26
Mar
12

SXSW: Songwriters, Performance and Super Stars

The morning came quickly, as they do for SXSW. I rose to greet my new roomie Robert Singerman at Mike’s place. After both of us did some organizing and necessary clean up Robert and I headed out to downtown Austin proper on different paths for a similar end. He had a BMI breakfast at the Four Seasons, while I would head to Bouldin Creek Cafe to load up on coffee, breakfast and dump my digital mass in my laptop in prep of Fader Fort’s MyMusicRx charity event. On our way to the Four Seasons our conversation turned to music. Imagine that! Robert is working on a number of projects. One, 88TC88.com, brings translated, approved music titles and distributes these songs for sale on mobile carriers with this international music, which is sold with the lyrics embedded in the media in Mandarin underneath, so the Chinese people can understand the lyrics from various languages. The reverse will happen in the future bringing translated Chinese muisc to an International market. He’s directs the Brasil Music Exchange in North America, a Brazilian Trade Office to increase sales of Brazilian music in the US and Canadian market. Then the conversation turned to Lil Wayne. Robert found Lil Wayne preformance had the same kind of energy as Angelo Moore of Fishbone or HR of Bad Brains. I mentioned I’d photographed HR at Sunset Junction a few years back. Robert asked if he was using. I said I didn’t see a glass pipe. HR was working an arabic camo look that night and he was in fine form for the show. Robert encouraged me to drop by the Cutting Edge Music Showcase at The Victory Bar & Grill later that day. Robert is involved with Eric Cager who’s the founder and Director of The Cutting Edge Music Conference. Robert, himself has been involved with bands we all know like: R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, Gypsy Kings, Fela, King Sunny Ade and Smithereens to name a few. This showcase would have an international flavor with an emphasis on NOLA talent. As we rounded the corner on Caesar Chavez that led to the Four Season I agreed to see him later that afternoon to check out the showcase that would prove to be my jumping off point for the days activities.

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I arrived at Bouldin Creek Cafe. Bouldin Creek Cafe is not more that a mile and a half away from the Four Seasons. I came to have coffee in a friendly and cool environment I had discovered through my friend Greg, an Austin native. I soon sent out a text to Karen to see if she was going to be on board for the MyMusicRx brunch at Fader Fort presented by Converse. I was looking forward to the event because it was going to be my first Fader experience. Once I was appropriately jacked up on coffee and finished with my computer activities I, excitedly, scooted over to the MyMusicRx for an open bar brunch. I met Katie, my truly lovely hostess, who was a combination of Nancy Steiner and Dita Demone, two women I adore, who was manning the door and who had put me on the list for MyMusicRx event. About this time I got a text from Karen who had just gotten up and started moving around. She had been up to 4:30am working. She had such a full plate from the previous day she couldn’t possibly make the brunch, but we’d hang out later. I completely understood! MyMusicRx people were smart about presentation at this event. They delivered the Tex-Mex cuisine on nice china and the beverages in the appropriate glasses for our drink of choice. The food was provided by Bon Appetit. The menu consisted of Strube Ranch Barbacoa kolache or the Vital Farm Eggs and Kitchen Pride Mushroom Kolache with a choice of Fiesta Tortias (whole wheat or flour) and either Smoked Hickory Bacon, Vital Farm Eggs and/or Richardson Farms Carnitas. The drinks of choice were Bloody Mary’s or Memosas. I choose the memosas because it make me feel pretty as my strolling beverage and the Strube Ranch Barbacoa Kolache and a Richardson Farms Carnitas with Vital Farm eggs on a whole wheat tortia suited my culinary palate. I repeated the Richardson Farms Carnitas with Vital Farm Eggs on a whole wheat tortia again and had many repeats on the memosas. From there I planted myself near a tall table were I engaged Jorge and a young lady in a toast with our memosas. We continued by making small talk before both bands played. After this I found a comfortable spot in a nice arm chairs where I could take it all in in repose: i.e., shooting photos and videos with ease while in line of the subject matter. All in attendance representing MyMusicRx concern were Rob Stone and Joh Cohen of Fader, Geoff Cottrill of Converse and Regina Ellis of MyMusicRx and Children’s Cancer Association. Rob Stone started off the proceedings by sharing his own story. Rob referencing his own bout with cancer, as a child, brought home the importance of MyMuscRx and Children’s Cancer Association outreach to children suffering with cancer to all there. He tied this in with how music had made a difference in his experience and how he wanted to share music with those suffering and fighting cancer. Regina was next up to explain how MyMusicRx had reached out to over 500,000 kids suffering with chronic illness and cancer out of the 20,000,000 of those currently suffering under those conditions. Regina pointed out how something as simple as purchasing your favorite song from i-Tunes could bring MyMusicRx experience to sick children everywhere. I was impressed by the 500,000 number reached when you take in account how expensive it is to reach out to others in hospitals and communities. I have to say that’s quite an accomplishment! Finally, Jon Cohen wrapped things up nicely by interjecting the importance of people getting involved and acknowledging those who were active in making this happen before he introduced the musical artist LP. From here on out the crowd would mix and would be entertained by both scheduled bands.

