SXSW Top Ten I Saw

My Top Ten Musical Moments at SXSW 2005, and a couple more

(at least what I remember) Los Super Seven at Las Manitas.
The buzz band of the moment in my world, Joey Burns, John Convertino and Calexico made me forget Los Lobos as the core band and proved my contention that Tucson is nothing but a lost part of Far West Texas; Augie Meyer, Charlie Sexton, Max Baca on bajo sexto brought the Tex-Mex street cred; Michael Guerra channeled Flaco, Steve Jordan and all the other great acordeon maestros on his squeezebox; Raul Malo crooned the lines "You know it's the season to groove" with straight-faced sincerity that even Doug Sahm didn't convey on the Sir Douglas Quintet spacey big band jazz opus from the late sixties "Song For Everything"; Rick Trevino and Ruben Ramos, LS7's two charter members, sang the Spanish vocals with the kind of passion that put the Mex in Tex-Mex, while Ramos covered Sunny & the Sunliners' version of "Talk To Me" in lieu of Delbert McClinton, who does the vocals on the album, nailing Ozuna cold; and Joe Ely sang and played like it was his show with a real good big band behind, taking charge with "Learning the Game" an obscure Buddy Holly jewel from his NY apartment recordings--BH's very last-- that Rodney Crowell covers on the latest LS7 album "Heard It On the X". Then Ely kicked it into high gear with his spot-on cover of the Bobby Fuller Four's "Let Her Dance", accompanied by a strumming guitar arm, underscoring the BF4 was more than just "I Fought The Law" and solidfying Ely's position as the arbiter of West Texas rock and roll. There must have been at least 15 players shuffling back and forth on and off the stage, yet it sounded like a unified, whole concept. I was skeptical of this go-round of LS7 and would be quick to recognize reasons why it shouldn't work. But the songs are so dang good, I'm still spinning it daily. This stuff deserves to be on the radio. If only there were stations worthy enough to play it.

Two hours before the show started, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes came in for lunch. No violence ensued and as far as we know no one spit in their food, but several people did take the opportunity to approach their table to give them shit, according to one source, with one diner telling Rove he should be buying their lunch because as taxpayers we sure were buying theirs.

New York Dolls at Spin magazine's party at Stubb's. They may have never sold many records, but they're credited with influencing the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones and all things punk and glam. Thirty years after the fact (and three dead band members later) David Johansen put his lounge and world music fixations aside and revved it up one more time, pulling out all stops, while looking resplendent in tight saffron shirt with saffron loincloth over jeans, exposing a physique so skinny that two different women at the New Times party asked if he was on heroin? I told them I thought it was eastern religion, but maybe he was a mediating junkie. When you can get the crowd singing along to "Pills" and "Personality Crisis", you're working the groove. The 14 year Patoski judged them cool enough but worried about their behavior, given their age. They blew it out and looked like it at the end.

Raveonettes at the New Times party at Antone's. OK, I dug the Kill at Emo's, and their male-female couple as Nic Cave dynamaic, and the Detroit band who followed them who had a banjo player and a lead singer dressed like Soupy Sales, but somewhere between a comfortable position in the bleachers within earshot of three bands banging on three stages, I missed the Raveonettes and everything else until Andrew woke me up around 12:30. But on the way to the hotel, we ran into Robert Wilonsky who told us about the New Times party the next day. Armed with a CD and Andrew's request to get it autographed, I complied, betraying many trusts and acting like a media whore to get the requested inscriptions, I ended up being charmed by Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo while having a pleasant conversation about clubs in Copenhagen, Europe, and the United States. The lengths parents go to.d I stayed and watched the show and was pretty much blown away, beginning with the guy who introduced them, their producer of Chain Gang of Love, Richard Gotteher, who also produced the last major label my wife played on with Joe King Carrasco. The three cord power pop kicked in from there--upbeat, driving originals with one nugget thrown in ("My Boyfriend's Back" authored by Gotteher that kicks all versions but the original). We talked, Gotteher remembered appearing in Joe King's video as the first MTV Christmas band holding his baby daughter, Zoe, above his head. She's 28 now. And he's still in the game, working the basic formula that is rock and roll.

