Friday, March 16, 2012

SXSW day three: Garland Jeffreys hasn't lost a thing

My Thursday began at the Austin Convention Center with a keynote address by Bruce Springsteen (you can read my coverage on Spinner for more details), filing my article and two free lunches: fish and chips at Latitude 30's East of England party; and steak, beef, pasta and salad with the Germans at Parkside Restaurant.
Archie Powell & The Exports

Music began at 3:15 p.m. with Archie Powell & The Exports, which has become one of my favourite bands over the course of 2010's Skip Work and Great Ideas In Action, which will be available to the rest of you on May 1. The four members were cramped on the small stage at 512, but Powell still managed to jump around. The room isn't conducive to a loud band, but the quartet's crunchy and delicious pop hooks still shone through.

Joe Pug was playing his final two songs, accompanied by an electric guitarist and upright bassist, when I arrived at the Ginger Man back patio. I'm not familiar with the singer/songwriter, but was told by friends that it was an enjoyable set.
Jon Langford and Skull Orchard

Sunshine and cold beer were a fine accompaniment to Jon Langford (who curated the day's entertainment at Ginger Man) and Skull Orchard. Jean Cook's violin was a welcomed accompaniment and Tawny Newsome made a fine vocal and visual foil to Langford. The set was highlighted early by "Strange Ways to Win Wars" before the twin guitar attack was unleashed on "Tubby Brothers." "Pill Sailor," "I Am The Law" and an extended "Sentimental Marching Song" showcased Langford's songwriting mastery, but I've heard those songs numerous times and was really looking forward to a man I've been waiting to see for 30 years.
Garland Jeffreys

Garland Jeffreys didn't disappoint and started his 5:20 p.m. set on a huge high note with "I'm Alive." The 68-year-old hasn't been particularly prolific on the recording front this century, but "Coney Island Winter" from last year's The King of In Between showed he still has what it takes. He followed it with "35 Millimeter Dreams" and climbed on a table to sing part of it. Another new song, "The Contortionist," was also strong and his band members had the material down solidly.

"Modern Lovers" was followed by another new one titled "Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me" that featured Jeffreys singing down on one knee and then on his back. That set the tone for perhaps his biggest song, "Wild In The Streets," which had many in the audience singing along.

That was cranked up considerably with his brilliant cover of ? and The Mysterians' "96 Tears," one of the best songs ever and which I also heard on Tuesday night from Joe "King" Carrasco & The Crowns. Langford got up on stage to dance and sing along, and Jeffreys and the band effortlessly slipped in parts of Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man" and Rosie Flores was called up for a bit of the Ernie K. Doe hit "Mother-in-Law." It was over the top.
Los Headaches

I had to return to my condo to write up my Nardwuar interview for Spinner, but was in Flamingo Cantina by 8:25 p.m. to hear lo-fi Mexican garage rock band Los Headaches. I enjoyed it more than similar bands I saw on Wednesday night because of its rootsy edge and sense of melody, and it deserved a bigger turnout than this sparsely attended showcase received.

Viva Viva's set time was moved up by 30 minutes and was almost over at Bar 96, so I headed back up Red River Street to Valhalla to see Denver, Colo. quartet Bad Weather California. I was hit by a loud and raunchy wave of sound when I walked in, but the tempo and aggression was toned down a bit on the succeeding songs, and I preferred when the guitar-driven indie rock went in more of a pop direction.

I would have preferred to have seen Bruce Springsteen, The Jesus and Mary Chain or the Big Star tribute, but Spinner assigned me to cover its showcase at Stubb's with Girls, Kaiser Chiefs and The Temper Trap. You can read that coverage here.
Cannon Bros.

The Stubb's show ended by 1 a.m., which gave me time to make it to Maggie Mae's Gibson Room to see young Winnipeg guitar and drums duo Cannon Bros. There's a bit of a buzz growing about the group's Firecracker/Cloudglow album back in Canada and, while Cole Woods and Alannah Walker (who look similar with their horn rim glasses and flippy hairstyles) are still quite young, you can definitely hear the potential in their music. They trade off instruments and lead vocals, which is the weakest element in their less muscular than the White Stripes repertoire, but the small but enthusiastic group that gathered in front of the stage showed their heartfelt appreciation by leaping on stage to dance during the final song.

That still left time to catch the end of Austin band The Gourds set at Antone's, and I'm glad I did. I've liked and respected the group for years, but this was my first time seeing it along with an audience that seemed evenly split between locals and out-of-towners. There were also more young people in the crowd than I expected for this veteran roots band, which augments the basic guitar, bass and drums instrumentation with violin and accordion. The set featured a fitting tribute to the late Doug Sahm in "At The Crossroads," which includes the line "You just can't live in Texas if you don't have a lot of soul." The Gourds have more than enough soul to retain their residency.

Money spent on food during first three days and nights of SXSW: $0.


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