I arrived early for the Smokey Robinson interview, and was treated to the last 2 songs of a set by Kat Edmondson. Surprisingly, I have never seen this Austin artist in person, perhaps that will change in the future. It was a great way to kick off the day.
Smokey Robinson Interview
My main goal on this morning was to catch this interview. The list of people that have had a greater impact on popular music than the
King of Motown, is very short indeed.
Fortunately, the interviewer, Dave Marsh, did a fantastic job of facilitating this session. Smokey spoke at length about every aspect of his career, starting with meeting Barry Gordy in 1958, while Smokey was waiting to enter college.
It is clear that Smokey was a formidable songwriter even at a young age, and Gordy recognized it, when they immediately cowrote a hit song. From that point on, the rest is history.
It is absolutely staggering to think about how many hit songs Smokey has written for both himself and others, and how many other artists and songwriters he has influenced. Not only is he an inductee of the Hall of Fame, but I'm sure almost every other inductee lists him as one of their major influences.
Does Rock and Roll belong in a Museum
I sat in on the first 5 minutes of this panel. It seemed like nothing more than a PR session for Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn't find much of interest here, the talk was mainly hosted by one of the curators.
Welcome to the Music Business You're Fucked - Martin Atkins
Although I have seen Martin present variations of this talk five times now, he keeps it fresh with new insight, and by constantly updating his material. This aging punker uses one of the most humorous PowerPoint decks around to evangelize his DIY gospel. If you have aspirations to be in a touring band, then you must try to see him talk.
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary Tribute
Around lunch on the previous day, I had passed Lenny White of RTF fame on the escalators in the Convention Center. Looking at the schedule, I then noticed this panel.
Lenny and several members of Miles' family including a son and a nephew were speaking. In addition, longtime, Grammy winning, producer Steve Berkowitz was also present, since he was responsible for the 40th anniversary reissue box set.
This talk was outstanding, and there were lots of great stories about the making of the first true
Fusion album, and how Miles operated. It is staggering to realize that the great fusion projects, Return to Forever, the Headhunters, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Weather Report were all spawned from this project.
The best part of this talk however was that members of Miles' family and trust were present with merchandise. They gave every attendee a t-shirt and a copy of the remastered Bitches Brew album, on CD. In addition, two prizes were given out, to people that were able to properly answer a trivia question, about Bitches Brew.
Unfortunately, I was beaten to the microphone by a drummer several rows in front of me to answer the question to name five musicians on Bitches Brew other than Miles, and Wayne Shorter. The prize was a 71 disk box set containing all of Miles' Sony Recordings. That will learn me to stand in the back of the room!
In closing, let me say that now I regret missing the Kind of Blue panel at last year's SxSW even more now. I'm also kicking myself for not bringing my Canon SD camera. After this talk I was able to speak to Lenny for a minute and took a very up close picture with my iPhone. It turned out horribly without a flash. Doh!
The NMPA Late Fee Settlement
AMF board member Chris Castle and several others, discussed the latest rulings of the Copyright Royalty board. While some might find this boring, understanding this is key to people with hopes of pursuing a career in music.
Making Money as a Songwriter in a World of Change
Like Martin Atkins, I have seen and gotten to know the Brabec twins from their previous SxSW and AMF talks. I can't say enough nice things about them.
Codeine Velvet Club
I'm not sure whether it was because of an expected increase in attendance, but a second larger day stage was setup this year, in the space used in previous years, for the SxSW trade-shows. The room was setup like a night club, and had sufficient acoustic treatments to afford a decent listening experience.
I was happy to see this, because I was somewhat distraught at the absence of the two DirecTV sound-stages on the ground floor, the Bat Cave and the Lone Star Lounge. In previous years, I had seen some exception performances there, and I was not overjoyed to discover that they had pulled out of the Conference. After 5 years, I had gotten used to this.
