On day three of SXSW I found myself once again orbiting the craziness of downtown Austin, a strategy that I seem to use more and more as the festival swells in size each year. Plus, Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day, so plenty of people had a good incentive to steer clear of the crowds. The area to be on Thursday was South Congress (sometimes known as “SoCo” to the throngs of tourists who fill its sidewalks).
As always, the Hotel San Jose and Jo’s Coffee played host to their own San By San Jose party in their parking lot, and walking in I was greeted with the unfamiliar but delightful sounds of Chicano Batman. Donning matching suits and ruffled shirts, the L.A. quartet managed to ignite an afternoon dance party with their signature blend of soul music. The group sets themselves apart from other neo-soul groups in the way they incorporate influences of tropicalia, pyschedelic rock, and Latin music into their own take on soul. Eleanor Friedberger would follow with a set of laid back tunes off her new album New View that seemed to fit right in with the upbeat, relaxed mood of the day.
Around the corner and through the alley a smaller crowd had gathered behind the Yard Dog art gallery, Georgia’s Tedo Stone whipped up finely crafted melodies with fuzzed out guitars. Crashing cymbals, drippy guitar, and Stone’s confident vocals made “Home To It” a standout and established the singer and his group as one of the better indie rocks at SXSW this year. Local favorites Uncle Lucius also had the audience grooving with their jammed out Americana.
The real party to be on Thursday was C Boy’s Heart & Soul where the legendary Memphis label Ardent Records held its 50th anniversary party. Glide Magazine favorites Low Cut Connie were first on deck and set a high bar for the night, if not for the whole of SXSW. The Philly group may have been tired from already playing loads of SXSW gigs all over town, but the second they hit the stage at C Boys they flipped on the switch and it was time to boogie. Pianist Adam Weiner howled, kicked and danced his way through songs like “Rio”, “Shake It Little Tina”, and “Boozophilia” while drummer Dan Finnemore injected just the right amount of punk-meets-pub rock with songs like “Dumb Boy” and “Diane”. With the roof of C Boys nearly blown off already, the Connie boys went even further with a positively rocking cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion” and a rendition of “Suffragette City” that was so over the top in both showmanship and energy that you could practically see David Bowie smiling from above.
Austin’s own Greyhounds took things in a more sensual direction with a set of funky soul and R&B perfectly suited for the crowd of dancers with the smooth as molasses vocals and organ playing of Anthony Farrell. Guitarist Andrew Trube skillfully walked the line between dirty funky grooves and downhome Texas blues, creating the kind of musical suspense that can drive a dancing crowd into a frenzy.
Bringing it all to a close was Jimmie Vaughan, who kept the whole sauced up club bouncing along with his searing blues licks. The legendary axman doesn’t need to do much besides just show up at this point, but Vaughan went all out with a band so big they barely fit on the stage. Bluesy classics were given new life with brassy flourishes and a talented crew of background singers. Vaughan enjoyed himself so much that he kept on playing for three hours non-stop, only breaking to crack a smile and exchange quick jokes with an adoring audience.
Another day of music and good times had in Austin, Texas!
Above photos by Arthur VanRooy
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Neil Ferguson will be hitting the pavement all week at SXSW. For live updates, drunk tweets, and snarky commentary of the madness, make sure you follow him on Twitter: @musicjournzo
Stay tuned to Glide Magazine for more coverage of SXSW 2016!