The music world converged on Austin, Texas last week for the 25th anniversary of the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival.
Day one of SXSW started off with a loud punk and rock ‘n’ roll sound at B.D. Riley’s on 6th Street, in the heart of downtown’s music club row. BD Riley’s is a small British pub, and after a few songs there was a large crowd gathered outside the venue to listen.
The Chevelles are a power pop outfit from Perth, Australia, consisting of band members; Duane Smith, Jeff Halley, Adrian Allen, and Paul Di Renzo. Together they have a tight knitted vibe, complete with ripping guitar solos and great voices.
Rumors fly around Austin during SXSW, thanks to techno gadgetry like Twitter, texting, and specialized iPhone apps, and because of it I got word that an indie rock band called Yuck was a worth checking out at Stubbs’s. Yuck hail from London, play indie rock, and boast five players (drummer Jonny, guitarist Daniel, guitarist Max, bassist Mariko, and vocalist Ilana). Ilana is the focus, with her straight black and mysterious presence, and the band plays a noteworthy manner of ‘90s revival rock.
I then braved through packed streets, bodies, food venders, street artists, and street follies to catch OFF! at Emo’s. The individual roots established by Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross), and Mario Rubalcaba (Earthless/Hot Snakes/Rocket From the Crypt) are uniquely woven throughout the rock music world. They come together as a four-piece band called OFF!, and they’re as confrontational as their name would suggest. They also pounded through a set of West Coast hardcore punk that had our hair standing on end.
Next up was Bad Brains, who formed in Washington, D.C. way back in 1977. They are widely regarded among the pioneers of hardcore punk, though the band’s members would object to such titles. They are also an adept reggae band that incorporates jazz fusion and punk. The band’s classic and current lineup is singer H.R. (Human Rights), guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson, H.R.’s younger brother. Not surprisingly, their South By set at Emo’s found folks stage diving and crowd surfing within the first three minutes.
After a few songs I jumped onto a pedicab to La Zona Rosa to catch Queens of the Stone Age, which attracted a crowd that stretched over two blocks. Lucky for me, a press pass and a little insider knowledge got me directed ‘round back almost immediately.
Since forming the in ‘97, the Palm Desert band’s line-up has included founding member Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar). Nowadays, Queens lays claim to longtime members Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, lap steel, backing vocals) and Joey Castillo (drums, percussion), as well as Michael Shuman (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar). Together they pen a style of riff-oriented, heavy rock, which has grown to include a variety of different styles and influences, via contributing musicians like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Mark Lanegan, who pull heavily from blues and grunge worlds.
At 2:20 a.m. I call Day One complete and straggled back to my hotel, music still blasting all around me. With three more nights to go, I have to wonder, will my legs make it?.