Saturday, March 17, 2012

SXSW day four: Chuck Prophet, Wacos, Big Star and more

After a morning and early afternoon of work, music began for me at 2 p.m. with Chuck Prophet at The Ginger Man -- of course that was after a naked guy rode past me on a bike during my two-block walk to the club.
Chuck Prophet and Peter Buck

I've loved Prophet's last two albums, 2009's Let Freedom Ring! and this year's Temple Beautiful, and the former Green On Red member was high on my 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival priority list. He didn't disappoint in a set that included "Castro Halloween," "Left Hand and the Right Hand," an extended "Willie Mays Is Up To Bat," "Doubter Of Jesus (All Over You)," "White Night Big City" and "Little Girl Little Boy."

I'd seen R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck standing at the side of the stage and wasn't surprised when he came on to join in on "You Did / Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp" to end the set. It became an exhibition of guitar prowess with Prophet, Buck and band member James Deprato, and Prophet briefly bowed before Buck. Prophet received a deserving standing ovation, and any discerning adult who enjoys rock and roll and storytelling should definitely investigate this man.

I wanted to stick around for The dB's, and figured that Buck would also play with them, but I had obligations on South Congress and walked 25 minutes south to the Yard Dog Gallery to see Lydia Loveless. Last year's Indestuctible Machine was one of my 15 favourite albums of that period, and  although I spent the time wisely chatting with Bloodshot Records publicist Josh Zanger, I would have liked to have heard more and am hoping the young artist makes it to Toronto soon.
J. Roddy Walston

I walked a few blocks north to Jo's Coffee for J. Roddy Walston and The Business and arrived just in time to hear the rocking "Don't Break The Needle." Walston was sitting behind a piano at the front of the stage with his band members surrounding him and his cover of Little Richard's "Lucille" outrocked the original. A new song called "Marigold" has me looking forward to a new album, while '70s rock throwback "I Don't Want To Hear It" reinforced why I went to this showcase in the first place. This is throwback rock and roll with soul that wins more than Charlie Sheen.

I returned to the Yard Dog to add some notes to my Waco Brothers article for Spinner, but first saw JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound. He's one of the young entries in the soul revival and looks like he could be around for a while as he reinvigorates the genre along with more seasoned artists like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and Lee Fields. I would have appreciated some  horns, but the band was rock solid even without them, and his soulful cover or Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" elevated his coolness to another level.
The Waco Brothers

The Waco Brothers pulled off another terrific show that included "Fox River," "Walking On Hell's Roof Looking At The Flowers," "Too Sweet To Die" and "Red Brick Wall" before singer/songwriter Paul Burch came on stage to play songs from the group's forthcoming The Great Chicago Fire album.

"It combines the brute sexuality of the Waco Brothers with the songwriting virtuosity of Paul Burch," said the irascible Langford. The lovely Tawny Newsome, who Langford introduced himself to during the title track even though she's a member of his Skull Orchard band, also came on stage to sing harmonies with violinist Jean Cook.

The Tex-Mex "Monterey" was next, but Langford paid tribute to the Canadians in the crowd instead of any residents of the California city who may have been in attendance. Perhaps that had something to do with us getting him drinks and having Diana Aubrecht as his songwriting muse. Other songs from the excellent new album included "Wrong Side of Love" and "Cannonball" before a return to the Wacos' "Plenty Tough Union Made" and covers of The Small Faces' "All Or Nothing" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and a by-demand encore cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy."

I made my back up north to see Posies and modern Big Star member Ken Stringfellow (and Indigo Girl Amy Ray, who came up for a duet) at The Ginger Man for a bit before I had to return to the condo for a few hours to get some work done.

I hit Frank at 10:15 to see The Love Language, who were harder-edged than I expected. I enjoyed it, but prefer the recorded versions of their songs over their live ones and look forward to a new album in July.

I ducked into the Cedar Street Courtyard for two songs from The Scoundrels, a British roots hybrid band that sounds like it could have been from Louisiana. "Sexy Weekend" was great and I want to hear an EP that's coming out on April 24.
Ken Stringfellow and Peter Buck

I returned to The Ginger Man for a Big Star tribute led by Stringfellow, fellow Posies member Jon Auer, Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and a number of guests that extended things well past the normal 35-minute showcase duration. Blitzen Trapper's Eric Earley was the first guest for "Feel," and then Buck and Latebirds guitarist Markus Nordenstreng came up for a totally rousing "In The Street."

Stringfellow and Auer shared vocals on "Back Of A Car" and Nordenstreng returned for "When My Baby's Beside Me." Two members of Cotton Mather did "The Ballad of El Goodo" and then X's John Doe moved from standing behind me with a beer to the stage to sing "I'm In Love With A Girl." The dB's' Peter Holsapple was supposed to come up for "Way Out West" but couldn't be found, but Stephens singing the song was enough magic to replace the disappointment of not seeing him.

Members of Star & Micey, a group I want to see, came up for "Thirteen" and then a female singer who I didn't recognize killed on a cover of Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." Auer took lead on "Don't Lie To Me" with Doe on harmonies before Buck and others came on stage for an amazing "September Gurls" to end the 75-minute set.

That left enough time to go around the corner to Frank and the Merge Records showcase to see the label's latest signing, Bob Mould. I've seen him a number of times in various incarnations with Husker Du, Sugar and on his own over the past 25 years, and this didn't rank among the best of them, but an encore of "If I Can't Change Your Mind" left me very happy.

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

My morning work obligations, 1 p.m. interview with The Cult's Ian Astbury and my eagerness to get to the Yard Dog made me miss my early afternoon free food parties and realize that I hadn't yet eaten by 10 p.m., so I stopped at one of the dozens of delicious food trucks that have taken Austin by storm. I feel so guilty and ashamed.

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