SXSW Highlights

21 Mar

What a crazy week! Panels and discussions all day, concerts all night. Trying to choose from about 100 different bands each night was quite a challenge. Here’s a quick list of who I saw:

Nora O’Connor: great alt-country singer and acoustic guitarist, former member of Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire. Bird joined her for a few songs and was great. I can’t wait to hear her debut album (should be released on Bloodshot later this year).

Madeleine Peyroux: resurfaces from oblivion seven years after her awesome debut Dreamland playing some Tom Waits-influenced timeless jazz. Her version of an Elliott Smith song, “Between the Bars,” was bewildering, in a great way. It sounded like a jazz standard when she and her band did it.

Grey DeLisle: Unfortunately, we didn’t hear much of her since the power went out after the second song we heard. To add insult to injury, she was playing at Coyote Ugly’s (yep, like the movie and while they were trying to fix the problem, the “bartenders” got up on the bar and danced to “Welcome to the Jungle.” Very strange. Once the power went back on, I could see that her husband, Murray from the Old 97’s, played bass, and the guitar player came out into the audience for his last couple of solos.

Garrison Starr: I liked her better live than I remembered her record.

Little Richard: Initially, I thought, “Wow! He can still sing! AND play the piano!” And then I realized his back-up singer was doing quite a bit of the more histrionic stuff and that he had a second piano player. Chad did get me some religious propaganda and a signed photo of Little Richard that one of his people was handing out as souvenirs.

Old Crow Medicine Show: I wanted to like them more than I did. I just can’t accept those 6-string banjos as bona fide instruments.

The Black Keys: One of the highlights, definitely. They follow the same formula as the White Stripes but do it so much better. Soulful vocals that hark back to early blues, guitar parts that remind me of Led Zeppelin, and drums that put Meg White’s boring recorded parts to shame (I’ve heard she’s much better live, though).

British Sea Power: Sucked.

Calexico: The quarter of a song we heard through the window made me realize I should have gone to see them rather than BSP.

Robyn Hitchcock: Great solo acoustic show. At the end, he clearly wanted to do an encore, but since they wouldn’t let him, he went to the back of the room and performed completely acoustically for all of us who gathered around. It was such a communal moment–everyone singing harmonies to his lead on “Stayin’ Alive.” John Wesley Harding joined him for another song, and then we all sang along to “Baby You’re a Rich Man.” It reminded me of the Jon Brion shows at Largo.

Robyn Hitchcock at SXSW.

Patty Griffin: She and her band were great, but the @#$%! audience talked throughout her ENTIRE show. So disappointing.

Iron & Wine: See Patty Griffin. A fight almost broke out between some drunk girl, her friend?, and the guy who yelled, “Would the people in the back please shut the F up?” (He received wild applause for that comment.) I do want to check out the new album, though.


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