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Posts Tagged ‘Austin Music Hall’

SXSW 2010

We just wrapped up another year of SXSW, and wow was it a wild ride, as usual!

For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair, world premier, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleFor the Sake of the Song:  The Story of Anderson Fair premiered at the historic Paramount Theater on the opening day of SXSW music festival.  This documentary tells the story of one of Texas’ oldest and most significant live music venues, the iconic Anderson Fair in Houston, with interviews and archival footage of many of the musicians that have performed there in its forty year history. Legendary musicians like Gurf Morlix, Nancy Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Carolyn Hester, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Slaid Cleaves, and Townes Van Zandt have all played there and are included in the documentary.  This film contributes a significant piece of the story about the history and evolution of live music in Texas.

Probably the biggest highlight of SXSW for me was NPR’s showcase at Stubb’s opening night of the music festival.  It was hard to top this lineup, and while I experienced a feast of amazing music the rest of the week, I was still riding high on the wave created by Wednesday night at Stubb’s.

That night, one of the biggest revelations for me was The Walkmen.  I was not very familiar with their music before I saw them live, and inspired by their show, I went home and purchased a bunch of their music which has been in heavy rotation here at the world headquarters of ever since.  The Walkmen do not disappoint, in fact, chances are they will totally blow you away with their melancholy melodies, substantive lyrics, and soaring vocals.  I particularly love how frontman Hamilton Leithauser steps back from the mic and gives his band plenty of room to flesh out the amazing instrumental parts of their songs.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleSharon Jones & the Dap Kings live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings followed with an epic performance.  I’ve seen them three times now, and each performance is a unique experience to behold.  Sharon Jones is a spectacular vocalist and performer, her dance moves evoke the spirit of James Brown, and the Dap Kings bring the funky soulshine like few others.  Led by Bosco Mann, this group is unbelievably tight, they can – and often do – turn on a dime while leaving plenty of space for Jones to do her thing.  They dance the fine line between sophisticated complexity and simple elegance, and they do it with loads of style.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings are the most well known group off the Daptone Records label which is co-owned by Dap King bandleader Bosco Mann and tenor saxophonist Neal Sugarman.  Every single album released on Daptone is well worth your time – and if you are a vinyl enthusiast and funky soul lover as much as I am, I highly recommend getting every Daptone LP and 45 you can get your hands on!!  Seriously!  I am particularly fond of the releases by Sugarman Three, Poets of Rhythm, and Naomi Shelton.  I also have to give a shout out to Dap Kings guitarist Binky Griptite who produces the Ghetto Funk Power Hour radio show which is included in some of the Sharon Jones deluxe cd packages.   He is smart, hilarious, and brings the deep funk back with impeccable class and style.  Check it out!

James Mercer and Dangermouse of Broken Bells live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleBritt Daniel of Spoon live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Next up was Broken Bells, the recent collaboration between The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse.  I was anticipating this show more than any other.  Their first single, The High Road, has been in regular rotation on KUT, my favorite local radio station, for what seems like months, and I went out and bought the LP as soon as it came out the week before SXSW.  I wondered if the atmosphere of the studio recording could be captured in a live performance.  There is a lot going on instrumentally and vocally, and the seven piece live band certainly delivered.  The complexity of the aural landscape that Mercer and Danger Mouse create comes through brilliantly in the live performance.  The band performed their entire debut album, set to a moody, dark video projection that created a totally engrossing experience of the music.

Austin’s own Spoon headlined the opening night’s showcase.  To be honest, I didn’t stay for much of their show.  I took a few photos (I’m glad I stuck around to do so, one of them was chosen for the cover of SXSWorld magazine!) and then headed off to an after hours party some of my favorite rockstar friends were throwing.  Regardless, Spoon is riding high in the wake of their seventh and most recent release, Transference, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200.  Austin is proud to call them our own.

Jakob Dylan live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleCourtyard Hounds live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleDiane Birch live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleThe BoDeans live at Auditorium Shores, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

I saw a lot of other great shows the next few days, including the Thursday night showcase at La Zona Rosa with John Hiatt, The 88, Ray Davies, and Roky Erickson with Ockerville River.  Friday, I was pleased to see Diane Birch again at the Day Stage Café.   I loved her sound and presence the first time I saw her at Stubb’s back in August of last year, and her performance at the Day Stage reaffirmed my very positive initial impressions.  She opened for a sweet lineup that included Citizen Cope, Courtyard Hounds (the recent formulation of Dixie Chicks members Martie Maguire and Emily Robison), and Jakob Dylan.  All of these performances were great in their own right.  Jakob Dylan’s songwriting ability has become particularly impressive, and his band is top notch and even included Neko Case on backing vocals.  I then made it on over to Auditorium Shores to check out the BoDeans.  Austin’s own Bukka Allen plays keys and accordion with them, and they definitely put on a hell of a show.

