SXSW 2011 Report 2: The Videos


This year’s South
By Southwest was another fuckin’ great one. Go here or here for even more SXSW coverage.


By Randy Harward / Photo by Scott Dudelson


A good barometer for what, among the dozens of bands you
saw at SXSW, was truly great is how much you recall after the fact. Not as soon
as you get back to your hotel and you’re drunk, or in the morning when you’re
hungover and scrambling to post the first blog. Or when you’re feeling spent
and reflective at the airport on Sunday. Usually by Wednesday only the great
and awful, and the awfully average, stick out in detail.


Actually, if you try hard enough, you can recall
everything. It’s not worth it. Reciting a litany of everything you saw cheapens
the transcendent experiences. So does complaining about the crapfests you
endured due to circumstances or hastily, often drunkenly, negotiated ‘I’ll see
this if you see that’ deals with companions. Although, in all honesty, it’s


Here’s what really floored me this year – included are some expository vid clips that probably do a better job of showing you, better than mere words can, the performers’ awesomeness.


Marques Tolliver


When a guy takes the stage and says he’s gonna play a few
songs for you, and it’s the earliest set at a day party, it’s usually not a big
deal. It’s not just an opening act, it’s something everyone can miss while they
shuffle toward a late arrival and bigger, better acts. Preceding Jon Langford
and the Skull Orchard, the Waco Brothers, Hoots and Hellmouth, Mean Creek, Lydia
Loveless and Andy Friedman, Toliver’s one-man act stole the show as the
24-year-old stunned the earlybird crowd to rapt silence with his immensely
moving voice and unusual instrumental accompaniment: xylophone, dulcimer and





The Silent Comedy


Each year, often more than once, you’ll see a band you’ve
never heard of because your first choice is full and/or anything else that
sounds good is too long a hoof. Once in a while, it’s an extremely
serendipitous event – such was the case with San Diego’s The Silent Comedy. Boasting
multiple lead vocalists and songwriters, the quintet roared through a set of
infectious, introspective barroom rock ‘n’ roll that had the crowd singing and
jumping along.







Mystery Roar


Eighties throwback bands are so ubiquitous now that
sometimes I wanna shoot them in the face. The goods ones, though, are really
good. Mystery Roar played at the Converse Boston to Austin showcase at 512
and their funky, ABC-meets-Prince tunes bounced, thumped and roared on the
upstairs patio, beckoning enough listeners to create an elbow-to-elbow
situation that even an oppressive sun and heavy humidity couldn’t melt away.









Outside the Flatstock exhibit in the Austin Convention
Center, LA stoner rock trio Sasquatch laid down a nasty, thunderous groove that
had even security guards stopping to listen and snap photos.






Bobby Rush


For sheer entertainment value, you can’t beat Bobby Rush.
Usually he’s flanked by big badonkadonkin’ background singers and a full band,
but tonight at the Hilton Garden Inn it was just him, his Strat, a harmonica
and his hard R-rated song-stories. He had the crowd eating out of his hand,
especially when he noticed a good friend in the front row.


Brother?” Rush said when he spotted Pinetop Perkins
in his wheelchair. Rush talked about how the two blues legends went back 55-60
years, and how they both love McDonalds, then dedicated a smoldering version of
“Tough Titty” to his buddy. Sadly, two days later Pinetop passed away. R.I.P.







Taddy Porter


Expecting an unknown blues singer in the early slot at the Mississippi showcase, I arrived late – only to catch the
last half of the last song by this blues-based arena rock band (a favorite
flavor of mine) from Stillwater,
OK. That was all I needed to seek
more music online, which amounts to profound regret over my tardiness.







Roky Erickson w/Billy F. Gibbons


A Roky Erickson show is always a solid bet because
anyone who can swim up from murky mental illness and rock that hard,
like he’s never lost a step, is a real rock ‘n’ roller. Add a bad motherfucker
like Billy F. Gibbons to the mix and you’re seeing something really special.
The video below shows an almost identical performance from 2008, also at
Threadgill’s for Roky’s annual Ice Cream Social, doesn’t sound so hot, but just
imagine Gibbon’s palm-muted riffing, so prominent in ZZ, propelling Roky
chestnuts like “Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” “I Walked With a Zombie”
and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” You might never consider it otherwise, but if ZZ
Top ever deigned to be Roky’s backing band for a tour, it’d be utter magic.







Rubber City Rebels


I walked clear from the Continental Club to Skinny’s
Ballroom – 30 minutes with a heavy backpack and bad shoes – just to see these
guys, and it was the best show of the trip. The Akron quartet, which hails from the
late-1970s heyday of punk rock and power-pop, positively owned the stage
despite what they half-jokingly complained was a crap turnout.






The Latebirds


Full disclosure: This Finnish power-pop bands is signed to Blurt’s parent company Second Motion Records. In fact, I wasn’t even gonna write
about these guys until I saw them just crush it at the Continental Club
for, of course, Blurt‘s showcase. They have all the live energy of the
Posies as well as the songwriting smarts of that band and love ‘em or hate ‘em
cult band Toad the Wet Sprocket.









Zac Morgan/Z-sonance


was the early opener at a day party I popped into by chance. About 10-15 early
birds were as lucky as me, because Morgan’s flashy, soulful acoustic guitar
pyro is thrilling. In fact, his dexterous two-handed tapping and percussive
embellishments are reminiscent of another unplugged shredder, Monte
Montgomery–only Morgan eschews pop songwriting in favor of chill-inducing



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