SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 4: Street Sweeper Social Club

With a second stage set up at the back end of Stubbs, there was only a momentary break after Jakob Dylan’s set at Rachel Ray’s in-demand day party at Stubbs BBQ before Street Sweeper Social Club launched into an incendiary set that heated up the chilly afternoon.

Guitarist Tom Morello has put his Night Watchman folk experiment on the back burner and moved back to doing what he does best, which is rocking out Rage Against the Machine-style. The band’s aggressive and heavy sound clearly recalled Rage, yet with the urban flavor that only the Coup’s Boots Riley can provide in the vocal slot. The opening tune featured a “Manic Depression” vibe from Morello on guitar, while the second tune seemed cut from the same cloth as some early Rage classics. The crowd was instantly enthralled, with fists in the air and cameras out to take pictures.

“You can join Street Sweeper Social Club, there’s lots of ways, but they’re illegal to speak of in public… Austin, you’re gonna have to take the oath,” said Riley, and it seemed as if the assembled were more than ready to enlist. “The Oath” was a hard-hitting tune where Riley pledged “to get the foot off my neck” and “fight until the system is gone.” Morello played the tune with a whistle in his mouth, which he would tweet at peak moments for dramatic effect. The anthemic chorus was an absolute blast, with the crowd bouncing and eager for more.

New York City’s Outernational (whose debut album has been produced by Morello) were brought out for one tune and helped SSSC rock out with a party flavor that included trumpet and accordion. SSSC continued to electrify the crowd with a slamming cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” that had the audience bouncing. Riley was in full command of Stubbs as he belted out the lyrics, with most of the crowd singing along.

“We’re more than a band, we’re a motherfucking social club,” declared Riley toward the end. Sign me up, Boots, because this was one of the best sets of the week.

Street Sweeper Social Club, SXSW 2010
Photo by Steve Hopson