CD sales have been plummeting but the popularity of the music conference South By Southwest is going up. More than 13,000 music fans purchased badges or wristbands to attend the festival. That’s an 11 percent increase and that doesn’t include anyone who paid for admission to one of the myriad of shows from Wednesday through Saturday in Austin.
They say everything is big in Texas and it was reflected in the capital city. Nearly 2000 recording artists from 55 countries played official SXSW shows.
There was comedy (Margaret Cho, Eugene Mirman and Courtney Love’s Hole) and tragedy (Alex Chilton passed away before a slated Big Star performance). There were also more independent recording artists than one could count.
Indie performers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. One of the best such entertainers, Smokey Robinson checked in at 70. The Motown legend, who is on his own in terms of label support, was showcasing just like the unknown acts trying to bend an ear at the conference.
Those who catch Robinson on the casino circuit in Atlantic City know he can still belt out the classics but the hipsters, who checked him out on an outstanding bill with the underheralded Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Raphael Saadiq and the inspired Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, were taken aback by a wonderful performance Friday night at the Austin Music Hall.
Stone Temple Pilots thrilled fans at the same venue 24 hours earlier. The reunited act previewed cuts from its forthcoming album, which is slated for May. Of course, STP rolled out its many arena rock hits as well. Say what you will about vocalist Scott Weiland. The oft troubled frontman moves and acts like a rock star, which is sorely missed in this ordinary man takes the stage era.
Rock star and troubled also perfectly describes the aforementioned Courtney Love. She and her band, which includes no original members of Hole, save Mrs. Kurt Cobain, previewed material from the band’s first new disc in a dozen years, ‘Nobody’s Daughter.’ A couple of vintage cuts were also included.
Love was hilarious during her band’s headlining appearance at the Spin Party at Stubb’s on Friday.
Love made light of aging hair-metalist Bret Michaels and was her disagreeable self. “We’re Hole, whether you like it or not.”
Nothing has changed after all these years regarding Love. That’s a good thing for fans. She is as entertaining and quote-worthy as ever.
The death of the legendary Chilton, who led the Box Tops, Big Star and influenced many musicians, put an understandable damper on the festival. Chilton, 59, died of an apparent heart attack on Saint Patrick’s Day but his music lived on Saturday night at Antone’s. Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, vocalist-guitarists Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow and a number of others performed in the memory of Chilton. The most heartfelt moment came at the end of the set when Stephens took the microphone to talk about his friend of 40-plus years.
Best local band performance goes to Circa Survive, which delivered a spirited performance at Emo’s during a day party Saturday.
The poor guys also played a Saturday night show at Stubb’s. The problem was that a cold-front hit Austin and it was 20 degrees colder in Austin than Philadelphia. Quite a few folks never left their hotels Saturday night due to the chill. However, judging by the numbers and Austin’s venue loaded Sixth street, SXSW was hotter than ever.
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