Monday, March 19, 2012

SXSW Music 2012, Saturday

Last day of SXSW is always bittersweet. You're ready for a break, but you don't want to have to wait another year for the madness to begin again. I spent my last day seeing Rhett Miller yet one more time at the Baeble Party. Just before Rhett went on Graffiti6 played. I'd heard them a bit on KGSR, loved the song Free. Thought they were fantastic. They've got a soulful, almost retro, sound. Definitely a new discovery of the fest for me. Worth checking out. I'd love to see them again.

This go 'round for Rhett, he played solo acoustic, and previewed another of the new songs for his forthcoming CD The Dreamer, which I can't wait to hear in finished form. There was a good crowd, people knew the songs and Rhett brought the energy. You'd never guess it was his fifth gig in three days.

I love this photo, especially those two girls singing their hearts out in the corner!

I had been waiting a long time for the return of Cotton Mather, like a decade. I finally got to see their Saturday showcase at Soho Lounge. It was great to see the original members together again and to hear those songs. And it was great to be in the crowd with other Cotton Mather fans who were just as excited as I was. I am very happy that Robert has re-released Kontiki with a successful Kickstarter, and I hope this is just the beginning of bigger things for him.

And I couldn't resist one last chance to see Quiet Company, the darlings of SXSW 2012. They won ALL the Austin Music Awards, played like 10 gigs all week and still brought it for their final show. It was a great way to wrap up a memorable week! That's it for me. Until next year...

Graffiti6 - Free
Rhett Miller - This is What I Do
Rhett Miller - a new selection from the forthcoming The Dreamer 

Cotton Mather - My Before and After
Cotton Mather - AMPs of Sugarland
Cotton Mather - She's Only Cool 
Quiet Company - It's Better To Spend Money Like There's No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There's No Money

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SXSW Music 2012, Friday

So, barely recovered from my Springsteen Day, it was time to get out to see some more shows. I have my Delta Spirit pic and video on this page, even though it was officially on Thurs (the Thurs post was dedicated to Springsteen).

Back to Paste for a Rhett Miller show. Rhett's got a new solo CD, coming out in June, called The Dreamer. He debuted several songs and played several classics from his Old 97's catalog, too.

I also caught The Wedding Present, great band from Leeds, England, for the first time. Loved them. Reminded me of House Martins, Pixies.

Then on to Parkside for The Orchard's party, they just inked a big deal that involves Sony and merging with Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA). Rhett's using The Orchard for distribution of his CD on his own label Maximum Sunshine.

Showcase time, with some of my favorite people, Salim Nourallah and friends. This was at Cedar Street, playing before Rhett's set.

Throughout the fest, I was happy with Rhett's song selections, which included Singular Girl, Nineteen, Come Around, Designs on You, This Is What I Do, and Murder or a Heart Attack. Lots of my favorites!

Jesse Malin closed out the showcase at Cedar Street. He's a great singer-songwriter.

Delta Spirit
Rhett Miller - new song Out of Love 
Rhett Miller
The Wedding Present
Rhett Miller - Nineteen
Salim Nourallah
Rhett Miller - Murder or a Heart Attack

SXSW Music 2012, Springsteen Day, Thursday

Photo: Getty Images

When I woke up Thursday morning, I had two things in mind: going to see Rhett Miller's KGSR set at the W and making sure I got in line to see the Bruce Springsteen keynote. An 8am show is a little unholy for the rock 'n' roll set, but apparently people get up real early to see these shows. I was standing in line for the Rhett Miller set, listening from the outside. I eventually got in afterward and got to see Delta Spirit, which is an excellent act. As the KGSR gig winded down, I started thinking about heading to the Convention Center. I checked my email, and behold, I had won tickets to the Springsteen show that night (there was a lottery, in which I had checked in earlier that week with my badge). Mind you, this would be at ACL Live, a rare, intimate setting with 2700 people -  when The Boss usually plays giant arenas. I was thrilled, felt so lucky, and ran around showing the email to anyone who would look at it. It had been a while since I'd seen a Springsteen show the first being a couple shows in Greensboro, NC circa 1984 (in which my friend Debbie and I had camped out for tix) But in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined that I would be able to see a show from such a close vantage. I, of course, chose the floor, general admission, standing room only, so I could get as close as I could (yes, my feet paid for it the next day, but it was so worth it).

