Sauced In Austin 2009: Wednesday, 3-18-09

A view of Downtown Austin

A view of Downtown Austin

We meet again, Austin. 🙂 This year was second year in attendance of the SXSW music festival, and I couldn’t be more excited. With too many bands to see on the agenda, it was “get off the plane, drop the bag, grab the cam and GO.”

First stop: Maggie Mae’s… to see Cut Off Your Hands (http://www.myspace.com/cutoffyourhands) from New Zealand. The place was positively JAMMED. Nowhere to be without being completely compressed against the folks around you. After flying in that morning I was a little crabby (and tired… I was awake at around 4am in order to get to the airport on time), but there’s nothing that a giant CUP of Dewars won’t fix. LOL. Thinking it was something else I took a big swig of the glass that was handed to me. Won’t be doing that again. Thank you, Chris Pinto.

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(Above: Cut Off Your Hands)

Cut Off Your Hands put on a fantastic show, and I dug the sounds. At times, they had this Beatlesy/Stoogesy kind of feel to them, which I enjoyed. Bands that play well and can physically rock out always win my photographer heart. Instantaneously they got the crowd going and they were really fun to watch. Check out the pics!

After Cut Off Your Hands finished, we headed over to some pizza joint looking for a slice. “Best Pizza in Austin,” the sign read. Um, yeah, no. Not at all. I don’t know what these people thought pizza was supposed to be but this was NOT good at all. At $7 per slice we sort of expected something halfway edible. Spoiled by the NY style pizza here, I should have opted for a burger or BBQ instead. Oh well, lesson learned.

Next, we headed over to Peckerheads to see what probably was my FAVORITE show of the whole festival. With SXSW, you just never know what you’re going to discover. After learning during my first trip to Austin that many of the bands that play night shows often play day shows as well, I was excited to find such a great lineup in the early afternoon. Who would have known?

Pete and the Pirates at Peckerhead's

Pete and the Pirates

First up was Pete and the Pirates (http://www.myspace.com/peteandthepirates). Jon and Chris Pinto are usually my go-to sources for what’s good on the English rock tip. These guys were on their list, and I’m glad I listened. Catchy, poppy, sing-songy… really, really great. The singer sort of had a Killers-esque monotone delivery at times but don’t let that dissuade you… keep listening. They’ll eventually hook you in. The venue was this cavernous stone building with old wooden floors – kind of like a barn or something. I dug the place, and the lights were really moody. Check out the pics from Pete and the Pirates!

Next was The Cheek (formerly Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds), another Brit band. These boys completely stole my heart (“In just one night, just one night, you got a hold on me, you got a hold on me…” Check their single JUST ONE NIGHT). Everything I love about British rock/pop was all rolled up in this band. Holy cow, these guys are so good. Catchy melodic hooks that make you stomp your feet and clap your hands, blended with fuck-it-all rock outs, I completely fell in love. The worst thing about this band was that I only caught them once. Despite their announcing other gigs in Austin, their Myspace page didn’t have their schedule up, and so after we left Peckerheads, unfortunately they became the elusive prize that I wasn’t able to find again whilst in Austin. With only a few recorded songs to promote themselves, I was left hungry for more. Rather, STARVING.  SOOO FREAKING GOOD!!!!

The Cheek

The Cheek

What I also loved about The Cheek was that they gave it their all on stage. My photos don’t do them justice, because they were a whirlwind of activity, jumping, thrashing, and totally performing their hearts out. LOVE THIS BAND!!! Granted, I took a LOT of this band so get ready for a big fat gallery. Check them out online at: http://www.myspace.com/wearethecheek. You’re welcome.

Check out The Cheek’s photos!

After the Cheek show it’s time for dinner and a bit of relaxing. Gotta clear the memory cards, charge the batteries, and get ready for a night on the town and more fantastic music. Back out on the town, the sun has gone down and it’s time for a the WXPN showcase at Stubb’s Amphitheatre, which is one of my favorite venues. Couple that with XPN: Count me in. Outdoors under the stars with a huge stage and great stage lights, I had a blast shooting here.

Ladyhawke at Stubb's

Ladyhawke at Stubb’s

First up was Ladyhawke from New Zealand (www.myspace.com/ladyhawkerock).

She had this fantastic long flowing hair that looked amazing while she played. She had a Patti Smith/Stevie Nicks/flowy 80’s pop sort of blend that I really enjoyed, and she was charming on stage. Ladyhawke was one of those names I’d heard but not really payed much mind to before this, and I was glad to finally understand what all the fuss was about. Check out the pics!

After Ladyhawke, the Heartless Bastards (http://www.theheartlessbastards.com/) took the stage at Stubb’s. This band completely blew my mind. Talk about the perfect soundtrack for a balmy evening outside in Austin. I mean SERIOUSLY. Singer Erika Wennerstrom has a voice that’s larger than life. Her tiny stature makes you wonder about what kind of sound is going to emanate once she starts to sing. Brace yourself for a throaty, husky, bluesy voice that will blow your mind.

Erika Wennerstrom of the Heartless Bastards

Erika Wennerstrom of the Heartless Bastards

She’s one of those singers that sings with her whole self. I thought the band’s performance was stellar, and quickly made it a point to pick up their latest record, The Mountain. Now, when I listen to those songs, I’m instantly transported back to Austin on that beautiful night. Swoon. Check out the pics!

Next up was the Avett Brothers (http://www.theavettbrothers.com/). I’ve been aware of this band for quite some time, as a close friend of mine used to work for their management company. She’s told me quite a few stories about the rabid fans and intense following that this band has. She wasn’t kidding.

Avett Bros at Stubb's

Avett Brothers

On first listen I wasn’t really interested. But then again, I can be stupid sometimes. They have a down home country feel to them, and being a fan of mostly rock, whenever someone says anything with the word “country” in it, I run screaming. However, after discovering bands like Lucero who are labeled as “alt-country,” I realized that I needed to give these brothers another listen. Essentially, I’m a dumbdumbhead. Avetts are amazing.

The harmonies, the one-man-band way of playing guitars and kickdrums all at once… and their on-stage banter made me realize that this is a band really worth listening to. Lucky for me the Avetts were playing another show in Austin, and I decided right then and there that I would absolutely be going.

These guys were a real challenge to shoot. No bullshit here. Big ups to Crackerfarm who always produces AMAZING images of the Avetts. It’s a tough job and they deserve all the accolades. Check out my humble offerings of the Avetts below.

The headliners for the evening at Stubb’s were The Decemberists (http://www.decemberists.com). Introduced only recently to this band by a co-worker, I had mixed feelings. They have some epic songs that go on and on forever, and occasionally I find myself singing one of their songs. However, I wasn’t all about going to see them live.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists

After this performance I take it back. It was more like a true stage production than a concert. Their recent release The Hazards of Love is written more in story form, and their stage show was like a broadway-sans-dancers production of the story. The lights were INCREDIBLY low and they could have really given a crap about making sure we had enough light to take good pictures. It was more about setting a mood. Really cool. Good enough to make me stick around till the end. 🙂

Check out the pics!

After the XPN show wrapped, I tried to figure out where my “party” of friends had gone. Good luck reaching anyone coherent at 1am in Austin during SXSW.

More to come after this post! Check out the bands and fun from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday next!

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