SXSW: A Reporter's Diary - Day Three

I started the day by heading over to the Convention Center and attending a talk given by FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on the topic of consolidation of media ownership. This is an issue of importance to musicians...

After the President's show, I walked back across the bridge into thedowntown area and headed back to Antone's to meet up with somecolleagues. The performer onstage was Shannon Wright,who played a set of sparse, dark, and (at least to my ear) slightlygrating songs. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed into it.I then headed back over to theAustin Music Hall where I caught most of a tuneful, solo-acoustic setby Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith. The crowd then thickened asone-man-jam-band Keller Williams took the stage. He played manicguitar parts and layered live loops of a bunch of different instruments(including guitars, bass, percussion and "mouth percussion" and "mouthtrumpet"), assembling one cool groove after another. The audience wastotally into it by the time he played his signature tune, "Freaker Bythe Speaker."By then it wasalmost midnight, and the crowd waited in anticipation for the scheduledset by JoeJackson. Jackson is back on tour with his original band(bassist Graham Maby, guitarist Gary Sanford, and drummer DaveHoughton) for the first time in 25 years. Jackson and the band just putout a new CD Volume 4.Although scheduled to go on at midnight, the band was about 20minutes late as their crew furiously moved about the stage, setting upand testing the band's in-ear monitor system. When the band finally didcome on, the tightly-wound Jackson led them into a slightly rearrangedversion of "Fools in Love," (from his I'm the Man album), andthen he interspersed some notable new songs ("Thugs are Us," and "Loveat First Light") with a bunch of their well known older materialincluding "One More Time," "Don't Wanna Be Like That," "Sunday Papers,"and "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" At one point, Jackson seemed tobe struggling a little with his vocals and told the crowd that he waslosing his voice due to the flu. He persevered, however, and left thecrowd cheering wildly at the end.By that time is was 1:20 AM, and although I could still hearsnippets of music coming from various venues as I walked back to mydowntown hotel, I was ready to crash. For me, the show was over. I'dheard a lot of great music, missed out on a lot of great music, drank alot of beer, ate a lot of chips and salsa, and walked so much that myfeet were killing me. All in all, a typical SXSW. I can't wait untilnext year.Last page < DayTwo < Page 1,2,3

Saturday, March 15

I started the day by heading over to the Convention Center andattending a talk given by FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein onthe topic of consolidation of media ownership. This is an issue ofimportance to musicians, because the relaxation of media ownershiprules by Congress in 1996 has resulted in a huge consolidation in theradio industry, which has adversely affected the ability of musiciansto get airplay. Adelstein said that the issue of payola is "an area ofgreat concern to us [the F.C.C]." He speculated that satellite radiomight help generate more diversity in what types of music get played."Perhaps it will challenge free over-the-air radio to be better," hesaid.

I next attended aninterview session with LyleLovett. Thesinger/songwriter/actor was questioned in a one-on-one format byTexas Monthly's Evan Smith. The soft-spoken Lovett talked abouthis early days, what he's learned as a performer ("No single badperformance will cause you to have to seek other work," he joked), andwhat he thinks about the tabloids that wrote so much about him and hisex-wife Julia Roberts. "You never realize the degree of inaccuracy [inthe tabloids] unless you're reading a story about yourself," heobserved.

The first music I heard that day was at a showcase sponsored in partby the Nashville NewMusic Conference. The bill featured several bands including Six Ways, apop-rock group from Orange County, California, who played a solidset.

Later, I made the quick jaunt across the bridge to the Town LakeStage at Auditorium Shores, where free outdoor concerts were being heldduring the evenings of SXSW. The stage was in a big grassy park righton the shores of the Colorado River, overlooking the skyline ofdowntown Austin. It was very scenic, and very crowded. In fact, becauseof tight security, there was a long, slowly moving line to get in. WhenI finally did get inside, I was able to weave my way through the largecrowd and move almost all the way up to the front of the stage.

Just starting as Iarrived were The Presidents of the United States of America,who were doing one of their first performances after a five-yearlayoff. It was as if they'd never left. The three-piece band was infine form, and the crowd was singing along with pop-punk ditties like"Lump," "Kitty," "Dune Buggy," "Peaches," and "We Are Not Going to MakeIt." Later, I spoke to "guitbassist"/vocalist Dave Dederer fromthe band who told me that The Presidents were looking to play more, andperhaps even do some recording. Hopefully, they will.