Woody’s Top 3’s of SXSW 2009 [performances, venues, breakouts, more]

by Woody on March 29, 2009


Burke Barlow of The Deep Dark Woods

Well folks, four sunny days, countless venues, numerous Lone Stars and about 40 some odd bands. Here is my long-winded report.

Top 3 Performances

1. Dead Confederate – Home Slice Pizza (Thurs): The Athens crew continue to impress at every turn and this set did nothing to disappoint. Mixing a Sonic Youth cover in with their own material, they played for 70 minutes with two encores.

2. Ha Ha Tonka – Red Eye Fly (Sat): Saying we love these guys is like saying I love breathing. Their music takes on a whole new dimension when played live. The set at The Yard Dog on Friday was‚  scintillating.

3A. Hacienda – Headhunters (Wed): I snuck out of the HearYa party for a bit to head over to the Alive showcase. Recent HearYa alums, Hacienda, were one of the main reasons why. Once their set ended, the press moved in like jackals as everyone realized they just saw something special.

3B. Other Lives – Every bit enjoyable as their set at The Double Door. Their tunes are beautifully arranged and Jesse Tabish has the perfect voice for them. I simply can’t stop listening to their debut and will be seeing them for the 3rd time in two months when they roll into Schubas at the end of April.

Top 3 Venues

1. Home Slice Pizza – 6th St. gets a little overwhelming so I try and spend as much time South of the river as possible. Home Slice was my preferred spot this year. This place has great sound which is impressive considering it is not a full time venue. Joseph, the owner, has a great staff, great pizza and great volunteers that donated time and tips to charity. I spent so much time here that I was afraid they were going to charge me rent.

2. San Jose Hotel – Also South of the River, this venue is in a parking lot and is partially powered by solar energy. This place had a great vibe and during one set, a lovely lady did things with a hula hoop that made my imagination run astray.

3. Red Eyed Fly – This place is dirty, scuzzy and beat down; just like me. The outdoor stage with the creek right behind is a great scene and the sound is pristine.

Top 3 Breakout Bands

1. Alberta Cross – After seeing them four times in the past month, I joked with Petter that he might have to file a restraining order against me.

2. The Love Language – Starkey did everything but give Stuart McLamb a handie is his review, but after seeing them twice in Austin, it is more than deserved. I was worried that the music wouldn’t translate to the live setting because of the lo-fi recording. The music is even better live with a seven piece band.

3A. The Deep Dark Woods – Jessie Scott (Americana genre and XM Radio station X Country pioneer) loves them, and damnit so do we. Their set at The Stimulus party had tongues wagging and the acoustic set that Jessie Scott hosted at Threadgills did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the band.

3B – The Rural Alberta Advantage – Another band that I was worried about the transition to the live setting. Another of my worries went unfounded as their set at Homeslice was outstanding. Paul Banwatt is simply manic on the drums.

Rural Alberta Advantage

Rural Alberta Advantage

Top 3 Guitarists (typically I am a bass man, but let’s visit the glamor instrument for a second)

1. Parker Griggs – Radio Moscow: Their set was way too short but in the 20 minutes we watched him, Jefe and I were floored. His hands move up and down the fret at warp speed. Absolutely stunning. While I am mentioning Radio Moscow, the bassist Zach has gotten so much better since I last saw him, and he was damn good back then.

2. Burke Barlow – The Deep Dark Woods: His easy going manner translates to their music and his playing. I hear so much Jerry Garcia in his sound and those that know me, know that I don’t throw that compliment around often.

3. Sam Kearney – Alberta Cross: His sound brings out such a new element in the band that he continues to stand out every time I see him play. The slide work he does on ATX from their upcoming album reminds me of Ed O’Brien and Johnny Greenwood.

Sam Kearney of Alberta Cross

Sam Kearney of Alberta Cross

Top 3 Things that hurt

1. My feet – I feel like someone has stabbed the bottom of my feet.

2. My liver – I drank roughly 486 Lone Stars over 4 days and my liver was up to the challenge. If I could, I would send it to a spa for the weekend.