Hubert Sumlin at Antone's. When Antone's Home of the Blues opened in 1975, Hubert Sumlin was the first of the Chicago gang to linger after doing gigs to impart knowledge to young kids like Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan and Denny Freeman (now on the road with Bob Dylan), showing them how he made Howlin' Wolf sound so wonderfully menacing with his guitar chops. So it was no surprise to see Clifford Antone on the side of the stage to pay homage or Pinetop Perkins, 91 young years, sitting in on piano. Seeing Robert Plant in the crowd was less expected. So was Elvis Costello jumping up onstage to sing "Hidden Charms" with Hubert bangi out licks next to him.

Saul Williams at Emo's. Andy Schwartz and I headed to Caribbean Nights to see Cartel de Santa from Monterrey do their hip hop thang after the 127 the band from Iran canceled at Tambaleo and their Finnish replacements sounded cold, rhythmless, and like they'd spent too much time in the sauna. But the Cartel sounded generic at best, but in Spanish, so we went next door where Saul Williams was blowing minds, rapping more like a poet who knows his history as much as his politics, and is willing to test boundaries, using a live piano and violin on top of the beats. Dude reached a crowd that was nothing like the typical hiphop audience.

Alejandro Escovedo and John Cale at the Austin Music Awards. Cellos and guitars interpreted by two masters a generation apart but of the same mind. Elegant, stunning, and timeless.

Fatboy Slim at Stubb's. OK, he's the DJ of DJs 'cuz he's had huge hits under his own name. But the artist once known as Norman Cook earned his spurs the hard way, mixing beats n all that, then taking it to another level by working the crowd like a cheerleader. Smart video accompaniment too, linking the Merry Pranksters of the LSD Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests of the Sixties with the Factory People and ectasy club kids of the nineties and double-oughts. Plus, geeky electrowhiz that he is, Norm appeared to be having a wunnerful time.

John Butler Trio at KGSR in the Morning at Four Seasons. Aussie band with dreadlocks, wooden instruments and a KGSR sensibility was the Friday surprise.

Resentments at KGSR in the Morning at Four Seasons. Austin's best bar band gets serious with a groove, new batch of songs, third Euro tour that keeps me thinking it could actually overwhelm their respective careers. When the front line of twangers is T.S. Bruton, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Jon Dee Graham, and Bruce Hughes, that kind of thing is always on the verge of happening.

CC Adcock at KGSR in the Morning at Four Seasons. I thought the dirty distorted guitar was the hook of "Lafayette Marquis", from this Lousiana guitar hotshot's Yep Roc album Stealin' All Day, but when he did it acoustic, Adcock revealed himself to be a dang good storyteller who happens to be connected to the Doyle Bramhalls Junior (his life long running buddy) and Senior (his drummer at the moment) and enough a Texan to keep a place out in Marathon in Far West Texas.

Bloc Party at Spin Magazine party at Stubb's. My fave new Brit band. Tuff as it gets.

Lyle Lovett at KGSR in the Morning at Four Seasons. After sitting in as guest Kevin all week on the Kevin & Kevin Show, showing up dutifully at 6 am for every broadcast, Lyle rounded up Mitch Watkins, Gene Elders, and John Hagen to do the string thing and close out the week with three songs on a chilly but perfect spring morning overlooking Town Lake. Sweet. Nice boots too.

Futureheads at La Zona Rosa. I'm not sure if I'm buying the Elvis Costello and Clash comparisons, but there was definitely energy, cohesion, and an appealing sort of working-class, sleeves-rolled-up vibe that projects honesty, a not-too-common quality in this racket.

* honorable mention Susan Cowsill. Timeless bangs and a penchant for Grateful Dead jam grooves were worth listen and then some.

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