The streets of Austin during South by Southwest are truly a cavalcade of sights and sounds for the festival-goer -- a sensory buffet of sorts. The four-day music section of the event provides heaping portions of every conceivable and not-so-conceivable style of music.
As with every year, the 2010 production was a success in variety and quality of acts. Performer schedules are available and abound, but I fancied letting friends, whimsy or my ears guide me through the streets and alleys of Austin.
My ears were kind enough to lead me into 121 Bar on Friday, for example, where I found mesmerized members of Paul Benjaman Band enjoying a most progressive fusion/jazz/funk trio performing mind-bending music. I was unable to discover the name of the trio at press time, as is occasionally the case at SXSW, but was informed that the bass-player was known around town as "The Madness." He earned the moniker well, playing intense slap bass often placing instrument on his head much to the audiences' delight.
For whatever reason the fates deemed necessary, my Friday was also filled with female singer-songwriters. I was able to take in a performance by Brooklyn's burgeoning songwriter Jennie Owens Young. Backed by an upright bass player and a drummer performing on a kit comprised of snare drum, briefcase (as a bass drum) and a frisbee, Young offered up gentle acoustic revisions of material from her album Transmitter Failure.
Okie songwriter Audra Mae also performed at the lovely Victorian Room in the historic Driskill Hotel on Sixth Street. Armed with a fedora and a ? sized guitar, Audra Mae shared her soulful melodic take on traditional folk and country, ending the night with a tasteful and surprising Bee Gees cover.
As every Tulsan knows, the weather dropped significantly during the weekend, and Saturday in Austin was no different.
The music lovers were confronted with weather 20 or 30 degrees below what was expected. To keep warm, I attended Carniville presented by Iheartcomix at the Mexican American Cultural Center. The event offered carnival rides, corndogs, funnel cakes and enough dance music to keep thousands warm. The international group The Very Best brought dance rhythms, African pop and afrobeat to excitable onlookers before the sun went down. The act was an excellent warm-up for the trendsetting Major Lazer who combined mind-numbing bass with dancehall and futuristic dance music.
The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma held a very successful showcase of Oklahoma artists that evening at the Soho Lounge. At the showcase, I was able to enjoy Oklahoma City's The Non and their intense instrumental swells of texture and rock and roll. The young band has many years of excellent music ahead of them.
Stillwater's Colourmusic also performed that evening. Although missing one member for the showcase, the band's show was brimming over with their unique formula for tremendous and contagious stadium rock. While singer Ryan Hendrix sang and shouted into the microphone, his hair flailing about in a form of self-flagellation, it was easy to imagine thousands singing along.
Although my time in Austin was brief and saturated, with the close of the festival, I felt much like the sidewalks and pavement of Sixth Street: a little dirty, a little tired and waiting for a quiet day of sunshine.
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