South by Southwest 2001

Most Wanted: The Big Bag.

15 MARCH 2001: The Big Bag

The Austin Music awards, given each year on the first night of the festival, are interesting mostly to the locals: I mean what do most of us care who got voted best DJ in town or what got best new club, and so on? But the music that is highlighted in short sets between the awards is often first-rate. And so it was for 2001.

Best of show goes to a pick-up band of ’80s survivors — from bands such as the Reivers, Glass Eye, and others — who now call themselves “86ed”, and include Alejandro Escovedo, Cindy Toth, Kathy McCarthy, and others. But the Gourds were also great.

Less great, mostly because she was trying out nearly all new songs from a forthcoming CD due early this summer, was Lucinda Williams. Many of the songs were terrific — very much in the vein of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road but produced this time out by Iowa City legend, Bo Ramsey — but yet… the problem was simply that the live production on stage tonight was tentative, over careful. That said, Williams herself was in strong voice and good mood.

What do folks want most when they arrive for SXSW? The Big Bag. What’s in it? Free CDs, mags, food, pens, lighters, CD openers, a flashlight, discount coupons, schedules of events. In short, the perfect welcome to the festival: PR passing as a gift.

COMING UP: the music festival, the second day, with panels, damp vegeburgers, the French electonica band, Mellow, and much louder stuff.