So, with the keynote and the show, March 15, 2012 will be forever known to me as Springsteen Day. The keynote was amazing. We were threatened that no pictures could be taken, which was fine, because I was just riveted by his every word. You should definitely check out the audio of his talk streaming on NPR. It was inspiring, funny and emotional, but there was no doubt that we were in the presence of greatness... a regular guy, albeit one that has risen to legendary status. His words dripped with wisdom and passion.  Speaking of influences like Elvis, Roy Orbison, the Beatles, Dylan, Woody Guthrie, even country music. And, like the song "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place" by Eric Burdon and the Animals. More to come on this. There were so many high notes, I can't do it justice. Listen to the stream. Listen to every word of it. Listen to it more than once. Best thing ever...

There are no words to describe the energy of the actual show, later that night. I apologize for these terrible iPhone photos, but I had to catch some of the moments. Bruce is amazing, in fantastic shape, running around the stage and even jumping into the crowd multiple times, almost as if he couldn't help himself.  The E Street band is better than ever. One of the most emotional moments of the show was when Bruce recognized members who were no longer with us (including legendary sax player Clarence Clemons), chanting "If we're here, and you're here, then they're here."

The show clocked at 2:40 with Thunder Road, The Promised Land, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, and Badlands, selections from the new Wrecking Ball, and lots of surprise guests.

As if by magic, Eric Burdon of the Animals just happened to be in town. As Bruce said "the Tweeterverse" made it happen, and he joined them on stage to sing that song that had influenced Bruce so much. The song that he said was Born to Run, Born in the USA, all the new stuff, every song he'd ever written. This is magic that only SXSW can produce.

The show ended with a stage full of legends, Burdon, Jimmy Cliff and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (who had both performed several songs earlier), Joe Ely, members of Arcade Fire and the opening acts Alejandro Escovedo and The Low Anthem, all singing the Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land." Springsteen had wrapped up his keynote in the same way, telling the story of singing the song with Pete Seeger at Obama's inauguration. The room sang together with him. Amazing. These were special moments. I will never forget this day.


SXSW Music 2012, Wednesday

Wow, that was a whirlwind. I am just getting around to posting from the awesome insanity that just ensued in Austin. After spending five days covering the Interactive Festival with my students (please check out their coverage at, I started off Wednesday much the same, by attending the featured talk with Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, the founders of Napster. It was a fascinating talk that gave insight into their journey as music/tech industry innovators and disrupters. You can see a brief video of the talk below, or check out my Storify of the session.


Next it was time to hear some music. I dropped by the Radio Day Stage at the Convention Center to see Alabama Shakes. There's been a lot of buzz around this band, and I can see why. The lead singer has a strong voice, in the Janis Joplin realm. There was a big crowd for them at this afternoon show.

Time to hit the parties now, and I headed over to the Paste/Sennheiser shindig to catch Ben Kweller. He was in rockin' form, as always, playing things from his new CD Go Fly a Kite, as well as some crowd pleasing tunes from his catalog.

Due to a schedule snafu, I missed seeing Cotton Mather at Gingerman, but stayed around to watch Austin local David Garza. Super-talented guy.


Finally, I took a swing by Austin Music Hall to see my friends Quiet Company play their opening set and will ALL the Austin Music Awards. They ended up taking 10 awards that night, a record. I am really happy for them. So talented, they deserved every award they got... and more.

Enjoy some of the videos from Wednesday:

Alabama Shakes
Ben Kweller
David Garza
Quiet Company