- Wade Bowen Performs "When I Woke Up Today" on The Texas Music Scene
- Variety Magazine Talks to Merle Haggard
- Hear New Andrew Combs' Song "Foolin'"
- Ian McLagan of Faces and Small Faces Dies
- Stream Sundy Best's New Record
- Willie Nelson Releases New Album "December Day"
- Aaron Watson to Release New Album "The Underdog" February 17th
- Almost Out of Gas Features the Taylor Cafe in Taylor, TX
- Sundy Best Release New Album "Salvation City"
- Despite Detractors, Bro-Country May Be a Bellwether of Nashville's Future
- Funny: Where Did Jerrod Niemann Go?
- Courtney Patton Sings "Take Your Shoes Off Moses"
- Bobby Keys, Hard-Living Saxophonist for Rolling Stones, Dies at 70
- New Photos of Johnny Cash at San Quentin Prison
- Music Industry Sues Chrysler, Mitsubishi Over In Car Recording Devices
- The Huffington Post Lists Off Best 2014 Country Albums
- Dom Flemons, 'Too Long (I've Been Gone)' Video
- Lyric Of The Week, Mickey Newbury, "An American Trilogy"
- Joni Mitchell Squashed Biopic Starring Taylor Swift
- Black Friday: Country Bibliophile Edition
- Blurt Gives Jason Isbell's ACL DVD 5 of 5 Stars
The past 24 hours has seen some big signings by some worthy artists to record labels. Here’s a rundown:
The old-school throwback St. Louis singing and strumming song man Pokey LaFarge has signed to the prestigious Rounder Records, announced Wednesday (11-12). Pokey, who has released six albums since his self-released debut in 2006, and who most recently recorded an album for Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2013, has found what he hopes to be a more permanent home on a record label who’s known for releasing albums by Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss, and dozens more since its inception in 1970 as a predominantly roots label.
“Needless to say, it is a true honor to begin this new relationship with Rounder and be counted among so many champions of American music, past and present,” was the message posted on Pokey’s website. At the present, no word of when Pokey’s Rounder debut might hit shelves, but an announcement should be coming soon.
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Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has signed with Yazoo Records, and have announced their new album called So Delicious will be delivered on February 17th, 2015. The slide guitar maestro backed by wife Breezy on washboard and drummer Ben Russell is known for busting his ass on stage and playing over 250 dates a year. This will be the Indiana-based outfit’s eighth release.
“Yazoo was my favorite record label growing up,” Rev. Peyton says. “For fans of old country blues and all manner of early American music, they are the quintessential label. And for me, it’s like being on the same label as Charley Patton and ‘Mississippi’ John Hurt. To think that Yazoo believes we are authentic enough to stand with the other people in their catalog means a lot.”
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The honky tonkin’, rock and rollin’, Birmingham, Alabama-bred gritty and greasy Banditos have signed to insurgent country label Bloodshot Records as of Wednesday (11-12) with an album rumored to be on the way for early 2015.
“Back in March we saw Nashville-via-Birmingham, AL group Banditos at one of those fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall bars that sprout like skunkweed on Sixth Street in Austin, TX during the height of SXSW crazy,” says Bloodshot. “The sound system at this place was a painful mix of all treble and reverb; and the noises oozing out of the PA during another band’s set were not unlike the distorted echoes of the soundtrack to Suspiria (and not in a good way). We wish we were kidding. Then the six-piece Banditos took the stage, and even though they themselves were a little intimidating – all hair, denim, and stoic determination – the sounds they managed to conjure from two overworked speakers were fresh, raw, and spectacular.”
Now the Banditos will join a roster which includes Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Lydia Loveless, Scott H. Biram, and launched the careers of Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, and others.
For a while, it looked like the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show might be the first in modern history to showcase a country music artist. Rumors had Carrie Underwood in the running to appear on what has become the most-watched musical performance of the entire year. A country music artist filling that slot only makes sense in the current music climate where country music is ruling the roost over all of the other genres, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be. Whether Carrie was ever considered, the three finalists for the coveted spot were announced as Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Coldplay, with the final choice to be announced soon.
But there was an addendum to the news of the three finalists that has sent some sectors of the entertainment world into a tizzy. Apparently the NFL is not willing to pay the eventual halftime performer for their services. In fact, the NFL expects the performer to pay them.
Though there is no question the exposure to television’s largest audience of the entire year carries with it a monetary value, the idea of an entertainer paying an entity to perform is a dramatic, and dangerous flipping of the paradigm that could have implications much farther beyond a 20-minute halftime show. It seems fitting that this paradigm shift would be presented with the backdrop of the NFL, whose coffers are the most flush of all professional American sports, while their greed appears to have no limit. Football players also don’t receive guaranteed contracts like many professional athletes, and can be cut at any time. It’s also the sport that sees the greatest physical toll endured by its players. In other words, the NFL is already drilled in maximizing profits, and minimizing the payout to their talent pool.
This system of not giving an equitable amount to the football industry’s most valuable asset—it’s players—is established in college. Public institutions, who are many times partially funded by tax dollars, profit in the millions, sometimes billions off of college football programs, while players receive no compensation aside from free tuition. It is expected of college football players and other athletes to play for free, despite the millions of dollars they bring in for the institutions.
And so it is slowly becoming for musicians.
Of course whomever plays the halftime show will receive tremendous exposure, but so will the NFL when non-football consumers tune in to see the halftime performance. So why is it imperative on the musicians to play the subordinate role and pay the NFL?
The underlying problem is that free music is quickly becoming seen as an inalienable right for all Americans, and all of the world’s consumers, if we haven’t reached that dangerous plateau already. And the even more dangerous step of expecting musicians to pay to have their music heard is becoming more of a reality every day—evidenced by this Super Bowl Halftime news.
As an example on the consumer side, on June 18th, T-Mobile announced that the company’s Simple Choice customers would now be able to stream unlimited music from Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Slacker, Spotify, and other services without it counting against their data service. “As a committed music freak, I’m personally outraged at the way the other guys are using the music you love to lure you into over-priced plans with sweet ‘promotional offers’ that quickly roll into higher prices or trigger those absurd overage charges,” said T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere. “Music should be free of all that. Music should have no limits. So, beginning right now, you can stream all you want at T-Mobile from all of the top music services – data charges do not apply.”
But of course the problem is, music does have limits. At some point, somebody has to pay for it. Somehow, the capital spent to record, produce, and distribute music, and the artists, songwriters, and musicians who made the music, have to be compensated, and at a living wage. Music just can’t be free, but that is exactly what not just T-Mobile, but all wireless providers have in mind. And if the consumer won’t pay for it, then the artists eventually will.
The problem with offering free music is both financial, and psychological. Like the T-Mobile CEO said above, if after six months of free music a streaming service or wireless provider begins to charge you, then it is perceived in the mind of the consumer that an injustice has somehow been done. However the true injustice was actually getting the music free in the first place. In the mind of consumers, it is now intuitive to them that music should be free. And as illustrated by the comments of T-Mobile’s CEO, consumers feel they shouldn’t even have to pay for the data that music streaming racks up. “Music should be free of all that,” John Legere says, saying that he’s “personally outraged” that companies expect for consumers to pay for music. “Music should have no limits.” In other words, every single other data source that exists for smartphones, you should be charged for, and consumers are perfectly fine and understanding of that. Surfing the web, watching videos, downloading pictures—this all makes sense to be charged for. But music? Music should be free, completely free, meaning no charge for the data, and no charge for the music, for all people, and forever. And if not, then it is the consumer who is getting screwed.
Granted, people who use T-Mobile’s current unlimited music streaming plans still may have to pay Spotify, Pandora, or whomever they have a subscription with (unless they’re on a free, ad-based plan), but all of that could change with bundling. Wireless providers are getting into the music streaming game so they can offer the service directly on smartphone devices without consumers ever spending a dime on streaming itself. Consumers pay a flat monthly charge that includes everything the smartphone is capable of bundled together, including music streaming, and they never even see an itemized charge for streaming music on their bill.
The promotional deal for wireless plans is the portal to making music streaming absolutely free in the near future. With rabid competition and more companies getting into the streaming business by the day, companies are offering enticements to consumers like never before. What is the enticements the companies are offering to the artists? Exposure to their subscribers who number in the millions. Opt out of being included on their networks because you’re not happy with the payouts, and nobody will have access to your music.
Could we see a reality in the future where artists actually pay to have consumers listen to their music, instead of getting paid? In many cases, including with the Super Bowl Halftime Show, this is already the case. The anemic earnings many artists accrue from streamers like Spotify in no way realistically recoups the costs for producing the music. And as physical music formats continue to fall in market share compared to streaming, paying to have your music heard will become an even bigger reality for a wider swath of artists.
Deepening the problem is the formula companies like Spotify use to figure their payouts. The reason payouts for some artists are so low is because the formula Spotify uses will only become financially lucrative for artists if the company has a massive subscriber base. So as more companies get into the streaming business and their numbers are splayed across a wide variety of services, it results in the parsing of the music dollar even more. Even when the profits from Pandora, Spotify, and others are combined together, it in no way creates a living wage for many artists, even for artists with wide, established consumer appeal.
But back to the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and how this could be a significant game changer. The Super Bowl quandary presents two even more dangerous scenarios for the monetization of music moving forward.
The first is that the Super Bowl Halftime deals with the live context, which for many musicians big and small, is the last bastion for being able to make money from their craft. For larger artists, including ones that may some day find themselves eligible to play The Super Bowl, touring is the only true way to make money off of their music. Albums are simply part of the overall merch pool to help pay overhead. As sales and prices for physical and downloaded music plummet, concert ticket prices have held steady, and are on the increase for some artists. Consumers are incorrigibly stingy when it comes to paying for recorded music, willfully circumventing copyright law, or choosing the free option for streaming service before even paying a meager $5 to $10 a month for unlimited music, but they will regularly take to the secondary market and shell out three to four times the face value of concert tickets to see their favorite artists live. If venues, entities like the NFL, content providers, or God forbid, consumers, feel like there is no commercial value in a live performance either, like they currently do for recorded music, or if they begin to think the “exposure” is enough, this could further eat into the overall revenue stream keeping the music industry, and many artists afloat.
The second problem with the Super Bowl Halftime issue is it is starting at the very top levels of music talent, not vice versa as it was though the pay-to-play paradigm would first take hold. By insisting that exposure is payment enough to the very top of industry talent, it could set a trickle-down precedent that could affect the entire industry. Pay-to-play is nothing new in music for smaller artists, though it is still rare. Big music gatherings such as South By Southwest which transpires in Austin, TX every March ask for payments from artists to be considered to play an official showcase, and even if you’re not chosen, the money is non-refundable. Then if the artist does play, they are not compensated for the performance, with the idea the potential exposure to journalists and industry representatives is payment enough. Other entities practice similar tactics to entice free, or paying talent to their events.
And since so few people are paying for recorded music, the money the performer must pay for their equipment, musicians, overhead, travel, etc., and to the NFL, it may not be a worthy investment if the halftime performance simply simulates consumers to go to Spotify or Pandora to stream the artist’s songs at meager penny payouts per play.
Simple exposure is not an equitable form of payment, and asserting so puts music on a slippery slope. That is one of the reasons why performers and guests on late night talk shows get paid scale. Of course the exposure the artist gets is an important boost for them, but the exchange of money (roughly $540.00 for an American talk show) ensures that artists are not being taken advantage of.
The Super Bowl performance issue is mostly symbolic. What is very real is the perception by the American public that all music should be free, and the growing perception by many institutions who believe exposure is payment enough. It is also one of the reasons consumers are seeing diminished returns from the music industry. With less revenue, the industry does not have the wiggle room to take risks and experiment, and to develop upcoming talent. Instead they make the safe bet, switch out producers and DJ’s for true artists, and favor computerized music over costly side musicians.
Music is no different than any other sector of the economy. You get out of it what you give to it. The underlying problem is not Spotify, Pandora, or even the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It is the perception that music is a commodity not worth paying for, and the cost of that perception shows in the quality of the music consumers are served with today.
