Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SXSW, 40th Birthday

Well, last week was an incredibly busy and fun week.
I love springtime in Austin.  The weather is great, and I actually really had a lot of fun at SXSW.

(Amy with Ryan Bingham)
(Amy with Gaby Moreno)
On Wednesday night Amy and I volunteered at our church, Central Presbyterian, which serves as a really cool downtown venue during SXSW.  On Friday night we saw Sean Rowe, Milk Carton Kids, Gaby Moreno, Kelly Hogan, and Ryan Bingham.  They were all really good.  Gaby Moreno apparently plays to like 20,000 person crowds in Mexico.  She sounded really good.  Ryan Bingham put on a one man show with his acoustic guitar that was rousing enough to get a church full of people up on their feet and dancing after 1:00 in the morning.  Great show.  Since we were volunteering, Amy and I also got to briefly meet him.  He was very friendly.
On Wednesday afternoon I rode my bike downtown and checked out a little bit of music on South Congress.  Things weren't totally in full swing yet, but there were a few bands playing here and there.  I saw a local band at Opal Divine's.  I didn't catch their name, but they were singing songs about getting arrested and thrown in the Georgetown jail (for carrying pistols without permits), and I thought that was pretty funny.
Around dinner time on Wednesday we went to see The Flyin' A's (our friend Hilary and Stuart) at Baker Street Pub.  As usual, they had a nice sound.  Later Wednesday night we went back to church and saw Bernhoft (who put on a really great live show), BOY (I thought they were okay, but Amy didn't particularly care for), and Paloma Faith. 
Paloma Faith is a singer who's really big in England (she plays to really big sellout crowds there and judges on Pop Idol- the English version of American Idol- and got to carry the Olympic Torch and so on and so forth).  She's not as well known in the states.  The church was only about half or maybe two thirds full when she played, but I think the people who were there that late were excited to see her.  When she first came out to sing she made a couple of kind of snarky comments about how she plays to house parties with larger crowds in England.  So at first I was wary.  I thought we were about to witness a major diva meltdown. 
I think, in the end, though, she might have been a little disappointed with the size of the crowd, but she also just has sort of a wicked sense of humor.  Her first three songs were nice, but the performance was pretty scripted. She stood on stage and did sort of a choreographed routine with her background singers.  A few songs into the show, though, she figured out what to do with the venue, setting, and circumstances.  The show become a lot less formal all of a sudden, and she wandered out into the crowd.  For the next half of the set she walked across pews, trusting the audience to hold her up when she would slip, and strode up and down the aisle, all while belting out some pretty amazing songs with a voice that seems utterly mismatched to her small size.  She managed to turn the performance into something really special and cool as she interacted with her audience (I saw several fans crying by the end of it.  For realz.  These were some serious Paloma Faith fans in there).  I shot some video from the balcony.  The sound isn't perfect (that church has great acoustics in person), but it's better than average for a phone recording...

I'd never really listened to Paloma Faith before, but I think I would count myself as a fan now.

On Thursday I had the whole day off.  I hopped on my bike and rode down to South Congress.  I spent all day wandering up and down it, listening to music, and enjoying the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day.

I saw Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers at South by San Jose, and I really liked them.  Never heard of them before.  I liked their whole set, and they played a song called A Little Too Late to Die Young that just seemed sort of serendipitous as I stood there in the sunshine bobbing to tunes on my way into my 40th birthday weekend.  
(Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis)
I also saw a bit of Big Sugar at Continental Club, Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys along with The Howlin' Brothers at the Freebirds showcase, Psychic Friends at Homeslice, and Diego Garcia  followed by Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis at the San Jose.  All of them were good.  Well, I'm not quite as sure about Big Sugar, but maybe I just wasn't in the mood.

Thursday night we chilled out at home.  I think we watched Homeland.  That Sergeant Brody is a sneaky cat.

Friday I rode my bike downtown again.  Riding the bike is definitely one of the better ways to beat the traffic during SX.  I rode to Waterloo and met up with mi amigos Libby and Jordan.  We listened to Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish band that I feel like I should have known more about prior to this.  They were really good.  Amy showed up on her lunch work break with her friend Megan to listen to Alt-J just as the Waterloo audience reached capacity and the gates got closed.  Lots of folks in that audience.  Alt-J started a little late, but they sounded muy bueno once they got going.  It was really nice to hang out with Amy for a while before she had to head back to work!