LP took the stage, as it were, as a 5 member ensemble. LP is a song writer who had written for such pop artist as Nas, Christina Aguilera, Joe Walsh and Rihanna. At MyMusicRx showcase features a 5 song Ep called, Into The Wild, she’s releasing via Warner Bros. in late April. I picked up her promotional DVD/Ep, while I was there and found it’s rather enjoyable. She pulled up to the mic with electric ukulele is hand, looking like a young Bob Dylan, but she sang with ease and great versatility, while still holding to the singer songwriter tradition. She has a unique and lovely voice. The girl has range! The backing band displayed musicianship I found to be polished, providing a flawless performance for LP. The sound, I guess, wasn’t right because the sound guy kept coming up and getting in the way of the performance, tweaking the sound. It was a solid performance and was perfect for what would be considered early in the day for SXSW. I recorded “Tokyo Sunrise” and I have included it as part of my article so you can discover the music for yourselves. After a short break and a brief introduction Yawn took the stage and introduced us all to their sound. A quick riff on what their sound is like would reference Vampire Weekend or Sigur Ros. This Indie Rock group has opened for the Kooks too. They provided naive sing-a-long harmonies, calypso rhythms in this percussive pop that lightened the room’s mood and made the room flow. They made networking an easy task with their marvelous soundtrack. We all eased in to more drinking and light socializing as the band played on. MyMusicRx brought together a great combination of purpose and music for a wondrous day starter for Friday’s SXSW experience. I went away ready for more fun and looking for more great entertainment.

My next hit was the Front Gate Morning After Party. I was off to South Congress again. Street parking was at a premium yet I found a spot a block and a half away. The party was being held in a parking lot. I negotiated the entrance, passed the stage where J Roddy Walston & the Business were setting up to find the open bar to continue my mamosa bender. Strangely, I wasn’t getting much of a buzz, except from awesome bands I was seeing play. More tacos too as I bellied up to the food line facing the stage. J Roddy Walston & the Business laid down the Bluesy uptempo Rock. While J Roddy Walston & the Business was too straight ahead for my taste the crowd, women closest, were relating strongly and the ladies were very much enthralled. All those boys had beautiful heads of hair: so we had a combination of hair lust/envy from the ladies as J Roddy Walston & the Business collectively waved their freak flag under the partly cloudy afternoon light. They would make a perfect Texas brisket and BBQ party band and I have to say they were! All of this allowed me to focus on my drinking. I focused on it for about an hour before I made my way once again to The Victory Bar & Grill for the Cutting Edge Music event Robert had invited me to. It so happened that my arrival at the Cutting Edge Music event, produced by Eric Cager, was happening in the back stage area I come to know the Day before for Miles Davis House. It was there that Robert spotted me first. He was feeling a little more uptempo from our early morning visit after he had the pleasure of a couple beers, as we all do at SXSW. By this time I was mildly buzzed and full. Robert offered me the Crawfish Monica and we continued to talk music. Robert pointed out that the city of New Orleans was hosting and supplying some of the talent of the event. Drastik (Truth Universal) was owning the stage with his NOLA style rhyme, while we were visiting. He had turned me on to Jerry Lindqvist earlier on our ride to the Four Seasons. Robert was kind enough to introduce me to a bunch of talented musicians that included Tiffany Shea, Ashley Fayth and Nanna Larsen as part of the International Songwriters Tour. He introduce me to Tony Moore who is the songwriter/producer and Zebra-man, who sets up a great singer-songwriter showcase every year in New Orleans, as well as in SXSW and books a great London venue too. I saw Tony play with a young and talented female singer before I headed out. He introduced me to Tiffany Shea first and from that point on she and I continued to talk off and on for as long as we could before they all headed out to their next gig and my slated arrival to see Rhett Miller. I discovered she was a fan of Rhett Miller too. So I decide that it would be a good idea to shoot her and her compatriots too. She was touring with them all and they were also staying with her in Nashville. By the way, this continued the theme of singer song writers started earlier in the day. I went for the fade to catch Rhett and while Robert was really engaged with a couple of folks I simply had to go. I wanted to make Rhett’s gig if at all possible.

