it’s Austin.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Very good music
and interesting!

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen