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New York Bands (Plus Pete Townshend) At
SXSW Music Conference
March 14-18, 2007
Austin Texas

Written and Photographed by Linus Gelber

See more of Linus' SXSW Photos

(Opposite photo Carrie Rodriguez)



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.

March 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"



Teenage Prayers

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 Carrie 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.


Emily Zuzik


Singer-songwriter Emily 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 far away.

March 14, 2007



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 Greyhound.


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.



Wes Hutchinson

Wes 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.



Peter Townshend

The thing about having Pete Townshend as a keynote speaker for your music conference is that while he's talking, everyone is sitting there thinking, "Holy shit. It's Pete Townshend."

Your brain can do this dozens of times in the course of a friendly keynote chat, and it's very distracting. Or at least mine can.

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 Andruzzi)


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 and glee.


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.

March 16, 2007


Walter Salas-Humara of The Silos

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.

The Silos 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 inspiring way.


Drew Glackin of The Silos

Drew Glackin 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 Town Chorus

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 Hymns


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


Danielia Cotton

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:
SXSW Music Conference.

 





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