Thursday, March 16, 2006

SXSW DAY 1

AUSTIN, TEXAS --What am I still doing up this late?????

It was a long, long day of rock 'n' roll. If this were Sesame Street, the letter sponsoring tonight would be "P" -- in honor of The Plimsouls and the Pornographers -- New Pornographers, that is. Those two bands made what has to be one of the best Wednesday nights at SXSW I've ever seen -- at least since 1996 and Lou Reed played in Austin on a Wednesday. Usually the first night is rather tame. Not this year.

As usual, the entourage and I started the evening at the Guitartown party, which this year was at Mother Eagan's on West 6th Street. Got there just in time to see the last of Tres Chica's set. Tanya Lamm formerly of Hazeldine is in this group.


I was determined to make it to the Frogville portion of the New Mexico showcase over at Las Manitas restaurant on Congress (and determined to get the fajitas and tamales and various other goodies there), so I trotted over there just before Hundred Year Flood started playing.

HYF has a new album coming out in April, and apparently some of the songs they played Wednesday are from it. They all sounded strong. It's been months since I've seen these guys -- they've been wintering in Austin -- so it was a treat.

My only complaint is that the set was way too short. I think they scheduled eight bands in four hours, so you do the math. Good thing most the New Mexico acts -- including some that didn't play Wednesday like Goshen and Boris McCutcheon --are playing Thursday night at Schoal Creek Saloon.


Unfortunately I had to make one of those horrible SXSW choices. Joe West was going on, but if I was going to catch The Gourds over at Mother Eagan's, I was going to have to make a quick hoof back. Sorry, Joe, but I'm sure I'll get to see you before I get to see The Gourds again. I did however snap Joe's picture right as he was going to the Men's Room.

The Gourds didn't disappoint. Unlike their recent show in Santa Fe opening for Ralph Stanley, they got nice asnd rowdy, with Kev Russell playing mostly on his electric guitar. They did a lot of the more rocked out stuff from their new album, Heavy Ornamentals and a version of The Rolling Stones' "Miss You."


After this we headed for Stubb's BBQ, where The New Pornographers played.

It's amazing: Ask the regular Joe on the street and chances are he's not aware of The New Pornographers. Say the name and he'll think it's the start of a dirty joke.

But here at South by Southwest -- which not only draws hoards of music bizzers, but even bigger hoards of music geeks -- they're major stars. They packed the massive backyard of Stubb's.

And rightfully so.

Yikes! Sounds this sweet should be illegal. Neko Case, who in this band mainly sings harmonies behind Carl Newman (and plays the best tambourine this side of Betty of The Archies), but she's indispensible.

On the way out we were all humming "Sing Me Spanish Techno."

We headed down to Sixth Street to B.D. Riley's, apparently a sports bar in real life, to hear one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Ronny Elliott of Tampa, Fla. He played a a solo acoustic set including some of my favorite songs -- "Tell The King The Killer's Here," "Burn, Burn, Burn," "Mr. Edison's Electric Chair" and "South by So What," a sardonic song he wrote after the first time he played the festival in the early '90s.

Afterwards we squeezed into the crowded 6th Street bar called Exodus to see The Plimsouls reunion show. I never got to see this band during their early '80s heyday (I understand they played the late great Golden Inn once back then) But I did see their previous reunion gig back in 1996, also at SXSW.

If anything, they've gotten better. For some reason they started late, so the set was short. But they rocked like kids half their age. Peter Case has gone on to become a respected acoustic singer-songwriter/folkie. But the man's a natural rocker.

I wish The Plimsouls would have played at Stubb's -- a nice big outdoor venue. The Exodus not only was sweating room only, but apparently there's no ventilation there. It was extremely uncomfortable, but The Plimsouls helped me transcend such trivial concerns.

Gotta get to bed ...Neil Young is tomorrow's keynote speaker.

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