Raphael Saadiq live at Austin Music Hall, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleLater that night, I saw another festival highlight, a showcase at the Austin Music Hall that included Austin’s Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Raphael Saadiq, Smoky Robinson, and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings.  Raphael Saadiq is one amazing performer who stands out even amongst the tremendous talents with whom he shared the bill.  On a somewhat tangential note, I’m very happy to report that there is still plenty of orange and yellow confetti from the Flaming Lips show that is stuck in the rafters at the Austin Music Hall.  Every so often, a big booming bass sound will dislodge a few pieces and come floating down into the unsuspecting crowd.  The magic from that show continues to live on…

As always, there is a plethora of high quality unofficial SXSW shows.  Among the best this year was Music Fog’s multi-day showcase at Threadgill’s.  Among my new favorites who performed there are two young musicians and songwriters that ought to be on your radar, Sahara Smith and David Beck.  Sahara’s debut album, produced by T. Bone Burnett, will be released in August.  In the meantime, she and her band (Jake Owen on guitar, Will Sexton on bass and guitar, and Mike Meadows on drums and percussion) are building their fan base while opening for the likes of Los Lonely Boys and Mason Jennings.  David Beck’s debut album, Grand Island, is due for release in the next couple of weeks.  You can see him weekly here in Austin at his Wednesday night residency at the Saxon Pub.  Music Fog also featured a bunch of our longtime local favorites like Guy Forsyth, Carrie Rodriguez, Gurf Morlix, Ray Bonneville, Joe Ely, Asylum Street Spankers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and a slew of others.  Be sure and keep up with the fine folks over at Music Fog, you can bet that if they’re in on it, it’s got to be good!

I also had a great time at Leeann Atherton’s Full Moon Barn Dance, what better way to come down from ten sleep deprived days of SXSW than with this long standing South Austin tradition.  The lineup included one of my favorite Austin-based musicians, Ray Bonneville (with Mike Meadows on percussion).  Ray’s groove is earthy, often uplifting, sometimes dark, and always takes me on a journey that I don’t want to end.  Be sure and check out our video footage of Ray and Mike from that show, I know you’ll be hooked on his groove as much as we are!

Ray Bonneville w/ Mike Meadows, Who’s that Talkin to Me from AustinLiveMusic.Org on Vimeo.

Last year, we caught up with Mike Meadows at the Austin artist showcase at Momo’s where he was performing with his band, porterdavis.  SXSW 2009 marked the official launch of his Black Swan drum, and things have really taken off for him in what seems like no time at all.  In addition to the Black Swan drum, he and co-inventor Eric Holland have created a number of innovative designs for other percussion instruments like a cajon with replaceable strings, a variable shaker that you can easily change the sound of by replacing the stuff inside, and a stomp box that can also be mounted on a stand and played with hands and drumsticks.  Everything these guys dream up is innovative, versatile, elegant, and impeccably handcrafted by Eric Holland.  You can find Mike playing the Black Swan with porterdavis, Ray Bonneville, Sahara Smith, and occasionally with the BoDeans when they do acoustic shows.  Mike is most definitely one of Austin’s very bright rising stars, and we at are looking forward to sitting down with him later in April to talk about everything he’s up to.  Stay tuned for our interview with Mike Meadows and other very special guests in the coming weeks and months.Simon Wallace, Dan Barrett, and Mike Meadows of porterdavis, March 2010, Austin Texas, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See more of Laura Lea’s SXSW 2010 photos here.

Watch video footage from some of the shows discussed in this review here.

Written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved.


Flaming Lips rock the roof off Austin

Austin, Texas, March 13, 2010

Flaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Flaming Lips rock the roof off Austin on the eve of SXSW music festival.  I have to wonder if these guys ever have a bad show.  With all the balloons and confetti and Wayne Coyne crowd surfing in a giant hamster ball, I seriously doubt it.  But all these awesomely outrageous spectacles would feel empty if they were not backed by the great music, joyous presence, and spiritual depth of the Flaming Lips.