Willie Nelson’s private town called Luck, TX that sits on the edge of his ranch just west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country was heavily damaged in storms that moved through the area late last week, “Our beautiful Luck wasn’t so Lucky recently,” the Willie Nelson camp said in a statement. “Last week’s tornado force winds ripped several buildings apart, including the bank, the post office, and left World Headquarters holding on by a splinter.”
Luck, TX was originally constructed as part of the set of the movie The Red Headed Stranger released in 1986 as a companion to Willie’s album of the same name. The town was originally called Willieville, and was constructed to be a replica of Driscoll, Montana. It’s located near Willie’s golf course about 30 miles outside of Austin. Though some of the buildings of Luck are made as facades, some are real structures, and the town regularly houses movie and video shoots, private events, weddings in the town’s chapel, and an annual South By Southwest showcase each spring called the Heartbreaker’s Banquet.
Saving Country Music was just out at Luck, TX covering the SXSW event where artists such as Shakey Graves, Willie Watson, Shovels & Rope, Nikki Lane, American Aquarium, Lukas Nelson, Hurray For The Riff Raff, and Willie Nelson himself performed. The chapel served as a listening room, and Willie Nelson’s now damaged “World Headquarters”— one of the largest structure on the property—was the VIP section at the side of the main stage. Many of the towns structures were already in various states of disrepair.
On Tuesday, Willie Nelson released his latest album, Band of Brothers, and two acoustic videos (see below) to promote the album were recently shot in Luck’s World Headquarters.
“We are happy to report no one was hurt and the church only had a few windows blown out,” the statement from Willie Nelson’s camp continued. “Some towns got it a lot worse, so we aren’t complaining. Luck is a tough town. It can be rebuilt.”
Willie Nelson’s World Headquarters Before:
Willie Nelson’s World Headquarters After:
More Pictures of Luck, TX Pre Storm:
A fourth victim has died due to the horrific car crash at South By Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.
DeAndre Tatum, known by friends and family as Dre, was an 18-year-old graduate from Ft. Worth’s Trimble Tech High School. Tatum had been hospitalized at University Medical Center Brackenridge in the Intensive Care Unit ever since the March 13th accident. Tatum was attending SXSW with his girlfriend, 18-year-old Curtisha “Tish” Davis when Rasheed Owens drove his car down the crowded Red River St. in downtown Austin for multiple blocks, injuring 21 additional people. Tatum’s girlfriend also suffered several broken bones and was hospitalized as a result of the crash, and was released from the hospital last week.
Shakey Graves is quickly becoming an inspiring independent roots music success story and in a big way, despite what seem to be his best efforts to remain as unassuming, humble, and non-commercial as possible, while people gladly shove dollar bills at him left and right for his music that speaks to them in such a crafty and sincere manner. He’s becoming sort of a unknown superstar, a cult enigma, not from sly marketing, but because he’s really as socially awkward and troubled, yet full of light and brilliance as he seems, all while still coming across as unusually grounded and affable for someone with such a robust creative spark. He’s simply a dude who wants to share his songs with you, and remains as surprised as anyone how much his simple, one man presentation has been embraced warmly by appreciative, attentive, and distinguishing fans of roots music and songwriting.
Over the last few years, Shakey Graves has become a superhero of Bandcamp, with his squiggly little recordings like Roll The Bones regularly dominating the lo-fi, self-serve, user-driven format, while his name has found its way into the lineups of prestigious, world-class festivals like Pickathon, Stagecoarch, and Newport Folk. Shakey’s success almost seems part mistake, part inevitable, but overall it’s an excellent story to renew one’s faith in the power of music, and the world’s ability to still pay attention to a worthy voice.
From playing residencies at Austin bars like The White Horse and Hole in the Wall, to touring the world to critical acclaim, playing his guitar and banjo while beating on a suitcase bass drum, Alejandro has risen like a chute out of the ashes of cultural decay as a one man show, and a one man show only. But 2014 promises to see a sea change from this rising roots artist. He’s assembled a band to take his song craft to the next level.
“I kind of reached this impasse where I’d been playing the same songs for you know, going on like three or four years,” Shakey explains in a recently-aired and excellently-produced episode of Arts in Context from Austin PBS station KLRU (see below). “My brain has been going through some craziness trying to figure this out. Essentially, when I recorded my first album, which turned into this live show, which has really gotten its own legs, you know I really didn’t have anything to hit, I didn’t have any expectations … The live stuff became its own sound. At the same time, people started really enjoy listening to my music, and especially sort of the live stuff. So I’m at this weird impasse where I just want to make the strangest music possible. And I don’t want it to particularly sound anything like my live show.”
“I love the way my live show sounds,” Shakey continues, “but it’s not interesting to me to put out an album like that. You know, me and ten songs with the suitcase is not what I’m into. So I’m trying to piece together a bigger album, but at the same time going into it with the mindset of being able to play these songs live the way they sound recorded, trying to do a hybrid of the first album I did and the live stuff. So inevitably that means I have to start working with other band members to a certain degree.”
At South by Southwest in mid March, Shakey, who was on many big music outlet’s short list of up-and-coming SXSW artists to see, was showcasing his new band approach to his sound and style. Despite his own open apprehension about the new approach—“I’m also terrified of alienating people who enjoy what I do right now,” Shakey says—it fits intuitively into what you might expect from Shakey with a band, while still being offbeat enough and unexpected to accomplish the fresh approach Shakey is looking for, if only for his own personal artistic fulfillment.
“I might not be able to get away with this stuff, or it just might not be Shakey Graves,” he says. “That’s really the reason I have a name in the first place, is that at any point I can be something else. You know, it’s no Alejandro Rose-Garcia, or maybe Shakey Graves is just when I’m me, or when I’m playing guitar and doing the suitcase drum thing. And maybe this band I’m putting together turns into its own band. I don’t know.”
Whether the band thing sticks for Shakey, or he slides back into the solo show, it’s the sincerity and sheer appeal for Shakey Graves the musician; the natural, almost accidental charisma, and underdog charm, that makes him one of the best artists in 2014 to put stock into and sit back and watch it rise.
Saving Country Music was out and about Austin, TX and its outskirts over the past week or so as part of the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) gathering, pounding the pavement and looking for the next country music artist worthy of your ears that you may never otherwise hear about. In the coming months I look forward to taking some of these discoveries and sharing them with you. But in the meantime to tide you over, here are some pictures from last week’s festivities taken mostly by Charlie Ekstrom of Almost Out of Gas.
You can also read an in-depth account of our SXSW doings and see more pictures on Rhythms Magazine.
Founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show & amazing traditional country & folk artist. In Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX chapel.
Willie Nelson’s long-time harmonica player. At Luck, TX.
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Alynda Lee Segarra from New Orleans. Fast-rising star on ATO Records with a primitive, Appalachian sound. In the chapel in Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX
Son of Willie. He did this three times in a row at one point, after playing the guitar with his teeth. At Luck, TX.
Brooklyn-based 7-piece rebellious country band that hosted the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase for the 6th year. Singers Bug Jennings from Ft. Worth and Erin Bru share a rambunctious moment. On East 6th Street.
Nashville-based sincere, storytelling songwriter. Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.
The Cactus Blossoms
A genuine throwback to the days of close harmonies and a classic sound, indicative of the Louvin and Everly Brothers. At the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase, East 6th Street.
Sam Doores of The Deslondes
Definitely a band to watch. Stripped-down, traditional country sound in a busking style from New Orleans. From the Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.
Unique, offbeat country whose Dan Auerbach-produced album All or Nothin’ is coming out on New West Records May 6th. At Luck, TX.
JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers
The former Legendary Shack Shakers frontman has taken what used to be a very primitive, acoustic jug band, and made into an original Dirt Daubers/Shack Shakers hybrid which has become the best of both worlds. At Brooklyn Country Cantina, East 6th Street.
Shovels & Rope
Now one of the hottest bands in roots music, they give hope to all the other dirty, stripped-down bands of the roots world. One of the headliners on the main stage in Willie’s Luck, TX.
Southern rock revivalists featuring excellent songwriting. Their last album was produced by Jason Isbell. In the Luck, TX chapel.
With the best shot I or anyone else could get with a contraband camera at this official showcase in the St. David’s Cathedral on 7th St. in downtown Austin. His last song landed him a standing ovation.
After 2 people were killed, and 23 injured in a horrific incident on Red River St. in downtown Austin early Thursday morning during the annual South By Southwest gathering, it’s easy to overreact, and point fingers, and lay blame. In the aftermath of such events, we tend to lose sight of just how rare occurrences like this are, and that no matter how hard you plan for safety and implement measures to prevent such incidences, you are never going to entirely eliminate tragedy from the human equation. You can only try to mitigate it as best as you can, while hopefully not impinging on the personal freedoms of individuals.
But make no mistake about it, on Thursday morning, SXSW changed forever, as well as it should. Was the accident the result of some direct action or oversight of the City of Austin, the official SXSW organization, or even the overarching umbrella of official and non-official entities, events, and organizations that all come together under the SXSW moniker every March? Of course not. It was the fault of one man, and in the end, that is where the blame directly lies, and that fact should never be lost sight of as people ask “Why?” and “How can we prevent this from happening again?”
But SXSW, even without this big, headline-grabbing accident, is, and has been for over a half decade or more, an absolute, colossal failure of logistics, planning, implementation, and in dealing with the human element in any sort of rational, accommodating, or intuitive manner. SXSW as currently constructed is completely unfeasible. It is a nightmare for musicians, patrons, media, workers, organizations, and the entirety of a metropolitan corridor and the general region, including workers and residents that have absolutely nothing to do with the event. In fact the question we should be asking isn’t “How could this happen?” For anyone that has had the miserable experience of being part of SXSW in any capacity in recent years, the question would be “How could have something like this never happened before?”
SXSW is too many people and too many events, cloistered in a area with not enough space, parking, resources, or infrastructure, beset by abominable planning and poor execution. Frustration with SXSW has become so institutionalized, it is just as much of the experience for artists and patrons as is the music, movies, or new technologies themselves. The knowledge of SXSW as a nightmare experience is beyond anecdotal, it is effusive throughout the music and entertainment culture in America, to where people that never would even consider attending SXSW know just how bad people are treated to be a part of it, and find amusement at the native Austin archetype that complains about its growth and systemic problems.
And as more big names attending SXSW increase—like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga who jumped on the SXSW bandwagon this year—and Austin’s own growth and infrastructure issues completely autonomous from SXSW continue to become a more significant part of the equation, there’s every reason to think that these problems will only get worse, and potentially, more incidents such as the one on 3/13 will happen again, even if they are on a smaller scale but more widespread, and simply blend into the event to where they never make headlines, as they have done in years past. There has always been issues with death, injuries, and accidents at SXSW. It’s just now they were concentrated as such that we couldn’t ignore them.
Nobody wants to be a part of SXSW. Talk to the bands and artists, talk to the labels and organizations, and they will tell you how much they hate the annual exercise of heading down to Austin. They all look at it as massive headache, and a misappropriation of resources. They attend the event out of some strange sense of obligation to the industry. It’s peer pressure, while the madness is fueled by the remarkable amount of capital being pumped into the event by corporate and independent sponsors who believe the SXSW experience can somehow afford their brand more exposure and recognition, when it truth the average SXSW patron is so harried by simply dealing with the people problems the event presents, they don’t have time to recognize who sponsored the stage their favorite band played on, or supplied them the flavored water they gulped down as they got pinballed around from one overcrowded event to another.
And exactly how many artists, bands, and movies does SXSW actually launch annually? And what is the percentage of those launches compared to the number of attendees and performances? To many of the artists that attend the event, no real meaningful growth will come from their difficult, and many times costly experience.
Fundamentally, the problem with SXSW is that nobody is big enough to control it. Because the official SXSW organization has been so non inclusive over the years, the unofficial segment of the festival is the fastest-growing portion. And since these non-official events and organizations are so disparate, and many times are founded purposely to be against the official SXSW organization, there’s no way to control them, or equate their impact on things such as traffic and commerce in planning. Meanwhile the City of Austin seems to be asleep at the wheel at engaging the problem full on to find meaningful, actionable solutions to the many problems SXSW creates for the city annually.
