Words by: Sarah Hagerman
Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights
"Baby it's been too long/ Since rock and roll turned you on," Jonathan Tyler cried. 'Nuff said. Fervent believers in the power of music to get our juices flowing, Tyler and his band The Northern Lights had the crowd getting down at the Relix day party at Antone's. Channeling The Black Crowes with touches of Zeppelin, The Lights had a magnetic stage presence, stomping with their instruments and exuding rock star confidence. They are damn good, and they know it, but they're ultimately here to have fun and make your ass move. They were tight as hell, too. When the lovely backup singer stepped to the mic to lead a song, throwing some very Erykah Badu-esque R&B and hip-hop into the mix, the band didn't miss a beat behind her, tying the whole thing together with some Roots-like grooves. I would have liked to see more of her, but hot damn, this was a flat out great show. When they left the stage, Relix Editor-in-Chief Josh Baron wiped his brow as he took the mic, declaring, "I don't know about you, but I just got run over!"
| Jakob Dylan and Three Legs (Featuring Neko Case)|
03.19.10 :: SXSW by Dudelson
Trampled by Turtles
Some bands just have an uncanny sense of how to write songs that stick with you. Although they get well-deserved props for their cathartic and energetic live shows – you've never seen so much sweat pour from five guys sitting down – it's the songwriting that sets Trampled by Turtles apart. They've got positively addictive hooks, and on quieter numbers, like the beautiful sigh of "Trouble," they let them unwind with a natural ease. This set at Red-Eyed Fly flew by at a breakneck pace. I got a couple personal favorites, including "Empire" and a vicious "Burn for Free," plus some killer new material from the upcoming Palomino. Ryan Young (fiddle) and Erik Berry (mando) practically folded into their chairs as they attacked their instrument with red-faced intensity that had the crowd whooping and shrieking. "I like your beards!" I heard someone shout. At this point during SXSW, I've seen enough ironic facial hair to last the rest of my life. But TbT offer genuine scruff. You get the sense that no matter how far they climb they won't ever forget where they came from. It's that grounding that keeps them so real and keeps their music so warm, even in the midst of the fury they can unleash when they take the stage.
Janet Weiss (of now defunct Sleater-Kinney) is one of the fiercest, most versatile drummers in indie rock royalty. She was flexing serious muscle during Quasi's set at Antone's, with pin-sharp machine gun rat-a-tats and crescendos that built to brain-pulping levels. Quasi are pure, stripped-down garage adrenalin. They don't fuck around or have a lot of pretension – they keep it lean, but draw it out in decidedly rough lines. Joanna Bolme's bass was chewy, and Sam Coomes' guitar work could break down into anarchy at any moment. Closing out their set with "Bye Bye Blackbird," they destroyed some eardrums as they let it all hang loose with feedback buzzes, squeals, and washes of thick noise.
There comes a moment at every SXSW. Your feet hurt. You can't bear to over hear one more name-dropping conversation or see one more person glued to their iPhone while a band is killing it a few feet away. You are tired of wading through the mess on 6th Street. You are just plain tired, only averaging about four hours of sleep a night. That's when you need something to remind you why you're here, and I couldn't have asked for better medicine than Velvet Truckstop. Crammed into a sweaty Nuno's, VT laid down rock and roll salvation of the highest order. With their lofty electric blues, driving southern rock jams and echoes of The Band and Wilco, they gave me, and several others, the will to dance down the last hours until closing time. Readers, you need to get acquainted with Velvet Truckstop. These cats are cut from some genuine cloth, the kind of band that pulls you through the rough times and sends you out into the night with a romping "Hallelujah!" Guitarist Dorsey Parker was especially tapped into something huge, making it look so damn easy but one glance at his fingers moving across his axe left your head spinning. They got songwriting skills that bow towards the classic, such as the asphalt-scarred "Carolina Way," where Jamie Dose sings about the "broken dreams and guitar strings" that litter the highway while you're chasing a dream. But you keep pushing on regardless, because you believe in what you're doing. If that's not what SXSW is ultimately all about, then I don't know what is.
| Trampled by Turtles :: 03.19.10 :: SXSW|
Continue reading for more pics of SXSW Day 3...