Austin One of the key traits to embrace during South by Southwest is flexibility.
Not only will it save you hours of fuming when you arrive to [fill in the blank here] and its capacity is maxed out beyond all reason, but being open to plan B (and C and D and E ...) often yields unexpected rewards. I began my second day at South by Southwest at the Irie Bean Coffee Bar, off South Lamar, in a pleasant backyard space for one of Sofar Sounds' handful of shows scheduled around town during SXSW. The sun shining, a mix of young and old seated around the patio area, British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose was quietly powerful and knocked out an impressive set.
I'd meant to catch a couple acts at Waterloo Records yesterday afternoon, but the sea of humanity around the record store guaranteed I wouldn't be seeing anyone performing there in a timely fashion. Calling an audible, I hiked back up Sixth Street to catch a bit of Foxygen, whose new LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I'd enjoyed. Despite battling less-than-optimal sound conditions, the L.A. band was able to conjure a bit of the retro magic found on record.
After a dinner break, I plunged into the evening showcases, which began on a somber note. SXSW creative director Brent Grulke died suddenly last summer, and his passing hung like a cloud over this year's Austin Music Awards. To open the show, one of the bands he'd helped shepherd, the Wild Seeds, performed an emotionally charged set. From there, it was on to one of the night's marquee performances -- and clouds of an entirely different sort. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds delivered a magnificent, brooding set that matched the rapidly darkening night at Stubb's.
I zipped over to the Moody Theatre at ACL Live, bracing myself for crowds, but was startled to find almost no one. I was there to see Dixie Chick Natalie Maines make her solo debut, but arrived early enough to see Lord Huron, an unknown I'm now a fan of.
Maines took the stage with special guest Ben Harper (who co-produced Maines' forthcoming solo debut, Mother) and Fort Worth's Justin Pate tagged along on keys. Maines, her hair mashed into a faux-hawk, was in fine voice, ripping through a tasteful selection of covers, including a gorgeous reading of Jeff Buckley's Lover You Should Have Come Over and Patty Griffin's Silver Bell.
The night took a violent turn at Power Trip's set, as the Dallas hardcore band taunted the venue across the street and instigated a mosh pit that had the venue's security staff scrambling to stop. It was riveting, even as it was mildly terrifying. Fort Worth's War Party packed a more festive atmosphere, including a bag full of balloons released early in its set. The group's sound is wonderfully undefinable, blending punk precision with a folkier impulse.
I wound up back at Central Presbyterian Church to close out the night, with a scorching turn by British soul-pop chanteuse Paloma Faith, who fairly blew a hole in the roof with her outsized voice.
Did I get to see everything I wanted to? No. Was my second day on the ground in Austin nevertheless full of fantastic music? Absolutely.
The Wild Seeds
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Natalie Maines Clip 1
Natalie Maines Clip 2