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From SXSW: A Selection Of Musical Highlights

of the Oakland Press

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AUSTIN, Texas -- "I don't know how you have the ears to listen to music anymore," Ben Thornewill, singer and pianist for Philadelphia's Jukebox the Ghost, told the crowd at Antone's nightclub on Saturday (March 20).

It was a fair comment on the final major night of this year's South By Southwest Music + Media Conference.

For four days thousands of attendees rocked with more than 2,000 acts at official showcases and a dizzying array of day parties, in parks and at music and book stores, even on boats lazing down the portion of the Colorado River that locals call Town Lake. A little bit of aural burnout is to be expected.

But it doesn't happen. SXSW is music nirvana, often referred to as spring break for the industry, with a healthy fair of just plain fans along for the ride. There's no way to see everything, of course, but here's some favorite musical moments from this year's conference...

* Playing after Jukebox the Ghost and on the same bill as Saturday's emotional tribute to the late Alex Chilton, veteran Oklahoma rocker Dwight Twilley blew the roof of Antone's with a high-volume, high-octane "rock like hell" set that included a new song, "God Didn't Do It," along with favorites such as "Runnin' ," "Girls" and "I'm On Fire." Susan Cowsill on backing vocals was an added value.

* Rachael Ray's third annual Feedback party on Saturday -- this time open to the public at the Stubb's BBQ complex -- remained the best day party smorgasboard of music at SXSW. Some 18 acts played on four stages, with strong sets by Jakob Dylan & Three Legs (including Neko Case and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals), Bob Schneider, the typically rowdy Andrew WK, J. Roddy Walston & the Business and Street Sweeper Social Club, who dished out covers of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" and LL Cool J's "Mama Says Knock You Out" along with their originals. The Cringe, featuring Ray's husband John Cusimano, also performed while Matthew McConaughey introduced reggae singer Mishka, who records for the Austin-based actor's j.k. livin' label. And while Zooey Deschanel of She & Him complained that the cold didn't allow her to show the crowd the "very nice outfit" that was covered by an overcoat, her band did well, too.

* British art rockers Muse showed they could be masterful in a stripped-down form with its Friday night (March 19) performance SXSW. A week after its opulent show played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the group played a more bare-boned show at Stubbs, a late-announced date that became the hot ticket of SXSW. Muse did bring its lasers -- which it used to good effect on several songs, piercing the field and illuminating the trees at the back of the venue -- but the focus was on the band's playing, which brought out a looseness not evidenced at the Palace as the group appended "The Star Spangled Banner" onto "Resistance" and a bit of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" riff to "Hysteria." Noting it was his band's first time ever at SXSW, frontman Matthew Bellamy noted that "you can feel the good vibes" -- and the feeling was mutual.

* Metric, which opened for Muse, also delivered a killer set and particularly charged versions of "Dead Disco" and "Stadium Love."

* With three shows, SXSW was something of a launch pad for Courtney Love's new edition of her band, Hole. Starting at a Spin magazine party on Friday (March 19) afternoon, Love was equal parts rocker and raconteur -- engaged in the music and whip-smart with her mouth, dissing Perez Hilton, Bret Michaels and nine inch nails' Trent Reznor as she offered a generous sampling of material from "Nobody's Daughter," due out April 27 and the first new Hole album in 12 years. Hole and company also covered the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil" and Big Star's "Thirteen."

* Speaking of Hilton, the celebrity blogger's annual One Night in Austin Party on Saturday (March 20) was chaotic on the outside as fans waited impatiently to get inside and rocking on the inside thanks to a formidable music lineup. Hole closed the night after sets by Estelle, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray -- who covered Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" and Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" -- and Southfield's Mike Posner, among others. Hilton did apologize to those who couldn't get in and promised a bigger venue in 2011.

* Stone Temple Pilots launched their latest tour and the campaign for their first new album in nine years with a Thursday fiery (March 18) performance at the Austin Music Hall. After schmoozing the industry at a listening party that afternoon, the quartet -- which plays March 31 at the Fillmore Detroit -- pounded through an 80-minute set that featured four of the new songs -- including the first single, "Between the Lines" -- and a slew of much-loved hits such as "Vasoline," Wicked Garden," "Big Empty," "Creep," "Plush" and "Sex Type Thing." The Doors' Robbie Krieger, in town to promote a new documentary about his band, joined for an encore rendition of "Road House Blues."

* The Kinks' Ray Davies played a nostalgic and chatty 90-minute set on Thursday (March 18) at La Zona Rosa. After an acoustic hour, during which he joined the legion of SXSW artists paying tribute to the late Alex Chilton, Davies brought the Los Angeles band The 88 on stage to rock through "You Really Got Me," "David Watts," "Celluloid Heroes," Dead End Street," "Low Budget" and a show-closing "Lola."

* The British sextet Scars on 45 hinted that its debut album was taking longer than expected but gave reason to wait with a set of compelling melodic songs under a heated tent Saturday (March 20) in Brush Park for the Atlantic/Chop Shop label day party.

* Drive-By Truckers rocked the IFC Crossroads House on Wednesday (March 17) with a five-song set drawn entirely from the Southern rockers' new album, including "This F***ing Job," "(It's Gonna Be) I Told You So" and "The Wig He Made Her Wear."

* British hard rock trio Band of Skull stopped foot traffic on San Jacinto as its six-song set thundered out of the open windows of Latitude on Thursday (March 18) to close the British Music Embassy's Happy Hour party. Overcoming an equipment buzz early in the set, the group ran through its U.K. singles "I Know What I Am" and "Death By Diamonds and Pearls," along with album tracks "Bomb," "Impossible," "Patterns" and "Light of the Morning." Curiously absent -- "Friends," the group's contribution to "The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack." It wasn't missed

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