York Bands (Plus Pete Townshend) At
SXSW Music Conference
March 14-18, 2007
Written and Photographed
by Linus Gelber
more of Linus' SXSW Photos
(Opposite photo Carrie
Editorial Note: New York Cool photographer Linus
Gelber made his tenth trip to Austin for the South
By Soutwest Music Conference. Here are his photos
and his running commentary of the New York bands
he covered. Enjoy.
13, 2007: Tomorrow the SXSW
Music Conference slams into gear. Tonight we
early arrivals get a jump on the action, misbehaving
and staying up late and getting into the groove.
Every year the SXSW Music Conference unofficially
kicks off with the Swollen Circus, a Tuesday night
showcase revue at the Hole in the Wall bar near
the UT campus"
This is my first
time seeing the
Teenage Prayers, a New York band of brothers
- as we arrive at Hole in the Wall for the pre-opening
night ritual of the Swollen Circus revue, they are
on stage grinding out a sturdy taste of charismatic
rock. True Love Through Better Music, suggests their
web site, and how can you go wrong with that?
One of the rock-em sock-em players this year is
Rodriguez, an Austin native transplanted to
Brooklyn (and just think - most of the rest of us
are thinking about moving in the other direction).
She does a terrific three-song mini-set, which is
how the Circus works. I'll miss her later in the
week, so I'm glad to catch her here.
Zuzik is a regular in my circles in New York,
but I rarely get to see her perform. It's one of
the funny quirks of SXSW that sometimes you have
to go to Texas to see folks from the neighborhood.
Emily plays late in the game at the annual Erev-SXSW
Swollen Circus revue - the 12th annual, this one!
- and brings a welcome energy and focus to minds
drifting off to tired legs and jet-weary bodies.
Tomorrow it all begins in earnest, but at the moment
she is captivating and fresh, and the morning seems
Kamara Thomas of Earl Greyhound
Our first day in Austin, before the SXSW Music Conference
gets going, it pours. I mean flood- and tornado-watch
pours. (Hilariously, I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt
when this begins. At least I have a hat.) Today
there's a drizzly cloudy thing to balance the exuberance
of the crowd on the ground, but no clouds are going
to put a damper on the Brooklyn three-piece Earl
Matt Whyte of Earl Greyhound
The band has some serious touring behind them,
and they've been compared to Led Zeppelin in energy
and vibe. At the packed Gothamist/Austinist day
party at the Mohawk club, bassist and singer Kamara
Thomas is free spirit personified - the band looks
like a fresh arrival, via temporal rift, from happier
more innocent times.
Guitarist and singer Matt Whyte completely looks
the rock guitar part: long drawn and lean with his
hair worn free, he's a natural.
Hutchinson is another of the downtown regulars
from the East Village and the Lower East Side, and
after stopping in at a few day parties that are
waaaay too crowded we head down to Emo's IV Lounge
for his mid-afternoon solo showcase.
When I came down to Austin for my first SXSW Music
Conference there were only the two Emo's: the main
room, and Emo's Jr. around the corner. I could never
remember which was which. Generally they're both
so crowded that I skip the shows there, though this
year the offerings tempt hard - I haven't seen the
Buzzcocks since back when we elected real presidents.
Now there's the outdoor tent Emo's Annex across
the way, and this new property on the corner. In
New York a corner storefront is likely to become
a Starbucks. In Austin, it's likely to turn up Emo's.
The thing about having
Townshend as a keynote speaker for your music
conference is that while he's talking, everyone
is sitting there thinking, "Holy shit. It's
Your brain can do
this dozens of times in the course of a friendly
keynote chat, and it's very distracting. Or at least
SXSW has presented an amazing
set of musicians over the past few years, both as
keynote speakers and as interviewees and panelists.
It's part of the guilty-pleasure fun of the whole
event. Sharing the air with someone who defined
your musical personality is exciting and a bit paralyzing,
especially when they are determined to be unpretentious
guys who just happen to, you know, be Pete Townshend.
He talks about that, along the
way: how music, when you're young, not only helps
you figure out who you are, it helps you understand
who you're not. It's part of knowing where you belong,
and who your friends and fellow-travelers will be.
I'm not sure that the contents
of his hour are important, one way or another; he
has a new internet project launching soon, he's
happy with the new version of the band, he has a
lot of respect for new musicians everywhere, and
- surprise - he has a natural easy love of music
that shines through. The joy of it is just in being
there, and listening. He hops here and there in
conversation, and there's a sense that if you happened
across him one afternoon over a passing beverage,
you'd have a great time talking.
At the end of the evening,
there's a call for questions. We all perk up. I'd
like to ask something, but my brain is stuck saying,
"Holy shit. It's Pete Townshend."
The Rapture (Gabriel
There's as much West Coast as East Coast in the
history of The
Rapture, but the band claims New York as home
- I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Here
Gabriel Andruzzi steps forward on the first night
of the SXSW Music Conference for a saxophone interlude.
The band is playing La Zona Rosa, one of the biggest
and fittest venues in Austin.
Boshra AlSaadi of Looker
I first saw
New York's Looker
a few years ago, and they were a fun messy thumpy
outfit, in which messy dominated. Tonight at their
debut at the SXSW Music Conference, they are fun
and thumpy and just a little messy, and what a difference
it makes - I really enjoy this show.
