Monday, March 19, 2007

How I Spent My SXSW

I didn’t have time to do any SXSW-related blogging, but here’s a rundown of what I wrote for the Chron daily editions during my working vacation:

The Octopus Project and Brothers and Sisters did us locals proud at the Little Radio day party on Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday night’s Austin Music Awards show featured a surprise appearance by Pete Townshend that was one of the worst kept surprises in town. I'm especially glad I got to see Pete play Ronnie Lane's "Kuschty Rye" with Ian McLagan because the Who have postponed tomorrow night's show in San Antonio (which Kate and I had tickets for) due to Roger Daltrey's illness.

China’s emerging music market is a new frontier, which apparently means there’s money to be made but no one has figured out how to do it legally.

The Tosca String Quartet and Kurt Wagner from Lambchop gave a moving performance despite being housed in a tent next to the freeway.

I also wrote two profile pieces for the Friday Chron daily edition on Japanese prog-core warriors Green Milk from the Planet Orange and Dallas R&B legend Bobby Patterson. To his credit, Patterson was very understanding when my stupid Time Warner digital phone started doing crazy nonstop beeping runs right in the middle of our interview.

It was cool to see the Stooges up close and personal in the Austin City Limits studio at UT, but it would’ve been even better if at least one of their four songs wasn’t from their mediocre new album. Up the street at Antone’s Records, the Cynics put on a great show with assistance from the Ugly Beats.

Finally, longtime Austin songwriter Powell St. John channeled both the psychedelic and the prurient Friday night.


1. I accidentally got into Antone’s early for the Stax 50 Revue show and stood about five feet away from Isaac Hayes during sound check. I didn’t have the guts to ask him for an autograph, though.

2. I was standing right in front of bassist Duck Dunn during Booker T. & the MG’s set, so I really got to watch him play. It was like sitting courtside at a Bulls game in 1992.

3. I did a pretty good job of staying hydrated, eating healthy and avoiding too much alcohol, but my festival pacing was thrown by a near-total inability to sleep on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. I broke down and took some pills on Friday, which did the trick.

4. Between Buckwheat Zydeco on the Hammond organ, Archie Bell doing the Tighten Up and the Flaming Arrow Mardi Gras Indians, there wasn’t a dull moment at Friday night’s Ponderosa Stomp showcase - at least not while I was there.

5. Hearing the rumble of competing bands playing downtown from the 18th floor balcony of the Omni Hotel creates a dizzying sensation not unlike that of walking into a Las Vegas casino after four or five drinks.

6. Note for out-of-towners: if you’re paying $5 to a hot girl in a tank top for a Lone Star out of a galvanized wash tub at a bar on Sixth St., you are standing in a get-drunk-and-vomit emporium for frat boys, not an actual Austin music venue.

7. Upon arriving early for the Terry Reid showcase at Antone’s Saturday night, I queued up behind Charlie Sexton, the man from whom I nicked the name of this here blog. He was kind enough to tell me he wasn’t actually standing in line.

8. The less time I spend sitting in downtown traffic and finding a place to park, the more I enjoy SXSW. For the last couple of years, I just parked in the Convention Center garage and walked everywhere. This year, I parked at Kate's since she lives right across the river from downtown.

9. The day party free-for-all is becoming more stratified and exclusive, with the more popular events requiring badges, wristbands and/or invites. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities to keep the resourceful non-SXSW participant amply entertained and beered up from noon to 6pm every day. At my age, if I wasn’t covering the fest, I’d probably just go to the day shows and crawl into bed after Seinfeld.

10. I happen to like a lot of Jefferson Starship songs, but a free show by what’s left of that band at Waterloo Park on Wednesday made me very, very sad.


jennifer said...

I was right in front of Steve Cropper and somehow managed to not see you! Did Isaac Hayes sing something besides "Dock of the Bay" during soundcheck?

Greg said...

Hayes wasn't actually sound checking when I saw him - he was just standing in front of the stage. I had to leave midway through William Bell's set, so I never saw him sing at all.

jennifer said...

He only sang for a bit, the rest was sung by William Bell and Eddie Floyd. Not my fave song, but it still made me cry when Steve Cropper sang the first verse...There was speculation by my peeps that Isaac Hayes had a Scientology "handler" who led him around and that he was sort of addled in general--but he looked awesome in that red caftan!