Another one from SXSW: Blue Sky Riders, a country rock trio led by Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman and Kenny Loggins. Yes, that Kenny Loggins. They played at the 2013 Southwest Invasion on the roof of Whole Foods Market. Thanks to IROCKE for allowing us to use the video.
Archive for the SXSW Category
We’re taking a little time off from the blog so we can get caught up in our day jobs. We will drop by occasionally in the next week or so with some good stuff.
Today let’s go back to SXSW, with an acoustic performance by rocker Rick Springfield. He played at the 2013 Southwest Invasion at SXSW on the roof of Whole Foods Market, presented by Quantum Collective, Amazon MP3, and IROCKE.
More stuff from SXSW: The Mavericks, a country rock band fronted by Raul Malo, have a new album out – In Time is their first studio work in about a decade. It’s heavy on the melodic, danceable stuff for which they are best known.
We caught their free set during SXSW at Waterloo Records. They played acoustic, and they quickly turned the record store parking lot into a party zone. Here’s “Back In My Arms Again,” from the new album. Thanks to headonfire1105 for loan of the video.
Among all the new friends we made at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, we really like The Lost Brothers. The “Losties” are a duo from Ireland who sing in close harmony, reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel or the Everly Brothers.
Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech met in an dusty old Liverpool library in 2007. Comparing influences, they discovered they both played in various bands and had traveled to Liverpool to take their music to the next level. The pair shared a love of music and influences as diverse as the Carter Family to Sam Cooke, Mississippi John Hurt to Dion and the Belmonts, Phil Spector to the Louvin Brothers, the Impressions to Van Morrison. The pair were regular faces on the Liverpool music scene and when together, people began to call them The Lost Brothers.
Leech and McCausland left the bands they were in at the time and flew to Portland, Oregon, where they hooked up with producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, Bright Eyes), and recorded in his attic their debut album Trails of the Lonely.
Their folk-tinged music has great atmosphere, particularly on their third album The Passing Of The Night, thanks in no small part to singer/songwriter Brendan Benson, who produced it in Nashville. The songs are sometimes sad, sometimes eerie and moody, from the opener “Not Now Warden,” about a man in prison whose love has moved on, to the sensational “Widow Maker,” a story of a hanging.
Appropriately, The Lost Brothers were invited to perform at the Tribute to Levon Helm that was one of the big closing shows during this year’s SXSW. Oisin Leech of the Losties saw one of our photos and contacted us to ask if we had any shots of him and his partner performing with Steve Earle and others in the climactic song “The Weight.” We did indeed have a few pictures, and in the exchange we had the chance to ask Oisin a few questions.
30 Days Out: I seem to recall you guys have been at SXSW before, but how was this one for you? What did you think? What was the weirdest experience? What was the best experience for you?
Oisin Leech: Yes, we have been to SXSW before but 2013 was our favorite year so far. Mark and I loved it. It’s the first time we have an album out in the United States on Readymade Records and so it was good timing to come to play Austin this year with the new album just out. This is our third album.
Hearing Dave Grohl speak about his favorite punk bands and about his early days with Nirvana was really something. Nirvana was the reason I started a punk band, the Vermin, when I was 14 and Grohl is one of my heroes. The Vermin didn’t gig. We just rehearsed and read Nirvana biographies.
The weirdest experience? It was weird, but weird in a good way, to sing “The Weight” with Amy Helm, Steve Earle and the Midnight Ramble band at Auditorium Shores at the tribute show for the late, great Levon Helm. It was weird to sing in front of that many people – good fun though. I’m not complaining! The Midnight Ramble Band are a wonderful band and it was a big thrill for Mark and I to jump up for a verse.
The best SXSW experience was seeing Charlie Sexton play guitar at Threadgills as part of Will Sexton and Brady Blades’ SXSW Big Bang. It was great fun to be part of Will and Brady’s gig. Steve Poltz, John Murry and Charlie Faye also played. I am a big Bob Dylan fan and to hear Charlie Sexton play in a small venue was like watching lightning. Charlie plays in Dylan’s band.
30 Days Out: Do you approach audiences differently in the U.S. than you would in the U.K.? Is there a different sensibility, or expectation on the audience’s part – and yours?
Leech: Well, it’s funny because I think a lot of folk melodies and lyrics came across the ocean from Ireland to North America over the centuries. And obviously North America sent rock and roll back. I hear it in a county song by Gordon Lightfoot or even in a Bob Dylan song like “Restless Farewell.”
The Lost Brothers’ music is so inspired by American music – Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt – maybe sometime an American audience at a Lost Brothers gig are hearing their own music through the voices of two Irish guys. We try to bring our own thing to the table. It’s an ongoing musical exchange. I always love the reception we get in the States and maybe they are hearing older traditions being sung back to them. We never, ever underestimate the audience wherever we play because usually they know a lot more than the singer. A show is what happens between the song and the listener and therein lies the magic of a good or bad gig.
The Everly Brothers sing a song called “Rose Connolly” which was a traditional song in Kentucky but “Rose Connolly” was a traditional song from Scotland and Northern Ireland a long time before it was ever sung in Kentucky. It traveled across the ocean! So it’s an ongoing musical conversation over hundreds of years. Maybe that’s why we feel at home when we play in the U.S. because we’re just a small part of something much bigger that’s been ongoing for a long time.
When we did the U.S. tour with Glen Hansard we could really feel the warmth back from the audience each night from Boston right across to San Francisco over the three weeks. When we play in Ireland and in the U.K. it’s a more edgy experience. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a different atmosphere – maybe you need both worlds, I think you do.
30 Days Out: I love the story about your trip to Portland in the early days of the duo. What do you think of that city’s vibe? Does it have any similarities to Ireland/U.K.?
Leech: Portland is where Mark and I first recorded so we will always have a soft spot in our hearts for Portland – the city of the Rose. We lived there at the White Eagle Hotel and often go back. On our first album Trails of the Lonely we worked with two great producers in Portland, Mike Coykendall and Adam Selzer. We spent many hours in Powell’s book store looking for original copies of John Fante books. Portland has its own unique vibe, unlike anywhere I have ever been. Also our dear friend and musician extraordinaire Paul Brainard lives there. Always great to see Paul.
YouTube: “Under The Turquoise Sky”
30 Days Out: Listening to you live, you certainly live up to all those comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel. But I hear influences that go back a little farther, and wider … Can you talk about your influences?
Leech: Mark and I were lucky in that we grew up around music. Mark’s family were the traveling Moore family band from Omagh. They played my granny’s dance hall in the 1950s long before we were ever born. My mum sings at church each week. My sister Saramai is a great singer and my dad plays violin. Music is everywhere in Ireland. It’s in the water.
My first love was punk rock – English bands like Alternative TV and the UK Subs, Irish punk bands like Striknien DC. Then I got into Nirvana and started to read about Kurt’s love of Leadbelly which opened up a door to Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and folk and country. Folk is just like punk. It’s an open form of expression with (few) rules. I connected with it immediately. I used to go on Wednesday nights to a Dublin club called the Cobblestone and sit at the very front listening to singers like Sonny Condell and Ger Wolfe.
When people say Mark and I sound like Simon and Garfunkel it’s a big compliment but we never planned that at all. It was just chance. We are big Everly Brothers fans more so. The Everlys raised the game for everyone.
Mark loves Merle Travis and Sam Cooke. We’re both big Chuck Berry fans … Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, The Louvin Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, Jackson C. Frank, Van Morrison and Them, The Band and Levon Helm is a huge inspiration. We love the Beatles and lived in Liverpool for many years. Then there are bands from closer to home like Sweeneys Men, Planxty with legends like Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore. I also love Patrick Street with Andy Irvine. Music that grabs the heart strings or gets the heart and soul racing.
There’s a singer from Sheffield, England, called Richard Hawley. He is as good as it gets for me. We made our second album So Long John Fante with some of Richard’s band and producer Colin Elliot.
YouTube: “Until The Morning” (filmed in Austin during SXSW)
30 Days Out: Love “Widow Maker,” especially the video. Can you talk a little about working with Brendan Benson, and what he brought to the table when you worked together?
Leech: It was a big thrill to work with Brendan. He gave us great confidence in our lyrics and in our playing. He taught us how hard you have to work. We made the album in five days and I don’t remember taking any breaks day or night. Then Brendan mixed the album in two days. He is such a great singer and writer himself so it was inspiring to be making a record with him and we had so many laughs during the week. He is a gentleman, a friend, and we love him dearly like a brother. Not only did he make the album with us but he released it on his own label Readymade Records in the U.S. In the U.K. it’s on Lojinx Records.
30 Days Out: What’s coming up for you guys?
Leech: We have 18 new songs demo’d and we have a very clear idea of how we want the next album to sound.We just wrote two new songs in Woodstock which we are very excited about. We just did the Midnight Ramble at The Levon Helm Studios and it was a very inspiring experience. We will do the summer festivals, in June we tour with Billy Bragg and next week we fly to London because Graham Nash has asked us to perform at the opening of his new photo exhibition “Graham Nash – Life on the Road.” Mark and I have no idea how Graham heard of The Lost Brothers but it doesn’t matter I suppose, we’re thrilled that he asked us and we are looking forward to playing and seeing the photos!
YouTube: “Widow Maker”
We learned a lot of things at this recent SXSW music event: you spend more time walking from venue to venue and standing in line, than you do actually hearing music. If there is a huge, famous act playing during SXSW, you probably won’t get in to see them – unless you have connections. But actually, we knew both of those years ago. It doesn’t deter one’s fun at SXSW, at the very least.
And the other thing we learned: as soon as Iggy Pop leaves the stage after a show, he gets into a car to go away. And he doesn’t even bother to put on a shirt! We caught his exit from the Mohawk club after Iggy and the Stooges’ SXSW show. Here’s a new song from that show, “Burn.”
Thanks to freddycannonII for loan of the video.
It’s going to take a few days (weeks?) to flush this year’s SXSW out of our systems, so please bear with us. On the plus side, much of that involves us sharing new music we heard at the event.