(Slow Magic)
In the afternoon on Friday I mostly hung out on West 6th listening to whatever band sounded interesting as I walked by.  I saw a band called Wild Cub at Brew Exchange and then walked across the street and saw a band called Easter Island at Dogwood.  I liked Easter Island.  Alternately spacey and rockin'.  Also saw this guy called Slow Magic at Strange Brew.  He mostly had a bunch of programmed computer stuff, but he also played percussion, wore a crazy tribal mask, and danced around a lot, freakin' people out.  I talked to the guy a bit, and I think he said he was from Iceland.  Maybe I misheard him in the loud bar.  I can't verify where he comes from anywhere on the internet.  Anyway, I think Reed's gonna have to start wearing a mask when Mono Ensemble plays...
(international music behind
Mark's office)
Saw another band or two (Pree?), and wandered around to the happy hour party at my friend Mark's law office.  Mark is friends with some guys from Dart Music International, so he had bands from Japan, Iran, Israel, and probably some other places playing at his office for a bunch of lawyers and confused international music fans (uh, is this really a law office?).  Amy made it to the party, and it was nice and chill.
Saturday I went shopping, and we took care of chores and stuff.  I took a longish bike ride in the afternoon.  I stopped off at Auditorium Shores and saw a bit of Spirit of Freedom Family Reunion.  They were playing at the Levon Helm tribute, and and they sounded pretty good.

(1000 miles and I wound up where I started!)
My bike ride on Saturday brought me up to 1,000 miles according to my bike computer.  It was kind of cool- I hit the magic number right as I came rolling back up to the house.
Maybe I'll post later about some new bike anecdotes now that I hit 1000.  If you're lucky. 

Saturday night we volunteered again at the church.  For some reason Milk Carton Kids were on the schedule.  They were pretty good.  People seem to really dig them.  Devendra Banhart played.  He wasn't very good.  Just singing some weak lyrics with gimmicky, weak vocals and mediocre electric guitar.  We had a friend there who listens to him a bit, and she said he usually plays much better stuff.  I don't know what was up with that.

(Sam has the better beard)
Iron and Wine played last.  I'm usually pretty hard pressed to describe acts with male performers as beautiful, but Sam Beam's music fits the description.  His songs were, as usual, on the slower and softer side (which made me zone out a bit, given the late hour), but the set was really good.  Sam Beam can be intense even when he's sorta quiet.  I enjoyed it tremendously.  Amy and I also got to meet Sam Beam as he wandered around the church before the show.  Seemed like a nice guy.  He sounds so normal when he talks that you would never guess that he has such a cool singing voice.

(Party on the balcony!)
On Sunday my parents hosted a 40th birthday party for me at their house.  It was really, really fun.  I had a lot of friends there, and many of them brought along their wives, kids, and/or significant others.  My family was there as well.  It was really cool to be surrounded by so many friendly faces and people that I care about on a milestone birthday.  Mom and Dad did an amazing job of preparing the whole thing, and I'm extremely grateful to them for hosting.  Amy got to know some of my friends better, and I got to spend some time talking with friends of hers as well.  John Bridenstine, an almost-a-cousin friend who I've had since we were born, showed up with his wife, Julie, and their kids from Houston.  Just a very pleasant afternoon.  Good food, good drinks, and good folks.  My mom has a chocolate fountain, and it's fun to watch the kids get excited over it (and the adults).   
(Party in the house!)
Incidentally, there was a horrible traffic accident on 2222, the only major road that reaches my parents' house directly from Central Austin, so for a while I didn't know if anyone would make it to the party at all (the road was shut down for a long time).  In the end, lots of folks made it, but many of them had to fight some major headaches to get there.  I really appreciate everyone showing up!!
So turning 40 actually turned out to be fun.  Who knew?

(thanks for the great week, y'all!!)
It was a great week and a great weekend.  Thanks to everyone for helping make my birthday week so cool!



Jean said...

What a GREAT post -- glad your b-day week was a good one!

J.S. said...

It was a really fun birthday week! Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!