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(Again, For those interested, as I noted in my last two blogs, I have a piece on the immortal and apparently ageless IGGY POP, primarily on his days with THE STOOGES, in the current March issue of Spin Magazine (with FALL OUT BOY on the cover). This would likely be your last week to buy it if you want it, at least on the stands, as the March issue will be arriving thereafter to knock it off. Again, it’s actually one of my favorite interviews I have conducted in some time, not because of anything to do with me, but because the Ig is so funny and so honest. You just have to feed him a few inside tidbits from his wild past and the anecdotes fly fast and furious! And hilarious, too. I hope you will check it out. Just as a taste, on the cover of the magazine it says, “Iggy: ‘I tried to snort the floor.’” (True; at the Redondo Beach Motel in the mid-’70s, but you’ll have to read the interview to find out how and why!) There is also a photo of yours truly on the “contributors” page in the early going, which I couldn’t be more pleased by. I had not written anything of note for Spin in 20 years, but the direction of the magazine under DOUG BROD is more to my personal liking, and I was enormously glad he asked me to do it. I hope you enjoy it!)
And as noted in the last blog, I am going to put aside the part two of my comments on 2006 I promised momentarily, so I can post the four-part (I said three part last time, I stand corrected) summation of Michael B. Ackerman’s diary from this year’s SXSW, just concluded.
Note, due to a mixup, these are running slightly late, and I accidentally printed Day 2 here instead of the correct Day 1, which is properly below. Oops, and sorry, but I trust that will not dull your enjoyment! Here’s part two anyway; part three and four are coming in the next few days!
Thanks Michael! Readers of our mag know he is one of our regular editorial columnists every issue, so this is a treat.
SXSW Diary, by Michael B. Ackerman: (Note again, this is an account of Day 1; Day 2 ran mistakenly first here a few days ago!)
This is my sixteenth trip to Austin for South by Southwest. Sure it’s changed but the one thing that has not changed is the level of talent is consistently good. And so I reviewed the schedule when it was released and found a great deal to see. Because the registrant’s badge entitles the holder to entry at any club, the options available are so numerous it’s daunting. But basically the shows break down into three categories for me: 1) those whom I have seen and would like to see again (favorites); 2) those whom I have not seen but would like to see (known quantities); and 3) new artists whom I have not seen and not heard of before (generally on the advice of friends or acquaintances).
This mix is what makes South by Southwest great. There is a little bit of everything to be sampled; for music fans like me it’s a fantastic smorgasbord.
The smorgasbord began with some great barbecue in nearby Lockhart at Kreuz’s Market and continued with the sampler plate of these artists: ROBIN HITCHCOCK with JOE BOYD reading from his book; CHARLIE LOUVIN; DONOVAN; IAN MCLAGAN & THE BUMP BAND with PETE TOWNSHEND; RUTHIE FOSTER; HUGH CORNWELL; RAZORLIGHT; THE MINT CHICKS; and LES SAVVY FAV.
It began in the afternoon with a performance on the day stage of the convention hall by Robyn Hitchcock playing songs a apropos to reminiscences and readings by Joe Boyd. Joe Boyd produced the early SYD BARRETT-era ‘60s PINK FLOYDas well as THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, NICK DRAKE, FAIRPORT CONVENTION [and, much later in the ‘80s, R.E.M.—ed.] produced the documentary film Jimi Hendrix and created and ran Hannibal Records. I am told his book is among the best rock books ever written, which is no surprise because Boyd is a rare breed: an actually intelligent individual who was involved in all kinds of notable events in the sixties and actually remembers them. So while Boyd regaled us with tales of BOB DYLAN at the Newport Folk Festival (where Boyd was stage manager) Robyn Hitchcock sang “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Boyd then recounted tales of the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and Hitchcock countered with songs by the same including an amazing performance of “Arnold Layne,” the first Pink Floyd single (and surely the most bizarre pop hit ever). A lovely way to begin the festivities.
The first of the evening shows on my agenda was Charlie Louvin. For those who are not familiar, Charlie, was one half of THE LOUVIN BROTHERS who were the role models for THE EVERLY BROTHERS. That should give you some idea of Charlie Louvin’s approximate age. As a result of my passing on seeing ARTHUR ALEXANDER at South by Southwest about thirteen years ago because he was to begin a tour which would bring him to Los Angeles soon thereafter—which tour never began, because Alexander died during rehearsals—I now see as many of the old guard as I can. I take these opportunities when I can now, lest I miss another legend that I’ve longed to see for my lifetime as I did with Alexander. And so I saw Charlie Louvin, who sang well but did not sing all the tunes. One was sung superbly by a woman in his band. The room was packed and everyone was there to pay their respects to Charlie Louvin who did not disappoint. But after four songs, I felt the need to go see another hero.
