Thursday night was a busy night at the SXSW. The free concerts at the Auditorium Shores started this day, and my schedule was packed up until well after midnight. The weather forecast didn’t look too good, but the rain kept away, so the Auditorium Shores had a lot of people, and the same with 6th Street and all the clubs. (Picture above: Charles Bradley)
One of the problems with music festivals like the SXSW is the abundance of concerts, spread out at about 100 venues. Even if they are located relatively close together, there are still distances between the, and you have to check both the artists and the map to make your schedule. Then some of the clubs will be packed early with people safeguarding themselves because of a big name later that name, etc. So, I started out with two nice outdoor concerts from 7 PM, then went up to the 6th Street/Red River area for the rest of the evening.
Charles Bradley was my first concert at Auditorium Shores. This was my forth time seeing him in three years, so I knew he was good. His show is in the flamboyant tradition of the big soul, funk and rhythm and blues names, actually before he got his well deserved recognition, he acted as a James Brown impersonator. At the Auditorium Shores, Bradley gave us a 40 minutes set with a mix of new and old songs, his latest album, Victim Of Love, came out in 2013.
After Bradley, Spoon was closing the Audtorium Shores part of the night. They are an Austin band, formed in 1994, with big commercial success from their CDs released after 2005. Musically Spoon are a typical indie rock band, reminding me a bit of the Brit pop style of the 90’s. They are a good band, and the fans loved them, while I was more happy with Charles Bradleys show.
From the Auditorium Shores, that is located just south of the South First Street bridge, I took a bicycle cab up to the Buffalo Billiards club to see the Swedish artist Laleh. She is some of the best things that have come from Sweden for the last 10 years. She comes from Nothern Iranian, and lived in a refugee camp after her parents fled the country, coming to Sweden in 1994 when she was 12 years old. Her song Some Die Young from the 2012 album Sjung (Sing) was a big commercial success in Sweden, and specially in Norway.
One of the reasons for this was that she sang it after the terror attack on the Norwegian government and the massacre at a youth camp, killing 77 people, by the white right-wing Christian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik at July 22nd 2011. Some Die Yong is about losing someone you love, and it instantly hit the Norwegian sentiment in the post July 22 time. It also helps that it is a beautiful song, and Laleh’s voice and performance is true beauty. The concert at the Buffalo Billiards was good, but the club isn’t the best setting for such an artist as Laleh, she deserves much better settings.
After Laleh I walked over to The Holy Mountain for some good Americana by Kelly Willis and ray Wylie Hubbard. Kelly Willis has been performing with her husband Bruce Robison for some time, but recently they each decided to do solo work. Her latest album was released last year, and she is working on new material. I don’t know her catalogue well, but I like her style, having seen her before, both with and without her husband. The concert was good, with a great atmosphere and some good songwriting.
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Ray Wylie Hubbard has been a favorite of mine for some time in the Americana singer songwriter genre. The first time I saw him was at the Norwegian festival Down On The Farm in 1997, and I have seen him several times in Austin since then. His most well known song is “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother“, which Jerry Jeff Walker made famous in 1973. Since the 90’s he has been steadily putting out songs, and his new album, The Riffian’s Misfortune, is set for an April release. At the Holy Mountain he performed with his son Lucas, who is his guitarist.
The contrast from Ray Wylie Hubbard to Cancer Bats is a big one, but I like both. The bats played at the Dirty Dog Bar, the Austin #1metal club. The band is a hardcore punk band, with singer Liam Cormier jumping and running around on stage. I find this music refreshing and it adds to the mix of genres that SXSW represents. The last time I saw the band, they played outdoors in nice weather in Norway. The Dirty Dog Bar is a much better setting for their music, even if the lightning for photography really sucks there.
After The Cancer Bats I walked the short way up to the Red Eyed Fly to see a bit of the Quiet Company‘s set. They have won several prices at the Austin Music Awards as best rock band, and to me they are more than competent, but I am not thrilled by their music, not knowing many of their songs. Their front man, Taylor Muse is worth seeing, as he ha some good moves on stage.
From the Quiet Company I walked down to get in line to see Wyclef Jean. I am not much into rap and hip hop, but Wyclef is one of my favorites, mixing rap with more melody, making it more R&B than hip hop. The venue was packed, and I noticed an interesting difference in the audience to what I am used to. The young hip hop audience is more self-absorbed and not necessarily as friendly as, for instance the metal fans, or the other extreme, the americana, folk fans.
The show with Wyclef was good, with lights, great rapping, some of his best and best known songs, 911 and Ready Or Not, which he wrote for his former band, the Fugees, and many others. I also liked that he had musicians on stage, not only a DJ, like so many of his colleagues.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.