Well folks, it's that time of year again. Mid-March, JamBase is in Austin, and festival season is officially getting underway, and that can only mean one thing - the annual SXSW Music Festival and Conference.

We're here rubbing elbows with the glitterati, the rock stars, the shmoozers, and the wannabees. Billy Idol is running around with his shirt off, Robert Plant is both singing and speaking, telling tales of the dirty 70's, and music, ohh my, the music. As is always the case with SXSW, it's completely overwhelming. There are so many bands playing at so many places, you just gotta throw yourself into it, drink a few free beers, put down a lil' barbecue, and let it run all over you.

THURSDAY :: 03.17.05

Photo by Dustin Rabin
We rolled into town and caught some of Tegan and Sara's family quirk show at Emo's before some interesting lo-fi fun with The American Analog Set. The two bands complemented each other well. Tegan and Sara featured a full band backing the sisters. Tegan and Sara are real sisters, allowing their shared blood to create a certain connection on stage that can't be replicated. It's a fun, unique show, and they are clearly very talented. To counter the bright vocals and rhythmic guitar work of Tegan and Sara, local Austin rockers, The American Analog Set, have a darker, more melancholy sound with vibes and an interesting delivery.

After scoping the nasty long line (even with badges, which in theory, is supposed to alleviate any waiting) to get into Ratatat, we decided to roll over to The Parish for a bit of M. Ward. As we slipped past the indie throngs lining up at the door (thanks to our trusty badges), we found the Radar Brothers engaging in some mellow noise pop. Interesting, but not all that captivating. And before long it was time for M. Ward. Matt (referred to by his adoring fans simply as "M.") has gained quite a bit of notoriety of late having recently toured with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes. It seems his strength lies in the stripped-down, lo-fi, ominous sounds he creates with his guitar and voice, which were highlighted from time to time in Austin, but the use of a full band at times lent itself to predictable refrains and simple structures. That said, Ward is clearly a gifted songwriter, and the young lady he had on drums did a fantastic job. All in all, it was a strong show but only a primer for what lay ahead.

Queens of the Stone Age :: SXSW by Kayceman
I think it's safe to say that anyone who is even remotely paying attention to music in 2005 has heard of Queens of the Stone Age, but anyone who has not seen them perform is truly missing out on one of the world's best rock bands. The show was held in an old airport hangar way off the beaten track. This was the "private" party everyone wanted to hit, but you had to know someone, or know someone who knew someone, to get in the door. It was about one in the morning as we walked into an absolutely raging party as The Bravery were working the crowd into a thick lather for the Queens. By the time we cozied up to the bar for some free booze (ya, free top-shelf booze! Now that's a party!), Josh Homme was bringing his Queens onto the stage. First thing's first; Josh Homme is a rock star, and he leads his team like a champ. From the first note to the last screaming guitar chord, Queens of the Stone Age lit Austin on fire. Loud as hell and even more powerful, this was stand in amazement rock and roll. They blew through a mix of material with "Tangled Up In Plaid" off the new album certainly of note. But more than any one song, it was the whole long set - grinding guitars and slamming drums. Dark overtones and impressive instrumental segments brought images of Homme's dusty desert upbringing. It was only the first night, but I'm skeptical to think any band can match what the Queens of the Stone Age did in the abandoned airport hangar. But then again, you just never know, and that's why we're down here - to get the goods and send 'em back to our people. So be sure to keep checking in, and we'll see if any of these young indie bands can step it up.

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