SXSW 2012: The Boss Gives The Keynote Speech and Thursday’s Box Score

March 16, 2012

The first part of the day on Thursday was taken up by Bruce Springsteen’s nearly hour long keynote speech about music past, present and future.  Bruce was at times a professor, at times a musician and at times the guy down the block as he spoke for nearly an hour.  He tied how things happening in music affected him during his long career, and he gave some advice to musicians playing today.  If you can, put aside the time and view the speech here.

As for the rest of the day, it went like this:

Bands Comments
Carrie Rodriguez I saw half of Carrie’s set at Twangfest.  She played as a duo and by the time I got there she was playing newly written songs (co-writen with Chip Taylor) that will be on her next album.
John Doe John also played as a duo (with his back up singer).  He played for about 40 minutes and sang songs from all parts of his career.

Thursday night was taken up with the Woody Guthrie Centennial Tribute produced by The Grammy Museum.  The artists taking part interpreted Woody’s songs.  The line up was:

Garland Jeffreys Ruthie Foster David Garza
Hobart Brothers & Li’l Sis (Freedy Johston
and Susan Cowsill without John Dee Graham
Carrie Rodriguez Ray Benson
Lila Downs Michael Fracasso The Mastersons
Colin Gilmore Joel Rafael Shannon McNally
Max Gomez Jimmy LaFave Arlo Guthrie

Freebies: More Than 50 Free Songs from Radio Free Song Club

December 3, 2011

I haven’t posted any freebies in a while, so how about more than 50 free songs to make up for that?  Appropriately enough, these songs come from The Radio Free Song Club, a group of musicians generally based here in the New York City area who I’ve written about before.  The Radio Free Song Club is described on their website as:

a group of veteran writers with a monthly song deadline. Host Nicholas Hill presents these new tunes along with interviews and live performances and special guests. Some of the songs are finished and fully produced, some are roughly recorded fragments, some in-between. The writers are looking for a good song, the world is looking for a good song. Someone might get lucky.

The Radio Free Song Club draws on a number of musicians.  You’ll find songs from artists both familiar and lesser known, including Laura Cantrell, Kate Jacobs, Dave Schramm, Victoria Williams, Todd Snider, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, Freedy Johnston, Susan Cowsill, and many, many more.

So just check out the Radio Free Song Club download page here.  If you use Firefox as your browser, you can try Download Them All, an attachment which will make downloading much easier for you.
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SXSW 2011: Thursday

March 18, 2011

With enough sleep under my belt, Thursday started on a much better note than Wednesday.  I blogged after breakfast, and then Fran and I took a walk down to the lake.  After an early lunch, we made it to the first venue of the day, Skinny’s Ballroom, which was diagonally across the street from our hotel.  We got there at 1pm for Or, The Whale, a wonderful, large Americana/alt country band from San Francisco.  Since I saw OTW last year, they have replaced their keyboard player and lost their full time electric guitar player.  But the changes did not affect their sound, and the band put on a rocking and very enjoyable set.

Bob and Bill joined us about three songs from the end of OTW’s set.  With the set over, we all marched over to the City Hall garage, got into Bob’s car and drove down to Jovita’s over in South Austin.  Once at Jovita’s we found that there were problems with their outside stage and that instead of shows alternating between that stage and one inside, all shows were going to be on the inside stage.  The only problem with that was that Jovita’s was quite hot and even more humid.  Still it was tolerable (barely).  I got to see Great Lake Swimmers, a five-piece chamber pop band from Toronto, another performance from The Hobart Brothers featuring Li’l Sis Hobart (Freedy Johnston, John Dee Graham and Susan Cowsill) and Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers, a traditional country band from Seattle.  Bob and Bill then decided that they needed to take a nap and they went home to do so.  I missed most of the set by Pretty Little Empire, a straight ahead rock band, but what I heard I liked.

Up next were the highlights of the afternoon, Steve Wynn and The Miracle, 3, and The Baseball Project.  Both bands put on great, loud and sweaty sets.  In the audience were some Steve Wynn fans from NYC, as well as Bill, from Madison, WI, who I last saw probably three years ago.  With those two sets over, at 6:10, Fran and I left Jovita’s for the relative cool of the outdoors.

After dinner at Guero’s on South Congress, we took the 1L bus and made it over to Antone’s for the evening’s shows.  We decided to park it there for the night and catch The Americana Music Association’s string of shows there.  With badges and wristbands, Bob, Bill  and I were all able to get in without a problem.  Fran had to wait on the ticket buyers line for about 45 minutes, but she made it in too.

Leading off the night was The Band of Heathens, an Austin group who played songs solely from their new album.  Next up was Abigail Washburn, a banjoist with a full band and whose set was musically wide-ranging; she was not a blue grass act by any means.  Although both these bands were excellent musically, they did nothing for me.  Bob and Bill then decided they wanted to see Jason Isbell and left.

