Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SXSW 2012 It's All About BRUCE

NNEKA, SXSW KUT Showcase, 4 Seasons Hotel 3-16-12

TRAMPLED BY TURTLES, SXSW KUT Showcase, 4 Seasons Hotel 3-16-12

JAMES MERCER of The Shins, SXSW KUT Showcase, 4 Seasons Hotel 3-16-12

MOTOPONY, SXSW KUT Showcase, 4 Seasons Hotel 3-16-12

RUTHIE FOSTER at SXSW KUT Showcase, 4 Seasons Hotel 3-16-12

BRUCE Solos, AMA, Austin Music Hall, 3-14-12 SXSW

BRUCE again! AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

BRUCE, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

The Stage Full of Players at AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

JOE, ALEJANDRO and BRUCE, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

ALEJANDRO, BRUCE & JOE kicking it up, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

BRUCE, surprise appearance, Austin Music Awards at Austin Music Hall, 3-14-12 SXSW

ALEJANDRO, BRUCE & JOE, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

Here's a band for you!

JOE ELY and ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO along with Sensitive Girls and Boy, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO and ROSIE FLORES, AMA, Austin Music Hall, 3-14-12

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEND and DAN DYER, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12

PATTY GRIFFIN, AMA, Austin Music Hall 3-14-12


RUTHIE FOSTER, CAROLYN WONDERLAND and both their bands at Austin Music Awards held at Austin Music Hall, 3-14-12 SXSW

SXSW 2012

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:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

ANGELIQUE KIDJO and her Great Band

ANGELIQUE KIDJO and part of audience on stage Dancing


ANGELIQUE KIDJO at Bass Concert Hall 3-8-12

Spectacular show.  The kind where you are so wound up afterward trying to go to home to bed is downright cruel.
If you are familiar with her, you know she has A Voice.  Nothing has changed in that regard!  Her show though, caught me off guard.  Full of energy!  She was all over that stage, singing, dancing, having fun!  Her band included guitar, bass, percussion and drums.  The rhythm section was off the charts great.  Her drummer, if he wasn't singing, was smiling all the time.  And he is a fantastic drummer.  The entire band was wonderful.  Her guitarist played electric, acoustic and stylistically could go anywhere.  They all harmonized.
Her music is full of different sounds.  Of course, you have the African rhythms which are so fun and gorgeous.  But she has Spanish, reggae, soul, all kinds of influences in the music.  Best way I can think to describe her music is it takes you around the world.
We were also treated to stories of her growing up.  A father who reinforced education for all of his kids, not just the boys.  We learned about the generosity of Africans.  It bothers her that all we see of Africa is a depiction of poor, dying kids.  She was very enlightening, at least for me.
Along with the stories, she has a great sense of humor.  You put all that together, voice, rhythms, songs, stories, humor, loads of energy and it makes for one heckuva unique, great show.
Late in the show, she invited the audience up on stage to dance.  Before you knew it, the stage was packed with folks dancing.  Individuals came up front with her and the percussionist to do a solo dance, so to speak.  It was a blast!
Finally, after almost 2 non-stop hours she and the band came back out for an encore and did the Stones's "Gimme Shelter" and you have not heard a version like this before.  Got a video of it here:



TEXAS HERITAGE SONGWRITERS Hall of Fame at ACL Moody Theatre 3-4-12

Got a last minute ticket to this sold out show.  It's an annual event that honors the singer/songwriters who make Texas come alive around the world and this year's inductees were Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen and Townes Van Zandt.  Steve Earle was there to represent Townes.
There were presentations but mostly it was a musical show so let's get to it.
Steve Earle was up first and did 3 or 4 Townes songs including "Pancho & Lefty" but also did a Lightnin' Hopkins song and his own "Ft. Worth Blues" that was written after Townes died.  It was neat that J.T. Van Zandt, Townes's son, introduced Steve.
Lyle and Robert came out together and did a song swap.  They each did about 3 songs, I believe.  There was a lot of talking about their college days (they met at A&M).  Lyle and Robert have a long history together and their friendship was evident.  Very neat to hear them talk about the old days.  They definitely have a mutual admiration and it was fun to listen into the stories they share.  Also loved hearing Lyle solo do "If I Had A Boat" as that song just never grows old.
The night ended with them bringing Steve up and they did Townes's "Snowin' On Raton."
I was thrilled to be there.
Got a video of the final song and you can see it here: