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Monday, March 19, 2007

SxSW 2007, My Story

(Get comfy…Ron, you might want to print this out and head to the john)

This past week was the big South By Southwest music and film festival here in Austin. This typically entails magazines and record labels coming to town, putting on free shows, giving away free stuff and trying to hype their acts. In addition, pretty much every restaurant, bar and club also has a show of some sort. Some are free…some are a couple of bucks. I didn’t get into the swing of things until Thursday evening mostly because of work but I also didn’t want to die by Friday night (sounds like a Buffett song). Here’s a non-brief description of the activities that comprised my SXSW.

Thursday March 15th
Worked all day and was getting texts from Chad about the goings on at Cedar Street Courtyard (free Dewars of which Chad got his fill) encouraging me to come. I’m kinda glad I didn’t because I think Chad checked out mid-text message. I started things off at the Shoal Creek Saloon where the Gunhands and Reid Wilson and His So-Called Friends usually play a rockin’ country show every other Thursday. On this evening, Reid and the gang were out of commission for whatever reason and were replaced by the Stillwater Pioneers. The Pioneers started things off which a bunch of great originals with and some solid covers of Steve Earle (Ben McCullough), Todd Snider (Can’t Complain), Dylan, TVZ and the Rolling Stones (among others). The Gunhands followed with their brand of rockin’ country. The highlight was a cover of Roger Alan Wade’s “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough” that they modified to fit their number one fan, Gunner, “If You’re Gonna Be Gunner, You Gotta Be Tough”. As Gunner says “Hoawnoawpackinpaws!” They also covered John Prine “Onomatopoeia”. Good night of music.

Friday March 16th
I met up with Chad shortly after noon to chow down on some Rudy’s and to watch a little basketball at his RV before heading to Yard Dog Art Gallery on South Congress for the Bloodshot Records party. We got to Yard Dog around 1p and immediately found the line for free PBR. What a treat. As if I need to tell any of you that. The first act at Yard Dog was Clem Snide whose set we caught the end of. From there, Jon Rauhouse played some 1940s tiki lounge music with a random, random group of people. Then came a crazy Irish guy who looked like the illegitimate son of Dave Attell and Mark Linn-Baker (cousin Larry Appleton) who liked to quote Shakespeare and generally stir the political shit (I’m sure half the people in attendance didn’t know what to think…Chad and I found it thoroughly entertaining). Mark Pickerel was next. He was a decent singer/songwriter. Not much memorable. The next band that we actually saw was The Deadstring Brothers who were a mix of early 70s Stones and the Black Crows (if there was female singer in the band). I really enjoyed them and bought their record. It’ll be in the player by the time I finish this email.

We didn’t stick around much longer after that. Chad was going to see Public Enemy at Auditorium Shores and I was off to grab some pizza at Home Slice and then head down to Hotel San Jose for the tail end of Dale Watson and then Ryan Bingham’s set.

I got down to Hotel San Jose just in time to see the entirety of Dale Watson’s set (their 3rd set of the day at various locations) and they really rocked as always. Bingham was next and well, I love his record. Probably too much. Anyway, I had very high expectations. And he started playing and just flat out brought it. He played maybe 4 songs off the record and a bunch of other what seemed to be original tunes including my favorite as yet unrecorded tune “Hard Times”. From there and after buying a Bingham t-shirt, I headed back down South Congress to Chad’s RV park…I figured the walk would do me good.

Between the walk south and sitting on the tailgate of my truck, it was an hour or so until I made down to Sam’s Town Point in time to see a couple of bands whose name I can’t quite recall at the moment. I was excited to hear that Folk Uke would be playing a short set. Let’s just say that they were a pair of waifish female singers playing very softly who weren’t afraid to drop f-bombs during their tunes. Good times. Next up was Kev Russell, lead singer of the Gourds. He played 30 minutes solo and then was joined by an all-star-ish band including Tony Gilkyson who was easily the best guitar player I saw all day. The all-star band mixed it up. Every time Kev’s turn came around, he was playing some Waylon or Wille and quite frankly it was super dooper. Mark and Joy were kind enough to take me home because by this point I had misplaced my ability to operate a motor vehicle. Good times…and the next day was St. Patty’s Day. Oh boy.

Saturday March 17th
It was a little rough getting going on Saturday. I can’t figure out why but I suspect free PBR might have had something to do with it. I met Chad, Brad and Gwen at the greatest bar in the galaxy, the Mean Eyed Cat. The band was the Polyphonic Spree. Very high energy….everyone in the 86 piece band was dressed like they were extras in the movie version of Pink Floyd’s the Wall. Good times. At the end, their kettle-drummer (they also had a wind chime player) took his kettle drum to the middle of the crowd and passed out drum sticks so the crowd could get in on the action. It was cool but I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that scene was like something I saw in U2 video from the 80s or something. “I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.” The beer was Pearl and lordy was it ever free. I stuck around there long enough to have a couple of free beers (the tastiest kind) and to buy 4 “Kiss Me I’m Mean” St. Patty’s day shirts for various drinking enthusiasts.

Next up was Jon Green’s house concert featuring several excellent songwriters including Sam Baker and Danny Schmidt. When I arrived Nels Andrews was playing to a very enthusiastic crowd. I really liked a few of his songs but I didn’t buy his cd because I had to start rationing my money because my total SXSW music/beer/t-shirt/fun tab to the moment was roughly $8,312. Nels did do us the courtesy of detailing the Casey Jones Museum in Jackson, Tennessee (HOW DID WE NEVER STOP HERE?) and also explaining the difference between a hobo, a tramp and a bum.

Hobo – one work works and wanders
Tramp – one who dreams and wanders
Bum – one who drinks and wanders

Next up was Danny Schmidt who played 4 great tunes (“Stained Glass”, “This Too Shall Pass”, “Wrap Me Up In Austin”, “Spring In Austin Texas”) before turning it over to a friend he had in town whose name I never caught. She really had some pipes but only got to do one song. After that was Kris Delmhorst followed by AJ Roach who I really enjoyed (I was actually about to leave before AJ’s set but then he pulled out a banjo and I somehow felt obligated to stay). Anyway, I really liked his set and bought his cd, which I just listened to (2003’s Dogwood Winter) record which was very good and will be back in my player shortly.

Between my hangover and general exhaustion from the previous 36 hours, I was d-u-n done by the time I left Jon’s show (sadly before Sam Baker played). But there was one more show I had to check out. The Palo Dura Records Beer & BBQ showcase at the Broken Spoke. Sadly, only the bbq was free (which brings the day’s total to three events that featured free bbq…1….2….3….4….”God Bless Texas”). First up at the Spoke (which by the by, I respect the hell out of as a Texas institution but they could really afford to spend some money on upkeep….no seriously….they could) was Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros (mysti-care-o’s). I hadn’t seen Walt with this lineup before but there put on a strong performance featuring mostly original tunes (including my favorite of Walt’s “Ramblers”) and a cover of the “The Shape I’m In” by the Band which by that point was oddly appropriate. After the Mystiqueros was Trent Summar and the New Row Mob. I’ve been a big fan of Trent’s since 2001 when the “Paint Your Name In Purple” song was all over the place. He took his good sweet time in putting out a followup to that record which came out last year and was equally as good. Again, just like the Bingham show on Friday, I had high hopes for this band’s performance. They came out and kicked it old school. I can’t wait until they come back again. The Derailers were last but I have absolutely zero Derailers love and decided it would be best to head for the house and call it a very successful SXSW.

Sunday March 18th
Exhausted. I couldn’t bare the thought of any more live bands or even, gasp, free beer. OK….that’s not true. I wanted to go out but I physically couldn’t…much in the same manner that Joe Elliott won’t be in attendance at Irwin’s bachelor party in May. So, Kim and I went down to Barton Creek and hiked around for a while trying to avoid any run-ins with snakes, dogs and small children. And that seemed like a good way to end a great weekend. Well, that and UT losing to USC yesterday.

Here’s a quick review of the records I bought.
Dead String Brothers Starving Winter Report – really, really good stuff….more Crowes than Stones but more country than rock which daddy likely. Was that a banjo I just heard? Why yes it was.

AJ Roach Dogwood Winter – folky singer/songwriter spinning tales about himself and his family. Really enjoyable for fans of older acoustic Steve Earle and that ilk (think “Copperhead Road” and “Texas Eagle” with less production).

Johnny Danjo and the Stillwater Pioneers Let’s Go Pioneering – somewhat melancholy, kinda downbeat, somber country with lots of pedal steel, fiddle and mandolin and just a touch of Gram Parsons. This would be a great record for getting high…if I did that sort of thing. “Trouble All My Life” is just super. Actually, it’s got a bit of Neil Young circa Harvest Moon to it, which was the last Neil Young record I bought, 16 years ago. Is that guy still alive? I kid…really.

Best Text Message Received:
8:11P Sat Mar 17 “I ABOUT POINT 23” from… guessed it….Mr. Ron Shebek. (Yes, that quote is accurate and verb-less.)

PS, I also wanted to send a shout out to Storrs who apparently was in Baudette, MN (which is just 10 minutes south of Santa’s sweatshop) in a hungoverless-state this weekend for work. Not exactly Boston, Austin, Columbus, Cleveage or Tittsburgh…I’m sure he made the most of it though. Who knew there was cell coverage in Baudette?

PPS, 24 days until Stingaree. Needless to say, I’m excited.