One of the official events was a Day Stage where invited acts could perform short sets for conference attendees. One of the acts playing was Vampire Weekend, which hasn’t appeared in public for about a year. They performed a five-song set that included a new tune, ‘Unbelievers,” from the new album Modern Vampires of the City, due May 7.
The final official night of all the South by Southwest (SXSW) lunacy in Austin sparkled with stars that seemingly tumbled in from nowhere. All at once, and roughly about the same time, the city erupted in performances by Justin Timberlake, Prince, the Smashing Pumpkins, A Tribe Called Quest, Vampire Weekend and John Fogerty.
The music part of this festival is so varied and broad, one can pick and choose the acts one wants to see and assemble them like a buffet meal. Throughout this year’s SXSW we have tried to focus on a certain type of musical proficiency and style, a dedication to craft, and we assembled our feast accordingly, downscaling our choices away from the superstars and flash-in-the-pans. (Full disclosure: we couldn’t get in to the biggest shows, and a few of the others were way too late for our old bones.)
So it was no question that we had to close out our South By experience Saturday night by attending a big show at the city’s scenic Auditorium Shores, where The Midnight Ramble Band and a number of guest performers paid tribute to the late, very great Levon Helm.
Much has been made of Levon Helm’s contribution to American music since his passing last year. He was the drummer and frequent lead singer on many of The Band’s classic tunes, written by Robbie Robertson and performed beautifully by the entire ensemble when it existed in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
- Helm stood for a rough authenticity in the music. Not only was he a brilliant player, but he liked to surround himself with similarly skilled individuals. So we have The Midnight Ramble Band, named after his monthly musical revival meetings held at his barn/recording studio near Woodstock, N.Y., and which plays the music that Levon helped make famous.
Led by Helm’s daughter Amy, The Midnight Ramble Band stomped the show alive with “The Shape I’m In.” After that opening guest performers would wander on and off the stage, sometimes after a bit of delay while somebody located them backstage. It was a loose affair, patterned after the Midnight Rambles, one supposes, where a tight pre-planned set list is not a priority.
Steve Earle said “I love my job,” and played his song “The Mountain” which Levon covered on his Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer album. Then he strapped on a mandolin to lead the players through a rousing “Rag Mama Rag.”
And so it would go with other guest performers – Ivan Neville, J.J. Grey, members of Spirit Family Reunion, Carolyn Wonderland, The Lost Brothers and Cody and Luther from the North Mississippi All Stars. They all reunited onstage at the end, to perform “The Weight” to send their regards for everyone. At song’s finish, Earle stepped up and pointed to the sky. “See you when we get there, maestro,” he said.
On the way out, volunteers held up signs and big bottles were positioned for donations. Keep It Goin’, as it said on the signs, is an initiative to continue Levon’s legacy and create a musical landmark at his barn in Woodstock.
Throughout the day in Austin, one didn’t need a barn or studio for music. It seemed to be everywhere, coming from any place. Bands played atop buses, both moving and parked. Clubs improvised stages to pack in audiences, and venues with stages indoors erected other stages outdoors to accommodate more performers.
We saw the Seattle folk-pop band Ivan and Alyosha behind the big Sixth Street venue at Stages. A big tent kept many spectators out of the sun, and the beer was flowing freely. Singer Tim Wilson urged spectators to also see the Nashville band Leagues, which was on the indoor stage.
OK, so we did – Leagues is led by Thad Cockrell, whose mesmerizing voice has helped make this band one of the most talked-about at this year’s SXSW. Cockrell danced freely during his performance and invited audience members to do the same. “It’s music to make you feel good,” he said, and spun merrily away.
One interesting place to see a performance was Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, which hosted a few days of live broadcasts by Seattle radio station KEXP. We caught a short set for the radio by the venerable Zombies, the 1960s British invasion-era unit led by singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist (and main songwriter) Rod Argent.
They performed a handful of their classics, including “Tell Her No,” “Care of Cell 44,” “Time of the Season” and of course “She’s Not There.” Argent even pulled out a moldy oldie from his band Argent, “Hold Your Head Up.” Argent explained, “Many people thought I wrote this song but it was actually Chris White (also in Argent and the original bassist for The Zombies). And the title was originally, ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman.’ Lot of people don’t know that.”
It was nice to see Jim Rodford on bass with The Zombies – he was also in Argent and wound up as the bass player for The Kinks in that band’s later years. His presence lent a nice touch to the craft and veteran musicianship of the group, sounding great and playing their hearts out even for a 30-minute radio broadcast.
So we wrapped up our SXSW with a note of optimism and hope for the future. Thousands of performers practice and sweat to make it here each year to perform for small or non-existent crowds with the thought that their voices and their music may be heard. You gotta be good to even get a shot at SXSW, and bands do break out every year to greater fame and fortune (for example: the Alabama Shakes, class of 2012). Keep trying, next year may be your time.
And so we wrap it for this year, our feet blistered and our necks sunburned, but with music still in our heads. Our tired bones tell us we’re too old for this, but our hearts insist on knowing “are we gonna come back next year?”
Thanks for reading, thanks to Popdose for putting up with us over there, and come on down to Austin next year. We’d love to see you. And we’ll buy you a free beer.