I walked in while Donovan was launching into “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Like Louvin, Donovan can still sing well, and Donovan is largely untouched by time. Almost as if on request, Donovan performed “Season of the Witch” and “Mellow Yellow” and returned for a well-deserved encore with “Catch the Wind.” Donovan is still a great performer capable of captivating an audience. He had the whole crowd singing with him and joining in on these beloved songs. And from what I could gather from those in attendance, even the new tunes Donovan performed earlier in the set went over quite well.
Next it was on to the Convention Center where the Austin Music Awards were taking place because I had heard that Pete Townshend was going to join Ian McLagan and the Bump Band onstage in playing RONNIE LANE (McLagan’s old bandmate from SMALL FACES) songs. If you haven’t seen Ian McLagan and his Bump Band, then by all means fix that situation as soon as possible. I saw Townshend play in Los Angeles a week and a half ago and I’m in a major Townshend phase right now, so I had to go.
see it. After sitting through the presentation of many awards, including some to McLagan’s group, they finally took the stage and did not disappoint. Townshend joined them for two songs, playing a furious solo on the Small Faces “What Cha Gonna Do About It?” McLagan commented before they played the song that he always felt Small Faces guitarist STEVE MARRIOTT had ripped off Townshend in the guitar solo for that song, and it was time for Townshend to reclaim it, and he did with typical Townshend fire. McLagan and the Bump Band themselves reclaimed “Itchycoo Park”, the Small Faces lone U.S. hit, by playing a totally different version of the song which McLagan said was his apology to Ronnie Lane for refusing to play the song on a Japanese tour—because McLagan “didn’t feel it enough to sing the ‘it’s all too beautiful’ part at the time.”
I left in search of more greatness, and found it further down Sixth Street where Ruthie Foster was performing. I had seen her on Austin City Limits on television and I thought she was good but that was a very sedate performance compared to this one. When I arrived she was singing a very soulful tune similar to SAM COOKE’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and then she did a reggae tune and then a blues inflected tune showing off her stylistic range. Ruthie Foster is a better version of TRACY CHAPMAN; instead of singing like a morose folkie, Foster sings like a great gospel tinged r&b singer. Her band roused the crowd and I saw MICHELLE SHOCKED on the side of the room standing on a bench and dancing with wild abandon.
I went to see Hugh Cornwell because although I liked THE STRANGLERS and had opportunities to see them, I never did. These kind of shows are always fraught with peril–there is always vast potential for disappointment. I am pleased to report that Cornwell looks and sounds the same as he did many moons ago, although he does look a bit more like an English businessman now. He played a mix of old and new songs accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar and he pleased the diehard fans with several Stranglers tunes including “No More Heroes”, “Goodbye Toulouse”, “Nice N’Sleazy”, “Golden Brown” and “Always the Sun.” His performance was perfect, however I did leave before the end so that I could catch Razorlight.
Razorlight’s album was among my favorites of last year, and so I was quite excited to see them. They were better and different than I thought they would be. They were livelier on stage than the shoegazers I thought they would be, and led the crowd on several singalongs. Their lead singer reminded me a great deal of TIM FINN of SPLIT ENZ, which is a nice compliment. I was impressed that Razorlight had good songs, good musicians and a good stage show as well. Also, their music is mainstream enough to find massive popular acceptance and I hope it does.
I only got to see one song of The Mint Chicks but I could tell that they were a genuine article punk rock band. During the one song I saw, the Mint Chicks aptly demonstrated that they were not posing or kidding and that, in the true punk rock spirit, they meant it, man.
Les Savvy Fav closed out the night for me. They play a strange mix of styles–as if RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS were playing songs that often resembled what they would call in England football chants. Their lead singer also led the crowd on several singalongs, and at one point handed over the microphone to the bartender who leapt atop the bar and took over the cheerleading. Les Savvy Fav have their fans and for good reason.
Quite an afternoon and evening of music. A complete meal of new and old, legendary and unknown, outstanding and unexceptional. And that’s what’s great about South by Southwest: that you get the full mix. I got plenty of it tonight and now it’s time to recharge the batteries for tomorrow when there will be loads more. But for now, the thing I’m looking forward to seeing most is the back of my eyelids. Goodnight y’all.
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