SXSW rolls on and the days gets longer and the nights shorter (or is it the other way around?) Friday began as a sprint and finished up as a forced march but I wouldn't have it any other way. After one last glimpse at the trade show (slim pickings this year -- I only landed two pens and how many damn key chains can one person use?) it was on to Stubb's and the Spin party. Having gotten my start writing for the underground press I always liked SXSW for the fact that it was sponsored by the nation's alternative publications, but the end of print journalism is bearing right down on us and as much as I hate it it's nice to know it was fun while it lasted. The SXSW bag had a copy of the soon to be disappeared No Depression magazine and with Harp going down as well there may soon come a time when there will be no place you can read a 10,000 word piece on Death Cab for Cutie without a single Vivian Stanshall reference in it. Well he's gone too (dammit) and soon so will the rest of us but what is making me write this way? Could it be that relentless Texas sun, those vultures hovering over me? Oh, those are just those talking talking heads again telling everyone how exciting and fabulous it all is. Time for a plate of brisket, then a retreat to South Austin, where a seat at the bar in the cool, cool Continental Club waits for me and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is buying the Tecate. Oh yeah, I didn't stick around the Spin party for this year's buzz band, Vampire Weekend, but nobody had anything good to say about them (could they be history even before the release of their debut album?) so I am happy with the decision to beat the heat in the Continental crypt. And, as it turns out, watching the cream of New Orleans music in action (at least at first), the coming-into-his-own Glen David Andrews, who is catching up to cousin Trombone Shorty and already past cousin James Andrews, the great songwriter Paul Sanchez and New Orleans' newest queen of song, Susan Cowsill, whose magnificent voice won her Female Vocalist of the year award at OffBeat's Best of the Beat awards, and when you can beat out Irma Thomas for such an honor you ain't just whistling "Dixie." Susan sang her own stuff then was joined by her older brothers for a Cowsills reunion (one of several during SXSW) to sing "Hair," a delight hard to categorize, especially to hear New Orleans' queen of song recapitulate her six-year-old comic cameo singing "spaghetti!" Demonstrating that even great progamming has its limitations some execrable group followed, a band so bad they must be related to Ray Nagin or managed by a Jazzfest organizer in order to have been included on the bill. Thankfully I have blanked this awful group's name from my memory and replaced it with the gleaming vision of an icy cold Tecate, which was still coming across the bar gratis at this point. No less a dignitary than Augie Meyers had joined me at said bar, although Augie was drinking tequila. Augie was in good spirits condemning the internet as the anti-Christ, telling political jokes and congratulating his son Clay for having the sense to get out of the music business. Thankfully Augie himself was less inclined to take that route, having set himself up pretty well in his beloved San Antonio with the occasional foray here and there to play that amazing Vox Continental organ sound. And of course, accordion. When I told him I'd been hanging with Billy Gibbons Augie said "Billy told me that 'Hey Baby Que Paso' is the national anthem of Texas!" Apparently they've met. We raised a toast to the recently departed Rocky Morales, tenor god of the San Antonio horns, and Augie updated me on the whereabouts of Joe "King" Carrasco, who is living and working in Mexico. "I got a call from Joe saying 'Come on down, I have 500 fifty dollar gigs!'," Augie related. "I told him 'Get me one $500 gig and I'll be there'." Augie was playing later that night at Jovita's with the Krayolas.
The Iguanas were up next to play the Continental's happy hour and the latest configuration of this great group had it Tex-Mex R&B chops down. It wasn't even dark and the night was already in full, full swing.
After a visit to the annual SXSW party thrown by Cory Moore at his restoration museum for priceless antique cars, the South Austin Speed Shop, it was on to Jovita's for the Krayolas, the San Antonio-based britpop band that took over where the Sir Douglas Quintet left off. One of Doug Sahm's greatest albums, a tribute to San Antonio's west side, was titled The Return of Doug Saldana, an iconic title. Though Krayolas leaders Hector and David Saldana were obviously not on Doug's mind when he made that classic, they are keeping the name alive. This reunion, with Augie sitting in on organ, was jaw droppingly amazing, all the bright, melodic power of Britpop combined with the twang, fuzz and sustain of Texas rock & roll played by a two guitar quartet. In addition to their own outstanding originals (check out Best Riffs Only on Box records) the Krayolas own the distinction of being the only live band I've heard play both Beatles and Dave Clark Five songs in the same set (the Radiators have done Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers in the same set which is also pretty amazing).
The Krayolas were so great that Shawn Sahm and the Tex-Mex Experience, good as they were, could not reach the same intensity level in the following set. No shame there because the Krayolas are my new favorite band.
I tempted fate by returning to the Continental for the playout of the Ponderosa Stomp showcase. Though I caught a good portion of Michael Hurtt and the Haunted Hearts' set, Kenny and the Kasuals were a disappointing finale, one of the very few times the Stomp has let me down. But I was satisfied and walked back over the hill to South Lamar with the strains of the Krayolas rocking my mind.