South By Southwest 2006
Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
1Trip End Mar 17, 2006
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Where I stayed
Jovita's March 14, 2006
The Grassy Knoll Boys
Mother Eagan's Pub March 15, 2006
Scrappy Jud Newcomb
Will Sexton and Stephen Doster
Jon Dee Graham and The Fighting Cocks
Artz Rib House March 15, 2006
A bunch of Singer Songwriters whose names I lost...
Threadgill's World Headquarters March 15, 2006
Roky Erickson's Psychedelic Ice Cream Social
Powell St. John with Tantric Sons featuring Ronnie Leatherman on bass and
drummer John Ike Walton of the 13th Floor Elevators
The Minus Five with Peter Buck of REM
Roky Erickson and the Explosions
Roky Erickson - guitar, vocals
Cam King - guitar
Chris Johnson - bass
Freddy Krc - drums
Old Threadgill's March 15, 2006
John "Toad" Andrews of Mother Earth
Charlie Prichard of Conqeroo
Powell St. John of Mother Earth
Cam King of The Explosions
Sal Valentino of Beau Brummels
Freddy Steady Krc
and the legendary John Clay
Yard Dog Folk Art March 16, 2006
Bloodshot Records and Pabst Blue Ribbon Showcase
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bobby Bare Sr.
The Bottle Rockets
The Deadstring Brothers
Scott H. Biram
San Jose Hotel /Jo's Coffee March 16, 2006
Elizabeth McQueen and The Firebrands
Billy Joe Shaver and Diamondback Texas
As best as I can remember, these are the artists I saw at SXSW 20 this month. I didn't plan on writing all of this down at first. I should have been taking notes from the beginning but I didn't. Now I'm back in Laredo and trying to remember everything that went on. If I'm able to do this again next year I'll plan better. I really had no idea what to expect. Any omissions or errors in the content of this account are mine.
I left Laredo a little before 8am on Tuesday morning with the intent of going to Austin and riding my trials bike out at Emma Long Park and maybe catching some music in the evening. For sure I wanted to attend Roky Erickson's Psychedelic Ice Cream Social at Threadgill's World Headquarters on Thursday. I also knew there would be a lot of music outside of the official SXSW events, I just had no idea of the magnitude.
I pulled off exit 237 at 11:45 and headed over to Avenue G to see if Greg was back from Dallas yet. He wasn't, so I unloaded some of my stuff and went to the Tamale House to eat and then went back to the house. While I was letting my enchiladas digest a bit and figuring out what to do next, Greg pulled in the driveway in his 2002. He was starving so we went over to Zen on Lamar so he could get a bowl of noodles. I would have waited if I had known that we would end up at Zen!
Upon our return, we dug into the door of my 1966 Chevrolet pickup truck and quickly pulled out the old worn out window regulator. Putting in the new one was a little bit of trick. We replaced the seals and window tracks and finally figured out the correct order that everything goes back in. Greg's Official Chevrolet Truck Assembly Guide provided absolutely no guidance whatsoever and was not consulted once the job began. The only casualty was one cut finger.
About the time we got finished, Buster from down the street showed up and we wasted some time talking to him. Then Shelley arrived to once again find the driveway blocked by Buster's old Mercedes diesel clatterwagen. We got rid of Buster and hung with Shelley for a bit while Greg perused the Austin Chronicle to see who was playing where that evening. It was decided that we would go to Jovita's to see the Grassy Knoll Boys who I had been impressed with at the Kerrville Wine and Music Festival last Labor Day.
When we arrived at Jovita's, some guy was playing guitar and singing while accompanied by a musical saw player. They were OK, I'll admit I'm not a big fan of saw playing. We ordered and began our first long wait of the evening for our food to arrive. When it did, my chile con queso chalupa was cold. Not just warm, I'm talking cold! The cheese that was once melted felt refrigerator cold. I was hungry and ate it any way.
The Grassy Knoll Boys came on and played straight up Bluegrass music with great aplomb. These guys are all quite young and don't look like guys who would play traditional music. Come to think of it, thirty something years ago, guys like Jerry Garcia, John Hartford, and Norman Blake didn't look like traditional Bluegrass pickers either!
We stayed for a set and a half. This would be the longest performance we would see this week as the showcases in the days to follow, the artists were limited to thirty minute sets except in the case of Jo's where the bands played for an hour. It was a good thing that we asked for the check when we did as it took a whole thirty minutes for our check to arrive. Luckily it didn't take quite as long to receive the receipt! It was time to call it a night. James McMurtry was at Mother Egan's pub at noon the next day and I wanted to go riding before that.
Wednesday morning I was up around six and got geared up and made a big mug of tea and headed to the Tamale House for some tacos. I arrived at the park before eight and unloaded the bike and gassed up and after a few kicks got the bike warmed up. When I gassed it and jumped over the first log I knew something was amiss. The rear suspension bottomed out with a big clunk and that had never happened before. I dropped off down on a small ledge and it did it again so I rode back to the truck. Before leaving Laredo, I had taken apart the rear suspension linkage and I was sure that I had put the suspension plates in wrong. I knew I didn't want to lie in the dirt to fix it so I figured I would load up and go back to town. Then I got the idea to put the bike in the back of the truck on the stand and tie it down so it wouldn't tip over. This would have been a good idea, but I kept putting the plates in wrong. There is either six or nine ways it could go together and I kept doing it wrong. I wonder why I never had this problem before.
By now my hands were pretty greasy and I was pretty frustrated so I loaded up and went back to Greg's. To add to my frustration, Shelley's computer and ISP are so slow that I couldn't access the online parts book for my bike on the web and it was too early to call Adrian Lewis in California and ask a question that would have embarrassing. By the time I was able to access the pages I needed, we had it figured out and the bike was back together. Of course there was no time to ride and barely enough time to get cleaned up so we could get to Mother Egan's. It was looking like we would miss James McMurtry. Out of this ordeal, I learned to mark the pieces and most importantly, to test ride the thing after any major work, even if it was only around the drive way!
We struck out for Sixth Street and drove around in circles looking for a parking space and finally found one only about three blocks away from our destination. Things were looking up! We walked over to Mother Egan's and walked past the doorman at the patio entrance. He was only counting heads and not taking money.
They had a stage set up under a tent in what would normally be a small parking lot below the outside patio. We had just missed James McMurtry and Tom Freund of Venice, California was playing when we walked up to the stage. I had seen him at Kerrville before. He had a lap steel player who reminded us of David Lindley with his overdriven sound. Nothing wrong with that!
By now we were getting pretty hungry and we missed most of Steve Wynn because we went inside the pub and had a great lunch of fish and chips at the bar. While we were there, we met a lady who teaches sixth grade locally who told us there were some parking spaces over by the Austin Music Hall. The parking meter was running out of time as we talked so we said goodbye and walked back to the van to move it. When we got to the Music Hall, of course all of the spaces were taken so we had to drive around awhile before we found a place to park. We finally found a place where we weren't at risk of towing.
By the time we returned to the stage at Mother Egan's, we had missed "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb. The good news was that Walter Tragert hadn't begun to play and "Scappy" Jud would be playing lead guitar. This guy cooked. He sang a bunch of great original tunes and "Scrappy" Jud was exceptional on guitar. He played some extended solos where just when you thought he was going to run out of tricks, he surprise you by continuing to play. Walter Tragert should be all over the radio! After doing a Google on him it seems he's big in Japan.
Jon Dee Graham climbed out of a minivan in the alley just in time to walk on stage and plug in his guitar. He and The Fighting Cocks, Andrew Duplantis -Bass and John Chipman - Drums were red hot as usual. These guys can throw a knockout punch in the first round! A new song, Something Wonderful was wonderful. Swept Away was another new song that I had not heard yet. During the ending of October, Jon Dee succeded in faking out the band this time, not an easy trick with these guys! The last song they did was one of my favs, Big Sweet Life. After playing the first verse, he stopped and said that he's played that song all over and when he does it gets him to thinking about different things and that right then he was thinking that there was probably someone in the audience that could play that song better than he could. Then he told this sixteen year old kid standing in front of the stage to come up and gave him his guitar. The kid proceeded to play it strong and loud! Of course he still sang like a sixteen year old kid and not someone who has smoked a million cigarettes like Jon Dee, but he was great.
