2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival CoveragePrint article

By Brian T. Atkinson, March 2007

The annual music/schmooze fest known as the SXSW Music Festival, is underway in Austin with more than 1,300 bands hitting various stages around the city ended Sunday. The fest included a variety of music ranging from country and alt.-country to hip hop and rock from acts from widespread places around the U.S. England, Russia, Scandinavia, China and other countries.

Country performers attending included Steve Earle, Charlie Robison, Kelly Willis, Tracy Lawrence, Pam Tillis, Charlie Louvin, Sunny Sweeney plus a slew of acts on the Bloodshot Records and Palo Duro Records labels.

SXSW - The Wrap Up: Amoeba Records, Gram Parsons

AUSTIN - Amoeba Records deserves a gold star for providing the most memorable party experience of SXSW 2007. On Thursday night, the California record chain hosted a listening party for the upcoming CD entitled Gram Parsons Archive: The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon 1969.

The record sounded stunning, Gram in fine voice and the Burritos at the top of their game. The real treat, though, was the communal vibe that Amoeba and the Sin-City All-Stars (who played after the listening party) gave off. It was peace and love 1969-style right here in east Austin.

That location was key. The neighborhoods east of Interstate 35 are some of Austin's seediest, and Amoeba picked the perfect spot in a gravel lot as dusty as any in Bakersfield 40 years ago. There were two port-o-potties and lots of free beer. Heavy metal music blared from a house next door. It all suggested that anything and everything goes.

Then, of course, there was Charlie Louvin wandering around the party alone, pearl-buttoned shirt tucked like a gentleman, intently listening to the unearthed Burritos material.

Gram would've loved it. In fact, he would've dug the vibe anywhere the Sin-City All-Stars were during SXSW. We touched on their Friday afternoon gig at Maria's Taco XPress, but the group's extraordinary camaraderie should be noted again.

There will always be people who poo-poo SXSW as an industry schmoozefest after all, it is. Those naysayers should be required to spend an afternoon next year with the All-Stars at Maria's. The annual gathering with folks like Tim Easton and John Doe standing in line with regular Joes to order beer and burritos is the most honest display of talent and heart this side of Josh Ritter.

Plus, Maria's tacos and salsa from ferociously hot to mild pico de gallo are some of the best (and cheapest) in town.

Of course, it's not all wine and roses at SXSW. The main issue every year is parking. Two trips into downtown per day could add up well over a hundred bucks for garage parking during the festival. Street parking at night is next to impossible it can easily take 45 minutes of circling the block until something opens up.

East coasters might scoff at that, but when there's only 10 minutes to get out one door and into another venue, that's an eternity. Especially considering that most acts play only 30-45 minute sets during SXSW. Paying for a cab is almost always the wisest choice.

For fans of bluegrass, country and folk music, there certainly were tons of high points this year Sunny Sweeney and Charlie Louvin back-to-back on Wednesday night at The Parish comes immediately to mind but overall it wasn't quite as thrilling as, say, SXSW 2005. That year, Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Hayes Carll provided more lasting moments than artists did this time. (Carll, unfortunately, performed what his website called his SXSW 2007 showcase at the Saxon Pub, which does not honor festival wristbands.)

On the upside, that allows room for acts like pop-rockers Grand Champeen. The Austin-based quartet turned in a stellar set at Room 710 on Thursday night. For a band leaning heavily on Beatlesque harmonies and beefy Stones-like riffs, Champeen sounded astonishingly original and energized a group to keep an eye on.

Day 4 - Cary Brothers, Uncle Earl make good music at South By Southwest

Saturday, March 17, 2007, Austin, Iron Cactus, Continental Club,

Cary Brothers knows that it only takes one song to launch a career. The Tennessee native was working at a Los Angeles independent film production company when he released the five-song EP "All the Rage." It went nowhere fast.

That is, until his pal Zach Braff star of NBC's Scrubs and the writer and star of the movie "Garden State" called him up one day. (The two had become good pals while attending Northwestern University.) Braff wanted to use Brothers' song "Blue Eyes" in his movie.

When Brothers gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, neither imagined that "Garden State" and its soundtrack would become the 2004 cult hits that they did. Both became so big, in fact, that the soundtrack sold more than a million copies. And won a Grammy.

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