It almost seems like the SXSW organization and the city want the event to be madness, because without gates, people problems are the only way they can control the scope of the event or the amount of people attending it. But now two people have died, and many have been injured. Again, SXSW and the City of Austin were not at fault for a drunk driver in any way. But if the people at SXSW moved, instead of stayed cued up in endless lines, or if traffic flowed more freely throughout the area, and if parking were more accessible and frustrations more in check, the likelihood of accidents, and even fatalities, would decrease.
So what’s the solution? I don’t know. But we no longer have the right to ignore the problem.
This story has been updated. Please see below for further updates.
Tragic news out of Wednesday night’s South By Southwest festivities, as a car reportedly drove through the throngs of concert goers, killing 2 and injuring 23, including five critically, according to Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE. A suspect is in custody according to Austin police, and will be charged with two counts of capital murder. A third victim died from injuries sustained during the accident on Monday, March 17th (see below).
The incident happened on Red River St., between 9th and 10th Streets, near the heart of Austin’s downtown entertainment district. Reports say victims were found over multiple blocks. Red River, along with Austin’s famous 6th Street, frame the heart of Austin’s downtown music corridor, and is the epicenter of the city’s SXSW festivities. Austin’s famous Mohawk venue sits right near where the incident occurred, and Stubb’s, where Lady Gaga and other big performers make their SXSW appearances, is right down the street. The intersection is also very close to the Austin Police headquarters.
According to witnesses, the incident happened just before 1 AM early Thursday morning. Witnesses say the suspect hit a pedestrian, sped up, and hit several more. According to the Austin America Statesman, the two people killed were riding on a moped. The suspect reportedly also hit a taxi, injuring people inside, and a parked van before trying to flee on foot. The whole incident transpired on just over a minute.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo at a press conference at 2:30 AM early Thursday morning said the incident started as a DWI stop at a gas station on the Interstate 35 access road right near where the incident took place, and right by police headquarters. The suspect then fled the wrong way down 9th street—a one way road. The suspect eventually wrecked out, was tazed, and taken into custody. Much of Austin’s downtown district is cordoned off to regular traffic during SXSW, and is only accessible by vehicles with permits for performers and personnel, but near 9th street is usually where the pedestrian barrier starts. Multiple reports said the suspect drove through barricades during the incident.
Many of the victims were waiting in line for a Tyler, The Creator show at the House of Vans showcase at the Mohawk venue. The performance was subsequently canceled after the incident.
Anyone with further information on the incident is asked to contact Austin police at (512) 974-5186.
UPDATE 3/15: The suspect in the incident has been identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, an aspiring rapper that uses the pseudonyms KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254 that was on the way to a a 1 AM performance at Club 1808 near 12th and Chicon Streets. According to the arrest warrant, and officer looking for drunk drivers saw Owens in a 2012 Honda Civic driving without his lights on and proceeded to try and make a traffic stop. The 21-year-old rapper, worried that he would be arrested and go to jail for multiple arrests warrants stemming from a custody dispute, decided to flee. Owens blood alcohol level was .114. The legal limit in Texas is .08. Owens is being held at the Travis County Jail held on a $3 million bond on capital murder charges. In Texas, whenever two murders happen in the same incident, it is automatically charged as capital murder.
The arrest warrant says that dash video from police “shows the Honda accelerating into crowds, not simply crowded areas but crowds of people who are hit by the car and flung into the air for almost three city blocks, accelerating into crowds and does not use his brakes, as in the video there are no brake lights visible from the rear of the Honda.”
The two victims have been identified as Steven Craenmehr, 35, an Amsterdam-based employee of MassiveMusic, and Jamie Ranae West, 27, of Austin.
UPDATE 3/17: A third person has died from injuries sustained during to the crash. 26-year-old Sandy Le from Austin died at University Medical Center Brackenridge Monday morning. She was one of 5 victims listed in critical condition.
Police dispatch audio from the incident:
Photo via Matthew Keys on Twitter.
This week in Austin, TX is one of the greatest confluences of talent that occurs annually, as stars of music and film converge on the Texas state capitol for festivities surrounding SXSW, or South by Southwest. Some people forget though that early March is also the time for Austin’s famous rodeo that features many big names in country music stopping in for performances, including Willie Nelson that graced the Austin rodeo stage Sunday night, and had a surprise band member with him incognito.
Actor, music lover, and armchair musician Johnny Depp, sporting a vest, round shades, a ripped canvas wide-brimmed hat, and his Danelectro guitar, sat in with Willie’s family band for the set Sunday night. He was simply introduced as “John,” and traded licks with Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson who was also sitting in with the band. Johnny played songs like “Good Hearted Woman” and “On The Road Again,” with most of the crowd unbeknownst who that was on the right of the stage.
As a guitar player, Johnny Depp is no slouch. He’s buddies with The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and appears on the singer’s first solo record. Depp also appears on numerous songs from Oasis, and was a member of the band ‘P’ that featured members of The Butthole Surfers, The Sex Pistols, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also appeared many times in movies and video playing guitar, contributed to many other songs and albums, and used to own The Viper Room music venue in L.A where Johnny Cash kicked off his American Recordings era.
Oh you poor little non-SXSW goers, you’re social network feeds are about to get positively inundated with South By Southwest information, riddling your psyche with scores of free music events you’re unfortunately missing out on, resulting in an experience for you somewhere between the teasings of a cruel temptress, and Chinese water torture.
So in the spirit of wanting to bridge the SXSW haves and have not’s, here’s a list of artists that all happen to be attending SXSW (and their appointed set times), but are worthy of being checked out more in-depth even if you can’t make it down to Austin, TX to get raped for parking and sit in lines for 7 hours a day.
Saving Country Music’s reigning Artist of the Year, this country music savior has a hot new album out in High Top Mountain, and another one on the way called Metamordern Sounds in Country Music out May 13th, and might be the most worthy up-and-coming country music personality to see at SXSW 2014. Sturgill Simpson is so good, even if you consider yourself more of an Americana or roots fan, he’s still worth checking out.
- Sat. 15th 7PM, St David’s Historic Sanctuary, 304 E 7th St.
If anyone is showing up to SXSW with tons of positive momentum behind him, it would be Shakey. It probably helps that he cut his teeth in Austin, playing regularly at places like The White Horse and Hole in the Wall. He’s now reportedly transitioning from a solo act to a full band sound, and whether you get Shakey solo or Shakey 2.0, he’s certainly worth rerouting your SXSW itinerary to catch.
- MONDAY, 3/10: 10:00pm – Spider House Ballroom (2906 Fruth St) – Mother Falcon’s All The Friends Ball
- TUESDAY, 3/11: 6:30pm – KLRU Studio 6A (2504-B Whitis Ave) – Premiere screening of PBS documentary on Shakey Graves “Not Alone” + live performance
- WEDNESDAY, 3/12: 1:00pm – Cedar St. Courtyard (208 W. 4th St) – FILTER/Lagunitas Party
- THURSDAY, 3/13: 12:50pm – Weather Up (1808 E. Cesar Chavez) – Billy Reid Showcase
4:00pm – Licha’s Cantina (1306 E. 6th St) – Audiotree Showcase
7:25pm – Heartbreaker Banquet at Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX Ranch
- FRIDAY, 3/14: 12:30pm – Spotify House (901 E. 6th St)
5:05pm – The 512 (408 East 6th St) – Colorado Music Party
1:00am – The Gatsby (708 E. 6th St) – Pandora / Americana Music Association Showcase (official SXSW)
- SATURDAY, 3/15: 11:00pm – Holy Mountain Backyard (617 E. 7th St.) – New Frontier Touring Showcase (official SXSW)
The school teacher by day turned music savant by night will be plying his craft at SXSW on the heels of being featured on NPR and CMT, and ahead of an appearance at Pickathon and many other festivals this summer. This high-energy and enigmatic solo performer is spiraling up the music world staircase with songs that resonate deeply with fans from all across the roots music landscape.
- Mon. 10th, 8:00 PM, Hotel Vegas, 1500 East 6th Street
- Wed. 12th, 5:30 PM, ABGB, 1305 West Oltorf Street
- Fri. 14th, 11:30 PM, Austin Moose Lodge XSXSW 7 2103 E M Franklin Ave.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Hurry for the Riff Raff is Alynda Lee Segarra, and sometimes other accompanying musicians, who evoke the musical traditions of Appalachia with a newer, Americana approach mixed in. Critically acclaimed and a favorite of her musical peers and fans of songwriting and traditional music alike, she just released her latest album Small Town Heroes and will be one of the rising roots stars attending SXSW in 2014. Gillian Welch for a new generation.
- Wed. 12th, Mello Johnny’s, 2:00 PM
- Wed. 12th, Weather Up, 1808 E Cesar Chavez St., 5:50 PM
- Fri. 14th, Hotel San Jose, 4:00 PM
- Fri. 14th, The Gatsby, 10:00 PM
This former and founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show is now out to make his own name as a solo folk singer, and will be attending SXSW ahead of the release of his David Rawlings-produced debut album Folk Singer, Vol. 1 out May 6th that features standard and obscure roots songs. Those who’ve followed string bands for a while will recognize the name, and most lovers of sincere music soon will with the way Willie Watson engages crowds and weaves his craft.
- Wed. 12th, 11:00 PM, St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
- Thur. 13th, Heartbreaker Banquet, Luck, TX.
The former Turnpike Troubadour who surprised everyone in 2012 when his debut album From The Ground Up was nominated for a Grammy, John Fullbright is one of Americana’s brightest future stars and a top shelf songwriter to boot. And as you can see from his SXSW schedule, he’s willing to put the sweat equity into career. We all pray that the traffic sea parts for you often this week, John.
- 3/11 – The Oklahoma Showcase @ The Buffalo Lounge (set time: 1:00am)
- 3/12 – Thirty Tigers Showcase @ St. David’s Historic Sanctuary (set time: 12:00am)
- 3/13 – Heartbreaker Banquet’s Chapel Stage @ Willie Nelson’s Ranch in Luck, TX (set time: 4:15pm)
- 3/14 – Live Vibe Presents The Listening Room @ Winflo (set time: 1:15pm)
- 3/14 – Sin City Social Club SXSW Bash @ St. Vincent’s (set time: 4:00pm)
- 3/14 – Hill Country Live SXSW Showcase @ Saxon Pub (set time: 10:30pm)
- 3/15 – Twangfest Party @ Broken Spoke (set time: 2:30pm)
- 3/15 – Folk Alliance Showecase @ Threadgills (set time: 5:00pm)
- 3/16 – Music City Texas Showcase @ G&S Lounge (set time: 6:30pm)
One of the strangest projects you can probably partake in at SXSW that would still fall within the big tent of the “country” world, but also one of the coolest and most creative, is steel guitar player Spencer Cullum Jr.’s Steelism band. You may recognize Spencer, as well as Steelism guitar player Jeremy Fetzer from Caitlin Rose’s band. Essex-native Spencer Cullum has also played with Jonny Fritz, and many others from the current east Nashville scene. Others you may see fleshing out the Steelism lineup at any given time are Mike Rinne, Matt Rowland, Jon Radford, and Andrew Combs. Who said the steel guitar was dead?
- Wed. 12th, 11:00 PM, Tap Room at The Market, 311 Colorado St
- Fri. 14th, 8:00 PM, Shotguns, 503 East 6th St.
Texas native and current Nashvillian Robert Ellis is certainly a candidate to take that critical acclaim baton from Jason Isbell and run with it as an artist who seems to effortlessly deliver songs with cutting emotional moments in an awe-inspiring display of deft creativity. His much-anticipated new album Lights From The Chemical Plant is full of those instances that give you shivers from their bold illustration of wit and self awareness.
- Wed. 12th, 7:00 PM, Paste Party @ Swan Dive, 615 Red River Street
- Thur. 13th, 5:20 PM, Weather Up, 1808 E Cesar Chavez St.