Will Sexton and Stephen Doster were up next and they had the misfortune of following Jon Dee Graham and preceding Stan Ridgway. They both played acoustic guitars and were quite good, but I was all worked up and don't remember much about them.
Stan Ridgway took the stage after a long set change and played all of his "hits", Ring of Fire, Call of the West, and a very Tex-Mex arrangement of Mexican Radio that had everyone singing along. During one song he asked if there was a drummer in the house and a bald headed guy jumped up on the stage. Stan called him Yul Brynner and he pounded those skins like a man possessed. I suspect this, like the kid who played during Jon Dee Graham's set, was staged. We would have loved to stay and see Patty Hurst Shifter and The Gourds, but all of that standing was taking a toll and we needed a break.
That night we went to Artz Rib House. They had six songwriters, a couple performed as duos. One of them I had heard at Kerrville. Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland had been listed in the Chronicle, but that wasn't the case. I wish I had written down everyone's name because they're all lost now. Oh well, the music and the smoked brisket were both excellent.
Thursday morning I was back out at the park by eight am and once I got warmed up, I felt like I was riding pretty well. I set up a little section near the end of the loop where I had to go uphill, do a pivot turn off a rock, do a downhill turn and then go up over some big rocks and then wind through some trees. It took awhile before I figured out how to ride it clean. When I had, it felt like I had done something.
Then I took off on the main loop to the beginning of the creek, two and a half miles into the loop. This is one of my favorite places on the loop. Unfortunately, it's remote and if I fell hard back there and got hurt, it might be a long time before I was found. I made a section where section five was during the recent State Series round and had a good time riding it and some other trails in the area.
Then it occurred to me that I had been riding over an hour and I wasn't even halfway around the loop. My bike holds just under a gallon of fuel and this is no place to be pushing a bike, even if it only weighs 160 pounds. So I rode around the loop and stopped back at the place I had ridden earlier and rode it a few more times before going back to the truck. When I took the cap off the tank, I saw that there was hardly any fuel left.
After filling up, I played around near the parking lot because it was getting on and I didn't want to miss Roky Erickson's Psychedelic Ice Cream Social. I got in a good two hours of pure riding pleasure with no crashes before loading up.
Upon returning to Greg's I got cleaned up and we headed to Threadgill's World Headquarters that stands near the spot where the Armadillo World Headquarters once stood. We arrived in the middle of lunch hour and it looked like finding a parking place was going to be impossible. Not that spaces didn't exist, they were just out of Threadgill's lot and had big nasty signs warning us that we'd be towed away. We even considered going to Club DeVille where Kris Kristofferson would be playing, but the situation was even worse there. So we went back to Threadgill's and found a spot fairly quickly as lunch hour was waning.
It was decided that we'd go into Threadgill's and have lunch before going into the outdoor stage area. We got a table near the bar and across from a photograph of my man and Roky's friend and onetime producer Doug Sahm. Texas artist and the man who made the lowly armadillo an icon, Jim Franklin, walked in and sat at the bar right across from us. Next a couple of cats wearing mod clothes and Beatle boots and their friends came in and took the table next to us. One of them had on a Nehru jacket and the other cat had on some really groovy trousers with one inch vertical stripes. We sat there making all kinds of jokes about their fab gear and Carnaby Street and all that and had a real good time.
After paying a really steep cover we were allowed into the outdoor stage area. All of the money was supposed to go Roky's trust so I figured it was OK. . It was also the only time during my four days of SXSW that I would pay a cover charge.