The powerful parking gods was and were favoring me throughout my SXSW adventure. Free parking abounded and I locked in a spot 3 blocks from Sixth Street. As I move towards my mission to see Rhett Miller I crossed the second block where there was this long line. I figured that no line would be this long without a reason. So I inquired. I was told it was the Google Parking Lot Stage featuring artist like Jimmy Cliff and The Shins. They were at this moment letting non-badge holders in because the crowds were too thin. Snaps, my plans changed instantly. I love Rhett but I’ve never seen The Shins or Jimmy Cliff. The line was quick too. Before long I was sucking on cheap bad beer and downing energy drinks. Jimmy Cliff had a small ensemble with a drummer, himself and another fellow on guitar. I wasn’t feeling the raga drop or that I was in the midst of Reggae history being made right before my eyes. I’ve met the big boys of Reggae, that is Sly and Robbie many years before and they rang my bell. This was long before Reggae became a retro thing where Rasta bands covered seventies pop songs to make old white men happy. Back then the songs pinned were filled with stories of social change and revolution. So I didn’t expect that part of my soul to be feed on this afternoon. Jimmy Cliff put together a credible and solid set of his tunes. Jimmy closed out his set with Peter Frampton’s Baby I Love Your Way. It was a crowd pleaser. Black Star followed up while I drank more. I didn’t get interested until I heard Jean Grae bump up the rhyme a notch or two. I drifted down near the stage where I ran into Zachary and Alexandra for a catchup session. I decided to see if I could hook up with some Google jello shots down stairs and that path led me to Jennifer Tefft from The Satellite. After that little run in I returned to Zachary and Alexandra where Vince had popped out from backstage after Black Star’s performance. It was great to see him! Vince, Zachary and Alexandra were headed over the Jack White’s solo Third Man Showcase at The Stage On Sixth Street. Oh. how I wanted to go! I did what I could to weasel in but the crowds and badges prevailed. I knew what a treat they were in for, having seen The Dead Weather in August of 2008 at the Regency Theater in DTLA with a Third Man Records Pop Up Record Store. The Dead Weather killed that day and Jack White was about to kill at The Stage for all involved. I stayed and awaited for The Shins domination of the Google stage. James Mercer was first to move toward to the center of the stage and the crowd was at its maximum. The crowd noise raised in approval upon their arrival. I decide to hold a space to center right or to my left to photograph and video. The Shins keep a long and engaging set fill with catalog favorites such as Caring Is Creepy, Know Your Onion!, So Say I and closing with Phantom Limb. On most of the songs the fan sang along knowing the lyric and the tunes. On more than one occasion and previous to this show I’d mention I was going to catch The Shin. People response would nearly spontaneously as they would say: The Shins sounds just like they do on their albums. As if that were negative or a disappointment. Funny, that used to be the criteria used to know if a band was really any good and/or they were musicians. The Shins, surely, are not a jam band. So knowing the musician you’ve come to see have the proficiency and the ability to deliver on their own songs should carry the balance of their performance. The Shins music is held together with dynamic range, artistry and lyrical content that comes closer to poetry than most Pop music. So with this later definition clarifying performance. The Shins delivered, delivered and delivered!

I left the Google stage to head over to Sixth Street to The Stage On Sixth Street so I could be appropriately disappointed by stacked lines and an overcapacity room. I stood there for a while staring from the outside as if I was a member of an Indonesian cargo cult looking longingly, lustfully on a cargo plane. For the most part I’m not a fan of Sixth Street. It’s too crowded and usually not enough good stuff to keep you hanging on. I was hungry and there was a fast and cheap solution, Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza. Death Metal Pizza has a thriving business. Go there for the pizza and stay for the attitude! It’s the only place I’ve eaten at that’s generated Foursquare comments within minutes of my checking in and then a lengthy full-scale text conversation around the topic lasting nearly an hour. Don’t tell me that Death Metal Pizza doesn’t have some crazy witchy thing going on! Of course, I gobbled down the pizza and almost immediately went into a stupor. Sixth street had nothing for me now, as Jack White faded to the back of my brain. I headed to my digital friendly coffee shop Bouldin Creek Cafe. The idea was to recharge. I spent 2 hours there while transforming photos and videos. I left around midnight to see if I might find an easy score on parking for Rhett Miller’s next to last performance. I did a “drive by” by the Cedar Door Court yard and nary a parking spot to be seen. The heaviness of the day had definitely wore me down and with so many exploits already under my belt I wasn’t compelled to try to cash in on this one. Surely, I’ll see Rhett again. As the city descended deeply into some heavy partying I roll north-east to my digs to be reborn on the morrow once again.

SXSW Flickr Photo Gallery



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