- Thur. 13th 7:00 PM, Threadgills, 301 West Riverside Drive
- Thur. 13th 8:00 PM, Red 7, 611 E 7th St
- Fri. 14th, 5:00 PM, Hotel San Jose, 1316 S Congress Ave
Artists that just released albums seem to flock to SXSW light moths to the lamp, and such is the case for Bloodshot Record’s cowpunk princess Lydia Loveless that has many singing her praises after the release of her latest album Somewhere Else. Lydia Loveless isn’t just empowered, she’s uninhibited. Subtly and coyness are shades she rarely paints in. Instead she opens her mouth and the truth comes out unfettered, refreshingly honest, and many times, R-rated, revealing her sinful tendencies and struggles with self-admitted inadequacies that sometimes veer her towards self-destructive behavior.
- Tue. 11th, 8:00 PM, Hole In The Wall
- Wed. 12th, 10:00 PM, The Continental Club
- Fri. 14th, Yard Dog Art Gallery
- Thur. 13th, Noon, The Broken Spoke
- Thur 13th. 2:00 PM, Swan Dive
- Thur 13th, 6:30 PM, Hole In The Wall
With a gift for poetry like Townes Van Zandt, and a penchant for the whimsical, progressive approach to bluegrass akin to John Hartford, Robbie Fulks isn’t your typical up-and-coming SXSW attendee, but a wily veteran coming back for the action. His recent album Gone Away Backward from Bloodshot Records was a Saving Country Music Album of the Year candidate in 2013.
- Wed. 12th, 9:00 PM, The Continental Club
- Thur. 13th, 4:00 PM, The Broken Spoke
- Fri. 14th, Yard Dog Art Gallery
- Sat. 15th, 2:00 PM, Brooklyn Country Party @ Licha’s Cantina
Today it was announced that Austin, TX would be the site for iHeartRadio’s first ever dedicated country music festival, transpiring at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center on March 29th, with a list of top tier headliner talent including Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, Hunter Hayes, and others to be announced. iHeart is the online radio streaming arm of American radio monolith Clear Channel, and rising Clear Channel “country” personality Bobby Bones, who got his Clear Channel start on Austin’s pop station, will serve as host.
There is so much that is ill-conceived about this, I’m not sure where to start. iHeart has been throwing “festivals” for a while now, but their traditional home has been Las Vegas. Clearly iHeart wanted to find an alternative to the obvious selection of Nashville, where they would have to compete with much more well-established country events clogging the civic calendar. But throwing a corporate country event in Austin, especially at that time of the year will be about as popular in Austin as running over a bicyclist in your Hummer.
About all this festival will be good for when it comes to the Austin populous will be as a curiosity for hipsters to oogle at through their Sally Jessy Raphael glasses as they ride their fixie bikes past the spectacle, sipping on raw food smoothies on their way to brainstorming sessions devising ways to defund Monsanto by setting up micro loans to African women and targeted eco-terrorism strikes.
The general Austin, TX population has so little interest in this iHeartRadio lineup, it’s laughable that iHeart can’t even be perceptive enough to add even one or two local names to help dull the pain of such an obviously imported corporate country bill. Kudos to whoever in the local Austin government conned iHeart into thinking that Austin’s east downtown corridor is a destination spot for people who are willing to travel hundreds of miles to hear Jason Aldean sing “1994.” Instead of the garish finery of the Las Vegas strip, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line fans can look forward to legions of homeless peddlers clogging their walking path, an army of construction cranes piercing the skyline in their headlong effort to erect an empire of prefabricated McCondo monstrosities, the 3rd worst traffic snarl in the United States of America, and crumbling fair trade coffee shops oozing with unbathed, deadlocked career students preaching that 9/11 was a conspiracy.
The worst part about iHeartRadio’s country festival might be the timing. Despite whatever best efforts they implement in regards to promotion, locally the event will be dwarfed by South by Southwest the week before, boasting thousands of free concerts, showcasing both local and independent talent, and big national names. South by Southwest is arguably one of the biggest music festivals in the entire world in regards to breadth and the amount of performances that transpire all across Austin over a 5 day period.
And don’t forget that Rodeo Austin also happens the week before, and is featuring its own lineup of big names, including Loretta Lynn, Dustin Lynch, Thompson Square, Chris Young, Josh Turner, Willie Nelson, Eli Young Band, Lee Brice, Scotty McCreery, and Dwight Yoakam. There’s already legions of Austinites that provision up when March comes and never leave the homes because of the nightmare South by Southwest and Rodeo Austin bring to their fair city. The idea that they’ll peek their head out and head downtown just because Hunter Hayes is finally making his way to Austin is quite ripe.
So will the iHeartRadio Country Festival be a colossal failure? Of course not, because they have the backing of the biggest corporate country network in the world to help promote it. Pliable corporate country music fans from all across the country will be more than happy to burn vacation time to see their favorite Budweiser and designer jeans sponsors in one place, edifying them with the finest of Music Row’s formulaic pap filtered through Auto-tuners.
Stock up on cans of Axe Body Spray and rape kits Austin, you’ll need ‘em.
Unless you’re one of those people who finds themselves so overwhelmed every year with the Christmas spirit that it’s a tough choice what Christmas sweater to wear, the annual dirge of Christmas movie releases is enough to turn your stomach like a glass of expired eggnog. But there is one movie out this year that may be worth your time, if for no other reason than the cast is built around country music royalty. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Harry Connick Jr, and Connie Britton from ABC’s TV drama Nashville make up the primary cast of When Angels Sing, based off a novel of the same name released in 1999 by Turk Pipkin.
The film stars Harry Connick, Jr. as a history professor who as a child loved Christmas, but after a tragic accident, grew to hate the holiday. As a grown up, he still can’t find the joy of Christmas, but as his son faces a tragedy, he rekindles his holiday spirit again. He gets a push in the right direction after the lease comes due on his current home and he meets a man named Nick (Willie Nelson) who sells him a house at half price, but only if he will keep up the traditions of the house and neighborhood, including maintaining the house as the centerpiece of the neighborhood’s Christmas celebration.
Kris Kristofferson plays Harry Connick Jr.’s father, Connie Britton plays Connick’s wife, and Lyle Lovett plays one of the neighbors. The film also includes cameos from female Texas country 4-piece The Trishas, Texas swing legend Ray Benson, Dale Watson, Sarah Hickman, Marcia Ball, Guy Forsyth, Joel Guzman, Kat Edmonson, Miss Lavelle , Eloise DeJoria, and others.
When Angels Sing, which is based in the Austin area, first debuted as part of the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin on March 10th. “We already had a great start with Harry and Willie and Kris, so I told our casting director ‘let’s put everybody who’s a musician in the movie’,” director Tim McCanlies told Billboard.
Music wasn’t a part of the original script, but McCanlies saw a unique opportunity with so much music talent on the set to make it a seminal part of the movie. Some of the musical performances include Kris Kristofferson singing Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” and an original duet written by Willie and Harry Connick Jr. that plays over the ending credits. Each song in the movie was filmed with full performances, so a soundtrack for the movie is also a possibility.
Information on the distribution of When Angels Sing remains sketchy, but it received a very limited release to select theaters on Novemeber 1st, and is reportedly available on demand through Direc TV. Check back as more information on distribution becomes available.
You can watch more clips and behind-the-scenes interviews from the film on Fandango.
If you’re not down in Austin yourself participating in the biggest music festival / music conference / music convention in the world known as South by Southwest (SXSW), it can almost seem like social media is working to taunt you for not participating as the event transpires between Tuesday and Saturday. Here at Saving Country Music, we don’t want to revel in what you’re missing, we want to make it an opportunity to discover new music, reaffirm or repudiate opinions about artists already on our radar, and make you feel like you are on this journey with us.
As SXSW transpires, we’ll be regularly updating this post. Updates may only be a few times a day since most of the time is spent out in the field.
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Day 5 Saturday 3-16 – The Revival Tour Showcase
Saturday night at SXSW is usually the time the best memories are made. You’ve spent the whole week fighting through crowds, traffic, fatigue, and general sensory overload, yet when you know it is all about to end and you may not see members of your musical family for a long time, you begin to cherish the whole experience that much more.
The best Saturday night showcases are the ones that facilitate collaboration and memory building, and when looking at the SXSW schedule, I saw that The Revival Tour showcase at the Cedar Street Courtyard may be the best opportunity to experience a tight scene of musicians and friends and that would facilitate some end-of-SXSW magic. Some of the performers I was familiar with, many I wasn’t, which was good because you can’t have the proper SXSW experience without discovery.
The event fulfilled all expectations. Collaboration was everywhere on the night. After the first act The Drowning Men, the remaining performers were mostly asked to get on stage just with their guitar and wow a capacity crowd. For artists used to this context like Possessed by Paul James and Austin Lucas, they were right in their element. But even the artists who found it second nature like Glossary, they rallied to the task.
Along with masterful performances by both Possessed by Paul James and Austin Lucas, headliners Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner put on remarkable sets. Frank Turner’s songs are like a brain teaser. Before you’ve even had a chance to digest the profundity of the last line, he’s thrown two more at you to make your mind reel. Though Chuck Ragan officially is the man in charge, you could never see a more unassuming, selfless musician.
Other solid takeaways from the night were the breathtaking Valerie June with her fiercely-authentic Southern style, the spunky and entertaining Jenny Owen Youngs, and Twin Falls who seem to be destined for big things as they fit right into the Mumford/Lumineers cheerful roots revival that is all the rage right now.
Whether you were playing on stage or hanging out in the crowd, it was hard to not feel the music fellowship in the air.
Possessed By Paul James:
Jenny Owen Youngs:
Austin Lucas w/ Chuck Ragan:
Day 4 Friday 3-15 – Part 2 – XSXSW 6 Hillgrass Bluebilly Showcase
XSXSW6 at the Frontier Bar in gentrifying east Austin sponsored by Hillgrass Bluebilly Records offered one of the most boss lineups for fans of independent roots music at SXSW 2013. Along with label performers The Boomswagglers and Possessed by Paul James, one of the longest-running underground roots bands The Pine Hill Haints lent their talents to the evening.
One of the highlights of the showcase was the explosive Lee Bains & The Glory Fires from Alabama. As the room was still filling up with patrons, Lee Bains played like he was feeding of the energy of a packed house. This man sings with as much soul as anyone in rock & roll right now, and this was never evidenced more clearer then when he sang the title track of their latest album There’s A Bomb in Gilliead. For SXSW’s most acrobatic moment of 2013, at one point lead guitarist got on the shoulders of Lee Bains as they both walked out into the crowd with guitars blazing. This set was sick.
If the rest of the “underground roots” world picks up on what The Whiskey Shivers are doing down here in Austin, half the bands in that scene are doomed. Though they lean mostly on covers, The Whiskey Shivers bring an energy, a tempo, and a camaraderie that is unmatched since the glory days of the .357 String Band. You will be hearing more from these fellas soon. Trust me.
Austin Lucas put on the most inspired, and inspiring sets of SXSW 2013. Such amazing soul and songwriting, conveyed with such great singing and sense of dynamics. The first time I ever heard Austin Lucas was at The Frontier bar two years ago at a ninebullets.net day showcase.
Left Lane Cruiser, who boast a couple of songs that commemorate the hard work and dedication of Keith of Hillgrass Bluebilly lit up The Frontier Bar with their raucous and dirty deep punk blues.
Day 4 Friday 3-15 – Part 1 – Bloodshot Yard Dog Party
One of the long-standing staples for an independent/underground/insurgent country fan who attends SXSW is Bloodshot Records‘ long-running day party behind the Yard Dog art studio on south Congress. The event outgrew the small space years ago, but it would be a shame to move it from the history and memories the event has created over the years. This is one place you almost welcome the crowd. Other obligations kept me from attending the entire showcase, but I arrived just in time to see The Deadstring Brothers finishing their set. Their new album Cannery Row is coming out on Bloodshot April 9th.