Their production design and stage setup is pretty damn cool.  The show starts with a massive video projection of a brightly colored animated woman giving birth to rainbow light.  From this light, each band member appears through a door that opens in the center of the birth canal, walks down a long ramp, and takes their place on stage.  Then Wayne appears inside a giant hamster ball that is blown up and rolled out onto the audience.  He is clad in his signature grey suit and walks over the crowd like a god walking on water.  What ensues is pure, unadulterated joy with orange and yellow confetti falling from the sky, dozens of giant balloons bouncing off of everything in all directions, and lasers reflecting off a giant disco ball that is suspended from the ceiling.

All the fun is not without more solemn moments.  Wayne prefaces “Waitin’ for a Superman” by telling the audience about a friend of his who recently committed suicide.  He says, “If we wait for happiness to arrive, well, it just might not ever come.  We have to make our own happiness.”  And this is indicative of the bigger work the Flaming Lips are doing.  Through their music and live performance, they are opening people up and giving them an experience of joy that can be called upon in darker moments.  I got the distinct impression that Wayne cares for the happiness of every individual in the audience, invested in helping everyone turn on their light and shine more brightly.  One of their t-shirts said it best, “I experienced the Flaming Lips in concert, and it made me a better human being.”  Indeed, their music transcends itself and is a thing to be experienced, and that experience is powerful and transformative and can make us better people.

Wayne wraps up the set by giving a blessing to the audience, “May we all think in peace, work in peace, be in peace,” and then he plays Taps on a bugle.  The Flaming Lips leave the stage and then come back for a two song encore including “The Difference Between Us” and “Do you Realize,” complete with more orange and yellow confetti.  The audience overflows with joy and makes their way back out into the world as better human beings for having experienced the Flaming Lips in concert.

Flaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleFlaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See Laura Lea’s (holy epic Flaming Lips photos, batman!) full gallery of photos from the show here.

written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved.


Help Austin help Haiti Benefit

The Flatlanders live at the Austin Music Hall, Help Austin Help Haiti Benefit, January 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleKelly Willis & Bruce Robison live at the Austin Music Hall, Help Austin Help Haiti Benefit, January 2010, photo by Laura Lea NallePatricia Vonne live at the Austin Music Hall, Help Austin Help Haiti Benefit, January 2010, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See Laura Lea’s entire Haiti Benefit gallery here.


Etta James

Austin, Texas, April 27, 2009

Etta James live at the Austin Music Hall, April 2009, photo by Laura Lea NalleEtta James live at the Austin Music Hall, April 2009, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Etta James, the 71 year old legendary soul singer performed this past Friday at the Austin Music Hall.  James, a three time Grammy Award winner with two songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and a 2002 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, commanded the crowd’s attention with a combination of her electrifying personality, raunchy stage antics, thinly veiled sexual innuendo, and saucy banter.  The star, who needed to be helped on and off stage, took swigs of cognac in between every song, and at the end of her set ranted “Beyonce!  Beyonce!”

James, backed by the great Roots Band which includes two of her sons, opened with “Come to Mama,” leaning back in her swivel chair in between verses to strike suggestive poses and feel herself up.  The crowd roared wildly, a mixture of laughter, cheers, and gasps of disbelief.  Towards the end of her set, James performed “Take Another Piece of my Heart,” made famous by Janis Joplin.  The crowd sang the chorus with her, and a number of people in the audience got up from their chairs and danced in the aisles.  James encored with the obligatory performance of “At Last,” her trademark song.

There were moments when James’ legendary soaring and warm vocals shone through brilliantly, the vibrato of her contralto voice commanding cheers from the crowd.  But there were also moments when James’ voice seemed harsh around the edges, lacking the complexity and warmth we have come to know from some of her better recordings and performances.

I have to confess, even though I’ll probably get in all kinds of trouble for coming out and saying so, but Etta James’ performance left me rather unsatisfied.  Her performance lasted just under an hour, ending just as it seemed she and the crowd were getting warmed up.  Her set list omitted some of her most notable songs, and her presence on stage seemed contrived and unnecessarily explicit, to the point of distracting from her music.

James is a notoriously complex character with a long history of personal and professional ups and downs, surviving a very long drug addiction on one end of the spectrum and releasing some of the best songs in the American blues and soul catalogues on the other end.  In spite of delivering a performance that left many people wanting, she deserves nothing less than her legendary status and garnering great respect even from a less than fully satisfying performance.

See the full gallery of Etta James photos here.

written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved