I learned a couple of valuable lessons for SXSW yesterday.
1) Austin traffic during the festival either has gotten a lot worse during the past 4 years, or at least is a lot worse than I remember it. And parking is even worse.
2) Not having a badge or a wristband is a lot harder than people say, at least for the nighttime, officially sanctioned events.
The first lesson I learned after trying to get from my daughter's house in south Austin to Lovejoy's where Kid Congo Powers was playing a free show at 5:15 pm. After dealing with the traffic crawl and finding a $10 parking space about 6 blocks from the venue, I got there just in time to hear Kid Congo thank the crowd.
|Hubbard & son|
I also arrived too late to see Eric Burdon (yes, former singer of The Animals) play a free show in the Hotel San Jose parking lot. That was my own fault though for stopping for a nice Mongolian BBQ dinner downtown.
But then the badges deal: I figured my musical taste was so obscure there wouldn't be big crowds for some of the bands I wanted to see -- such as Lee Fields, a soul singer I like.
I was wrong. The line was so long in from of Red 7 that the SXSW looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if I could pay a cover charge.
Then I hiked several blocks uphill (with my soon-to-be-replaced arthritic hip) to the Presbyterian church where Giant Sand was playing. Even though there wasn't a big line, again it was a badge-or-wristband-only show. I even tried to play the crippled old man card. Sorry. Policy is policy.
By now it was midnight, so I trudged back to my car, down near I-35 and drove to East Austin where I knew that Ray Wylie Hubbard and Billy Joe Shaver were playing at a bar called The White Horse.. I found a parking spot nearby (free!) and I didn't need a wristband to get in. In fact it was a free show. And Ray Wylie Hubbard was onstage with a full band.
The funny thing is that I'd started out the day with Ray Wylie Hubbard. He had done a short solo set around noon at Threadgill's, where I'd just had brunch with family. I didn't mind For one thing, Hubbard sounds best with a band. His songs stand by themselves but they sound best with bass and drums and electric guitar. His son Lucas does that job, both on stage and on the record. And the boy can pick. I remember seeing an impromptu set by Hubbard four years ago when I was in Austin during SXSW, Hubbard and son, then about 14, I think, did some blues tunes at Threadgill's. He's learning well.
For another thing, his soon-to-be-released album, The Grifter's Hymnal, is the first great album of 2012 as far as I'm concerned. It's got Hubbard's trademark style of snarling, cosmic blues he's perfected during the past few years. Lots of slide and attitude.
As I said in reviewing his previous album, " ... unlike his fellow cosmic cowboys of the ’70s, Hubbard stayed cosmic. Since the ’90s ... his best material has been concerned with the wrath of God and the temptations of the devil, of earthly delights and heavenly light. And it’s mostly done with wry humor."
(I didn't get close enough to shoot a decent video myself, but check out this one Ray made himself.)
|Bass Drum of Death|
But some of my favorite part of SXSW is hearing music just walking down the street. For instance I came across a fun little jazz band -- trumpet, guitar, snare drum and accordion -- playing "Mack the Knife" and other tunes, on Sixth Street Wednesday afternoon. They sounded a lot better than the one happy guy banging on an acoustic guitar just up the street.
And there was a fairly competent metal band called Broken Teeth, playing a free outdoor show on Seventh Street I heard while eating a BBQ chicken Korean taco on my way between being denied entrance to Lee Fields and being denied entrance at Giant Sand.
So far today I've been hanging out with my grandson on his first birthday. We'll see what music awaits this evening.