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Saturday, March 17

I started my Saint Patrick's Day off in the shade of the 6 story Doritos vending machine… possibly the worst thing any of us had ever seen at SXSW. It was worth it… I'd come out to see Kids These Days play their set. This group of teens from Chicago definitely have some musical chops well beyond their eyars and have managed to write some pretty great songs and a nice, honest, strong social message, too. All six members of the band were having a great time and rocking as hard as they could, an undeniable amount of energy being thrown at the audience from the stage. The interplay of the three vocalists was very amazing, especially bearing in mind that the age of the kids was between 17 and 19. The entire band had a masterful command of dynamics, starting and stopping songs on a dime, everyone tight and well-rehearsed, allowing them to have that much more fun on stage. The drummer was simply amazing in his own right, standing up during songs, after songs, playing sitting and standing and everywhere in between. With special guest rappers from their school, this band had a little bit of something for everyone. Their music combines elements of pop, rock, soul, and rap. It was a tremendous performance by some very, very talented and fantastic kids.

I trekked down South Congress and grabbed some lunch at Lucy's fried chicken, and while I was waiting to eat my vittles, none other than Wayne Kramer arrived to play some music, accompanied by a band calling themselves English Teeth. Kramer looked good and sounded even better, with custom-painted Fender Stratocaster in hand he led the band through 4 or 5 songs, closing out with a story about his non-profit company called Jail Guitar Doors and a cover of the Clash song by the same name. English Teeth proceeded to play a few more songs on their own. It was a nice surprise, and a reminder of the amazing things that one is likely to stumble across when roving around Austin.

I got back up near downtown in time to catch a few songs by local Austin band Gold Beach who released their debut CD last summer. The band is centered around two or three members of now defunct The Glass Family, but makes music that is fairly removed from those days. This is not straight rock music, but more likely to be called soundtrack rock. The music is more orchestrated, without orchestration, and more visceral than The Glass Family was; no longer straight rock, just beautiful music that lends itself to hanging out or chilling with a beer more than making you want to take action and move, move, move. Always great to hear what's going on with the locals.

Speaking of locals, I finally got to see Michael Booher perform with his new (old) band, christened Snake In The Mail. The band is made up of the original line up of Zykos that I first saw on my very first trip to SXSW so many years ago. It was a great day to hear them, sunny and warm and perfect for the rock show that went down. Booher's voice was a little beat down from the week and a leftover cold, but he powered through the set and sounded fantastic. SITM sounded tight, well-rehearsed, and made a ton of noise for a three-piece band backing up a vocalist. The closing song was an old Zykos song that was sure fun to hear played after all these years.

As the evening wore on I dropped into Stubb's to see a couple of friends, but was pleasantly surprised when Justin Townes Earle took the stage and played an extraordinary set of music. He was backed by a truly phenomenal band; they were smooth and tight and everything one might want from a band. Among songs from his new record and a few older tunes, Justin found time to cover "Can't Hardly Wait" by The Replacements… I wonder if Tommy Stinson caught word of that?

I wanted to catch the official Zookeeper set and thanks to a dwindling line at the door snuck in rather quickly between sets. Tonight the band was much tighter and "on it" than they had been a couple nights previous. The band gave the excellent tune "Snow In Berlin" a nice, rolling rhythm treatment and launched into a tremendously powerful version of the amazing "Becoming All Things" which built to a beautiful crescendo of noise and power before falling apart and drifting into nothing but lingering drums and organ before leaving just the piano to complete the song. Everything seemed to coalesce in the magic and mayhem of SXSW for Simpson and company. Or perhaps there was just less beer flowing. Either way, this set was proof positive that you can take a great song and play it a myriad of ways and it will lose none of its own particular impact.

Finishing out my SXSW this year, and the ridiculous drunkenness of St. Patrick's Day, I headed across downtown to catch Lucero play the final slot of the night. The band was closing out a great line-up that was actually a party curated by Lucero themselves and featuring some of their current favorite bands. It's a great idea… perhaps we should have more of that type of thing at larger festivals like this. With eight dudes on stage, this was the largest Lucero I had ever been witness to, and it was well worth the set-up time and technical problems that seemed to be hampering the party a bit. Ben's voice sounded amazing, even after 7 or so shows over the past 4 days, and the band was tight and loose all at once, willing to do anything that the song demanded of them. Lucero is one of the best of the current market's alternative country band groups, and here's the reason why. They care about their audience. My friends wife is not a fan of them. Parents try to get their kids to not like it, which in turn makes kids like it all the more. The horns laying over pedal steel guitar and piano was just tremendous and blended perfectly with the gritty guitars for an amazing end to a fantastic SXSW.

-David DeVoe


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