Saturday, March 18, 2006


You probably can tell by reading these posts that I really enjoy South by Southwest and love coming here.

But sometimes it's not hard to get cynical about the monstrosity the whole shebang has become.

My big SXSW moment of the day was when I was outside of the Yard Dog Gallery, taking a break from the Bloodshot Party and calling my girlfriend on my cell phone. As I was talking with Helen, some wide-eyed kid comes up to me and hands me a CD in a paper envelope. I smile and nod, assuming he'll buzz off.

But no.

He starts giving me the song and dance about the band whose CD I now held in my hand, where I can catch them playing, and so on. I look at the little dunderhead and snap, "I'm trying to talk on the phone!"

The stupid kid is lucky I wasn't the man with the big cigar who could make him a star. Maybe I did him a favor so he won't bother someone who actually could help him. Of course, I thought of that kid later Friday walking down Sixth Street and ever so often seeing a bunch of scruffed up CDs lying among the paper pizza plates and plastic cups.

Oh well, on to the music.

The entourage and I spent most of the daylight hours at the annual Bloodshot Party. We got to see Bobby Bare again, who sang a couple of tunes -- "Detroit City" and one called "The Stranger," which is about a cowboy who has sex with cows. No joke. Bobby also sang an unfinished original concerning adultry.

Other highlights of the party:

The Bottle Rockets did a spirited set, despite the fact that the bass player blew an amp.

Cordero, a new Bloodshot band, was my surprise favorite discovery of the day. I know nothing about this band except they have a talented female singer, a trumpet player, and play a Latin-flavored rock that reminds me of Calexico.

Speaking of big surprises, during The Meat Purveyors' set, a guy standing behind me hopped up for a second on the stage with Cherilyn DiMond, the stand-up bass player. At the end of the song, Cherilyn said, "Oh my God, my boyfriend just proposed to me!

I think her answer was "yes."

As always though, the highlight of the Bloodshot party was those rascally Waco Brothers. They didn't play the last year I was here (2004), so I hadn't seen them since 2002.

This was the best Waco set I've seen in years. It was obvious that magic would be made as many began singing along with "Nothing at All," one of Deano Waco's best angry political songs.

Raw, inspired chaos seemed to be the order of the day. This is due in part to Tracey Waco's drunken highjinx. I'd never seen him this way. Usually he seems like a nice quiet guy. Not last night. He literally was falling-down drunk. At the end of the night Jon Langford said, "Tracey's going straight back to the hotel without his supper."

After the Wacos, almost anything would seem like a letdown. But it truly was a letdown when I learned that soul singer Bettye LaVette cancelled her performance. I'm not sure what her reasons were, but I was disappointed. She was one of the main acts I wanted to see here.

But someone who didn't disappoint was Big Al Anderson. I had assumed that his SXSW showcase would be on the mellow side, which was to support his newly released After Hours, a relatively mellow, sometimes jazzy album.

Instead, Al was rocking, reminding people why he was such an asset to NRBQ. My favorite songs he did were "All You Ever Do is Let Me Down" (a hit for The Mavericks, which he co-wrote with Raul Malo), "It Comes to Me Naturally" and Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm"(both from his NRBQ days)

The next show I caught was a guy named P.W. Long. He's a fomer frontman for the band Mule, and a favorite of most the guys in the entourage.

He's got a raspy voice, a beat-up guitar and a pissed-off attitude. He's backed only by a drummer -- the basic White Stripes/Black Keys/Moaners/Doo Rag arrangement.

P.W. was fun. But for good rocking rage, the Wacos were still ringing in my ears and Mr. Long didn't quite measure up to that standard.

I ended the evening at the Stan Ridgway showcase. He played with his acoustic trio feature his wife Pietra Wexstun on keyboards and Rick King on guitar. I knew it was going to be good when they opened with a slow spooky version of "Police Call," one of my favorite songs from the first Drywall album.

There was a Tex-Mex version of "Mexican Radio" a crazy romp on "Come on Down to The Barbecue," a strong "Call of the West" (from Stan's Wall of Voodoo days) and a good classic spookhouse rendition of "Ring of Fire."

I'd better get some sleep now or I'll be in worse shape than Tracy Waco Saturday.

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