SXSW 2019 - Day 3 - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

SXSW 2019 - Day 3

by Howard scott Rating: Release Date:
SXSW 2019 - Day 3
SXSW 2019 - Day 3

If there is one part of SXSW that is rather maddening, it is that I am but a single human being who can only physically be in one place at a time. With so much good music being played in so many different places, it would be nice to be able to split up and get to more than one at the same time. Alas, that isn’t going to be happening anytime soon, so it is a matter of searching through endless lists of performances and cherry picking what will be the best place to be at a given time. Day three was like that, and I  thought it worked out rather well. 

Since the day broke with a cool pouring rain, an indoor venue to start seemed like a good idea. As mentioned in yesterday’s report, there are speakers and panels galore at the festival. One, in particular, sounded interesting to a musical crowd, so I (and several hundred others) headed there.

img 2699The talk was given by recording artist Amanda Palmer, who is now a solo artist but was previously one half of the duo Dresden Dolls and later, Evelyn Evelyn. Ms. Palmer spent an hour speaking to the fact that she left a major record label and decided to start self-funding her musical efforts, first via Kickstarter, and then Patreon. She spoke of the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the music business, and particularly a woman whose goal it is and was to write deeply personal and graphic songs. Major labels were not going to release what she wanted to do, and she was tired of dealing with marketing departments, both at record companies and radio stations. 

Ms. Palmer spoke of how her newest album “There Will Be No Intermission”, couldn’t have been made without the investment she made in herself and her music by joining Patreon, which allows fans to donate a small portion to a favorite artist so they may pursue their goals without fearing that they may not mesh with the establishment. 

The gathered crowd spent the hour completely mesmerized by the charismatic speaker and gave her a lengthy standing ovation at the end. 

The skies brightened up around lunchtime, and it was now time to decide where my time could best be spent. A local tavern called simply “Mohawk” had a rather amazing indoor and outdoor lineup scheduled to last the day, so I pointed myself about six blocks north to get there. 

img 2701The first band I stumbled upon was Durand Jones and the Indications, and it was indeed a happy stumble. The usual five-piece band was augmented with two female players, one playing trumpet and the other a saxophone, and the offerings of Motown style soul music was heavenly to absorb. Jones handles most of the lead vocals, but falsetto singing drummer Aaron Frazer also chimed in as both a lead and background vocalist. The band played several cuts off of their recently released album “American Love Call” with “Long Way Home” being a crowd favorite. These guys would have been right at home in Berry Gordy’s studios way back in the 1960s, and it was great to hear a throwback to the time and place where I grew up. Originating from Indiana University, the basic lineup of Steve Okonski on keys, Kyle Houpt on bass and Blake Rhein as guitarist joined with Jones and Frazer back in 2012, and the years together playing everywhere have paid off in a highly professional group that knows how to please an audience.

After a brief intermission highlighted by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Canada’s own The Strumbellas next took the stage. These guys were named iHeartradio’s Best New Alternative Rock Artist in 2017, and it became really apparent why. SXSW basically kicked off an upcoming world tour to promote new record “Rattlesnake”, and their short six-song set gave everyone an appetite for a later ticket. 

The six-piece is fronted by singer-guitarist Simon Ward, and Mr. Ward played to the crowd just as a perfect front man should. He easily bantered with the huge crowd between songs, teasing the gathering of mostly Texans that they had to come to Canada for really good football and brisket. I don’t think anyone really bought that. Keyboardist David Ritter sometimes acted as a foil for Ward’s antics and seemed perfectly happy doing so. Jeremy Drury played an energetic drum set, while Isabel Ritchie on violin, Jon Hembrey on guitar and bassist Darryl James gave Ward a solid foundation from which to work. “Young and Wild” brought the crowd to full frenzy, and closer “Spirits” which is the song that put the band on the map, was played like the anthem it has become for the group.

More Jazzy Jeff followed, and then Austin’s favorite sons, The Black Angels, took the stage for a nine-song set of ear-bleeding power guitar psychedelic fury. The four guitarists, Alex Maas, Christian Bland, Jake Garcia and sometimes keyboardist Kyle Hunt play with the amps turned to eleven, the reverb causing the venue to rumble and vibrate and the sound to completely overtake everything else going on around them. Drum player Stephanie Bailey also is a stage highlight as she attacks the skins as if trying to murder them. I found myself feeling sorry for a crash cymbal for the relentless beating it was taking. Trying to compete with the stringed onslaught from the drummer’s throne could be an exercise in frustration, but not here. 

Several favorites from the band’s five-album repertoire were played, with “Comanche Moon” and closer “Young Men Dead” driving the crowd to a state of musical rapture. 

These guys don’t tour much anymore, so Austin is probably where you will see them play most often, and it was worth the trip. Psych-rock isn’t done any better by anybody, anywhere. 

The stage inside had more mellow fare such as Westerman and Omar Apollo, and I had to wonder if the end-of-the-world sounds emanating from outside were bleeding in. I didn’t have the opportunity to find out, as the concerts were simultaneous.

So. overall, I was pretty pleased with my choice of locales for the third day of the journey. If the rest of the week works out as well, all will be good. Until then, the open press bar awaits….

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