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Thursday, March 13, 2014

This year I was able to get myself out of bed early enough to get to the Austin Convention Center to catch a solo acoustic set by Rhett Miller, erstwhile frontman of one of Texas' greatest musical treasures, the Old 97's. Rhett treated the early audience to a set built out of a couple of his solo tunes, a couple of classic 97's tunes and a good handful of songs from the forthcoming 97's record. Rhett, even this early in the day, proved himself to be a dynamic and engaging performer. Of course some might argue it's not too difficult when playing these great songs, but Rhett really got the energy of the small crowd up and pumping and this served as a great primer for the release of the new record. And as for that record, it seems it is going to be filled with the best sorts of songs, those about love gone bad and whiskey drinking hell raising. I can't wait!

Most of my day was filled with playing another set with the boys of Zookeeper at a great little party out on the east side, as well as seeing some good friends and doing a bit of hanging out before getting into the mess on 6th Street to catch a blistering set by Two Cow Garage. It's been a few years since I've caught Two Cow play a set and I was happy to see that they continue to purvey their edgy style of Americana that skirts the line between alt. country and punk rock. The band draws from the same musical well as Lucero, but they do it with a much more punk rock sound, much rawer energy, and an energy that is so vital that at any time during the set the band could simply explode into noise and chaos. Micah and Shane occasional swap lead vocal duties which adds to the variety of sounds the band can produce, but the energy remains high and hardly constrained regardless of who might be taking the vocals. Such a great live band... and I believe they have a new record that has just been released so look for them to be on tour in your town soon.

The schedule for SXSW this year didn't seem to contain much British music outside of the newer bands playing the British Music Embassy, so I took the opportunity to head over and catch a set by a favorite of mine, Turin Brakes. This band continues to amaze me live, especially with their brilliant grasp of harmony vocals and doubling. Their sound remains centered around that all important acoustic guitar, but has evolved over the years from a looser, baggy Britpop sound to a much tighter, vibier, rhythm-centric sound. This new batch of songs are ones that I am wholly unfamiliar with and so it was great fun to hear them performed live, simply reinforcing to me that I need to find the latest record that has been recently released. These songs are high energy and filled with ample amounts of groove and jangling guitars until they break apart and the waves of sonic glory come crashing through. And they do get blissfully sonic at times. These new songs, and even the couple of older tunes, are really great; just smooth enough to be easy to listen to, but plenty energetic and engaging. The bass lines are thick and weave among the drums flawlessly, keeping everything moving along purposefully and perfectly underpinning the sonic guitars, acoustics, and brilliant vocals.

One of my favorite bands that currently call Austin home is My Jerusalem. Their last record, Preachers, was filled with aggressive, dark, indie-ish rock and really set the stage for what will hopefully be their rise to stardom. The band played an abbreviated set, instigated by the total fall-apart of the backlined drum set on the stage, but their set was glorious and strong. They played one of the new songs that looks to build on the strengths that the band displayed on Preachers. The excellent rhythm section anchors things very nicely, keeping the songs pulsing along while the keys and guitars make everything noisy and great, all neatly offsetting Jeff Klein's vocals and imbuing them with a keen and wicked power. I'm looking forward to hearing their new record. You should be too.

-David DeVoe


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