Spring Is Just Around the Corner

Actually, spring begins tomorrow. On the calendar at least. Those warm March days in Austin left us northerners feeling like we leapfrogged a season. Only to return to snow on the eve of spring back in Rochester.

Richard JulianRichard JulianSo it seems "Spring Is Just Around the Corner" could have only been written by someone up north. Richard Julian is that guy. His new cd, "Sunday Morning in Saturday's Shoes" is an excellent collection of finely honed, odd, authentic songs.

This was the first show Thursday night. I had been curious since an earlier cd of his, "Slow New York", and then his work, along with Norah Jones, with the Little Willies. Like spring, it was worth the wait.

In a solo set he sang a number of selectons from "Sunday Morning". Strong guitar, vocals to match his studio work, it was a thoroughly enjoyable start to the evening. I'm looking forward to his show in Rochester on March 27 at The Water Street Music Hall. http://www.waterstreetmusic.com/

One note. He called Austin "the tequilla capitol of the world". (You can see that noted at the upper right hand corner of the sketch.)

I wonder what he'll consider Rochester. Any suggestions? (hint: make a comment)

From there the evening took a turn into some wildly different acts.

Amy LaVere plays upright bass. She is joined on stage by a guitarist and drummer. Real Americanna. Close to country, but with folk and rock mixed in. She is fairly young, and disarmingly honest in her music. Love to see her in Rochester, but the closest she will be is performing at a wedding about 50 miles away. I asked her to stop by WRUR if she had a chance. She gave me her card from a short stack of "business cards" she had prepared just for such an occasion. Her name and email address handwritten on a neatly cut little piece of paper.

Finished the night at the Cedar Street Courtyard, a sunken patio between the basements of a two multi-level establishments.

Teetering on the edge between performance art and musical storyteller, Tim Fite took elements of rap, country, folk, children's songs and blended them with photos, animation, and cartoons projected on the screen he shared the stage with.

Also on the stage was another singer. His harmonies, and answer and call responses filled out the sound, along with the prerecored soundtrack behind them. He was important musically, but barely noticed beneath the screen projections and Tim Fite's theatrics.

It gave me a whole new appreciation of rap. And performance art. And music in general. Let's add in storytelling, too. As memorable as any act in Austin, if only for the projection of his large bald head with one strand of hair pasted calmly down the center, above two buldging, googly eyes.

It didn't prepare me for Man Man, though. Turn jug band music on it's head, and take away the jug. White suits. Loads of percussion on anything available. Keyboard, guitar, horns, didn't seem to matter what instruments were involved. They seemingly grabbed various ones at random. Rhythmic crashes, chants. A whole recreation of what one expects from music. Man Man.

The entire Texas crowd seemed to be from Winnepeg during the next set. (I know I have the wrong city, but you get the idea. One of those Western Canadian places. It will come to me later...) Everyone seemed to be singing along with every song the Weakerthans played.

The Weakerthans write in a traditional rock, ballad, pop style. Very likeable. Their live show outside didn't lend itself to the quiet side evident in their latest cd, "Reunion Tour". The large crowd also didn't help anyone appreciating the oddity and subtlety of their lyrics. The closest the unfamiliar came to a chance of reflection was in their introduction of "Tournament of Hearts".

They spoke about curling... in a nostalgic way.

Are you there yet?

The final band was DeVotchKa. Eastern European ethnic music meets the lounge noir of Pink Martini. The Courtyard became transported.

Everyone was speaking in some language I didn't recognize. It was time to call it a night. Great music, though.



Tequila Blues

SXSW sounds like too much fun and painful to miss so many good acts just to see other great performers. But I like reading your blog and getting a sense of the atmosphere. How much tequila did you drink? Is Richard Julian right about Austin - what would you call it the Capital of?

It was only painful for a

It was only painful for a moment, then you were at the next show and forgot about what you were missing.

Afraid to say, or, perhaps, happy to say, no tequilla. Maybe if there had been Mescal readily available... Richard Julian could have been right, though. Austin is the Capitol of Texas. (was that a trick questions?)