by Carl Hanni
Friday, March 15, Austin: Being pressed for time, and working on a borrowed computer, instead of diving to deeply into Thursday's Festival wrap-up, here are a few snapshots.
*If there's a truly quintessential SXSW band, it would have to be the Waco Bros. I've seen these guys every SXSW I've been to back into the '90s, and they bring it every time. Score one for the old guys, rocking as hard as anyone at the Festival, as irreverent and cheeky as any band half their age. And of course they have the SONGS.
*Dave Grohl's Keynote Speech was a highly entertaining love letter to rock & roll from one of the nicer guys in the biz. Telling his own personal story, starting with '70s rock (he beat-boxed the riff from "Frankenstein") up through his life changing discovery of punk rock and hardcore, and on up to the rise of Nirvana before going back to his DIY roots with Foo Fighters, Grohl sounded very much like the music fan he clearly still is. Score one for the nice guys and the working musician, in his case seemingly unfazed by his own enormous success.
*Tucson represented heavily all afternoon at an outdoor showcase outside a cafe and and hotel on South Congress. I only got to see sets by Gabe Sullivan and Taraf de Tucson and Texas Trash and the Trainwrecks, but Andrew Collberg, Chicha Dust, Rich Hopkins, Sergio Mendoza (on a huge stage next door) and others also played. Gabe and Taraf totally brought it, and their big-band mix of cumbia, Balkan and spaghetti western rightfully attracted a huge walk-by crowd. Terry Texas Trash and his band also grabbed the attention of the huge crowd on South Congress enjoying the festival, this time by the hair and by the throat. We took some real Tucson pride from this one; our musicians and bands are as good as anyone anywhere, and now that many more people know it in Austin, as well.
*I left 5 songs into British soul guy James Hunter's set; this just wasn't catching fire, and Duncan from KXCI and I knew that all we had to do with head around the corner and down the street to...
*...The Daptone Records Soul Review showcase and we'd get all the soul we could handle. This was indeed the case. Following an opening set by the Como Mamas (acapella gospel by three terrific church women from Como, MS) and a set by the Menahan Street Band, this show caught fire the moment Charles Bradley (the 'Screaming Eagle of Soul') hit the stage with the energy and moves that would make James Brown watch his back. This was truly inspiring showmanship, from a guy that must be one of the happiest guys in the world, finally achieving his due after decades of struggle.
Following a largely instrumental set by the Sugarman 3, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings just TOOK the stage, which Jones proceeded to tear up. Whatever got into Sharon Jones in Austin sure worked; it was one of the most energetic and engaged shows I've ever seen at SXSW, and the crowd gave her and her band as much love back as the band gave to the crowd.
The Budos Band capped things off with a thunderous set of dark, at times almost-sinister Staten Island funk. I'd never really noticed how dark their music was until tonight; eight heavy-looking dudes in black t-shirts, knit hats and crap tennis shoes, the exact visual opposite of the well-dressed Dap Kings, laying down a very heavy groove that seemed to emanate from underground. They brought everyone back for a final song, a big-band sing-along version of Sly Stone's "Family Affair" that sent everyone off into the night with more soul in their soul.
*The last band I saw was one of those classic SXSW moments: a totally unknown (to me) band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra (from Portland, of course), who blew what little was left of my mind and ears at 1:30 in the morning with a set of insanely great psychedelic guitar rock that had the audience weeping with pure pleasure. Thanks to the Weekly's Stephen Seigel for the turn-on!
*Finally: another you-had-to-be-there moment, at 2:30 in the morning or so we come across a guy methodically and maniacally pounding a full drum kit into submission, set up on the street in downtown Austin, his Bonham-on-speed pounding echoing for blocks.
The magic still happens!