Words & Images by: Sarah Hagerman
In the intimate tent at the Paste Magazine day party, The Dresden Dolls front woman proved to me once again why she's one of the most unique and fearless voices in rock. Armed with her rambunctious keyboard styles and wicked sense of humor, she played stripped down selections from her fab Ben Folds-produced solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (score points for the "Twin Peaks" reference), including "Runs in the Family" and the controversial (at least in the U.K., where it was banned from radio airplay) "Oasis" with quick-witted stage banter in between. She was obviously having a blast, and the tent responded in kind, even singing along with her un-mic-ed ukulele take on Radiohead's "Creep." My buddy turned to me and said that although he usually hates that song, "I think I almost like it now." Believe me, coming from him, that's quite a compliment!
| Amanda Palmer :: SXSW :: 03.18.09|
Adding to my double shot of badass rock women, Heartless Bastards rocked the same tent at the Paste party after Palmer. When Erika Wennerstrom takes over the mic, just stand back and brace yourself for a storm. They certainly won over some new fans as I saw jaws drop the minute her throat opened and pure swamp goddess electricity poured out. The Bastards came on like strong Irish coffee, as the early afternoon sun baked the crowded tent. St. Patrick's Day hangovers were washed downhill on a wave of steel and droning guitars during "The Mountain," and then swept away during "Out At Sea." A kick ass set that raged like it was midnight instead of 2:30 in the afternoon.
The Devil Makes Three
Some notes on the setting for this gig - Lovejoy's is the only bar I will go to in the 6th street area on a regular basis. House brewed beer, a crowd that usually includes tattooed freaks, gutter punks and rockabilly roughnecks, one of the best jukeboxes in town, all in an atmosphere that's too unique to be described as a dive, but dirty and busted enough to scare away those that would rather sip pinot grigio or do kamikaze shots. It was the perfect atmosphere for The Devil Makes Three, a trio from Davis, California whose rowdy string band energy falls more in line with the working class, hard living wit of Split Lip Rayfield. No pretty road songs in sight, instead we were served tunes about sleeping in attics, getting wasted and tales from strange times. They were rowdy as all get out, with gut-thwacking playing that had an old time swing in the heart. People were locked elbow to elbow in Lovejoy's, dancing on benches, balancing precariously on shaky tables, swinging arms and even crowd surfing at the end. This band is a reason to celebrate. Big cheers!
| Uncle Lucius :: SXSW :: 03.18.09|
Okay, so I went to see this band because "Uncle Lucius" is the name of a Bad Livers song, and I was thinking maybe they would be taking a page out of the book of Danny Barnes and Mark Rubin. So, I was slightly disappointed when I saw drums and electric guitars onstage. But no matter, this Austin group plays bluesy roots rock with dusty boots and a stirring spirit. Good stuff, and to answer the eternal question, yes my friends, they jam. Guitarist Mike Carpenter has some serious chops. Those of you who like your rock served soulful and Southern fried, check 'em out.
Hoots & Hellmouth
I was exhausted as midnight rolled around and I'd been running around for a good twelve hours, so I was lounging in a comfy chair upstairs at the Ale House, nursing a beer. Before the first song was over, I had picked my jaw up off the floor, shook myself off, texted everyone I could think of that was out and about to tell them to get down here and then joined the rapt audience in front of the stage to wear off some floor wax. Holy hell! I thought these cats were going to break the boards they were stomping on in half or pop some veins in their foreheads, especially with the intensity Sean Hoots and Andrew "Hellmouth" Gray leapt to their mics with. The explosive Philly acoustic outfit played possibly the best set I saw all day, revved up with genuine raw passion and performed with unrestrained head shaking, leaping fire goddamn glory. Considering how much they move onstage, they never missed a note on their instruments. This is acoustic music with a blazing rock and fucking roll spirit, infused with a wild fever.
John Johnson can probably boast to having the coolest drum set ever – lots of buckets and cans and all matter of clatter, stitched up with some duct tape and a Split Lip sticker. Meanwhile, Henry Kammerer switched between striking banjo and slip 'n' slide electric guitar styles. It was a fantastically muddy, at times brutal, mix, as Johnson's dense, propulsive rhythms would make you shake while Kammerer's vocals gave you chills. There's something ominous lurking at times in their whiskey and gasoline fueled music, and I like it.
| Hoots & Hellmouth :: SXSW :: 03.18.09|
Finally, I have to give some props to the fine pickers representing from Green Mountain Grass (Dave Wilmouth on mando, Trevor Smith on banjer, plus original GMG guitarist Turtle) and Electric Mountain Rotten Apple Gang (Amanda Kitchens on accordion, Andrew Pressman on doghouse bass) for getting out there in the scrum on 6th St. and busking. A great take on "I Know You Rider" inspired several drunken passersby to stop and sing along, get rowdy and dance in the streets. Take it to the pavement folks - that's where the brave musicians go.
JamBase | Texas
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