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SXSW: Kid Rock, Spin Party, Bob Geldof and more...
AUSTIN, Texas -- Until this year, Kid Rock had never attended the South By Southwest Music + Media conference., explaining that “It’s not really my kind of scene.”
He came to Austin this year, however – not to play himself but to be there so that others could.
True to his maverick nature, Rock hosted an unsanctioned showcase on Friday, March 18, at Austin’s Speakeasy club, which was sponsored by Jim Beam as part of its Live Music series and work with emerging artists. Fortunately the invitation-only show, co-sponsored by Pandora, was as potent as any offical showcase, kicking off with a solid set by Michigan-born singer-songwriter Ty Stone – whose debut album, “American Style,” is due out this year -- and also including slamming sets by the unsigned Nashville trio Leroy Powell and Oklahoma hard rockers Taddy Porter, who are managed by Bloomfield Hills-based Rick Smith.
“Jim Beam has gotten full-fledged behind music,” Rock said before the showcase. “They’ve taken (money) and really put it into young bands and music. They’re doing great things in music and helping out these young bands. It’s win-win with them. And it’s fun for me; I get to come, watch some great music, kind of host it…and keep moving.”
Rock did not perform but instead introduced each of the band and watched their performances from a VIP balcony, where he happily violated Austin’s no-smoking laws and was visited by guests such as late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and latter-day Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey, who was in town to perform at official South By Southwest events on Saturday, May 19.
Nice words about record companies are few and far between at South By Southwest, where those who are signed complain about what their label is not doing for the careers and those who aren’t complain about not being signed.
But Lucinda Williams voiced gratitude for her label, Lost Highway, as she closed the company’s 10th anniversary concert Friday, March 18, at ACL Live at Moody Theatre. “Thank you for always letting me make the records I want to make,” Williams said at the end of her main set.
For her final encore, meanwhile, Williams and her band played a version of Buffalo Springfield’s protest anthem “For What It’s Worth” “in honor of people out in the streets, standing up and fighting for their rights.” After the song she called for “love, peace and revolution. Power to the people!”
Spin magazine’s annual Friday party at the field behind Stubb’s Bar-B-Q is an annual highlight at South By Southwest, and this year’s event certainly held to that tradition.
With a strong lineup of new bands, a highlight came from the comparatively long-in-the-tooth Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark , who were introduced by electronic pioneer Moby as “one of the reasons I started making music.” Moby later accompanied the group’s Paul Humphreys on bass during “Souvenir,” then stayed on for a double bass attack with Andy McCluskey on “Enola Gay.” “This is the first time we’ve had more bass guitars on stage than synthesizers,” McCarthy noted. “I love it!”
The party was closed by a stirring performance by Brooklyn art rockers TV On the Radio, which previewed material from its upcoming album “Nine Types of Light,” due out April 12. The Kills did not fare as well, however; the British duo’s set was plagued by equipment problems, causing Jamie “Hotel” Hince to grumble, “This is exactly why I hate playing during the day at sponsorship parties. Come see us at night time.”
The annual Austin Music Awards don’t take place until Saturday night, March 19, but South By Southwest keynote speaker Bob Geldof received a special one early. Geldof was presented with a Groupie’s Choice plaque and was both overjoyed and not particularly humble in response. “I mean, it is why I’m here…one of the many reasons for coming to Texas, in fact, over the years,” Geldof said. “It is a fantastic thing to get, and I’ve been crowing to my pop star friends that they will never receive an award as prestigious or, in fact, as deserved.” Their response? “I get this barrage of abuse that they believe there is an elderly person’s category that I was particularly eligible for,” he notes.
All three members of R.E.M. are in Austin for South By Southwest – and were together on Friday afternoon when Peter Buck and Mike Mills played with The Baseball Project at the Ginger Man for one of the many day parties. Michael Stipe, who unveiled the Collapse Into Now Film Project on Wednesday night, March 16, attended the show but did not join his mates in performing.
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