River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Sunday, March 20, 2005

South by Southweary

This is the last of a series of articles written for PROGRESSIONSESSION (http://prosession.blogspot.com ) chronicling the writer's experiences at the 2005 South by Southwest music festival.

For my last night of South by Southwest, I got a little more rootsy. And very frugal. I caught free shows at Longbranch and Trophy’s, and paid $5 to see the Weary Boys at Ego’s. Can’t beat that.

I watched Steve Stubblefield, front man for the Starlings TN, at Longbranch. He played an acoustic set, switching between his guitar and a dulcimer, on which he was quite competent. Stubblefield hails from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and he represented the southern rock sound well enough. His voice and style made him a ringer for Steve Earle… and man, could he drink. Whiskey and a beer, another whiskey and a beer, throughout his performance… I think he was pretty well wrecked by the end of his set, but he held it together admirably. He even got some help from some enthusiastic audience members who wandered in and sang backup in an impromptu, blues/gospel song called “Forbidden Fruit Makes a Sticky Jam” – or something like that. All in all, he is an affable fellow who gave an enjoyable performance.

Trophy’s continued the GoGirlsMusic extravaganza, where they have been showcasing women-led bands on two stages since Wednesday. I listened to the more-or-less “straight-ahead rock” stylings of the Ginger & Sarah Band, from Austin. They sounded good, flexing some rock ‘n roll muscle, even if the road they were on seems to have been traveled countless times before. But the crowd enjoyed the up-tempo music and Ginger’s powerful voice.

The James Ryder Band was playing at Ego’s when I showed up. You can’t beat the musical selections, including Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Little Feat’s “Willin’.” But – and this might not be very fair – Ryder just started to annoy the heck out of me. His banter with the crowd was pseudo-confrontational, in a playful way, but it went on and on and I kept wondering if they were going to play another song.

The Weary Boys finally came on. These guys are so talented it hurts. Actually it did hurt a little – I’ve never in my life had my eardrums ringing after a bluegrass show. Okay, they’re not bluegrass, they’re rock – more in the style of the Band than anything else, but with the fiddle and the stand-up bass going apeshit on stage, it’s a frenetic, exciting country hoe-down that would give your grandma a heart attack. And Ego’s is small, small, small – so the band was loud, loud, loud. Fully plugged in and peeling the paint off the walls. But I’m not complaining. The Weary Boys are a great live act, and you should go see them any chance you get.

So it’s all over now. In a smoky back room somewhere, the South by Southwest fat cats are counting their money rolls, high-fiveing each other and licking their chops in anticipation of raising the wristband price another $10-$20 next year. But hey, they brought it all here, so I should cut ‘em some slack. It was a good party.

I want to leave you with one last thing to think about. If you’re wondering how to get your band on the bill at SXSW, have you ever considered recording a 52-hour song? That appears to be this guy’s ticket. Aye Chihuahua…http://2005.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/17683.html

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