The new day stage however, was adequate, and the first band I saw there was Codeine Velvet Club. They were fronted by a male/female duo and had some very powerful and well performed songs. The band were all first rate musicians. The music reminded me of Joe Jackson's
Night and Day phase.
I really enjoyed their set, and regretted not being able to catch them again during the festival.
Sounds from Spain
I attended a party outside in Brushy Creek Park hosted by some Spanish based music businesses. The tent was too packed to even get a look at the band, however there was plenty of good food (paella and gazpacho) and sangria available provided you could tolerate waiting in line.
Although the music emanating from beneath the tent sounded great, I was unable to get a good view of the stage. Fortunately, I would get to hear one of the artists, Amaral, the next day inside the convention center.
Sharon Van Etten
I started the night at St. Davids, one of my favorite venues during SxSW because of the listening experience. Sharon was a young singer/songwriter from Brooklyn. She accompanied herself on electric guitar, but her real strength was her vocals. Her voice was amazing, and it was a treat to hear it presented in this room.
I must confess to developing a music crush during her performance. This is saying a lot for a Jazz head like me, if you know how I usually feel about singers.
On the way to the Elephant Room, I stopped in at the Driscoll to see what was going on there. I was surprised to see a packed room, intently listening to singer/songwriter, Citizen Cope, from Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I got there just in time to hear the last 2 verses, of the last song in the set.
As fate would have it, I got to hear more of him the following day.
The next stop was the Elephant Room, with South African fluitist, Wouter Kellerman. He fronted are really nice ensemble playing a style of Jazz with a heavy world music flavor added in.
The band and the sound were great, and I was able to take it all in while sipping on a nicely chilled pint of Ace Perry.
1001 Nights Orchestra
Following the Elephant Room, I continued down Congress to the Copa to catch this quartet playing Middle Eastern music. Given the genre, I allowed myself an exception to my no Austin band rule ;)
The 4 piece band consisted of a percussionist, an accordionist, a clarinet player (who also played other reed woodwinds), and the leader of the band, who was Persian, and played a variety of Middle Eastern string instruments. For their set, this ensemble played their first a song in a time signature, of 2 beats per measure. With each successive song, they incremented the time signature by one (to 3, and so on), finishing up 45 minutes later with something in 11.
The songs were a mix of Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Russian folk songs. They were performed admirably, but I felt the percussionist was a bit off at times, and surprisingly had the most trouble playing in 4.
I would have liked to have heard more, since they announced a Persian New Years day celebration at Central Market the next day. I guess I'll have to wait, because I was not about to leave SxSW (and more importantly lose my parking).
I swung by Buffalo Billiards to catch this singer/pianist do his thing. He was a great singer, and seemed to have attracted a large crowd. I enjoyed the two songs that I listened to, but was trying to make my way back towards Red River for some later shows, so I left.
I penciled this band in because they were from my home state of Maryland. Let me just say, I left halfway through their second song. I'll leave it at that.
On my way to the 18th Floor of the Hilton Garden, I stopped first at the Creekside Lounge on the Ground Floor. Unlike previous years, there was a full stage and much improved sound system.
Bobby Long, a London based singer/songwriter was performing. He definitely had the right stuff, and a very powerful voice to deliver it with. I enjoyed his set and considered staying put for the other acts, but decided to stick with my original plan.
I heard the tail end of the last song for this Irish singer. I didn't really hear enough to make a judgement one way or the other.
The Chapin Sisters
This Los Angeles based act normally consists of 2 of Harry Chapin's daughter, plus a third member who is a half sister (and daughter of Wes Craven). Jessica Craven however, is presently on maternity leave, leaving Abigail and Lily Chapin to perform as a duet.
Vocal harmonies were on display in a big way, and it is apparent that the apple did not fall too far from the tree in this case. The time went by way too fast, and I really enjoyed the set.
Towards the end of their set, they were joined on stage by the next performer, Harmon Simon.
Harmon is an LA based singer/songwriter who plays lap steel. Like the previous act, he has a famous musical father, Paul Simon. I enjoyed his set immensely, as well.