SXSW Music: Day 3

After the previous night's excitement, I was ready for some R & R on my last day in Austin.  R & R meaning, of course, rock and roll.  [Editor's note:  not my best work, humor-wise.  Forgive me.]  The ER doctor, while stitching up my wife's face, told us about "the best coffee shop in Austin" where there was going to be a whole afternoon of free music the next day, "more in a folky, bluegrassy vein."  And this woman knew veins.  [Editor's note:  that was funnier, right?]  So off we went to the Once Over Coffee Bar, stopping along the way for some delicious tacos from - you guessed it - a food truck right in front of the coffee shop.  Once inside, we secured some beers, then made our way to the back deck where a lady with a ukelele was just starting her set.

It turns out that lady - Datri Bean - was going to become one of my wife's new favorite artists.  On her web site, Bean describes her music as "music for a lazy afternoon on the porch" and I couldn't agree more.  We spent a nice long while basking in the Texas sunshine, nursing our beers (and, for some of us, our head wounds), and happily grooving on Datri Bean's folky, jazzy tunes as she switched from ukelele to accordian and back again.  It was heavenly. We stayed for a few more groups afterwards (unfortunately, I can't recall their names) and really enjoyed ourselves, finally heading indoors for some of the excellent coffee and a surprisingly good bagel.  All in all, a good afternoon.

Datri Bean and her accordion

That night was going to be my last night in Austin, so I knew I had to make the most of it.  I had plotted out 5 bands I wanted to see (with about 5 backups for each time slot), all at venues within walking distance of each other.  I knew if I stayed focused and kept on a steady diet of Jack & Coke and Lone Star, I could do it.  So I set off on my rental bike around 8:30 PM, plan in hand, ready for a good time.  Here's how it played out:
  1. My first stop was a church where the over-50 set, a handful of teenagers who looked way too young to sneak into any over-21 clubs, the other 3 Jews in Austin, and I all enjoyed the klezmer-honkytonk stylings of the Yiddish Cowboys.  Truth be told, they were really just a klezmer band in cowboy hats, there wasn't any discerinble honkytonk to my ears.  But I did learn from them that the song "Miserlou" has its roots as an old Greek folk tune who's title means "Egyptian Girl."  So that was interesting.  Also, the entire church smelled strongly of bacon, which was being cooked out in one of the common rooms, along with a whole slew of breakfast items available for sale, as well as beer.  Fascinating.

  2. Damien Jurado, rocking out
  3. Next up was Damien Jurado, who performed a beautiful set despite some obstacles.  He was in an upstairs club above some place that was blaring some sort of horrible nu-metal music or something.  It was impossible not to hear the drums pounding through the floor as he sang his quiet heartfelt songs.  At first everyone in the club was sitting down, and it felt really communal, but eventually the club asked us all to stand up to let more people in, which was weird, because the people who came in just stood at the bar and talked, prompting Damien to yell at them to "shut the fuck up" at one point.  He seemed a little perturbed the whole time, but still did a great set, even doing one of his guitar solos a cappella as he played the rhythm part, inviting the crowd to sing along with him during one song, and then telling us a story about the "rich assholes [he] knew growing up who owned a trampoline."

  4. My next stop was easily the loudest of the night, when I managed to squeeze myself into a very crowded club to see Tapes 'n Tapes.  Apparently they have a new album out, I had no idea.  I haven't really heard anything about them in a while, but it turns out they are very good live, they are incredibly loud, and they are extremely punctual.  All of which are positives in my book.  They did a crisp half-hour set which actually included a lot of songs, which I guess highlights how short their songs are on average.  This show made me want to listen to them more, so maybe I'll check out that new album some time soon.  I also really appreciated the brevity of this set, as it gave me some time to enjoy a nice food truck falafel before rushing off to the next show of the night.  Side note: this was the only show of the evening for which I did not get to sit down for at least a portion of the set.  At my age, that's worth keeping track of.

  5. Her Space Holiday, pre-retirement
    The penultimate band of the night (for me, at least) was San Francisco's Her Space Holiday [Editor's note: according to AMG, Marc Bianchi relocated to Austin back in 2001, so I guess he was a local act that night.]  I've been a fan of this emo-electronic bedroom-pop act for a while, so I was really looking forward to this show, and he didn't disappoint.  He combined a couple songs for some reason, and played a few I'd never heard, which was cool.  It was illuminating to see a live guitarist and bassist playing along with all the pre-recorded electronic backing music; I'd been curious as to how that would work out live.  It's nothing new, but it's still kind of weird to see a band playing live with a laptop.  There was a surprisingly large crowd for this show, or at least I guess Bianchi was surprised, because he opened the show by asking the crowd "where have you guys been for the past 5 years?"  I had no idea how long this band had been around until he announced at the end of the show "I've been doing this for 15 years, and I'm going to be stopping soon."  So I guess that counts as a surprise retirement announcement.  Woo hoo, I got a scoop!

  6. Damien Jurado, hanging out
    My night ended at the same club where I'd seen Damien Jurado, and on my way over there, I passed some bearded guy in a plaid shirt (there were literally hundreds of them on the streets) who turned out to be...Damien Jurado.  I told him I'd really liked his set and he shook my hand and thanked me.  That was cool.  Then I went upstairs to see another act I've loved for a long time but never seen live before, Viva Voce.  This married couple from Portland makes excellent guitar-based psychedlic rock music, and it was very cool to see them re-create some of that music in a very intimate setting.  By which I mean, there were only about 10 other people there to see them, which is a crime.  One of those people happened to be the aforementioned Damien Jurado, who walked over and sat down at my table (where there was a free bar stool) and proceeded to spend most of the show seemingly checking the weather on his iPhone.  Meanwhile, Viva Voce did an awesome for a small but enthusiastic crowd, and afterwards I got to talk briefly with Kevin Robinson (who mostly plays drums and sings), who was really nice, and told me all about how he'd shredded his rotator cuffs drumming and had to take several years off, and how happy he was to be playing again, and how his wife Anita is really the super-talented one and how great she is.  It was really cute, and I really enjoyed talking to him.  Then someone from the venue told the "crowd" that we all had to leave for the night, so that was that.
The next day we re-visited the rock poster exhibit, did some shopping on Austin's wonderful South Congress St., and waited in vain for the cab we had ordered to pick us up and take us to the airport.  We eventually hailed one on the street.  That part of the day was pretty stressful and made me hate Austin's taxi drivers even more than I already did.  But in the end, it was a great week, the weather was nice, I got to see a lot of old friends, a ton of live music, and some interesting panels to boot.  And my own panel went really well and got a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.  So until next year, thanks for a great time, Austin!

    Wall art/musical instrument from our Austin rental condo

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