The band cites The Clash and The Shangri-Las as
two of their primary influences, and that pretty
much nails it. Stretch pretty girl-group harmonies
across a frame of threshing choppy garage rock,
and firm up the whole with a come-hither stay-there
stage presence: you'll be close to what Looker does,
except missing all the big noisy wanton abandon
Nicole Greco of Looker
Just about everything goes wrong at this late-night
showcase. The venue's momentum grinds to a halt
when an earlier band has schedule trouble and the
room sits empty for a time, and the audience never
quite builds up again. After that everyone runs
late, which pinches when you're in the last slot
of the night. The scheduled 12:45 start time actually
starts closer to a little after 1:00 a.m., there's
no time for a proper soundcheck, and amps and monitors
fade in and out without warning. Looker
holds down their end, though, and in spite of
this and that they soldier out a solid set. It's
early in the conference to be picking favorites,
but I'm putting Looker down for another, er, listen.
Walter Salas-Humara of The
Set under the
red striped tent behind the Yard Dog on South Congress,
the annual Bloodshot Records party is one of the
reliable and happy-making traditions at SXSW. Where
the major labels have largely squandered a legacy
of fine music on yippity teens and tired trendy
soundalike dross, Bloodshot does what large indie
labels do best: it works with talented artists,
and helps them put out wonderful music. The party,
which is open to all, is delightful. I've missed
it the past few years on account of being busy elsewhere,
and it's good to be back.
can be hard to miss at SXSW - they play regular
showcases, open day parties, private events, and
the pre-conference Swollen Circus grab-bag show,
which frontman Walter Salas-Humara helps puts together
each year. Their music is an infectious driving
branch of Americana rock, setting thoughtful state-of-mind
songs against a thriving beat.
The Silos are home in New York, but then they're
also home just about anywhere else too, and Walter
always seems to be looking slightly beyond the room,
anticipating the next step along the way. The artist
as wayfarer is an old tradition that rock pretty
much tossed off in favor of big commercial touring,
but the Silos feel itinerant, in a comforting and
Drew Glackin of The Silos
on bass, guitar, vocals and hootenanny is a key
part of the loping restless drive of The Silos.
He's the kind of player who is never still, and
his constant motion is full of energy and feeling.
Megan Hickey of The Last
I'll see three
guitar players cut their fingers tonight, and Megan
Hickey of The
Last Town Chorus is the first of them. She's
hard at work on her lap steel guitar when one of
her finger picks makes a bid for freedom, leaving
a sting of blood behind.
Last Town Chorus is touring behind their new record,
Wire Waltz, and plays to an attentive and appreciative
crowd at Jazz, which is a restaurant rather than
a venue when the SXSW Music Conference is not in
town. I'm pleased to note that regular diners as
well as the wait staff stop and listen, curious
about the beautiful performance.
Last Town Chorus plays intent, concentrated songs,
sweeping meditatively through clouds of breezy sound.
It's music that comes from winter and looks toward
the spring, waiting to flower. Megan's voice is
cool, vibrant, and full of confidence. I have other
places to go, but I don't make it.
Brian Harding of
It's moving toward midway on Friday night at SXSW
here in balmy Austin. Back home, New York City is
blanketed with ice and gnawed by frigid winds. My
response this afternoon was a set of guerilla calls
to friends, which largely consisted of me explaining
"nyah nyah" and mentioning how nice it
is kicking around in shorts and sandals, and did
I say "nyah nyah" yet?
I'm in one of those empty pockets that is familiar
to regular SXSW visitors. There are over 1,700 acts
playing the four main showcase nights, and there's
nothing nearby that I want to see. I learned a couple
of years ago that my best response when this happens
is to pop into the nearest venue without a line
at the entrance, to see what there is to see. And
so I do.
What there is to see tonight (among others) is Hymns,
a Brooklyn band in hipstery fashion (and really,
what music conference would be complete without
some hipstery fashion?) playing a set in Eternal,
the darkest venue in Texas. Sometimes none of the
lights in there are on at all, but now a bulb or
two gleams in the thick shadows.
Hymns started up in North Carolina,
and the core members moved to New York in 2003.
It shows in their music, a sweet kind of mid-beat
alt country that strays closer to the borders of
Rock County than country usually ventures.
March 17, 2007
New Yorker Danielia
Cotton - that's "da-NEEL-ya" - has
a familiar frank urban swagger that looks suddenly
foreign perched on a stage down in Austin, Texas.
Danielia is a forthright "think it - say it"
sort, with a silky roar of a voice and a taste for
traditional rock and roll. Her roots are in the
hair metal bands she listened to in high school,
with hints of jazz and gospel for spice and flavor.
Most of her set is straight-ahead blues rock, but
when she steps quietly into a smoky torch number
the audience is hushed and willing. We nod: this
woman can sing.
She plays in the Ale House, one of the smaller
venues at SXSW, and the room is packed full for
her set. She attacks it as if it were an arena,
pouring passion and energy into a crowd that eagerly
soaks it in.
For more information on all the artists who played
at SXSW, log onto: