March is here again
so soon? It doesn't seem
like it's already been a year since my last pilgrimage to the heartland
of American rock and roll culture and the biggest, scariest, freakiest
music festival in the country. This year South By Southwest brought
with it the promise of warm, dry weather and new barbecue joints
both are quite welcome things to a desert dweller like myself. I arrived
in Austin a couple of days before the music portion of the festival
officially kicked off, and it gave me a bit of time to hang with some
buddies, visit some favorite restaurants, and catch some of my favorite
Over the past 12 years or so, it has been a custom of mine to begin
my week of SXSW music by catching Michael Booher play with
whatever band he's been fronting of late
This year, it was a
close call, as I got to town a bit later than normal, but I got to
town just in time to catch Booher and his current musical super-project,
Ovenbirds. Ovenbirds are made up of some of Austin's finest
pedigreed dudes, including Jeremy Gomez on bass guitar, Brian
Hubbard and Ben Lance on guitars, Benjamin Houtman
on keyboards, and Aaron Sinclair on drums. From first seeing
Zykos play their very first show so many years ago it has been my
pleasure seeing the musicians around Booher change as his songwriting
has progressed and morphed into something more wonderful than I could
ever have imagined. Ovenbirds is a very fine progression
music has become more sonic (how could it not be with those guys one
guitar?) and the songs have become more and more powerful.
also got a chance to catch Zookeeper play their only appearance
of the week
possibly year? Chris Simpson
and company, including wonder-drummer Cully Symington, Seth
Woods, Ben Lance, Ben Houtman, and prodigal son Alex Dupree,
threw down a mighty fine set during an unofficial week-starting party.
The band's set got cut short, but there was time for a few of Simpson's
great tunes, as well as a cover of Neil Young's "Thrasher"
and a brilliant reworking of Nina Simone's "My Man's Gone
Now". Simpson was in fine form, his voice ringing clear above
the sonic beauty that was backing it. Would that we would have had
time for a much longer set. Word is there is a new record in the works,
and I, for one, can't wait to hear it.
been eagerly keeping an eye on the emerging career of Denton, Texas'
own Seryn. Their debut release, This Is Where We Are,
on Velvet Blue music was just released in January and they were set
to play a few shows throughout the week of the festival. Their first
appearance was at a little Irish bar on 6th Street and definitely
delivered what I was expecting to see. After a bit of a late start
due to some parking and loading difficulties (at SXSW? No way!) the
band launched into a tremendously powerful set of music, pausing only
to invite more people from off the street into the more and more crowded
club. This band and their take on harmony-rich Americana have a good
bit going for themselves. Every time they play a show there are converts,
not unlike a traveling revival show
the only thing missing is
the tent. The music is powerful, dynamic, and rich in vocal and instrumental
texture. The various members of the band switch between instruments
- sometimes in the middle of a song and back again - delivering a
spectacle of motion and musical beauty. The songs are acoustic instrument-based,
drawing on the same reserves that bands such as Mumford And Sons
draw from, but adding in a youthful exuberance and timeless traditionalism
that lends a credence and pure, sensational power to the music. And
the throttling drums don't ever hurt much, either.
On the barbecue front, I got to visit the newly opened brick and
mortar storefront for the incredible Franklin's BBQ.
What used to be the best little BBQ trailer on the I-35 corridor is
now located down in the old Ben's Longbranch BBQ building,
just east of the interstate on 11th Street. The food is as good as
ever, the brisket the best that this tongue has ever tasted or may
ever taste, and the service friendly. This little family run joint
serves up whatever they've got out of the smoker 'til it runs out
so get in line early before they open the doors at 11. The line is
long, but well worth the wait. I can honestly say that I see no point
in making the trek out to The Saltlick anymore
I'll spend my dollars on the eastside.
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