Made it to only 2 events but...the first one I went to Bruce Springsteen also showed up so as far as I am concerned, it was a great SXSW for me!
The Austin Music Awards is back to kicking the music part of the festival off, thank God. The only bad thing about this program is it's held at Austin Music Hall which is a first class hellhole for music. Ironic, to say the least.
Anyway, got to see Quiet Company, Joe King Carrasco, Patty Griffin, Carolyn Wonderland and Ruthie Foster together with both their bands (GREAT!) and Christopher Cross. Yes, that one.
Alejandro Escovedo was closing the show, hence the high level of anticipation by everybody that Bruce would show up since he was giving the keynote speech the next day at noon. Alejandro brought out a slew of friends including Amy Cook, Dan Dyer, Rosie Flores, Garland Jeffreys and Joe Ely. Amy and Dan are probably the least well known outside Austin and that's a shame because both are great. This town is so full of talent it's nuts.
Anyway, after Joe Ely finished playing, he asked if there were any other guitar players in the house. Magically, Bruce popped out from behind the curtain at the back of the stage. To say the place was up for grabs from that point on would be an understatement.
We were in the 2nd row so we had prime viewing.
The first song up was The Flatlanders' "Midnight Train." Joe did the singing while Bruce ripped a couple of serious guitar solos. Then they did Woody Guthrie's "Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad" and Bruce did sing on this one with Joe. From there it was Alejandro's "Always A Friend" with all three guys singing. After that, Joe left the stage, Garland Jeffreys came back and they closed it all down with "Beast Of Burden." What a last 30 minutes or so of the show!
Really, Alejandro was out there for probably close to 2 hours and that entire time seemed like 10 minutes. It was just spectacular. Alejandro had his full band plus a small horn section, 2 ladies (Sensitive Girls) singing harmony, 1 of whom also played keyboards. It was a calvalcade of talent all night long! Alejandro, always the bandleader, was also the cheerleader, leading the crowd. He's one cool guy.
My 2nd event was a morning showcase our local NPR station, KUT, puts on. It is held at the Four Seasons Hotel, starts at 7am and ends at 11am for 4 days of the festival. So there I was Friday morning, up at 5am to go hear music! Surely this is a first. Loved it! SXSW is a weird animal. There's tons of music, tons of people, many who aren't listening and you can go to event after event where it's one big party so forget about listening to the music. These morning shows provide access to great bands for a bargain price and you get to HEAR them!
I went on Friday as I wanted to see Nneka. She was closing out the day's program at 10am.
First up was Ruthie Foster and her band. They did a real nice wake-up set with several from the new "Let It Burn" record. Her voice, you never would've guessed it was 7am, that's for sure. My favorite one she did was "This Time" which is a Los Lobos cover.
After Ruthie came a band called Motopony. From Seattle. Didn't know them from the man in the moon and at 8am they came out and rocked that room! I fell in love with them. They rock really hard but have great pop melodies and their lead singer is a SINGER! He's very charismatic, knows how to work a stage. Can't say enough about this band and of course, it's always thrilling to hear somebody with no expectations and they slay you!
Then came James Mercer of The Shins for 2 songs. Honestly, I don't remember much about the songs.
After James was a bluegrass band called Trampled By Turtles. I am not the biggest bluegrass fan in the world and am one of those whose mind will start wandering pretty quickly (like I guess it did with James Mercer) but these guys were fantastic. Never got bored for even a second. Stellar musicians and singers.
Lastly, Nneka came on and did not disappoint. I think she's a very unique artist. It was a real treat to see her live, even for just a short 4 or 5 song set.
I have a few videos.
"Midnnight Train" with Bruce, Joe and Alejandro is at:
Do yourself a favor and check out the voice of Dan Dyer here with Alejandro:
Nneka is here: