SXSW: Day Two

Yesterday  I wondered about the crowds. A SXSW official says the lines were deceptive because one was for wristbands, sold at the convention center for the first time to try to limit scalping. That meant there was a massive line that hadn’t been there before. Still, the growth of day parties that don’t require badges mean there are a lot of people here strictly for the free day shows.

Yesterday’s wrap-up – My afternoon started with the New West Records party, which suffered a little for a lack of star power. It was a good hang, but nothing made an impact. At 4, a slightly scaled down Dark Meat (only 12 or members from my poor vantage point at the back of the room) used two or three guitars to create the overtones Ron Asheton created by himself playing guitar with the Stooges. Twenty minutes wasn’t nearly enough. Then to a Spain party with free Spanish beer, decent paella and unmemorable music. Dinner time.

The evening started with a tribute to one of the defining icons of Austin and SXSW, the late Doug Sahm. An upcoming tribute album was the occasion for tribute, which featured the Gourds, Jimmy Vaughan, Dave Alvin, Flaco Jiminez and the surviving Texas Tornadoes. The fun of the show was Sahm’s material; nobody took liberties or reimagined the songs. Sahm’s son Shawn was also a slightly odd presence onstage, playing guitar and trying to rev up the crowd like hip-hop hype man.

From there, I caught the first two songs by Hurray for the Riff Raff, who sounded spectacular in Central Presbyterian Church. The setting and sound highlighted the theatrical elements in the band and Alinda Lee’s voice, but not to such a degree that the song’s emotional core was lost or put in quotation marks. Then a cab to catch the end of BeauSoleil and it literally went that way – I was outside the packed Continental Club as they finished. I was talking with David Doucet during most of the Iguanas set that followed them, so I have no report there. My evening ended with Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women – his string-oriented all-woman band – augmented by accordion player Ponty Bone, guitar picker Bill Kirchen and another guitar player whose name escapes. Chris somebody. They played songs from Yep Roc’s upcoming tribute album to the Hacienda Brothers’ Chris Gaffney, The Man of Somebody’s Dreams, and Alvin’s song choices highlighted Gaffney’s understanding of the language of country and soul with songs that never settled into a beautiful loser mode (though there’s some of that in Gaffney’s writing). The set ended with a version of  the Blasters’ “Marie Marie” that’s clearly influenced by Buckwheat Zydeco’s version of it years ago. Nothing was going to sound great after that, so I called it a night.