Bobby Bare Jr. was next. Seeing Bobby Bare Jr. live is essential to understanding his music. He’s such a character–so animated with his curly, floppy hair and manic movements and his delightful, yet crass humor. He’s like a Muppet you can’t help but love. Understanding his personality is key to understanding the nature of his cosmic approach to music.
Next was Lydia Loveless and her off-the-straight-and-narrow country punk princess approach to alt-country, not caring what her hair looks like of if she’s taking proper care of her skin. Those things aren’t Lydia’s bag if you listen to her music. She’s here to squeeze every last drop of juice out of her life.
The 2013 SXSW “Spirit Award” goes to her bass player (and husband) Ben Lamb and his long curly hair. This photo montage does no justice to the show his hair put on.
Day 3 Thursday 3-14
Thursday was spent doing lots of walking back and forth from two events put on primarily by American Songwriter. The “Nashville Day Party” at the Austin Ale House on West 6th was the place to be seen if you’re part of the rising quasi country scene centered around east Nashville these days. The room was a little too loud and open for the ideal music experience, but was a good, intimate setting nonetheless. During the set of Caitlin Rose, Jonny Fritz and his band, and Nashville indie-rocker Tristen could be seen milling about. With only a 30-minute set, Caitlin featured all the big songs off of her new album The Stand-In. Nikki Lane, Escondido, and Ryland Baxter all played as well. Below is a picture of the up-and-coming Escondido.
After that it was a hike way across town to east Nashville to check out the heart of American Songwriter’s Billy Reid Showcase that for the last few previous years was located at The Swan Dive right downtown that was always too small, too hot, and too hard to get to. The new spot outside in a setting with ample space was ideal. The trend of moving outside of the downtown corridor is only going to continue as the size of SXSW gets out of hand and promoters flee to more comfortable settings. The trend will probably also see the expansion of SXSW itself until it begins to consume every sector of the city proper.
American Songwriter and Billy Reid put together an excellent lineup. I arrived just in time to see Jason Isbell and new wife Amanda Shires prove that two people, stellar songs, and purposeful harmonies can can trump anything a full band can lay down. The two have such good instincts with each other.
Having never heard Lilly Hiatt, who was billed to be performing with her father John Hiatt, it was easy to think that maybe this was the booking of a name instead of someone who could live up to the showcase’s large lineup. Lilly Hyatt ended up being one of the biggest takeaways from SXSW 2013 so far. She put on an excellent set with great songs and a really sensational female guitar player named Beth Finney who could downright shred with the best of them. When John took the stage for a couple of songs, it became downright magical.
The showcased was capped by Ray Wylie Hubbard who delivered like always. It is impossible to grow tired of watching Ray Wylie live because he has such a breadth of material and each time you see him play a song, he brings a new, fresh perspective to it–some funny anecdote or twist. The guy is an amazing poet and performer, one of the best out there living.
Day 2 Wednesday 3-13
As anticipated, Wednesday at SXSW had little chance of living up to Tuesday night and the now legendary showcase at the White Horse Saloon (see below), but it had it’s moments, while also showcasing some of the things that are so very wrong with the event.
It started off great though when I caught a set from Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band performing at Club DeVille on upper Red River. Rev. Peyton continues to refine his show, studying human behavior and finding out what crowds respond to. As cheese ball as “audience participation” sounds in print, by working so hard to engage the crowd, coupled with his spellbinding abilities with slide guitar, it’s hard not to walk away from a Reverend Peyton set without feeling like your hair is on fire. Rev. Peyton has the quote of the week so far when he said, “If I catch any of you hipster sumbitches not yelling ‘Two bottles of wine’ I’m gonna come out there and get ya!”
After that I trekked to 6th Street and voluntarily entered what amounted to a glorified dog cage set up on burning asphalt at Red Bull’s “Sound Select 120 Hours of Music” setup. The whole thing illustrated the trappings of corporate sponsorship. I was there to see bands like Those Darlin’s and Jonny Fritz, but before the show and during the set breaks, they were playing gangster rap riddled with ‘N’ and ‘MF’ bombs, cut with the occasional 90′s Paula Abdul hit. Clearly none of the organizers and workers had any idea what music the day was catering to.
The event was very moderately attended at the beginning when bands played to a mostly empty field of asphalt while the line to get into the event stretched for two city blocks. Apparently they couldn’t pull the 7 security guards off of stage duty to help clear people for entry quicker, because you know how rowdy a crowd of 30 people can get at a concert featuring Deer Tick.
The Black Cadillacs started the set off. They are one of these new rock bands that put out tremendous energy and have good songs, but nothing really defines their sound enough to pick them out of the crowd.
After that was Those Darlin’s. They were announced to be a mix of punk and country with a sound very similar to Wanda Jackson, but these days Those Darlin’s are just as much akin to The Cramps as anyone. The set started off very mild. They messed up the beginning of one song and struggled through others as the sun was screaming in their faces on the poorly-aligned Red Bull stage. As the sun set and the band could actually see, Those Darlin’s rallied, and after playing one of their hits “Be Your Bro,” they really began to feel it and rebounded from any previous miscues.
Jonny Fritz (prev. Corndawg) delivered a solid set that featured a full band and his now long-term touring mate Josh Hedley. He played multiple new songs that will be featured on his new record Dad Country coming out on ATO Records on April 16th. As always Jonny garnered strange reactions from his sarcasm-laden lyrics set to classic country. As I overheard one crowd member say, “This is like really bad country music that you can’t help but love.” That pretty much sums it up.
I spent most of the rest of the night meandering downtown Austin and being denied at the door of various “official” showcases, including the official showcase of Bloodshot Records at the Continental Club on south Congress. But I did check out a set from Glossary on west 6th Street. The Southern rockers always put on an excellent set.
Also here is video from Tuesday night at The White Horse of Lincoln Durham playing the one string diddley bo.
Day 1 Tuesday 3-12
I’m going to have to live with the idea that 2013 SXSW might have started off with it’s best moment, as The White Horse Saloon in gentrifying east Austin hosted an official showcase for the Red 11 booking/management company that featured a jaw-drooping roster of talent. Granted it was Tuesday, but The White Horse created one of the most pleasant SXSW experiences I’ve ever had. The crowds weren’t too bad, parking was fine, the staff was friendly, and most importantly, they kept everything on time and the band changeovers down to 15 minutes tops. It was a good, smooth showcase.
Right before it started, some guys in cowboy duds walked their horses down Comal St. out front and tied their horses up right beside the bike rack. If you’ve never been to Texas, you may think this was a regular occurrence. But in the middle of the city where inner city projects meet hipster town, it was a strange site, but a good omen for the night.
The set started out with Lincoln Durham from Austin, TX. I’m blown away why there’s not more chatter about this guy in the Deep Blues / Muddy Roots world. A one man band with a dirty, soulful approach, switching from old Gibson arch top and resonator guitars, to banjo, to finishing the set with a cigar box one-stringed diddley bow. He started off the set playing his bass drum and beating on an old suitcase and singing a capella. The dude put on a spectacular set to start off the night. If you like the dirty, low down approach to music, it doesn’t get much better than Lincoln Durham.
The Crooks are another band from Austin, TX that are garnering huge buzz around town that is beginning to spill out regionally and nationally. They’re a honky tonk band a heart, but with a decidedly Tejano flavor, featuring a full time percussionist/trumpet player, an accordion player, and at times the lead guitar player will pick up a trumpet too. They’re a good-time who could find wide appeal with their unique sound full of influences from the border region. Great idea for a band. Few have done this before, and being able to appeal to both traditional country crowds and Hispanic crowds is a great asset when you’re based in Texas.
From on the border, the Dirty River Boys from El Paso put on one hell of a high energy show that was filled with both a lot of stripped-down, high energy, roots punk attitude, and some really sincere and accessible moments of great composition and songwriting. Judging from the amount of people singing along in the crowd, this band is garnering a loyal following from their dynamic and engaging live shows. This is definitely a band to watch.
The Turnpike Troubadours were responsible for one of those once in a lifetime musical experiences. The White Horse that had hovered around 3/4 capacity up to that point in the night swelled to where there was no elbow room, and a strong majority of the people there knew every word to the Troubadours songs and proved it by belting them out at every chance. When the band broke into their most popular tunes like “Every Girl,” “7&7″ and “Good Lord, Lorrie,” the crowd would erupt. During the choruses, the singing of the crowd could become deafening, drowning out the band itself. Their high-energy, inspired performance was great in itself, but the camaraderie created by the crowd made it one of those moments hard to forget. The Turnpike Troubadours have no business playing a venue this small these days, and that is the type of unique experience SXSW can create. Their set was one for the record books.
After The Turnpike Troubadours, the crowd thinned out pretty good. It was probably unfair to have American Aquarium follow Turnpike, and may have been the night’s only misstep. As the only band that was more rock than roots, they were sort of the odd men out, while still fitting perfectly for the folks who knew them despite being the only band on the night not from the immediate region. Nonetheless, American Aquarium gave it their all and put on a great show to the appreciative fans who were smart enough to stick around. There’s a lot of sincerity and heart in American Aquarium, and their riffs and grooves are hard to not fall prey to.
When Jason Eady took the stage at 1 AM, The White Horse finally felt like The White Horse you’re used to sans SXSW, with a dance floor full of Texas two-steppers and good, straight-laced country music coming from the stage. “I heard this was the last place you could play country music in Austin,” Jason said as he started his set. It was the perfect, laid-back way to end an excellent night of music.
Part promotional tool for these showcases and artists, part tips to SXSW goers, part personal itinerary, part letting folks know what I’m clued in about so other folks can let me know what’s cool that I am missing, this is Saving Country Music’s SXSW 2013 living itinerary.
SXSW is so expansive and so convoluted, there is no way one person can know everything, or let alone see and hear it. So you start out each day with a loose plan and see where the day takes you. Some showcases you want to get to you never make, others you stumble into and become your favorite of the whole week. A successful SXSW is one where you see a little of what you already know, but discover a lot more that you didn’t. It’s a hell of a ride and you hope you find yourself on Sunday in one piece.
Tuesday March 12th
The White Horse, the hot spot these days in Austin for real country music has a great lineup nearly every day of SXSW, but there lineup for Tuesday night is sick. Best way to get SXSW started in earnest.
- 8 PM – Lincoln Durham
- 9 PM – Crooks
- 10 PM – Dirty River Boys
- 11 PM – Turnpike Troubadours
- 12 PM – American Aquarium
- 1 AM – Jason Eady
Ruby Jane – The Parish 11PM Official SXSW Showcase
Bloodshot Records has moved their “official” showcase this year from the Red Eye Fly to the legendary Continental Club (1315 S Congress Ave), and from Saturday to Wednesday. Bloodshot will also have their annual Yard Dog party on Friday. It starts at 7 PM and features:
- The Waco Brothers
- JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
- Deadstring Brothers
- Lydia Loveless
- Murder By Death
- Luke Winslow-King
Saving Country Music’s official charity The Waylon Fund is having an event, and it features an unbelievable lineup in a “Tribute to The Armadillo World Headquarters.” It is located on the same ground where The Armadillo once stood. Rumor has it that Jamey Johnson might make an appearance here too.
- Roky Erickson
- Asleep At The Wheel
- Jimmie Dale Gilmore
- Shooter Jennings
- Wild Child
- Jenny O.
- Mother Falcon
Drew Landry – G&S Lounge – 6PM – 2420 South First.
Red Bull 120 Hours of Music 3/13 Showcase at Gatsby’s - 708 E. 6th St. – Doors at 4 PM
- John McCauley & Friends feat. Deer Tick & Diamond Rugs
- Johny Fritz (Corndawg)
- Those Darlins
- The Black Cadillacs
Samantha Crain – Oklahoma Showcase – 12:00 – 12:40 AM – 512 Rooftop 408 E 6th St.