3. My right knee – this thing is so damned swollen that if I opened it up, I think a full liter of fluid would drain out.

Top 3 Bands That I missed

1. The Heartless Bastards – My love for this band is well documented but I was unable to cross paths with them.

2. Vetiver – These guys are a new favorite of mine and they played about 8 sets down there. How I didn’t see them is beyond me.

3. Roadside Graves – I missed them on Saturday due to the fact that I simply didn’t have the energy to fire across town in the middle of the day. A few of my friends caught them on Thursday and had nothing but positive things to say.

Top 3 Bands to see when you’re drunk

1. Langhorne Slim – Starting up at 1AM on Thurs after 12 solid hours sucking down Lone Stars, I needed a kick in the ass. Slim was rocking the fedora and put on a show, complete with inviting the crowd up on the Club DeVille stage for the last 15 minutes. It was as absurd as it was brilliant.

2. The Henry Clay People – I really love watching these guys get after it and it seems like they are drinking more than me. And I ain’t doing shit other than watching them play. This is another breakout band of SXSW 2009.

3. Phosphorescent – Sipping beers and listening to Phosphorescent bang out Willie’s covers is outstanding.

Top 3 bands to listen to if you need a kick in the ass:

1. Henry Clay People – As I mentioned above, they are great drunk but also pretty damn good when you are stone cold sober. They were my lead off act for SXSW ’09 and really set the tone for an excellent fest.

2. The Thermals – I awoke from a nap in the park to see The Thermals fire off some new tunes. I was groggy, tired and genuinely crabby. Hutch and co. made it alright.

3. Lucero – They came on right after The Thermals. At that point, I told myself I was not drinking on Saturday night as I had a 7AM flight home. After watching them tear through a set drunk on rum, I proceeded to kill about 8 tallboys before heading home. God Bless Them.

Top 3 Bands that Surprised Me Live

1. Local Natives – I passed up The Hold Steady to see them and after their set, I had zero regret. I had met the guys the day before and they were good guys.‚  I can’t wait for their debut.

2. Motel Motel – I had heard one or two tunes from their album New Denver and was non-committal. After their set at the HearYa party, you can color me a fan. They are fantastic and hopefully will be coming in for a session soon.

3. Exene Ceverenka – I will never profess to be an X fan. I only caught her set because I didn’t want to be late to Deadstring Brothers and Ha Ha Tonka at the Bloodshot Records party. But she was excellent with a very haunting, acoustic set.

Motel Motel Drummer

Motel Motel Drummer

3 Bands You’ll Appreciate More Live

1. Horse Feathers – I really liked these guys prior, but watching them live is a real treat. Its like a mini-orchestra doing folk music.

2. Left Lane Cruiser – Watching Freddy and Brenn tear though a set is simply amazing. This was a no-frills, kick-ass set of music. Go see them.

3. Mason Proper – I was lukewarm on them before their HearYa live session, but came away with a whole new appreciation. Seeing them in a live setting really sealed the deal for me. They also won over several of my friends.

Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Knowlan March 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Rural Alberta Advantage and Deep Dark Woods are excellent bands.
Nice right up… but I’m really sick of the SxSw coverage already.

viachicago March 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Great recap. It’s amazing how much you managed to do while you were there….you put me to shame.

The Love Language was definitely a high point for me…they absolutely killed it. And, they’re playing the Hideout here in Chicago on Thursday (ironically Rural Alberta Advantage is playing that same night).

Also, seeing the Deep Dark Woods play an acoustic set at Threadgills in the dining room (it was like a glorified Ponderosa) was something you can only see at SxSW. Such a cool set up with the 4 of them sitting side by side. Despite my massive hangover I was able to laugh when he said, ‘we’re gonna do one more….I hope you’re all enjoying….your lunch.’

Too bad DDW was followed by the dude with a dangly earring that played one song about underpants…this was my second low point of the trip. I have video.

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