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Wednesday, March 14

Wednesday was to be the first of my own shows and I made my way down Lamar to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, dropped my guitar as I was a bit early, and trucked across the street to The Green Mesquite BBQ. The Green Mesquite has been one of my favorite BBQ joints in Austin for years and after not having eaten there in over a year, I was happy to be somewhere that felt like home. The folks who work there are as friendly as you're likely to find anywhere in the world and the BBQ is solid, the pulled pork remains one of my favorites country-wide. After filling up on pork and ribs, I returned to The Coffee Bean and Tea and played a great little acoustic set for the few folks that were there and the folks who came and went while I was playing. All in all, a great starting point for my own SXSW shows.

I hurried back downtown for one of my favorite times of SXSW, the Canada day party in the park. I made it in time to see some friends and hear the music of The Sheepdogs. The Sheepdogs were very like their namesake... a group of bigger than life, likeable fellows playing some very unobtrusive, easy to like music. Their sound was like a roll-up of the Allman Brothers Band and 1970's Grateful Dead with all fo the rough edges removed. A bit on the jammy side occasionally, their songs were instantly familiar, due to the use of tried and true chord progressions and soft melodies that were instantly hummable.

Amidst the hub-bub of the street I made my way to catch a set by Austin's own My Jerusalem, a great rock band ably fronted by the inimitable Jeff Klein. The band has just finished recording their follow up to their last critically acclaimed CD and played most of the songs from the forthcoming release at their show. The new songs continue in the footsteps of the last batch, but grow a touch less overwhelmingly dark. There is a strange joy mixed among the darkness in Klein's songs that demonstrate his growth as a songwriter and band leader, and the performance this evening showed the same. Klein was powerful, his voice ringing out and cutting through the myriad sounds of the six-member troupe. The band was very solid, showing a fantastic feel for the dynamics of a great live performance, riding the emotional swells of the songs as they went along. If you've never had the chance to catch My Jerusalem live, it comes strongly recommended that you do so next time they're out on tour.

From 6th Street I made my way across to the UT campus to catch old friends Zookeeper play a show at a fantastic pizza joint called Mellow Mushroom. Led by Chris Simpson (The Gloria Record, Mineral), Zookeeper is a loose collective of musicians who occasionally get together to play some tunes. The show at the Mellow Mushroom was a nice showcase of bands that drew inspiration from Simpson's beginnings in Mineral and Zookeeper was an anomaly on an otherwise high octane line-up. Zookeeper sounded good, if a bit loose, especially when playing a few newer songs that have yet to be fully realized and recorded. Simpson turned in an enviable performance, continuing to show how he has evolved as a songwriter and performer. He played among the occasional chaos of the band deftly, weaving the essence of the song as the orchestrated noise crept in from behind and the sides of the words and melodies. Simpson's voice was great, showing a maturity and power that has been building for twenty years into a real treasure. The new songs are succinct and, dare I say, a bit on the poppy side. The show left me anxious to hear new recorded output from the band, but a quick talk with Simpson did not reveal any release plans in the near future.

-David DeVoe


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Mike Doughty



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