SXSW has started, with Film and Interactive. Music starts on Tuesday, and that is also the closing day for the interactive festival. That means the city is filled up with technology oriented people who attend the several hundred seminars and go to the sponsored parties at night. I go to seminars, but I’d rather hear and see some of the great artists and bands here at night before the music festival mayhem starts. Here is what I saw yesterday, March 14. (Picture above: Redd Volkaert)
It has become a tradition for me to see Redd Volkaert at the Continental Club on South Congress the first Saturday of the festival. He plays every Saturday in the afternoon, a free show with his band. If you haven’t seen or heard him before, just do that. He is one of the most formidable guitarists I have ever seen, and I have seen and heard many. A bonus at these concerts, is that it attracts many great dancers who fill up the floor. Usually many of the Norwegian music lovers who come here also go to Redd’s concert, but yesterday I was the only Norwegian. A great concert with some amazing playing from Redd and his musicians. Here is a story I did a few years ago about Redd Volkaert.
After a short pit stop at the hotel, I went up to the Saxon Pub on South Lamar. This is one of the few clubs in Austin that pays the musicians instead of letting them play for the door, and the bands here are always high quality. Last night I saw the blues man W.C. Clark. I have never seen him before, and he made a good show, going quite far from the straight blues in some of his songs: Supertition by Stevie Wonder, Rock Your Baby by George McRae, plus a very personal and low key version of one of Bob Dylan’s best songs, Make You Feel My Love. W.C. Clark had full control of the audience, and I will try to see more of him later.
From the Saxon Pub I went back to South Congress, but a bit further south, to gthe club C-Boy’s Heart & Soul to see Barfield. The club has been totally renovated since it was called Trophy’s, and was a rowdy dump with some great music. Luckily they have kept the good music. Barfield is worth seeing. He plays his personal mix of old soul, rock, blues and some country with a competent band of guitar bass and drums, plus his own maracas. For this who don’t know Barfield, he used to play in the Stone River Boys with Dave Gonzalez before. And to those of you who didn’t know Dave Gonzales, now you know that he played in the fantastic band The Hacienda Brothers.
From C-Boy’s Heart & Soul to the Continental Club is only a short walk downhill on South Congress. The two late acts there were Zakk & Big Papa Binns plus Cedell Davis from Arkansas, backed by Zakk and Big Papa plus bass and drums. The first act is a son an father duo, Zakk and Big Papa Binns, were Zakk plays guitar, while Papa Binns play slide guitar plus drums. Their music is a hard and raunchy version of swamp and hill blues, kind of a mix between Tony Joe White and T-Model Ford.
After Zakk and Big Papa Binns, I went up to the Gallery at Continental, another small venue with great music and also pictures on the walls. Earlier that night Jon Dee Graham played, and the late acts was Mike Flanigin Trio with guest Mac McIntosh. Flanigin plays here every week, and his organ playing is well worth listening to. Easy accessible jazz, sprinkled with some popular songs, and the crowd had a great time, as usual at the Galery.
Cedell Davis is 87 years old, and it shows. He sits in a wheel chair singing, and is one of the many blues men and women who are still keeping it up, even if they should have been able to just relax. He got polio when he was 10, leaving his left arm quite useless. So he played slide guitar with a kitchen knife instead of a regular slide. In 1957 both his legs were broken in a police raid, and from then he has been bound to a wheelchair. But he kept on singing, and his album from 1984, Feel Like Doin’ Something Wrong, produced by Robert Palmer is considered a timeless blues classic. His newest album is called Last man Standing, which is a fitting title.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.