Saturday, March 20, 2010

SXSW Night 4-Bloodshot Showcase; March 20, 2010; Austin, TX

I lived in Texas for six and half years. In Dallas every club I went to was contained, four walls holding in the air conditioned air required to live through their wickedly hot summers. By all reports, the capital city of Austin, located 180 miles south and west of Dallas, gets even hotter, and my three Africa-hot trips to the Austin City Limits Festival in September seemed to back that up. So why are so many of the city’s venues open to the elements? I enjoyed Club DeVille’s real rock wall behind the stage on Wednesday night, but by the time Califone finished their set close to 1 AM I was wishing for the hoodie I had left behind in the hotel. From the front I wouldn’t have guessed that the Red Eyed Fly was an outdoor venue, but after walking through the bar area and into the “music room” I found a noticeable lack of walls.

Luckily for most of the night a big enough crowd packed into the venue to see bands that had already played, and they had probably seen, several times this week. Ben Weaver kicked off the night, hood up and vest on, playing many of the new songs I’d heard for the first time the day before. Once again “Anything with Words” gave him trouble and disappointingly he abandoned it after half a verse. I was happily surprised that once again the crowd hushed while he was on stage and paid attention. Yes, I know that SXSW is a haven for music lovers, but it also involves a whole lot of drinking and that often doesn’t make for the most attentive audiences. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s followed with another barn-burning set of classic sounding country. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this band, hopefully in Madison and at the House of Righteous Music.

Their fiddle player pulled double duty again tonight, joining Exene Cervenka and her all-girl band. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that her solo record hews closer to the sound of the Knitters, an X side project band, than it does to the music from her better known days as a punk rocker- she is on Bloodshot after all. For years the Waco Brothers have closed the Bloodshot showcase, putting an exclamation point on the last day of SXSW, but this year they hit the stage two hours earlier. After drummer Joe Camarillo failed to show up for last year’s 1 AM show, the label decided that putting their franchise players on earlier might be a good idea. The logic in having them play last is that the Waco Brothers are a near impossible act to follow. Luckily Bloodshot has Ha Ha Tonka. I can’t think of any band short of the Wrens that I find this consistently electrifying. Owner Rob Miller called my love of them psychotic, but I’d like to think of it as something less crazy sounding. “You guys are taking a big chance putting us on at midnight,” lead singer Brian Roberts joked, “it’s been a long day of drinking.” No need to worry, their set was as powerful as it was the day before, and besides I know he never drinks anything stronger than beer. Sigh, I miss them already.

Scott H Biram, that dirty old one man band from Austin as he likes to call himself, was the final act of the night. For one guy he took an awful long time to set up, but somewhat surprisingly most of the crowd stuck around. He’s always been sort of a one trick pony, but luckily I’m pretty fond of that trick. His recent Bloodshot release Something Gone/Lost Forever is probably his most accessible so far, and it only narrowly missed a spot on my year-end list. He made up for starting late by playing well past 2 AM, to the point that the staff at Red Eyed Fly were kicking people out before the last note even faded. By this point the buzz of great music and a few Lone Stars had warmed me up enough that the walk back to the hotel wasn’t cold at all.

Ben Weaver

Whitey Morgan & the 78's

Exene Cervenka

Waco Brothers

Ha Ha Tonka

Scott H Biram

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