Coley McCabe 01:00 AM @ Peckerheads 402 E 6th St
Thursday March 14th
Billy Reid American Songwriter Austin Shindig – 1808 East Caesar Chavez St. 12AM to 8 PM
For 3 straight years I have gone to this event at Swan Dive on Red River. This year it has moved, but it is the same event and organizers. Completely boss schedule on Thursday, and that is where I will be camped. What’s great about this event is it is the perfect mix of music that you know and that you don’t know. Entertainment and education.
- 12:00 – 12:30 Rayland Baxter
- 12:50 – 1:20 Cory Chisel & The Wondering Songs
- 1:40 – 2:10 The Devil Makes Three
- 2:30 – 3:00 Heartless Bastards
- 3:20 – 3:50 Wild Cub
- 4:10 – 4:30 Leagues
- 4:50 – 5:20 Jason Isbell
- 5:40 – 6:10 Lilly Hiatt w/ John Hiatt
- 6:30 – 7:15 Ray Wylie Hubbard
The Nashville Day Party – 301 W. 6th St. Austin Ale House 12:00 – 5:15 PM
- Noon – Andrew Combs
- 12:45 – Luella & The Sun
- 1:30 – Brooke Waggoner
- 2:15 – Nikki Lane
- 3:00 – Caitlin Rose
- 3:45 – Escondido
- 4:30- Rayland Baxter
- 5:15 – Odessa Rose
G&S Lounge – 2420 South First
- 1pm Slaid Cleaves
- 3pm Jimmy LaFave
- 8pm Ted Russell Kamp
AND TWANGFEST DAY PARTY AT THE BROKEN SPOKE (see poster below)
Friday March 15th
18th Annual Bloodshot Records Yard Dog Art Gallery Noon to 7 PM – FREE and open to the public. 1510 S. Congress
- Rosie Flores
- Deadstring Brothers
- Bobby Bare Jr.
- Lydia Loveless
- Luke Winslow-King
- Murder By Death
- JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
- The Waco Brothers
XSXSW 6 Presented by Hillgrass Bluebilly Records – Frontier Bar - 2421 Webberville Rd – 6:30 PM -2:00 AM
Open to the Public. $10.00
Hillgrass Bluebilly has thrown some of the best unofficial SXSW showcases in it’s 6 year run, and this year’s lineup does not disappoint. Great thing about this showcase is the location. After thursday, you don;t want to be caught dead downtown. It is close enough from downtown that you can hike there. But it is far enough out that parking and traffic won’t be as big as a problem.
- Pine Hill Haints
- The Boomswagglers
- Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
- Whiskey Shivers
- Austin Lucas
- Possessed by Paul James
- Left Lane Cruiser
11th Annual Texchromosome at Opal Divines 3601 S Congress Ave Noon to 11PM
- Elizabeth McQueen
- Kem Watts
- Lissa Hattersley
- Poon Twangz
- Lisa Fancher
- Aubrey Lynn
- Sonya Javette
- Debbi Walton
- Greezy Wheels
- Brigitte London
- Penny Jo Pullus
G&S Lounge 2420 South First
- 9:00 PM Zoe Muth
- 10:30 PM Amanda Shires
Saturday March 16th
The Revival Tour SXSW Showcase – Cedar Street Courtyard – 208 W 4th St
This is a ridiculous lineup. My only concern is getting in. Saturday night is usually the night I get snubbed at the door trying to get into the showcase, and this one looks to be supper official SXSX.
- 8:00 – The Drowning Men
- 8:35 – Austin Lucas
- 9:05 – Possessed By Paul James
- 9:30 – Valerie June
- 10:00 – Rocky Votolato
- 10:30 – Jenny Owen Youngs
- 11:00 – Glossary
- 11:20 – Chuck Ragan
- 11:50 – Matt Pryor
- 12:20 – Twin Falls
- 12:50 – Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
G&S Lounge 2420 South First – MAIN BAR
- 5pm Zoe Muth
- 6pm T Jarrod Bonta & The AM Band
- 7pm Jim Stringer & The AM Band
- 8pm John Lilly
- 9pm Bill Kirchen
- Midnight – James Hand
G&S Lounge 2420 South First – Music Room
- 5.30 Slaid Cleaves
- 7pm Gurf Morlix
AND TWANGFEST DAY PARTY AT THE BROKEN SPOKE (see poster below)
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
- 03/12/13 – 10:00 PM 26f & Little Brother Publishing Bungalow – 92 Rainey St
- 03/13/13 – 3:00 PM Club DeVille – 900 Red River
- 03/15/13 – 1:00 AM – Continental Club – 1315 S. Congress
The Carper Family
3/12/13 Parish Underground (Official SXSW) 10pm
3/14/13 Grand Ole Austin at Maria’s Taco Xpress 12:20pm
3/14/13 Twangfest at the Broken Spoke 1:30pm
3/14/13 with Alice Gerrard (Official SXSW) at St. David’s Bethel Hall
3/15/13 Third Coast Music at G&S Lounge 2pm
3/16/13 Folk Alliance International at Threadgill’s South 1pm
3/16/13 Brooklyn Country Cantina at Papi Tino’s 6:30pm
2012 will go down as the first year that the annual XSXSW event put on by Hillgrass Bluebilly Records went from a regular “showcase” in the traditional South by Southwest form, to a two-day full-blown premier whistle stop on the independent roots railroad’s yearly cycle. With help from Saving Country Music, Muddy Roots, and many other gracious entities like Austin’s Moose Lodge, Cracker Swamp Productions, KVRX 91.7, KOOK 93.5, and most importantly, the artists that played and the fans that came from as far away as Ireland and Australia to attend, XSXSW 5 became a healthy, sustainable alternative to the madness that SXSW brings to central Texas every March.
One potential XSXSW miscalculation was starting the days so early in an attempt to cater to as many bands that wanted to play the event as possible. The day crowds were light, but lively and loyal nonetheless, and people who didn’t show up until the sun went down missed some of the best performances on the weekend. After 7PM on both days, the crowds swelled, in-person and online through SCM LIVE, which saw traffic crest four figures for the online event.
XSXSW 5 was kicked off on Friday afternoon by Patrick’s Beard & the Rusty Razors showcasing excellent Americana-roots songs that inspire lots of good foot stomping from band and crowd alike. This local Austin, TX band was followed by the fella that made the longest trek to the event, Farmer Barrett, who shared his short, but impressive catalog of songs from down under without dropping his Aussie accent, giving the music a very unique and fun feel to the ear.
Next up on the main stage was Chili Cold Blood, who began with their country music side project, The Moonhangers. Chili Cold Blood has been on the cutting edge of bringing the edgy, heavy-metal vibe to roots music for years, but what really was impressive was the authenticity and vibe they brought with The Moonhangers that revived the gonzo, 70′s hippie meets redneck Commander Cody-style funky rocky country that put Austin, TX on the music map 40 years ago. And they did it with superb, spot-on musicianship and tight, professional arrangements.
This created a tall order for Pearls Mahone & The One-Eyed Jacks to follow, and they pulled it off flawlessly, in their first of two XSXSW performances on the weekend. But Pearls didn’t bring any One-Eyed Jacks down with her from Chicago, she brought 5 aces, and when she slammed them down on the table, there were no peeps about cheating, you just sat back and admired the talent.
Run-On Sentence from Portland, OR was one of the wild cards for the event, and they paid of in spades with a rousing performance on the main stage, featuring original songwriter Dustin Hamman and his vocal acrobatics that included voice trumpet, yodeling, and straight-up moans and shrills that stirred the soul, as drummer Dan Galucki attacked the skins and sent any and all flesh in ear shot moving. And speaking of moving, Lone Wolf OMB made the trip from the cracker swamp of Florida, and made his first of two performances early evening on Friday ahead of his upcoming release, A Walk in My Pause.
Collaboration was a big theme on the weekend, and some of the most memorable collaborations took place when CR Humphrey of Old Gray Mule took the main stage. Possessed by Paul James, who was the headliner Friday night joined him on fiddle, and about half was through the Old Gray Mule set, it began to dawn on everyone that none other that CW Ayon was the man on drums. A dance party ensued as Old Gary Mule evoked the steamy, smelly rhythms of North Mississippi Hill Country Blues.
Captain Mudhole kept the the blues vibe going on the second stage with some great songs, followed by the wild, rocking sound of the Owsley Brothers, whose guitarist looked so similar to Dale Jr., I asked him to autograph my die-cast. Then Rachel Brooke, who took the stage flanked by Tony Bones and Antoine Dukes of Viva Le Vox, put on the best live performance I have seen or heard from her heretofore. I was a little unsure of the Rachel/Viva mashup before hearing it, with Rachel’s sound being so simple and sweet, and Viva being so artistic and vibrant. But Tony and Antoine’s excellent style and sense of tone allowed Rachel’s compositions to bloom.
And then it was on to Husky Burnette, who doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the most dynamic, high-energy performers out there in the Deep Blues world. Along with his drummer Tony, they positively melted faces. The man’s guitar is made out of a suitcase for crying out loud! Then comes James Leg of the legendary Black Diamond Heavies, with hair whipping and sweat dripping in a show of sheer blues key-driven madness. How that man isn’t right up there with the Black Keys as far as fans and earning power is beyond me. At some point a toddler showed up to XSXSW, and during both the James Leg and Possessed by Paul James shows, created some of XSXSW’s most memorable moments, as she danced and clapped to the music.
To try and explain a live Possessed by Paul James set is always a futile effort, but I will say PPJ delivered Friday night, like he always does, and crowned a beautiful night of roots and blues magic. But it didn’t end there. Soda Gardocki took a solo set on the second stage, and legitimized the whole XSXSW effort with his legendary presence. I don’t think people appreciate just what a unique and influential artist Soda Gardocki is. How many 12-string banjo players do you know? That unique instrument necessitated Soda developing a unique style that gives the music such an unusual, dark hue to compliment amazing songwriting and an engaging stage presence. When you’re watching Soda live, you feel like you’re in a group of friends, hanging out on the porch, shooting the shit, even if you’re amongst complete strangers, and that you probably own him money.
The only band who had the ability to close a day out so power packed with talent was the wild and crazy Restavrant. Originally scheduled to play on the main stage, they took the second stage instead to make the feel more intimate. They don’t play music for you, they crack you over the head with it like a folding chair. It is impossible not to submit to Restavarant’s music, no matter your musical stripes.
Saturday started off quiet and intimate, as Water Tower from Portland, OR unplugged, and played in the middle of the cavernous Moose Lodge hall, with the crowd huddled around them, admiring their adept musicianship and singing on some excellent takes of traditional bluegrass tunes, with their original compositions mixed in as well.
This was followed by encore performances Pearls Mahone and Rachel Brooke, and capping off the girl-power portion of XSXSW was the legend-in-making, Ruby Jane. The crowd was just beginning to fill out when she took the stage, yet when she began to play, the loudest hush of the whole weekend gripped Austin’s Moose Lodge. This wasn’t out of respect, it was out of necessity, as the mastery on display throttled you for attention. Complimented only by her guitarist Trevor LaBonte, the space allowed Ruby’s songwriting, timeless voice and soul, and world-caliber musicianship to shine. At some point, people will stop talking about how Ruby has played with Willie, Asleep At The Wheel, and countless other music legends, and artists will be bragging about how they once played with Ruby Jane.
This was followed by Lone Wolf‘s second performance, and another great collaborative moment on the weekend, as Husky Burnette joined him on stage for a couple of songs.
Hashknife Outfit, who made the trek out from Arizona played next, then morphed into the XSXSW house band of sorts for the rest of the night, with members backing Soda, who played on on the main stage next, and Tom VandenAvond who would play later. The most packed the Cracker Swamp second stage became, located in the Moose Lodge’s “Member’s Lounge” was when it was The Calamity Cubes’ turn, and calamity ensued right after Jason H. Buchanan threw down a short comedy set. In one of the few sets dogged by technical problems, they played plugged in, plugged out, whatever, it didn’t seem to matter or break their stride, and if anything made the performance more memorable.