Next up was Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison.  I’ve been a fan of Kelly’s for more than a decade.  She’s now part of a band with Bruce, her husband.  Although this combination tacks more toward modern country than Kelly’s previous albums, there were a few songs, notably a new one written by Kelly and Chuck Prophet, where Kelly really shines through.

It was about 11:30 when Emmylou Harris hit the stage.  She played in a trio format and her set was limited to songs from her forthcoming album.  Emmylou sounds as good as ever.  But for some reason I was not drawn to the new songs.  Perhaps you can chalk that up to standing all night on a hard concrete floor.  Fran and I called it a night after Emmylou.


SXSW 2011: Wednesday

March 17, 2011

For whatever reason, Wednesday morning dawned too early (7am), with me still tired.  Not an auspicious way for the first official day of SXSW Music 2011 to start.  Still, things looked promising.  The afternoon was pretty much set.  The evening looked like it might come together after all.

The first show of the day was the Guitar Town/Conqueroo party over at The Dogwood (which used to be Mother Egan’s).  Fran and I got there in time to see Willie Nile setting up, and were able to find a place by the bar right by the stage.  Willie’s half hour set went from one ringingly anthemic song to another.

When Willie was done, Fran left to find some lunch more vegetarian than what was available that day at The Dogwood and I made the rounds.  I welcomed my Rockwood Music Hall friends Jamie and Billie Jo to their first SXSW, I caught up with old friend Tim, who had moved to Nashville a few years back, and I spoke with Edgar Heckmann, the head of Blue Rose Records, which, even though it is located in Germany, is probably the label with the best roster of artists anywhere.  I first met Edgar on line at SXSW 2006 and we keep seeing each other at each SXSW because our musical tastes are so similar (and good!).

Let me also put a plug in for the fine daily blog that Edgar has been posting about SXSW for years now.  It has always included pictures and video, and been written in German.  This year Edgar is being joined by Thomas “Chill Music” Dewers on the blog and it is being published simultaneously in English and German.  Just click here to see the English version.

Wednesday continues after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


CMJ 2010: Picks for Thursday

October 21, 2010

Today’s recommended shows all conflict with each other.  But they are all worthwhile.

Oct. 21 – Eli Paperboy ReedLe Poisson Rouge – doors 6pm /show 7pm

Oct. 21 – My Pet DragonTrash Bar – 8pm

Oct. 21 – Franz NicolayCoco 66 – 8:15pm

Oct. 21 – Susan Cowsill BandMaxwell’s – 8:30pm

Oct. 21 – The Madison Square GardenersRockwood Stage 2 – 9pm


SWSW Saturday: Cold as Ice

March 22, 2010

I awoke Saturday to a downpour; a build an ark type of rain complete with thunder and lightening.  Fran and I ate breakfast, I worked on that morning’s blog post and mostly we waited to see what was going to happen with the weather.

Our plan for the day shows for Saturday, plotted out on Friday, was to stay in the South Congress area (walking distance from our hotel).  The trouble with that plan now was that everything we had counted on seeing was outdoors.  But eventually the rain stopped and we decided to go ahead with our original plan.

We knew that the temperature was going to be in the 40s.  We dressed in long sleeves and our New York outerwear. But the combination of cold and wind that greeted us was more challenging than we had imagined. Still, we pushed on.

The first stop of the day was the Brooklyn Country Cookout, located on a side street.  Between Bob’s directions (“it’s right behind Guero’s”) and Google maps, we had no trouble finding it.  But when we got there we were told that they were running behind schedule and that it would take another half hour or 45 minutes to get things set up.  We then walked back to Home Slice Pizza and had a very quick couple of slices for lunch.

We still had some time, so we wandered around the back of Home Slice to see what was happening at Music by the Slice, Home Slice’s day show.  We caught what was supposed to be Jeremy Messersmith’s last song.  But because there was a power failure affecting the second stage, Jeremy ended up playing another four songs.  Jeremy and his band sounded like a harder edged Fountains of Wayne, and I liked his stuff.

It was then time to go back to Brooklyn Country.  We walked the two short blocks back there and found set up was almost complete.  One of the organizers told me that I could help myself to cold beer (Brooklyn Lager, hence the Brooklyn Country name).  I told him I was too cold for cold anything, but that I would certainly consider hot beer.

While Charlie Faye and Will Sexton were setting up, a car pulled up and up  popped L’il Mo, a New York City favorite, who was not listed on the schedule. “I see a familiar face” she said, and came over to say hello.

Charlie and Will then took the stage and played a nice half hour set.  In the meantime, L’il Mo and The Monicats had set up on the second stage and started up when Charlie and Will finished.  I’ve seen L’il Mo a number of times, but never saw her play in a full length winter coat, coonskin cap (bought in Crockett, Texas and worn in honor of Fess Parker who had just died) and sunglasses.  No matter, it was a good set and she made a good impression on the crowd. Read the rest of this entry »


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