SXSW Day 2: Toro Y Moi, The Civil Wars, The Baseball Project, Bob Geldof, Vandaveer, Abigail Washburn, Charles Bradley, Ron Sexsmith and Surfer Blood, Thursday, March 17
22:30 After a slice (only the second of the week), I make it to Klub Krucial to join Adam Duritz (no, I don't know why he's here) in catching the last song by LA band Romany Rye, who pull off the Whiskeytown rock expertly and soulfully. Wish I'd arrived sooner, but perhaps I'll hear a full set somewhere tomorrow.
23:05 Nowhere to go, really, before heading to Stubb's, I have another skimpy and over-priced vodka tonic and give young British pixie Ellie Goulding a chance. Apparently London adores her, but there isn't even a there anywhere near her vibrato-strained voice and slight songs. My theory that the Brit press is not to be trusted when it comes to singer-songwriters receives further confirmation.
23:30 The crowd for TV on the Radio is late in arrival so I slip in easily to Stubb's to hear Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band. Who? You're right to ask only if you haven't been following the Daptone records release schedule. Bradley's No Time For Dreaming is a heavy suite of straight-up, high drama soul from the New York label. The rediscovered singer is ecstatic to be on the Stubb's stage; he let's an appreciative audience know as much, with repeated calls of "I love you!" and repeated spins, splits, collapses and down-on-his-knees wailings and weepings. Christ, he's amazing. Kay Clary (Senior Director of Media Relations at BMI) stands beside me, overcome with the power of this performance. "He looks like Percy Sledge and sings like James Brown," she says. Yes, and the band is unflagging and supple, all the way through a concise set that includes a revelatory reworking of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." I'll see more performances at SXSW this week. I won't see anything more real.
00:34 With time to kill before Surfer Blood closes out the night at the Warner Bros. party, I slip into the Bedford showcase at the Hilton Creekside to hear the last two songs of Ron Sexsmith's solo acoustic set. The room is full and Sexsmith, as always, sounds dreamy and deep, his voice ageless, his temperament generous. It feels great to sit down for the first time in five hours.
01:07 West Palm Beach, Florida rock band Surfer Blood has been playing every 4 hours or so for the last three days in Austin. That's clear, and not because the band sounds tired or jaded. To the contrary, John Paul Pitts and company sound extremely tight and extremely happy to be turning up their vintage amps and dual, Television-esque guitar lines, as drummer Tyler Schwarz atomic clocks the shit out of his snare. Pitts twirled and teased the apron and climbed on top of a teetering stack of speakers for one last solo of the night. Sometimes even post-buzzy bands can genuinely bring it.