SXSW 1999: Rain Nor Flu Can Stop the Madness
Austin, Texas

These are from the daily emails I sent out during SXSW 1999

 
Where am I? What day is this?

Music, basketball, music, basketball, music, basketball, Oscars, X-Files.... too much input... must rest... must recover.....

Tuesday was the official kickoff of SXSW for me -- Postcard 2 member Jim Caligiuri held a party at his house, featuring various other P2ers in from out of town, most of the Austin-based P2ers and various hangers on (those would be my friends), meat and vegetarian chili, Maker's Mark, and performances by:

All the cute guys were married.... yes, some things never change.

Wednesday was the "official" kickoff at the Austin Music Awards. Before you even start scrolling down to find out what fabulous celebrity showed up this year unannounced -- FORGET IT. There were no surprises. No Ron Howard, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Martin Landau, Ellen DeGeneres, Ann Heche, Sandra Bullock... Mike Judge didn't even show this year. I think they were all at Antone's for a private party after the "Ed TV" premiere, damn them.

Fastball showed up to claim their awards and received a pretty lackluster reception given all their fame (did they say something bad about Austin at some point?). Freddy Fender and some of the other members of Los Super Seven showed up to receive their Austin awards... and then were surprised with the Grammy Awards they didn't receive in person a few weeks ago as best Mexican-American performers (for those of you keeping score at home, I've now seen a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy -- that just leaves the Golden Globe and the Oscar... unless you want to include all those lesser awards like the People's Choice thingy).

But, it was a good show. Meg Heniges opened, a female singer backed up with electric guitars and keyboard-based rock band. I found her voice lackluster and her performance kind of dull. Then came the Resentments, a sometimes-band made up of John Dee Grahmn, Scrappy Judd Newcomb and various other Austin musicians. They were fabulous, but could only play one song, because their set was delayed for several minutes due to sound problems. They dubbed this year's SXSW theme as "Job Fair 99." Later on P2, Mark Rubin of the Bad Livers summed up SXSW 99 this way on P2:

Next up at the show was Reckless Kelly, a WONDERFUL roots rock band that just blew me away (I cried during their "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"/Gram Parsons tribute because I'M A WUSS). Plus -- dang but these boys are easy on the eyes. Whew!

Kinky Friedman played a few songs, stoned completely out of his friggin' mind. What an experience that one is. I was rather underwhelmed. But, at least I can say I've seen him now. And isn't that really what SXSW is all about? (grin)

David Garza followed -- very loud, very rockin' -- kinda grunge, kinda 80s alternative. I dug him in a big way. You can now see him on Warehouse TV commercials.

Kelly Willis and Bruce Robinson ended the show, and that Kelly Willis is a goddess in her own right and you all need to go out and buy her latest CD right NOW. But they didn't play nearly long enough.

Not a reflection on his performance, but I left during the last set by set by Monte Warden. I wasn't feeling well, and there was no... no magic this year in the Austin Music Hall. Not sure what was up.

So, I spent the next 24 hours valiantly fighting against the flu while still enjoying the madness and wonder that was SXSW 99. I'm happy to report I never succumbed, and that I learned a valuable lesson -- if one doesn't drink during SXSW, one has INCREASED STAMINA!! I know, they tried to tell us this in health class... I didn't listen.

Thursday was the fourth annual Postcard2 barbecue, hosted once again by the fabulous Cherilyn DeMond, bass player for the Meat Purveyors. The best part was once again hooking up with various P2 people I see only once a year, and lusting after various musicians. This year, all bands were required to play a song written or performed at some time by Bruce Springsteen, who Cherilyn is currently stalking. One P2 summed it up thusly, "The brisket and tater salad was good and the Pearl was foamy, the airplanes made regular passes over the house."

The lineup included the Ex-Husbands (band from Nashville that I hated when I saw them a year ago, but who I liked quite a bit this time around), the Handsome Family (off-key and really boring), and Pearly Gates (whose lineup of instruments includes a large bedframe with big metal pieces from boilers and cars and such, which some woman hits repeatedly). The highlight was, ofcourse, the Meat Purveyors, who played their new homage to P2 studman Chad Hamilton, "I'm more a man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get." It went over just as well as the premire of the song earlier in the week at the Hole in the Wall.

After about three hours, I decided it was time to go home and downed lots of liquids and aspirin and B12. Then I drove back to town. I got to Stubb's at 7:45 and found Wayne "The Train" Hancock just finishing his set -- he'd started an hour earlier than he was supposed to, according to the paper. Stubb's is a big outdoor venue -- one of my favorites. I hooked up immediately with some friends from North Carolina (Duke fans that I get along with, believe it or not) and we all anxiously awaited BR549, Jeff Black, Leon Russell and Doug Sahm... and a rumored guest appearance from Willy Nelson. Unfortunately, just as Wayne finished, the sky opened up. Big time. We found the nearest in-door club, which had some metal band from L.A. After suffering through one song and watching the water rise near the doorway, we bagged the music for the night and had dinner instead.

