Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SXSW day six: It starts with softball and ends with star power

It's been my custom to play shortstop for the Mixed Media Mongrels in the SXSW Softball Tournament under coach Stephen Easley since 2004. I had to miss SXSW last year, so it was good to catch up with the friends I've made on the team, and we've had some good runs in past years.

This wasn't one of them, however. We were okay defensively, but couldn't get the bats going. I batted first and hit two singles before flying out to right field in the last inning, but never made it past second base. It was a single loss elimination tournament, and we went down 8-3. But troubles were drowned with a can of free beer and lots of free food, including cole slaw, potato salad, beans, sausage, chicken, chipped beef, ribs and brisket.

I got back to the condo, washed up and changed, grabbed a tin of Guinness for the walk and made my way to the Continental Club to meet Craig Laskey, who had gone earlier and picked me up a $20 ticket for a very special edition of Alejandro Escovedo's annual Sunday concert with a number of his friends. It's not an official SXSW event, but it's a tradition that I finally took part in for the first time.

Things got underway at 1:30 p.m. with sets by Frank Mustard Project, Krayolas, Triple Cobra, Kris Gruen and The Bombettes before I arrived just before 5 p.m. The adrenaline from earlier in the day had disappeared, and Craig and I commandeered two bar stools behind the club where we could still hear things but could rest our weary bones for a while since we had a long night ahead of us. But Maren Parusen and John Velghe sounded okay from a distance.

We moved inside and propped ourselves against the bar for Miss Melvis, and then I started paying more attention once Jesse Malin hit the stage at 7 p.m. The performance was highlighted by "San Francisco," "Burning The Bowery," "Black Haired Girl" (which has similarities to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl") and "Revelations." He ended with a cover of The Clash's "Death Or Glory" that was nowhere near as good as the original, but an excellent choice nevertheless.

The male/female guitar and drums duo The Ghost Wolves was up next and the first song was an alternative blues number that I didn't mind, but the woman's high-pitched voice quickly got on my nerves and the end of the set didn't come soon enough for almost everyone in the rapidly filling club.

Garland Jeffreys played one of my favourite sets of the week when I saw him earlier in the week, and the repertoire was pretty similar in this one with the same sharp Austin musicians, but it lacked a bit of vibrancy. But he's almost 25 years older than me, so I can understand why, considering I was feeling pretty wiped out. But he walked up and introduced himself before his set, and we had a brief conversation after it, and was pleased he was so nice since I've always respected him and his music.
Tommy Stinson

Former Replacements and current Guns N' Roses bassist Tommy Stinson (who's also had shorter runs with Bash and Pop, Perfect and as a solo artist) was up next and opened with new solo album title track "One Man Mutiny" with just him on acoustic guitar accompanied by a slide player. They were then joined by a guitarist, bassist, drummer and Stinson's wife, who looked much better than she sang.

"Zero to Stupid" featured impressive lap steel and was followed by "Match Made in Hell." Stinson switched to bass partway through the set for more rocking tunes. It was good, but I'd still to prefer to see him with The Replacements one more time.
Mike Barfield

I'd never heard of Barfield, The Tyrant of Texas Funk, so took a brief respite on a padded bench by the mercy table, but went out to our perch beside the stage once I realized how good the group sounded. Mike Barfield is an entertaining frontman and his bandmates were all fine players. These guys combine to make a great party band, but I doubt they'll ever venture up to Canada.

Kid Congo Powers -- who cut his teeth as a guitarist with The Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds before fronting The Pink Monkey Birds -- played a completely entertaining set that showcased his guitar skills and quirky lyrics. The frontman was justifiably smiling throughout songs including "I Found A Peanut," "Rare As The Yeti," "Golden Brown" (which he stressed wasn't The Stranglers number of the same name), "Black Santa," "Bubble Trouble" "LSDC" and covers of The Cramps' "I'm Cramped" and The Gun Club's "For The Love of Ivy." The club was packed with about 200 people, but some still managed to dance despite the tight quarters.
Kid Congo Powers

The main attraction, Escovedo and lots of guest stars, took the stage at 12:30 a.m. You can read about that amazing set in my Spinner review.

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


Charlie H. said...

You can't speak for everyone...

Myself and my two friends really enjoyed The Ghost Wolves performance. They're a new band from Austin who really know how to bring the rock. Not enough bands round here play with that kind of gusto.

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