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Friday, Mar 20, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

One of the obvious benefits and pleasures of SXSW is stumbling across enjoyable bands while you’re waiting to see someone else. Today, it was the Donkeys, who were making their SXSW debut. I can’t speak for the record, but live, they offered up some classic, chiming guitar pop with an amiability that brought to mind a band like Guster. The drummer had, by his own admission, overdone it the night before, but like a pro, he soldiered on. Some confusion resulted when they reached the end of the set sooner than expected, but they managed to wrangle one more song out of the soundman.


 


 


Tagged as: sxsw, the donkeys
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Friday, Mar 20, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Oh Susanna (aka Suzie Ungerleider) is a criminally underappreciated songwriter. Her newest effort, Short Stories, is well-named because throughout her career she’s told a variety of tales in personas ranging from wronged women to God-crazed killers.  Her robust voice cut through the Velveeta Room’s chatter, and she further set herself apart by being one of the few SXSW artists to maintain their normal stage banter despite the abbreviated playing time. Backed by drums, bass, and crackling lead guitar, her songs really came to life tonight.


 


Tagged as: oh susanna, sxsw
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Friday, Mar 20, 2009

I’ve long been of the mind that Primal Scream’s 2000 effort, XTRMNTR, was a victim of self-sabotage by the band. The disc’s first half marks some of the fiercest and most, well, primal music the band ever put down. The second half, however, faded just a touch. My cockamamie theory is that if Primal Scream had maintained that level of intensity from start to finish, it might have turned out like Monty Python’s skit about the world’s deadliest joke: Anyone who heard it would die. That effect thankfully doesn’t carry over to their live show, which was a relentless assault of rock groove. Couched at the end of the Cedar Street Courtyard, which is pretty much a wide alleyway with a bar at the back, Primal Scream hardly acted like they were trapped or cornered. After getting off to a strong start, technical difficulties brought them to a stop (with the band vamping through the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and singer Bobby Gillespie offering the crowd some thick-accented banter that needed subtitles while things got fixed). After that, they raised the intensity song by song, until they had the crowd going out of their minds by the time they got to “Swastika Eyes” and “Rocks”.


 


Tagged as: primal scream, sxsw
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Friday, Mar 20, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

This gathering celebrated the recently released Of Great and Mortal Men record, which devoted a song to each U.S. President (well, not Obama, since nothing had been written at the time of the disc’s release—but it’s out there now available for download).  Tonight, the group (consisting of members of Magnolia Summer, Southeast Engine, These United States, and others) would attempt only 27 songs. Far from the novelty nature such a project would suggest, songs like “Washington Dreams of the Hippopotamus” (about Washington) and “Armed with Only Wit and the Vigor of the U.S. Navy” (about John Adams) are actually very affecting. Noting that they were playing tonight in the state associated with the 43rd President, the group announced they would next play record as part of Grant Park, Chicago’s Fourth of July celebration.


 


 


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Friday, Mar 20, 2009
Photos: Jennifer Kelly

There are tacos for breakfast on the patio at the Club DeVille, but I head straight inside for a Lone Star and a look at who’s playing. It’s Tim Easton, a veteran roots rocker with ties to Lucinda Williams (he was on tour with Williams, apparently, when he recruited his guitar player, Kenny Vaughn). Easton’s new album, Porcupine, is as much rock as country, not surprising when you realize that his new drummer, Sam Brown, used to play in New Bomb Turks. Chugging “Northbound”, about the touring life, is gritty and hard kicking and laced with singe-ing slides. Vaughn writhes like a fish on a hook as he plays, turning fast bends and pull-offs into a loose-elbowed, spastic sort of dance. And there’s real dancing, too. A couple breaks out into a spontaneous two-step, complete with turns and dips, in front of the stage. Easton tells stories during the breaks, about a pizza waitress in Athens, Georgia he admired from afar… and who might be very surprised to learn that he had written a song called “Stormy” about her. What he really wants to talk about, though, is his paintings, on view at the Yard Dog Gallery a few miles away.  “Take one of these postcards,” he says, scattering them into the audience.  “I made them myself, and I’m very proud of them.” Nice.


 


 


Tagged as: sxsw, tim easton
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