Hellbound Glory, my goodness. The only way they can disappoint is if you expect them to let you down. They lose one of the best drummers in the business, and they just kept on going. You’ve seen their show a few times and expect it to start getting tired, and it never is. What made this set special was the amount of brand new, never-heard songs they threw out in dizzying succession. One after another were these brand new tunes, and each one was the best Hellbound Glory song you’d ever heard. And unlike where it might normally take a new song a few spins to grab you, these song stuck to your bones right away. It was mesmerizing. Leroy Virgil’s fountain is far from drying up, it is overflowing, and flooding the streets. They were joined on stage by Billy Cook, formerly of the .357 String Band.
Hellbound Glory’s set could only have been followed up by a living legend, and that is what XSXSW had at the headlining spot on Saturday Night in the form of James “Slim” Hand. Dressed to the 9′s, toting an all-star band, James and company brought class and authentic country soul. The sincerity of the man and his songs slayed the crowd and inspired a floor full of dancers. James legitimized all of the weekend’s proceedings and was in rare form. His voice was so strong and confident, displaying, even taunting you with his deliberateness and control, as his humor and sincerity endeared him to the the crowd.
Tom VandenAvond shouldered the difficult task of following James, and rose to the occasion, starting off with a short solo set, and then inviting members of Hashknife Outfit, The Calamity Cubes, and Ariana Celestine on stage. Your country roots event cannot become officially sanctioned until Tom VandenAvond sings his anthemic song “Brick by Brick”, with as many people as can fit on stage stretching for microphones, and the crowd clapping and singing along. So humble and true and such a friend to all, whenever Tom VandenAvond plays, he feels like the hub in the middle of the wheel that everything else revolves around.
The reason Sunday Valley was the last band to play XSXSW 5 was because nobody can follow Sunday Valley. Listen to me folks, and listen good. Sunday Valley is the best band right now in country music. It may take a while for the world to wake up to that fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. And just like with all the great bands, and the great artists like Sturgill Simpson that truly deserve the success, they’re too humble, too good of guys to do the devil’s work you must do to be “successful” in music. So it is up to us. The folks that stuck around for Sunday Valley’s performance, they will be like the old codgers who talk about when they saw Stevie Ray, or Jimi, or Janis before they were big. Sunday Valley is amazing on expressionless terms, and Sturgill Simpson is on of the best all-around guitar players and singers I have ever seen.
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Words cannot express the gratitude Saving Country Music, Hillgrass Bluebilly, Muddy Roots, and all the other entities involved in one way or another have for all the artists that played, and all the patrons who came to Saving Muddy Hillgrass XSXSW5. Next year, let’s make it even better!
(photos by Rev. Nix of Cracker Swamp Productions)
Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, Muddy Roots Music, and savingcountrymusic.com, along with KVRX 91.7, The Real Deal KOOK 93.5, and Cracker Swamp Productions are excited to announce the complete lineup for XSXSW 5, or “Saving Muddy Hillgrass”, a two day event happening parallel with South by Southwest, the annual mid-March music festival in Austin, TX.
The “X” in XSXSW stands for the independent spirit of the event, attempting to re-create the original magic and focus of SXSW by bringing together artists, fans, media, and music management in a healthy environment free of the rigors that plague the modern-day SXSW landscape, and where music and people are the first focus.
XSXSW 5 will be showcasing talent from as far north as Michigan, as far west as California, as far east as Florida, and as far away as Australia, while also highlighting some of the best Texas talent, from the 17-year-old fiddle phenom Ruby Jane, to the legendary elder-statesman of authentic country music, James Hand. This is the 5th year of XSXSW, started by Hillgrass Bluebilly in 2008, and joined by Muddy Roots and Saving Country Music this year to create an event with even more local scope, and international impact.
Within the principle of putting people first, then music, and using music as a bridge to build community, XSXSW 5 is being held at Austin’s legendary Moose Lodge, an institution harkening back to a time where values and community were more closely cherished. The sprawling facilities will house 3 stages, a full bar, food, camping, plenty of easy and free parking, and lots of great music and good times.
The Moose Lodge is perfectly located for SXSW goers. It is outside of the madness that SXSW brings to Austin’s downtown corridor and the surrounding neighborhoods, making it the ideal destination for locals who want to enjoy great local and national music, but do not want to deal with the drama and headaches SXSW usually affords. Yet at the same time, it is mere minutes from downtown, making the short trek for hardcore SXSW attendees quick and simple.
And if you can’t make it there in person, the event will be broadcast LIVE at http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/live.
The artists and organizers of XSXSW 5 ask you to head over to the Austin Moose Lodge on March 16th & 17th to take in real, authentic roots music sung from the heart and from some of the best talent from around the country. XSXSW 5 is thrown with the idea that a song can change a life, and music can change the world. Come on by and see where a song takes you!
Admittance: Donations start at $10/day. Doors open at noon. Tickets at the door.
Main Stage – Friday 3/16 Presented by KVRX 91.7
- 2:45-3:15 – Moonhangers
- 3:15 – 4:15 – Chili Cold Blood
- 5:15-6:15 – Run On Sentence
- 7:00-7:45 – Old Gray Mule
- 8:30-9:15 – Rachel Brooke
- 10:00-10:45 – Owsley Brothers
- 11:30-12:30 – Possessed by Paul James
- 1:00 am – Restavrant
Cracker Swamp Stage - Friday 3/16 by KRVX 91.7
- 1:00 PM – 1:45 – Patrick’s Beard
- 2:00-2:45 – Farmer Barrett
- 4:15 – 5:15 – Pearls Mahone
- 6:15 – 7:00 – Lone Wolf OMB
- 7:45 – 8:30 – Captain Mudhole
- 9:15 – 10:00 – Husky Burnette
- 10:45 – 11:30 – James Leg
- 12:15 – 1:00 am – Soda
- 2:30-3:30 – Pearls Mahone
- 4:30-5:30 – Ruby Jane
- 6:30-7:30 – Hashknife Outfit
- 8:30-9:30 – Soda
- 10:30 – 12:00 James “Slim” Hand
- 1:00 AM – Sunday Valley
Saturday – Cracker Swamp Stage 3/17 by KOOK 93.5
- 1:30 – 2:30 – Water Tower (Bucket Boys)
- 3:30-4:30 – Rachel Brooke
- 5:30-6:30 – Lone Wolf OMB
- 7:30-8:30 – Calamity Cubes
- 9:30 – 10:30 – Hellbound Glory
- 12:00 – 1 AM – Tom VandenAvond
Stage 3 will be an outdoor stage where performers will be warming up, and jamming and collaborating with other artists. Stage 3 will be active only when there’s no performance on the main stage.
The Austin Moose Lodge is located in east Austin, minutes from downtown at 2103 E M Franklin Ave Austin, TX 78723, easily accessible from the airport by 183, and from downtown by either MLK Blvd or Manor Rd.
A few years ago, the only thing really lacking from the independent/underground country and roots world was true festival infrastructure. Now with The Muddy Roots Festival heading into it’s 3rd year, Farmageddon Fest getting up and running this summer, things are looking up. And 2012 will be the first year that underground roots will be fully represented at one the largest and most-important gatherings of the music tribes in all of the world: Austin, TX’s Annual South by Southwest (SXSW) event in mid March.
Saving Country Music, along with Muddy Roots and Cracker Swamp have teamed up with Hillgrass Bluebilly‘s 5th Annual XSXSW showcase to create a two day, three stage event for the edification of the underground roots fan, and to help represent the independent roots community to the rest of the independent music world.
And unlike most of the rest of SXSW, there will be no need for armbands or badges that cost in the hundreds of dollars to gain access to the music, and the event is being held outside of the madness Austin’s downtown corridor becomes during the event, at The Austin Moose lodge just east of downtown. XSXSW 5 will give fans a chance to be a part of SXSW, without all the trappings that usually keep many locals and out-of-towners away. And this year’s event will also be extra special, as it will serve as a pre-release party for Texas legend James Hand‘s upcoming album.
Artists and fans from all over the country are coming to this event. Admission to see all of these great bands will be a measly $10, so get out to Texas and pony up! But in the event you cannot make it, portions of it will be broadcast right here on Saving Country Music, through SCM LIVE.
Many more details will be coming soon, so stay tuned to Saving Country Music.
Day 1 Lineup – Friday March 16th
- Possessed by Paul James’
- Soda Gardocki
- James Leg
- Farmer Barrett
- Husky Burnette
- Patrick’s Beard
- Run-On Sentence
Day 2 Saturday March 17th
- Sunday Valley
- James Hand
- Hellbound Glory
- Tom VandenAvond
- Hashknife Outfit
- Calamity Cubes
- Rachel Brooke
- Pearls Mahone
- Ruby Jane
There are a few basic principles that govern Saving Country Music, and one of them is that the focus is always people first, then music. Music is just the excuse to learn about people, and to create community. More than any of the other awards, this principle governs who gets chosen for Artist of the Year. But overall, the one requisite that must be met is that the artist must inspire me more than any other.
In 2009, when Saving Country Music was still somewhat in it’s infancy, I named Justin Townes Earle‘s Midnight At The Movies Album of the Year. After watching moving performances from Justin in 2009, talking to him personally and in an interview format, I was convinced this was a man who had a singular talent way beyond what his famous name afforded him. I was moved, and inspired. There is nothing I take more seriously than putting my name behind somebody, as an artist, and as a human, and I was willing to put whatever force my feeble, fledgling SCM name had behind Justin Townes Earle.
Then came 2010, at South by Southwest in March, where Justin Townes Earle performed. My stupid little blog now burgeoning, and my eyes all aglow to see my favorite artist perform, when Earle took the stage in his light blue pants two sizes too small and a bowtie, I could tell immediately he was wasted, and wasted while the sun was hung at mid afternoon. He put on a pathetic performance that didn’t just disappoint me, it broke my heart. I was devastated. I believed in this man, and as a student of his career I knew the key to Justin’s success was his sobriety. I had no doubt in my mind he was off the wagon. Rumors swirling about SXSW seemed to confirm this diagnosis.
But anybody can have a bad performance, or a relapse, and so I kept my observations to myself, waiting for a possible redemption. Unfortunately I did not find it in the album he released later in the year, Harlem River Blues. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just I knew Justin was capable of so much better, and in my review I called into question Justin’s sobriety as the culprit.
My accusation effected a small, but heated backlash from some JTE fans who said it was unfair and unfounded for me to question his sobriety. Then in September of 2010, a few weeks after posting my review it was revealed that Justin Townes Earle had been arrested in Indianapolis after a drink and drug-fueled altercation. Saving Country Music broke the story. Justin Townes Earle and I had come full circle.
My next Justin Townes Earle interaction was in December of 2010, when he performed at The Parish in Austin, TX, stone sober. Since that performance, I have had to come to grips with the idea that I may never see a stronger live performance by an artist for the rest of my life. It was that good. Legendary. And many folks who witnessed Justin on the same tour and subsequent ones have said similar things.
As a music critic, I always make sure to measure music not only against it’s peers and other common standards, I measure it against the strengths and shortcomings of the artists themselves. And doesn’t it seem like the most brilliant of the artists amongst us are many times the ones to be balanced adversely by demons? If Justin’s artistic brilliance is measured 10 out of 10, then so is his propensity to get up every morning and shoot heroin. Only the people that live in that same extremity of the addiction battle can imagine that struggles that Justin Townes Earle must fight every day. And then to ride the emotional roller coaster of live performance, travel, uneven schedules, and the ridiculous amounts of temptations that adorn the musician’s path at every turn? Simply watching Justin Townes Earle stay sober is inspiring in itself. Pile on the fact that, oh yeah, he’s also one of the most engaging live performers of our generation, and has accumulated widespread adoration and respect from an impressive swath of the music world. That is the definition of a Saving Country Music Artist of the Year.
And Justin Townes Earle has admitted that in 2011 he had some very small, but very real relapses. And Justin will have more relapses. He admits that, and that is the theme of the song “It Won’t Be The Last Time” from his upcoming album. And I’m OK with that.
