SXSW 2013 Wrap Up

Ok. I’m recovered. Of course I missed a lot that I had hoped to see and ended up in some places I didn’t expect. But that just goes with the territory of 5 days and nights of overindulging in music, drink, and food (good and bad). In alphabetical order, my top 10.

IMG_38101. American Aquarium @ Guitartown/Conqueroo Party at The Dogwood, Wednesday, 3/13 and @ Saxon Pub, Thursday, 3/14
While I really liked “Burn. Flicker. Die.” from last year, the live performances of those songs – anthems of frustration, aspiration, and regret – firmly shifted like to love. Saw them relatively early and fresh at on their second day, and rough and ragged at their last festival show. Equally great.

IMG_37492. Sam Baker @ Zax, Saturday, 3/16
First time catching Sam Baker live. A short set of just three truly beautiful, goose bump inducing, songs.

IMG_35503. Bobby Bare Jr @ Saxon Pub, 3/14
One of the best BBJ shows I’ve seen. Rocking, wisecracking, and twisted.

IMG_38194. The Beaumonts @ Karma Lounge, Wednesday 3/13
Crack Honky Tonk. Filthy and hilarious. To clip a phase from Austin Sound, “blasphemous bliss.”

IMG_38165. Glossary @ Ceder Street Courtyard, Wednesday, 3/13 and @ Ceder Street Courtyard, Saturday 3/16
Two nights, same stage, two very different sets – the first, sweet and relaxed, the second, full-on rockin’. Over the past handful of years, I’ve caught Glossary at least once a year – and never been disappointed.

IMG_37546. Israel Nash Gripka @ Sin City Part at Maria’s Taco Xpress, Friday, 3/15
Probably my biggest surprise of the festival. Had not heard of Gripka until a few days prior to heading West. An impressive and impassioned set, hinting more Neil Young than his last record’s Rolling Stones country swagger.

IMG_38217. The Howling Brothers @ Guitartown/Conqueroo Party at The Dogwood, Wednesday, 3/13
A great way to kick off the first full day. Self described as “a ’lil bluegrass, a bit ole time & a whole lot of country blues flavor American roots music,” but that hardly captures their foot stomping, Dixieland laced, live show.

8. Henry Wagons (with Clairy Browne) @ 2nd Annual Lucy’s South By South Austin Fried Chicken Revival at Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Thursday, 3/14
Henry Wagons seemed to be everywhere the week of SXSW. But we caught him at the delicious Lucy’s Fried Chicken. On the last song of a somewhat low-key, only slightly cheeky, set, Wagons accidentally yanked out his guitar input during the noisy, guitar heavy “A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done.” So, Wagons dumped the guitar and jumped into the crowd for an extended, sidesplitting, audience assisted, closing.

IMG_37739. Whiskey Shivers @ Hillgrass Bluebilly XSXSW at Frontier Bar, Friday, 3/15
A great evening all round, with Austin Lucas, Possessed By Paul James, and Left Land Cruiser (missed the early part of the night and didn’t have the stamina to catch Boomswagglers at the end of the night), but the exuberance and joy of Whiskey Shivers was the highlight.

IMG_382310. The White Buffalo @ Bungalow, Tuesday, 3/12
The White Buffalo (aka Jake Smith) is an imposing stage presence with a commanding voice. It doesn’t hurt that he writes songs are about murder, drinking, and guns (and sometimes love). A great way to close out day one.


Honorable mention…

photo-22The Waco Bros @ Bloodshot Records Party at Yard Dog, Friday, 3/15
11 trips to SXSW and haven’t missed them there yet. An excellent tradition that once again did not disappoint.

Some of the rest…

IMG_3782Deadman and Deadstring Brothers @ Sin City Part at Maria’s Taco Xpress, Friday, 3/15

IMG_3544Phosphorescent @ Hype Hotel, Wednesday, 3/13

IMG_3586James Hunter @ Antone’s, Thursday, 3/14

IMG_3802Shinyribs @ 2nd Annual Lucy’s South By South Austin Fried Chicken Revival at Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Thursday, 3/14

IMG_3588The Low Lows @ Rebels Honky Tonk, Thursday, 3/14

Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes @ The Iron Bear, Saturday, 3/16

IMG_3585Dale Watson @ 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn, Thursday, 3/14

IMG_3691Possessed By Paul James  @ Hillgrass Bluebilly XSXSW at Frontier Bar, Friday, 3/15


And the downside? After 11 years it barely seems the same event. The crowds, always large, are now oppressive, often with an undercurrent of hostility. No longer the place people want to be, it’s just the place to be. And nothing wrong with corporate sponsorship, but the last view out the hotel window, at a sea of orange chips being swept up as the Dorito’s stage tower was being dismantled, illustrated the tidal wave of often incongruous commercialization drowning SXSW. Was this my last year? Not sure.

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