Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SXSW Adventures 2010 (part 2)

My third day in Austin turned out to be the busiest day of the week, and the first in which Josh joined me for some shows.

Thanks to Pigeon O’Brien, a passionate Austin-based publicist who is not only a friend of Popdose but also one of the funniest people on Twitter, I was tipped to an event she organized at the West 6th Street location of Opal Divine's. She assembled a lineup of local roots and Americana musicians she represents, for the brief period I was there, I got to hear short sets by Betty Soo and Dustin Welch. I also finally met Pigeon in person for the first time. She was so happy to have one of her tweeps in attendance that she even gave me an on-stage shout out, which brought a big smile to my face. Those kinds of things never get old. She was just as cool in person as her online persona led me to believe, and hearing the artists she represents perform live gave me a more vivid feel for what local Americana artists in Texas are all about.

While my heartstrings weren’t being tugged particularly hard by the music at Opal Divine's, the music was well presented and made me feel at home. Basically, there are a couple more artists I feel compelled to check out now, namely the two in the showcase I missed that I wanted to see most – Steve Poltz and Walt Wilkins. That was probably the biggest impact the show had on me, though the proverbial bouncy ball alternately led me and followed me to a couple other places, as you’ll see in a bit.

When Josh and I left Opal Divine's, our intention was to catch a set by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at the Mohawk. Unfortunately, they had already finished their set before we got there. On the upside though, we caught an intense, raucous, loud and droney headlining set by an Austin band called the Black Angels. Josh really took to them, and I’m ready to hear how their studio recordings compare to their live sound. They had me transfixed. Always a good sign.

After some roadside pizza and some time to relax, I headed back downtown, this time alone. I hadn’t purchased a badge or a wristband, having missed my early bird opportunities and then ultimately deciding that I’d rather just wing it anyway. Not having that special fancy pass was ultimately what doomed my attempt to check out Damien Marley and Nas at Emo’s at the last minute. But no matter, Louisville’s Wax Fang sounded pretty tight when I saw them instead over at Valhalla. The song I heard outside the venue that drew me in wasn’t topped by what I heard inside, so I’m not sure what happened there. But I wouldn’t be upset if I saw them again opening for a band like the Twilight Singers or Queens of the Stone Age. I’d have to hear more to get a better sense of what I was really witnessing.

Heading back outside again, I grabbed a BBQ brisket sandwich and witnessed a one-man band (bass drum, hi hat, guitar and vocals) covering John Lee Hooker and Buddy Holly tunes, among others in that old time blues and ‘50s rock n’ roll genre, albeit with some punk-ish energy. Dude was pretty damned entertaining, though I unfortunately didn’t catch his name.

After heading back to Josh’s, I managed to drag him out again to catch the final act playing at the Continental Club, a guy by the name of Ian Moore who appears to call both Seattle and Austin home. He had what seemed like a pretty balanced mix of rock, blues and country that sounded perfectly at home after 1am in Texas bar – nothing earth shattering, but perfect for the occasion and I’m pretty certain everyone in attendance was happy with what they heard. The best part for me was when the evening coincidentally came full circle when Dustin Welch, who I had seen earlier in the day at Opal Divine’s, took the stage as a guest towards the end of Ian’s set. And then, outside the venue, Josh and I ended up talking with a local who casually informed us that Frosty would be playing the next night. I asked him, "do you mean the Frosty, the one who drummed for Lee Michaels in the late '60s?" Yup, that Frosty. Unfortunately, his set clashed with the one show I wanted to see most while in Austin, but at least now I know where to look for him when I'm ready to catch up on all things Lee Michaels, something I've been meaning to do ever since I moved to California.

Actually, what was even better than all of this was being able to grab some pizza at Home Slice well after Ian Moore’s set had concluded. It was probably some amount of time after 2 in the morning, and the Home Slice parking lot on South Congress was abuzz as if it was New York City on any given night. After several beers and many miles walked to catch all sorts of music I had never heard before, a slice of margherita really hit the spot. This could have easily been the peak of the week, but that would actually happen the next night.

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