And I don’t care if you don’t like Justin Townes Earle’s music. What is music anyway except the mastering of motor skills to move your fingers and sing in such a way as to entertain? Compared to fighting off the demons of a man whose been a drug addict since before he was a teenager, music is relegated to a parlor trick. And I don’t care if Justin Townes Earle, his management or label, or anybody else gives a damn about my dumb little award. He probably thinks I’m an asshole, and you know what, I’m OK with that too. All I know is that in 2011, no other artist, none, inspired me more than Justin Townes Earle.
When I sat down to name the top 10 live performances of 2011 as seen through my eyes, I didn’t know what a mess I was making for myself, and it wasn’t until then that I realized what a power packed year for live music it has been. My 10 stretched to 15 fast, and I’m still leaving out acts like Hellbound Glory, Lucky Tubb, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. I will be the first to tell you that is bullsh, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.
Unlike the Album of the Year and Song of the Year, with my inability to see every live performance, this is simply based on my own experience. However live performances always go into consideration for other awards, like the three solid Hellbound Glory shows I saw were considered when nominating them for album of the year.
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I really enjoyed the Sundays each month that Ruby Jane played historic Gruene Hall down in the heart of Texas, but it was a random night at Austin’s Continental Club that gave rise to her standout performance of the year with composer Graham Reynolds. Ruby’s stellar musicianship and passion on fiddle is hard to match. The flourish at the end of this song was something to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
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This is what South by Southwest is designed to do: take people who are involved in the music business, and put them in front of the artists in intimate setting to bypass all the press release and preview track bullshit so you can decide if an artist is worthy of your attention or not. The Revolution Bar in gentrifying east Austin was the perfect place to catch an intimate performance by Austin Lucas, joined only by his sister Chloe who supplied sublime harmonies and banjo. His simple, honest, and heartfelt performance proved to me this was an artist I needed to bring into the Saving Country Music fold.
They screw up in the middle of this, and it is still awesome. Listen to how quiet it gets in the room at the end.
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Speaking of hushing rooms and heartfelt songwriting, by evoking character through his music like few others I’ve ever seen, Charlie Parr and his guitar suck you in with songs of heartache sung with immeasurable soul. Charlie doesn’t sing about subjects in third person, he becomes the subject of his songs in an uncanny channeling of character, and makes the story flesh and bone right before your eyes.
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Whitey Morgan played the Pickathon Festival as well and had two excellent sets, but the standout show for me happened back in Austin during Bloodshot Records’ annual showcase at the Red Eye Fly, where Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were booked as the headliners. The sound was positively awful that night. The Waco Brothers played their whole set with the only working speakers being their monitors on stage. Meanwhile Whitey and the boys were sitting in their van, passing a bottle and anticipating a train wreck by the time they took the stage.
Whitey climbed on stage and took no prisoners, cussing and swearing the stage hands straight before the even did anything wrong. Bloodshot owner Nan had her face in her hands, worried Whitey was about to make a scene when what he was really doing was making sure the ship was righted before they started, and trust me, after Whitey put the fear of God in everyone, it was. Then they delivered the best set I have seen them play, and playing the headliner spot of the Bloodshot Records showcase, that is when I knew Whitey Morgan & The 78′s had arrived.
Here they are sharing the stage with legendary Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers.
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11. Micah Schnabel of Two Cow Garage – ninebullets.net SXSW Showcase
Maybe not country, but nonetheless mind blowing was Micah Schnabel, who when PA issues kept his band Two Car Garage from plugging in, he grabbed his acoustic and did the solo thing like few others can. This guy is one of the most authentically-passionate performers on stage I’ve ever seen. As I like to say: if Possessed By Paul James gives birth on stage, Micah Schnabel commits suicide on stage.
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I saw this same lineup, at the same place, two different times this year, and I still did not get my fill. The perfect traveling amalgam of music, it starts off with James Hunnicutt playing solo, then Jayke Orvis taking the stage with Hunnicutt, Fishgutz from The Gallows, and Joe Perreze on banjo making up the “Broken Band,” and then at some point they are all on stage as The Goddamn Gallows.
And then there’s fire.
Joined here on stage by Gary Lindsay.
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9. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – SXSW Showcase @ Spiderhouse
For years, the two best bands to see live have been Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Denver, CO’s Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. In support of their new album Unentitled they made their way down to SXSW and played a set mixing their new pop mocking songs in with their long-time favorites. This band is mind blowing every time. (video is not the best; only one I could find from the show)
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In the middle of a nearly year-long hiatus from the road, Hank3 drove out to Austin for a one-off show at The Revival Festival, and it was a good one. Not having to save anything for the next day and having nothing to recover from the night before, and dragging the badass chicken-picking half-blind maestro Johnny Hiland with him out from Nashville, Hank3 threw down the best live show I’ve seen from him in the post-Joe Buck era. It was one for the ages.
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To see either of these bands alone is an opportunity you cannot pass up. But to put them together back to back was a music cream dream come true. These two bands and their dynamic frontmen were instrumental in the revival of lower Broadway in Nashville, and the same dynamic that gave rise to the abominable frontman of lower Broadway was on display Sunday night at Muddy Roots.
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Just about every one of Willie Nelson’s kids plays music in one capacity or another. How many do it well is another story. But Lukas Nelson and his band The Promise of the Real is the real deal my friends. Far beyond riding coattails or his daddy’s name, 2011 in many ways was a coming out party for Lukas Nelson, and his performance at the 2011 Willie’s 4th of July Picnic / Country Throwdown picnic proved why. The man simply stole the show.
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5.Various Artists – Muddy Roots Festival Late Night Jam
This might be the biggest live music memory of 2011, but without any specific artist to attribute it to, or any other real way to quantify it, I’m just not sure where to put it on this list. What I do know is when you get a legend like Wayne “The Train” Hancock leading JB Beverley, Banjer Dan, all of Hellbound Glory, and who knows else, it’s hard to leave it off the list. It may have not been pretty, but it certainly was legendary.
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4. Marty Stuart – Gruene Hall, Gruene, TX
This was the performance that convinced me that Marty Stuart might be the one to save country music (read full review). This wasn’t a punk gone country show, or a neo-traditional swing back bit, it was simply pure, true country, yet dripping with energy, an engaging nature, attitude, and gospel soul. And his band The Fabulous Superlatives might be one of the best collections of country talent ever assembled. Simply put, this was the best set of straightforward country I’ve seen in years.
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3. Possessed by Paul James – Muddy Roots Festival
First off, the fact that this moment sits at #3 for the year tells you just what a power packed year for music experiences in underground roots music 2011 has been, because really, this moment sets itself apart in the musical experiences of a lifetime.
I saw Possessed by Paul James play live 6 times from late 2010 until now, and in that period, I watched a rebirth of one of the most dynamic live performers I’ve ever seen. Voice issues put him on hiatus for a bit, and when he started performing again, there was a slight timidness, a lack of confidence in his new vocal reality he was struggling with. But over that period, the confidence and abandon came back in full force, to where now I cannot think of another solo performer I would place above him in ability and consistency. Possessed by Paul James delivers every time, and I have come to think of him as a true headliner, and a true legend in the live and recorded context. They say that Possessed By Paul James gives birth to his songs on stage. In 2011 we also saw a PPJ resurrection.
By the end of his Muddy Roots set, some folks were in tears, and everyone was talking about the mysterious burst of wind on that blisteringly hot day that hit the tent right as he began to play. Call that mysterious wind burst a sign of the divine, or quantify it by explaining the dramatic atmospheric wind shift that preceded a change from the hot weather to a tropical disturbance ushered in by Tropical Storm Lee that moved over middle Tennessee. Either way, PPJ channeled that energy through his music, and changed people’s lives.
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2. Sunday Valley – The Pickathon Festival, Portland, OR
I really don’t know what to say here, except that Sunday Valley was the best live band I discovered in 2011, and very possibly might be the best live band right now in all of country music. I know that may come across as a platitude, but I believe it, and to try and use words to describe their live experience almost seems insulting; you just have to experience it yourself. Sturgill Simpson is country’s version of Jimmy Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Mark my words, 2012 might be the year of Sunday Valley. (read more in live review from Pickathon)
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1. Justin Townes Earle – The Parish, Austin, TX
I will start this off by saying I know some people will read this having also seen Justin Townes Earle at some point in 2011, and thinking I’m crazy for putting him here at the top spot. That is because JTE can be hit and miss live, because JTE has a drug and alcohol problem.
When I saw him live at SXSW in 2010, that is when I first recognized a sharp dropoff in the quality of his live show, and a few months later, called him out on it in connection with a rumored drug problem. Later that year in September, he got arrested in Indianapolis after tearing up a dressing room, and brawling with cops. Shortly therafter came a rehab stint, and by January of this year, he was back on tour. We know from subsequent stories that between now and January, JTE had another relapse with heroin, and a relapse while on tour in Australia, and I’ve heard mixed review of his live shows.
I am not omnipresent, so I can’t speak on all his performances, but in Austin, TX, Justin Townes Earle put on the performance of his lifetime. Nearly a year later, I still get chills as I sit here and write about it. Stone cold sober, having just been from hell and back, his own mortality and career hanging in the balance, Justin Townes Earle sang from the heart like nobody else I have ever seen, or possibly ever will see. Since the performance, I have had to come to grips with the fact that I may never be moved by another performance for the rest of my life, like the way I was moved that night. (read review)
I am very excited to announce a unique partnership between Saving Country Music, Hillgrass Bluebilly Records & Entertainment, and Muddy Roots Music (The Muddy Roots Festivals) to bring together the 5th Annual XSXSW showcase, aka XSXSW 5, as part of the annual mid-March gathering of the tribes in Austin, TX known as South By Southwest.
The idea is to create a larger and more robust footprint for underground country and roots music at what is the yearly premier music event for the independent music industry, held in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Unfortunately over the years, SXSW has become more “industry” and less “independent” as the festival has grown, and it has become a logistical nightmare for bands and fans alike to attend. SXSW is in essence a “pay to play” event, asking for non-refundable money for artists to be considered for officially-sanctioned showcases, and the event overtakes the entire downtown corridor of Austin for official SXSW use.
The spirit behind XSXSW is to offer fans and artists an alternative to the SXSW madness, while still giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the massive collection of talent, resources, and networking capabilities SXSW affords, and unlike many SXSW events, it is completely open to the public. This is the 5th year Hillgrass Bluebilly has thrown the XSXSW event, and Saving Country Music and Muddy Roots are coming on board to give the showcase that much more support and impact. Previous XSXSW acts include Los Duggans, Left Lane Cruiser, Hillstomp, O’Death, Austin Lucas, & The Harmed Brothers.
And this is not just important to artists and people in and around Austin. XSXSW 5 will be a national event, with a national focus, yet still in the original spirit of SXSW of showcasing local talent next to national acts. For folks from Texas, the Southwest, or anywhere else that can’t make it to other big independent roots events like The Muddy Roots Festival, Farmageddon Fest, The Deep Blues Festival, etc., this might be your chance to take part in a large scale event. And for those that can’t make it at all, the event will be broadcast right here on SCM LIVE, giving rise to national, and international participation via the web.
And since the event is being held at The Austin Moose Lodge on the east side of town, just outside of the SXSW madness, it offers an alternative to Austin locals who regularly avoid the annual festivities because of the headache they create. Ample parking, huge indoor/outdoor facilities, 3 stages, yet not too far out of the city makes the Austin Moose Lodge the ideal location. And as Hillgrass Bluebilly founder Keith Mallette states, The Moose Lodge embodies:
…a revival of “lost America”, for our friends and family to have a place of our own. A place that IMPROVES & BUILDS FOR US as we bring them beautiful, exceptional music that you just flat out cant get anywhere else… and prove once again that you never know where a song might take you!
This initial lineup of bands is just the tip of the iceberg of what the two day event will include, but we wanted to make folks aware of what will transpire. Florida’s Cracker Swamp Productions is also involved, and other entities and sponsors will be coming on board soon. Stay tuned to Saving Country Music for more announcements and information on XSXSW 5 as March gets closer.
- Hellbound Glory
- James Hand
- Possessed by Paul James
- Rachel Brooke
- Husky Burnette
- Lone Wolf
- Ruby Jane
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