Once inside, one of the first things we saw was Powell St. John who had a booth selling T-shirts with his art on them. Powell was around at the birth of the Austin music scene and was one of the first wave of Texas hippies to migrate to San Francisco along with Janis Joplin, Doug Sahm, Chet Helms and others.
Sometime filmmaker Troy Campbell was playing his next last song. I wish we'd gotten to hear more of him. He had a hot guitar player that we would run into again the following night playing with Elizabeth McQueen and The Firebrands. Troy has an animated short of Ray Wylie Hubbard telling a story on his website that is definitely worth checking out. Amy's Ice Cream was on hand serving bowls of free ice cream from a paleta cart.
Next up was Magic Christian. These guys turned out to be the cats in the mod gear we had seen inside. They were great, playing originals that sounded like you had heard them before back in the sixties. The guitarist, Cyril Jordan of The Flaming Groovies, played a clear acrylic guitar. Lead vocalist, Paul Kopf, had a penchant for holding the mike stand like Rod Stewart and sported some boss looking white-framed girl-watcher sun glasses. Between songs he made a remark about what a cool place this was. The he said, "I guess I should say weird." Someone shouted, " you guys fit right in!"For their last song they did a smashing cover of The Who's I Can See For Miles. Drummer Prairie Prince of The Tubes beat the skins in a manner that would make Keith Moon proud!
Secret Machines was the next act on the bill. These guys are two acoustic singer-guitarists and a drummer who had no cymbals. They sang beautiful harmonies and played very psychedelic sounding rhythms. I figured them to be European, but it turns out that they are New York City based, but hail from Dallas. They appear to have a big following across the pond and can count David Bowie as a fan.
Former Ghetto resident, Powell St. John, who wrote more than a few songs for the Thirteenth Floor Elevators was next. He also wrote songs for Janis Joplin and was a member of Mother Earth with Tracy nelson. He was backed by the Tantric Sons who included John Ike Walton and Ronnie Leatherman of the Elevators. Leonard Smith played the electric jug, giving them that Elevators sound. Songs they played included You Don't Know (How Young You Are) and Kingdom of Heaven.
The Minus Five with Peter Buck of REM were the last group before Roky's performance. Front man Scott McCaughey has also been a member of REM since 1994. I don't get those guys so I didn't know anything about these guys and didn't know Scott McCaughey when he got out of a van parked near us in the parking lot. Peter Buck was walking around eating ice cream right before they went on not looking at all like a guy whose band sells five million records. It appears that they are pretty big. They've even been on Saturday Night Live. They were pretty good. We were just anxious to see Roky by this time.
Roky's guitarist, Cam King, walked onto the stage carrying a Savage amp each hand and set them up while the drummer, Freddy Krc, got the drums set up to his preference. Bassist Chris Johnson got his equipment set up and Roky Erickson walked onto the stage with a silver fat-bodied Gibson guitar to thunderous applause. We would be on our feet for the rest of the afternoon.
Roky looked great and was beaming in reaction to the welcome he was receiving from the now full and standing crowd. The show began with Cold Night For Alligators. Roky would begin each song by strumming the opening chords on his cranked up and distorted guitar and then the band would come in. From the first lyrics it was obvious the Roky is back! His voice sounds just like it did on the Elevators records and his primal scream is as powerful as ever. The Explosions are a great group of musicians and worked with Roky extensively in the 80s. Cam King looks like a republican bank vice president but can play the psychedelic lead guitar as well as anyone. He plays a big Gretch hollowbody and does the distortion, feedback, sustained note thing just like it's 1966.
I was too into the music to get a setlist but mostly they played songs from Roky's solo career like Creature With The Atom Brain, Bloody Hammer, White Faces, Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog),and Don't Shake Me Lucifer. I was really moved when he sang Starry Eyes. I'm sure Doug was looking down with approval from above. Cam King gave an emotion talk about how Roky was well and was back and how Roky's brother Sumner had played a major role in his recovery. He finished by saying, "I love this man!" The last song was You're Gonna Miss Me. For their encore, they returned to the stage for an extended I Walked With A Zombie.
