Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You're gonna miss me baby

Sometimes the events with the fewest people at SXSW are the most fun.

Thursday's noon showcase at the Park across from the Convention

Center (nicknamed Concentration Moon) did not draw many contestants

but provided more than a few delights. Hosted by New York's Bowery

Poetry Club, the gig offered attendees the chance to hear scruffy

young poets deliver gnarled observations about the New Jersey turnpike

in between some exhilarating music, especially by the outstanding

young band Fireflys, who closed their set with the dance

anthem "It's a Party."
That song could have been the theme for the week because behind every

club door, inside every parking lot, behind every chain link fence

somebody was having a party, showcase or music blast all over town. I

made my way over to the New West party but didn't stay long as the

music was less inspiring than it has been in the past and I didn't

recognize as many people as usual. South Austin beckoned. Up and down

South Congress there was one wild time after another. Hard to beat

the all day party at Yard Dog, the great art and curio shop with

bands in the back yard and free beer under the blistering hot Texas

sun. Toward the end of the day Black Joe Lewis played a transcendent

set at Yard Dog, which as usual was wall to wall people in the

backyard spilling out into the alleyway up and down the street. Lewis

is a young blues player with a great voice and an instinct for Texas

blues guitar. Working with a San Antonio-style horn section Lewis

plied his way through blues warhorses like a seasoned veteran. It's

great to see a new generation of Texas bluesmen (Gary Clark is

another) carrying the torch for this great music.
Speaking of Lewis and Clark, they were joined on the SXSW Austin

Chronicle Music cover by a real pioneer, Roky Erickson, and that same

day Roky was at the bottom of the hill at Threadgill's hosting his

ice cream social. At the end of Roky's set the crowd went wild as the

red bearded Billy Gibbons strapped on a guitar to join Roky for the

last four tunes of his set, including "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed

Dog)" and an incredible version of "You're Gonna Miss Me," songs

Gibbons knew from Roky's days leading the legendary Texas psychedelic

rockers 13th Floor Elevators.
"I told 'em I'd do it if they ley me play the electric gong solo,"

joked Gibbons, who fit into Roky's tightly-knit band like he'd been

playing with him all his life. It was really interesting to hear

Gibbons back up a harmonic line, play a fill or just accent a single

note and recognize that unmistakable tone from a million Z Z Top

records. At the finale Gibbons finally cut loose after playing the

respectful backing musician, unleashing a fearsome solo that ended

with him playing with only his left hand as he let the neck slide

down through his fingers in a showcase move.
"I've idolized Roky all my life," Gibbons later explained. "When he

was 19 I was a 16 year old following his every move. As far as his

singing goes, it's like him and Little Richard, forget the rest. When

you have a voice like that you don't realize how you're doing it, it

just comes naturally."
Gibbons was in such high spirits that he jammed again later that

night upstairs at the Continental with the Mike Flanigin B3 trio, playing Albert Collins-style blues licks while Flanigin played his B3 and Chris Layton sat in on drums. It's good to see Gibbons hanging and playing in different settings. Could it be that this Texas guitar giant is paving the way for a solo project?

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