The last day of SXSW always brings a bit of sadness that the whirlwind of music, the throng of people and the excitement of a new discovery is almost ending. With that said, I packed as much into Saturday as I could.
The day started with a disappointment. I really wanted to hear Melissa Ferrick (WTMD 1st Thursday alum) play at one of her three showcases. Unfortunately, a family emergency forced her to cancel all appearances.
A return trip to the Canada Blast party was in order due to the need to eat lunch. To keep the Canada vibe authentic, cheese fries with gravy were served. I groaned for my waistline but dug in, knowing I needed something heavy to quiet my growling stomach. We arrived between sets so there was recorded music as Bahamas was setting up. They were quite good and I enjoyed a short set from a new discovery.
Walking around 6th Street was a necessity since it was such a beautiful day. We wandered past the venerable Driskill Hotel (built in 1886) and admired its stunning architecture.
Next up was an early arrival at a venue showcasing graffiti6 in one room and Rhett Miller in the adjacent room. Keep in mind Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day, so throw in college students to the already chaotic-ness of the festival, and you understand why an early arrival was in order.
By 6:30pm, the bands were running about 20 minutes late due to previous technical issues. Everything came together and graffiti6 launched into their set. Somehow the five band members managed to fit on a tiny stage and give the audience yet another energetic performance. I got word from guitarist Tommy D that they will be playing on another well-known late night talk show in the near future. Stay tuned!
I walked through a set of heavy wood and glass doors to hear Rhett Miller’s set of new songs and old favorites. Miller was drenched in sweat and shaking his head to move wet hair from his eyes. He played “Designs on You”, complete with mouth trumpet, after a very loud request followed by enthusiastic cheers. We all sang the lyrics and he seemed to get a big kick out of the singalong.
More wandering occurred and we came across a taco food truck with a long line. Fabulous food for $4 eaten while sitting on a picnic table with a pleasant breeze swirling around us.
We headed to Cedar Street Courtyard early to ensure a “front row” spot for J Roddy Walston and the Business. The band that played before J Roddy, Glossary (Murfreesboro, TN), got the already fired up crowd even more cranked up. I was really impressed by their songwriting and musicianship. Another wonderful new musical discovery!
The time had come for one of Baltimore’s best to have their turn wowing the audience. Cedar Street is an outdoor venue (kind of obvious when Courtyard is part of your name but feel the need to add that fact). Plenty of people were cheering the minute J Roddy came down the exposed stairs. I introduced myself and he gave me an “Awesome!” upon hearing I was shooting for WTMD.
From the minute the first few chords of “Don’t Break the Needle” started to the last piano key was pounded, the band gave their all for a very receptive crowd. There was much screaming, whooping, fist pumping and hollering from both sexes. The guys blasted through a 50 minute set with their signature reckless abandon and passion. It was definitely one of my top 3 shows of the whole festival!
Stubb’s followed and I honestly wondered who was good enough to top the show I just experienced. Sad to say, even established rockers Keane just didn’t do it for me. They couldn’t get close to the pour-you-soul-on-the-piano gospel/soul/rock of J Roddy Walston and the Business. After Keane’s set, the rumor was that Gary Clark Jr was playing the coveted 1am slot. As we waited, a large card table and table cloth appeared. I guessed Andrew W.K., but instead we got a female DJ with more equipment than most bands brought. She didn’t introduce herself before her set or at any time during her set. Maybe she’s that well known in the electronic music world, but please tell the newbie your name.
Reality set in at 1:45am when those of us that stuck it out came to the realization that Gary Clark Jr was not playing. After a wave goodbye to Stubb’s, Cindy and I headed for the last shuttle ride back to our hotel.
Another SXSW wrapped up with wonderful memories, many new musical discoveries, ringing ears and an almost empty wallet. The many hours of planning done months ago was worth it and I hope to do it all again next year!
A big heartfelt THANK YOU goes to:
– all of the WTMD staff for their coordination of my press badge certification, the blogging opportunity and radio acknowledgment.
– Amy Schriefer of NPR Music who put me on the VIP list for their huge Wednesday night Stubb’s showcase guaranteeing my
entry to the press pit.