That night we took Shelley to dinner at Mariscos and then headed to Threadgill's North Lamar for the Sixties Reunion. We walked in the door to find the proprietor, Eddie Wilson, Roky and a group of men talking. Seeing there was no place to sit at that time we stood there and overheard Eddie say, "I gave an interview to some Kiwis this afternoon and told them that this is the manger of the Austin Music Scene." "But the conception was anything but immaculate." One of the guys said, "yeah, it happened right there on that bar!"
After a bit, a big table got up so a bunch of us sat down and enjoyed the show. It was like a song circle although some of the musicians just played and didn't sing a song. I had never seen Freddy Steady play guitar and he was pretty good. Sal Valentino had some great new songs. About halfway through the show a man came in carrying a banjo case and looking like a lost puppy. Powell St. John rose up from his seat on stage and welcomed him in and found him a chair on the now crowded little stage. I found out later that he was John Clay, another former Ghetto resident. He would play a little now and then and when he finally sang a song, he stopped after one verse and began tuning. Then he resumed and stalled a couple of times before finishing. Powell St. John did Monkey Island, a song that the Elevators used to do. Another song that really stood out was Sal's slow, haunting rendition of Folsom Prison Blues.
Friday morning found me out at the park at eight am again and it was overcast and cool. I didn't stray too far from the parking lot this time, concentrating on the area on the hill above the parking lot where the soil is loamy and rocky. I have lots of trouble with the front wheel wanting to push while making sharp turns in loose soil, so this was good practice. There were also lots of trees to wind through, something we don't have back home. I rode for about an hour and a half before loading up and heading back to town to clean up.
On the way down to South Congress we stopped at Whole Earth Provision Co. so I could get some aluminum fuel bottles for my next excursion up the mountain in Mexico. Next we had lunch at a huge Schlotzsky's that even had computers for customer use while dinning!
After doing the around the block looking for parking thing a few times, we found a spot and walked back to South Congress. This is that really cool couple of blocks that includes the Continental Club, Austin Motel, Uncommon Objects, Hotel San Jose and many other cool spots. Upon walking in the door of the Yard Dog Folk Art, the first thing I noticed was the paintings of one of my favorite singer-song writers, Tom Russell. We followed the crow out the back door where they had a big tent and stage set up in a small parking lot.
As we found a place to stand, Bobby Bare Jr. was nearing the end of his set. He mentioned that his dad was there and then invited him onstage. Bobby Sr. asked the crowd what they wanted to hear and someone yelled Dee-troit City. He joked that he was saving that for last and then we heard those familiar notes of the introduction and, "Last night I went to sleep in Dee-troit City, and dreamed about those cotton fields and home..." Next, he played a song about a lonely cowboy six months out on the range that falls in love with a cow, if you know what I mean!
Next up was the Bottle Rockets, a bunch of rural rockers from Festus, Missouri. Their front man, Brian Henneman looks like your next-door neighbor from the trailer park. He's also a powerful guitarist. These guys were loud and fun and when the bass amp decided to die he ad-libed for awhile and then derided the Gallien-Krueger amp head with its fancy European sounding name and making a point of how his old Peavy (made in Meridian, Mississippi) was working just fine. A big heavy Ampeg tube head was borrowed from the next act and put into place while Brian spoke of how it reminded him of placing a big heavy Chevy 350 V-8 on top of a box.
Once the bassman was back on-line, Brian remarked that there was only one way to celebrate the event and that was to play a Cheap Trick song. The band then launched into their rendition of Surrender with Brian doing his impersonation of Robin Zander's vocals. Things were about to get even hotter. While all of this was going on, Pabst Blue Ribbon had a booth out in the alley and was giving away beer as fast as they could. Greg estimated that they were giving away a case of beer every thirty seconds.
There was a long setchange as the next outfit was carrying a Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes electric piano complete with a Leslie speaker cabinet. Then also had an old Fender pedal steel guitar whose player had a large array of effects pedals. I was getting excited with anticipation by looking at all this equipment. There wasn't anyone announcing the acts, so we would find out after the set that these were the Deadstring Brothers from Detroit. There was a female vocalist along with a guitar slinging vocalist, bass, drums, keyboards and steel guitar bunched together on the small stage.
They busted loose with a song that sounded like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris meets The Band in Bakersfield. They even did a version of The Band's Get Up Jake. All of the band members looked to be quite young with the exception of the steel player who looked like a veteran roads scholar. At time the music would swell with the organ and steel and was it just short of the threshold of pain. These folks were very impressive and I'd like to hear a lot more of them. You can download some full-length mp3s and videos at their website.
Scott H. Biram, the "Dirty Old One-Man Band" was next in line and I knew he was going to be hard-core when during his mike-check, he unleashed a string of expletives that I'll leave out of this account. He sings in a Howlin' Wolf/ Captain Beefheart style and plays an old Gibson arch-top while stomping on miked board with a tambourine attached. He opened up with son House's Preachin' Blues. I love the line," You know I wanna be a Baptist preacher, just so I won't have to work." This guy is loud and raunchy. It's possible he may have more than a few screws loose, too!
By now it was getting late in the afternoon and although we would have liked to see the Meat Purveyors, we elected to split and go home and get Shelley and come back. We could see Tom Russell back at Yard Dog or Billy Joe Shaver at Jo's Coffee Stage down the street in the lot next to the Hotel San Jose. Tough choice! I figured that even though I'm Tom Russell's worse fan, I had seen him three times since I had seen Billy Joe. Greg pointed out that Tom would probably outlive Billy Joe, also. Yeah, he is a bit older and has been through some stuff!
It turned out that once again, we were in the right place. When we arrived at Jo's, Elizabeth McQueen and The Firebrands were going at it. I had seen her last spring as the new vocalist in Asleep at the Wheel, filling the boots that Chris O'Connell wore so long ago and doing a great job of it.
While we were waiting for Billy Joe to come on, my Kerrville friends Connie and Austin walked up and surprised me. "What are you doing here?", She asked.
I told her, "Same as y'all, I'm here to see Billy Joe!" We had a good talk and I promised to see them at land rush as they returned to their seats.
The last time I had seen Billy Joe was the first and only time I would ever witness the explosive guitar playing of his hard rocking son Eddy. Tonight he was with an established country-rock outfit called Diamondback Texas. Tonight, Billy Joe let his guitar sit on the stand most of the time and when he did pick it up, it was only to start the song and by the time they would finish the first verse he would set it back down. His dance steps were pure country-bumpkin and were a hoot!
Speaking of his love songs, he said, "I wrote a bunch these songs to get back in the house. Of course that only works once! I wrote this next song when I was down at the end of my rope." Then he started playing Chunk of Coal.
In-between songs he took a long pull off a water bottle and said, "If you ain't drinkin' water, you oughter! The old boy who made that stuff knew what he was doin'."
I don't remember all the songs he played or what order, but I'm sure he played these songs:
You asked Me To
The Hottest Thing In Town
Honky Tonk Heroes
Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys
If At First You Don't Succeed
I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train
I Couldn't Be Me Without You
Woman Is The Wonder Of The World
Ride Me Down Easy
You Wouldn't Know Love
Tramp On Your Street
I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal
When he was playing Live Forever I remarked to Shelley that it must be painful for him to sing because it's painful for me to watch him sing it.
You're gonna want to hold me just like I always told you.
You're gonna miss me when I'm gone.
Nobody here will ever find me but, I will always be around.
Just like the songs I leave behind me, I'm gonna live forever now....
Leaving Jo's we were able to sign Kinky's petition to try to get him on the ballot as an independent candidate for governor. Like the Kinkster says, "Why the Hell not?" "How hard can it be?"
After that we went and got a late supper at Mariscos and the called it a night. Although I did not want to, I was going to have to leave this scene and drive to Castroville in the morning. The good part was I was going to be hanging with family, some of them I hadn't seen in a good while.