Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SXSW day five: old and new acts make for a great night

I had work to do through the morning and early afternoon, but planned on heading to the South Congress and South First area of Austin for some bands I'd already seen this week but would be happy to enjoy again -- as well as Glossary, who I've seen in years past, and Howler.

But I ran into The Agency Group's Adam Countryman outside his company's party at Lambert's and figured I could drop in for some lunch and a drink before being on my way. Ironically, for an event hosted by a booking agency, no bands played at it. But I dined amply, deliciously and freely on cole slaw, potato salad, devilled eggs, boar ribs and barbecued brisket and chicken. There were also margaritas, mojitos and other cocktails I'd never tried before and, since there were nice people to talk to at the party, I elected to stick around and enjoy most of them.

The back-up plan, once 4 p.m. rolled around, was to return to my favourite hangout of this SXSW: The Ginger Man. The Wedding Present was playing at 4 p.m., Tommy Stinson was at 5 p.m. and John Doe was on at 6 p.m. That sounded like a good way to spend three hours. But unfortunately, a lot of other people thought so too -- which was compounded by The Ginger Man having one of the best beer selections in the city and it being St. Patrick's Day. My SXSW badge didn't give me priority access and, since I'd also seen those three acts before and hate waiting in lines, I returned to my condo to get some more work done and have a few beers on my own.
The Standells

I try to avoid Sixth Street as much as possible on the Saturday of SXSW, especially when it's St. Patrick's Day, but I took a chance on fighting through the drunken masses to go to Buffalo Billiards to see some '60s garage rock heroes, The Standells. It was a group I'd always thought was from Boston, until I got to Austin, because its biggest hit was about Beantown's Charles River.

I've heard The Baseball Project cover The Standells' "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White," but it was great to hear the original. The band also played some new material that wasn't exceptional, a fast cover of "Hey Joe" and another old gem in "Try It," which was banned from some radio stations for what were deemed to be obscene lyrics but which seem pretty tame by today's standards. The moment I'd been waiting for was saved until the end and while it didn't sound nearly as menacing as it did 46 years ago, "Dirty Water" had me exiting the club on a high note -- and just in time to see R.E.M.'s Peter Buck walking down the street.
Sugar & The Hi-Lows

I've discovered Sugar & The Hi-Lows over the past month and wanted to see if I'd like the group live as much as on record. Being given a ticket for a free drink on the way in didn't hurt those chances. The guitarist, bassist and drummer were attired in suits and Sugar lived up to her name. The Nashville band deserved a bigger audience and "See It For Yourself" deserves to be a hit. The quartet bridges '60s and 21st century pop, rock and soul sounds, and sucked me in further with "Stubborn Lover," the soulful "I've Got You Covered," "Show and Tell," "This Can't Be The Last Time" and an extended "I Think I Said Too Much." While the group's "Proud Mary" cover didn't live up to Ike and Tina Turner or Creedence Clearwater Revival standards, I like that the band tackled it.

Squarehead, a Dublin indie pop/rock guitar, bass and drums trio with a roots edge, displayed both lots of energy and some songwriting chops at Friends. And I guess that it was appropriate that I see an Irish band on St. Patrick's Day. The bassist jumped into the decently sized crowd during the last song to add a bit more excitement to what was already a set that surpassed my expectations.

I'd run into my friend Lauree at Friends and since we had a good vantage point at the front of the stage and both had Belfast's Cashier No. 9 near the top of our 11 p.m. to-see lists, I bought us a couple of more beers and stuck around. The sextet plays songs that you'd like to sing along to, but we didn't know them well enough. That should change. This was another strong discovery.

The midnight hour rolled around and it was time to go back to more familiar territory with Peter Case and Paul Collins backed by a rhythm section at Easy Tiger Patio. These guys go way back to the '70s with power pop kings The Nerves and then formed The Breakaways, but their material was never released until a 2009 compilation that I now feel I need to have after hearing some of the songs at this gig. Case was also in The Plimsouls and has had an underrated solo career, while Collins fronted The Beat and has released solo records, and their set offered an overview of their careers.

I was too busy bopping to take comprehensive notes, but "Don't Wait Up For Me Tonight," "I Don't Fit In" and "Great Big World" were just a few of the highlights. Collins said they would have been happy to play for two hours, but were limited by the festival's 40-minute set format. Two hours would have been great, but what I heard was pure power pop bliss and it would have been a great way to end SXSW on a total high.

But it was only 1 a.m. and not time to go home yet, so instead of taking a chance on something I may not like I joined my friends at Red Eyed Fly for a few more drinks and a set by JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, who I'd already enjoyed on Friday afternoon and liked at least as much tonight.

We returned to our condo for our nightly beers until 4:30 a.m. routine, but this time we brought friends (including the Waco Brothers) so things might have gone a bit later -- but it remained civilized and no-one got hurt.

Money spent on food during five days and nights of SXSW: $8.

1 comment:

DtothaC said...

Oh Steve. It's always a pleasure to read of your antics and to see who you've been checking out. Great stuff. One day I'd be honoured to join you. If I may...