Legendary Los Angeles punk band X authoritatively declared that they could still rock hard after 31 years together. I caught them twice and the band pounded through both shows without a set list. The band merely called out out songs that captured their mood and responded to audience requests. Their influence on modern rock is profound – I stood next to Twangville fave Sarah Borges during the first show that I saw; Spoon’s Britt Daniel during the second show.
These four guys from Columbus Ohio clearly came to rock. The power chords and pop hooks flew from the opening song and continued as the band tore through an adrenaline-fueled set. Watershed are, hands down, one of the most impressive power pop bands around.
You get a taste of Stonehoney’s energy and enthusiasm when you listen to their music. Seeing them live, however, gives you a much deeper appreciation of their talents. Guitarist Shawn Davis revels as the ring-leader, bouncing around the stage while Phil Hurley demonstrates his prowess on guitar. Best of all, the rich harmonies that glimmer on their records are just as magical in their live show.
Audio Download: Million Pretty Girls
I got to Arthur’s Friday night 1:00am set a bit late and was forced to sneak in a back door to catch the end of the set. It was well worth it as Arthur’s songs have an intensity that is all the more captivating in a live setting. Accompanied primarily by his acoustic guitar and the occasional assistance of a female back-up singer, Arthur highlighted several tracks from his just released ep and also took a few audience requests.
Audio Download: Rages of Babylon
[Source: Joseph Arthur]
Thorn is one of the most engaging performers around, a distinctive personality with a razor sharp wit. Set him loose in front of his crack band and the joint gets jumping with his Southern-tinged rock and roll.
Audio Download: A Long Way From Tupelo
Finn rivaled Nada Surf and the Raveonettes for the title of most active performer during SXSW. Backed by vocalist and auto-harp player EJ Barnes and a collection of loops and electronic gadgets, Finn was a musical force as he re-created the complex Beatles-esque pop of his solo release. It was hard not to be impressed by his energy as he jumped back and forth between guitar and drums.
Justin Townes Earle
The temperature hit the mid-90s on Friday afternoon but Earle and his band of country gentlemen still wore suits for the Bloodshot Records outdoor showcase. The traditionalist approach carried through to their performance, a rousing honky-tonk set that brought the Grand Old Opry to Austin for a few minutes.
The Right Ons
Spain’s Right Ons brought the party with a groovin’ set of garage rock with a healthy dose of Detroit rhythm and blues.
Audio Download: Do Your Thing Babe
Indie faves Nada Surf drew a healthy crowd wherever they went in Austin. I caught a mid-day show at a small club so crowded that I couldn’t see the stage. It hardly mattered as the band’s delicate angst-filled pop songs permeated the room.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.