Friday, I went to work. Yuck. I headed out the door at 12:30 and went straight to South Congress and my favorite time of SXSW years past... the Bloodshot Records Party at Yard Dog Gallery. And, once again, I was not disappointed. I got there just as the Blacks were finishing up. Then it was Neko Case, with whom I was much impressed -- wish the sound had been better. Then Trailer Bride... with whom I was not impressed (may have just been the venue). Since I was starving and the Handsome Family was up next, Mary and I went next door to Guerros, where I'm happy to report that I was not thrown out of this year -- probably because I did not drink margaritas nor did I sit with the Waco Brothers (particularly Jon Boy Langford).

Got back to Yard Dog just as the Meat Purveyors were starting up, and they turned the yard into a madhouse. It was fab. And then.... the Waco Brothers. Goddamn, what can I say. Only Brits could create thrash country music. Everyone was dancing, everyone was screaming, Beatle Bob was on stage in his tennis racket-covered jacket.... unbelievable. For their last song, they played "Do you dream about me" by Lonesome Bob, who joined them on stage to take a line or two himself. The perfect SXSW moment once again.

I blew off the free show in Waterloo Park (Fastball.... I love their two hits, but not anything else I've heard from them) and went home for medication and dog bonding.

That night I had only one show on my agenda -- Scholtz Beer Garten, for the Checkered Past artists. Didn't like Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub as much as last year (but don't you just love that name?), and I found the Old Joe Clarks too laid back for my mood. Hooked up with Tommy Womack before his set, and then spent the evening dashing back and forth between his show and the Kentucky game playing in the bar. After Tommy was Lonesome Bob, who was fabulous once again, this time with the Waco Brothers cheering him from the audience. For his last song -- you guessed it, and, yes, they all climbed on stage to join him, while P2 List Dad Don Yates and I shook all the beers off our picnic table.

Saturday morning was brunch at Erica's (where I got to re-introduce myself to Lonesome Bob -- what a nice man). Then I blew off the Checkered Past party at Yard Dog -- which was picked as a highlight of SXSW in the Sunday paper by the paper's music critic, citing Tommy Womack's performance in particular -- and spent the early afternoon with the dogs, who wanted affirmation that I was still involved in their lives. For the late afternoon, it was the free show at Waterloo Park with the Damnations and the Gourds, neither of whom I have seen in months. There were hundreds of people there... I'll be glad to see them in a club again. My friend Reb and I walked out on the Spoon set -- I found them kind of dull. As we walked past the port-o-lets, I must note that we did, indeed, make numerous flukeman jokes.

My venue for the evening was Liberty Lunch. I felt fully cured and decided that I did not want SXSW to be totally alcohol-free, so I had a beer. Woo hoo. It was quite the place to be -- lots of industry types everywhere. I walked in during Johnny Dowd's set. I didn't like him. He was like... a bad parody of Southern Culture on the Skids... and given that many people think SCOTS is a bad parody.... he might, however, be really good on the soundtrack of a Coen brothers movie. Anyway... then it was Reckless Kelly. They were fabulous again -- the lead singer has a voice like a young Steve Earle, and they can rock out like Mr. Earle can, or sound smooth and fun like the Mavericks. Given their looks and solid musical sound, they are, in my opinion, the next big thang. Which is a shame, in a way, as I doubt they will be playing songs like the one they ended with -- a Bob Dylan cover that had my friend Mary and I standing there with are jaws on the floor and in total awe. The only drawback of Reckless Kelly -- their fans. All people who want to hear the same songs, to scream along, etc. See this band anywhere OUTSIDE of Texas.

Next up was Robbie Fulks, someone I have wanted to see for oh so long. And he became my second but equally perfect SXSW moment this year. If he comes to a club near you, you MUST go. And take earplugs. And wear comfortable shoes so you can jump around alot.

I was thrilled that I was going to at last see the Bottle Rockets, who fell out of an ugly tree and hit every branch going down, but who have some really great songs. They announced at the beginning that they would not be playing anything from past CDs, and I thought, "Great -- new stuff!" Well... I hated everything -- their new songs, their lackluster performance..... After three songs, I was so out of there (guess I'll just have to wait for some other time to see the Meat Puppets). Mary and I headed for the Jazz Bon Temps Room to see how 6th Street treated the Waco Brothers. Walking the mile or so down a crowded downtown Austin at 1 a.m. on a crisp, clear night -- the sights and the sounds that changed as we patched each and every club... one of those moments when I'm so very, very glad to live in this town. As for the Wacos, to quote a P2 member: "The Wacos didn't sound quite as good as they had at Friday's party, IMO. WHO CARES?! They tore the fucking roof off the sucker! The floor was vibrating as though electrified. The speakers were swaying. It was wonderful." If I lived in Chicago, I'd go see them all the damn time. I would also be deaf, and have severe back and knee problems from dancing.

Got home at 2:30 a.m. Not the best SXSW, but, once again, a truly wonderful experience. Really glad I avoided the self-promotional frenzy, for the most part.

Thank you for playing, and see you next year.

 


For more information about SXSW, visit http://www.sxsw.com


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