SXSW | 03.21.09 | Austin, TX - Day 4

Words & Images by: Kayceman

SXSW :: 03.18.09 :: Wednesday :: Austin, TX

Cotton Jones :: SXSW :: 03.18.09
Even before you get off the plane they're everywhere. Tattooed rockers, flat-brim crate-diggers, indie hipsters and long haired hippies, and we're all here in Austin, Texas for the 23rd annual South by Southwest Music Conference. Every year thousands upon thousands of bands, fans and industry insiders descend upon this little Texas oasis for loud guitars, late nights, long days, dark bars, Lone Star Beer and maybe even a panel of two (maybe). With so much to see and hear we're keeping it brief with highlights from our adventures.

Kayceman's Top 3

Coming in at number three for the first evening at SXSW is Cotton Jones. Featuring Michael Nau on guitar and vocals and Whitney McGraw on vintage organ and heavenly support vocals, the band was fleshed out with four more members to create a shimmering, psych-folk set that had the crowd swooning. Similar to M. Ward's timeless approach but with a bit more grit under the nails, Cotton Jones is hard to place in any era, making it possible to appeal to a wide swath of fans. With eyes closed we could have just as easily been at a 1969 San Francisco festival with flowers in our hair and mushrooms in our teeth. Standout tracks included "By The Morning Light" and "Gotta Cheer Up," both available on the stellar debut album Paranoid Cocoon.


Rotary Downs :: SXSW :: 03.18.09
The number two slot belongs to JamBase's old friends Rotary Downs. Playing a 9 pm set on the first evening, this was many people's first chunk of music here in Austin and no one left disappointed. Blasting through a number of brand new tracks that show incredible potential and two old school faves ("False Protection" and "Djinni Stomp"), the band's intelligent indie rock and gooey instrumental prowess was in full force. With snaking guitar rhythms, slamming drums, fat bass, double keys, horns and James Marler's unique vocals (which admittedly were a bit muddy) there was no better way to get one's SXSW rollin'.

The top pick for the first night was undoubtedly Dan Auerbach. You know Dan as the guitar and vocals half of The Black Keys and with a full band behind him he's showing his versatility as a leader capable of wearing many hats. After being snuck into a packed Parish that was hot and sweaty (just like the music), it took all of one song to realize this was something special. The six-piece band included My Morning Jacket's Patrick Hallahan on percussion with a second drummer, an auxiliary guitarist, a bass player and haunting keys. Certainly in the same vein as The Black Keys, here Auerbach shows off his softer side, letting some ballads slip in next to the searing, psychedelic blues rock bombast. But don't get the wrong idea, this is most definitely unforgiving, head-banging-rock. And it's really this dynamic of softer sections combusting into flames that makes this project so compelling.

Dan Auerbach :: SXSW :: 03.18.09
Continue reading for Sarah Hagerman's SXSW Day 1 highlights...

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