Guest SXSW Blog: The Wedding Present, Van Morrison, Kreamy 'Lectric Friends, R.E.M., and more
We asked another South Florida SXSW warrior, the proprietor of the illustrious Churchill's, to weigh in on his musical discoveries here so far.
Pedal to the metal. Well, not just metal, but in fact all genres from alt-country to zydeco…. (Actually that's a lie; I haven't seen any zydeco bands yet, but I'm sure there are some here.) And I mean pedal down, as in speed, because if you want to catch a few idols as well as up-and-comers at SXSW you have to move pretty fast.
To recap a lightning first day, Wednesday, read on -- but before doing so, drink three energy drinks and four shots of espresso, and make sure you do your warm-up stretches.
I got to the starting line late, and set off at a slow pace by revisiting an old memory in the guise of English Eighties band The Wedding Present at Emo's Annex.
(A quick aside here: Talk about a greedy venue -- we have Emo's Main stage [think falling-down barn], Emo's Jr. [smallish room with a bar], Emo's IX lounge stage [actually a well-appointed room]…. Is that enough? Oh no. For SXSW they need a fourth stage, so across the road they erect a tent for about 250 people with a bar and some porta-potties. End jealous rant).
So TWP played a mix of old hits and new songs from their soon-to-be-released new album. (At least it's soon in England; contact Sweat Records or some other expert for more info on a U.S. release date).
Time to move, so I upped the pace an eight-block scurry to catch a highly recommended Austin band, Black Angels, who nicely impressed with some twisted old garage sounds. I had been spreading rumors of the imminent demise of another favorite of mine, Van Morrison (in order to get some company at the gig), and so we loped over to La Zona Rosa. There, upon gaining admission, I found said fave to be in excellent voice and looking well in addition, and thought maybe my companions wouldn't notice after all. They did.
Later that night it was onward at a steady pace to Antone’s to see Simian Mobile Disco out of London, but the line was too long. So, back-up plan, a 10-block move to see Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, formerly of Miami and now residing in Oakland, and buy Robert and Priya a drink. I stayed to catch the next band, Tulsa (pop-punk from San Francisco), as opposed to the band Tulsa (rock from Boston) who don't play the festival till today, Saturday. Somebody should have checked to see if the name was taken already.
Seriously in stride now, and a half-block move to Spiros’ Ampitheatre to meet a friend who wanted me to check out a band from that hotbed of punk, Laramie, Wyoming. The band was Teenage Bottlerocket -- mmmm, excellent. I also caught two numbers by Madeline from Athens, Georgia, who seemed to have a very muted pop sound with horns and keyboards to accompany the acoustic guitar. Outside and on the move again I discovered why Madeline sounded muted -- I had left the ear plugs in from the punk gig.
The rhythm building and heart rate climbing as the guts of the evening arrived, I actually had to spend my first time in a line to get into Antone’s to see Lightspeed Champion perform some incredibly powerful folk, or maybe it was toned-down rock, accompanied by just a violin and a harmonizing backup singer. More quality out of the U.K. followed with Scottish four-piece Sons and Daughters, simply stunning. Next up was The Kills. Maybe it was just to hard for what is basically an electro band to follow such raw passion of Lightspeed or S&Ds, but after three songs, I'd had enough.
Then I dad to check out an Aussie band called Cut Copy, five uphill blocks away. I got there and gave them two songs before a realization that I didn't need to relive Midge Ure or Ultravox again, so again I was moving into top gear.
Downhill to Stubb’s and into the R.E.M. gig, which was packed. The band was in fine form, but mostly played new stuff, so six songs was enough.
Home straight now with Emo's Annex (the day’s starting line) beckoning for the last three tunes from the Lemonheads. In a word: AWESOME
Relaxed that it was all over for the day, I started to walk to the hotel, but I could hear sound coming from Esther’s Follies. Oh, what joy: Paul Kelly, a name I knew well from living in Australia. He was here with his son playing electric guitar alongside his acoustic. Five ballads later, the day really had ended and bedward I was bound. With the prospect of three more days like it to come, I realized SXSW isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. --Sir Winston