Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SXSW - The early bird gets to hear more bands

Day Two - Thursday

Our second day of music showcases began quite early in SXSW terms, starting at 9 AM with the KUT acoustic showcases in the lobby of the Hilton. Given the excitement and reveling we saw on Wednesday, we predicted, quite accurately, that few would be up this early and that we could see some good acts in these early sets without dealing with the crowds.

First up was Dawes, one of the bands I most wanted to see this SXSW. The acoustic set was everything I could have hoped for, showcasing the band's vocal harmonies perfectly and giving us the chance to see them up close and without being sandwiched in on all sides like was the case at a number of the Wednesday parties. The drum-less set was a great setting to see the band, although it didn't provide a forum for their most upbeat track, "When My Time Comes." Catching this set proved especially important since I was not able to see any of Dawes' full band shows the rest of the week. Sorry I missed them, as it sounds like the band was very well received.

Next up at the Hilton was Frightened Rabbit, a buzz band of sorts who has been getting lots of attention lately, and so we were glad to catch them in this more intimate setting. Playing as a two-piece, the band put on a solid performance and lived up to the hype that I often hear about them. Shifting gears considerably, the next band was the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a band I hadn't seen live, but one that I know is quite popular in Colorado. The sound is actually modeled after a 1930s group called the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, as described by one of the members during their interview, and has what I consider a genuine old-time feel. Bluegrass is not my favorite type of music, but the Carolina Chocolate Drops' performance and stage presence made our time watching them very worthwhile.

Following the Hilton, we moved about a bit for some shows I won't detail because Derek likely will do so later. However, I will say that we did attend our favorite large-scale day party of the week at the Babelgum Lawn party at the French Legation Museum east of I-35. The party was well-organized and had a great sound system, with the only deficiency being the number of porta-potties.

SXSW Axiom #3: Porta Johns are the ultimate status leveler at SXSW. That is, badges don't mean a thing when it comes to the line for the bathroom.

For such a large venue, easily accommodating a few thousand people, the French Legation Museum had only 5 porta johns. I only waited in the line once, for about 15 minutes, but I can only imagine how terrible it must have been for the largest acts of the day like The xx and Dum Dum Girls.

Thankfully our schedule led us next to South Congress for the Sin City Social Club party. Tim Easton provided a great set of his desert-infused rock and was followed by Thrift Store Cowboys, who played a set of mostly new material that is to appear on their recently-recorded new album. The $2 pints at this day party were also far preferable to the $5 of the previous day, so the locale change was appreciated once again.

We ended Thursday, a day in which we saw 11 great musical acts all across Austin, in a way that couldn't be much more fitting. At the large day party known as South By San Jose, we caught Texas icon Billy Joe Shaver's set to close the night. We had the great pleasure of hearing Shaver dedicate an a capella version of "Star in My Heart" to his late son Eddy, followed by his classic "Live Forever." Even Joe Ely was in attendance for this legend's performance, clearly recognizing as we all did that Shaver is one of Texas' best living songwriters, and his live show is one that you should not turn down the opportunity to see if given the chance. Given our success at seeing so many great bands, I could have been happy with Thursday being my last day of concerts at SXSW, if not for the fact that there were still quite a few bands I hoped to see.

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