SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 2: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

I had one more to go over at Antone’s, where Vermont’s Grace Potter was scheduled to hit the stage at 12:20 AM. Things were running a little behind, but Potter and band hit the stage around 12:40 and threw down a triumphant set that went right up til 2:00. A variety of strong material from the band’s upcoming new album was a treat, featuring tunes like melodic rocker “Oasis” and a reggae-ish break-up song. New single “Tiny Light” was a bluesy yet uplifting rocker and featured a huge jam powered by new bassist Catherine Popper (formerly with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals). Popper’s dynamic skills provide an element that was missing from the Nocturnals before, taking the band’s sound to a higher level that enables them to throw down a big jam whenever the mood strikes. This is like the Cleveland Cavaliers acquiring extra muscle with Shaquille O’Neal, and whoever spearheaded Popper’s entry to the band should win an award for best musical trade of the year.

The gorgeous Potter dazzled on a wide variety of tunes, from blues to ballads to funk to full-on psychedelic jam rock. She also showed she’s not just a pretty frontwoman, jamming out on both keyboards and a Flying V guitar. A cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” was a treat, especially following Krieger’s appearance with STP. “I Got the Medicine” closed the set with another great jam, and there’s no doubt that Potter’s music does indeed possess medicinal properties. The encore closed out with “Nothing but the Water,” an infectious high-energy tune that rocked the packed house one more time and featured another huge jam that blew everyone away. What a killer set.

grace potter
Photo by Adrien Broom


SXSW Music 2010, Day 2: Upping the Ante

AUSTIN – I sacrificed an extra hour of sleep to make it out for what was scheduled as an 11:35 am day party set from Sass Jordan, the sensational Canadian blues rock goddess that seems like she’d be more from a place like Austin. But the stage at the club had collapsed and they had to move to another venue, pushing their set back to 12:20 pm. I told Sass I’d catch one of her other two shows, because I had a moral imperative to catch the 12:30 pm panel on “Music and The Revolution,” featuring ex-Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, Country Joe McDonald, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer and Kent State 1970 massacre survivor Alan Canfora. This was an amazing panel that I will report on in-depth in my SXSW wrap-up next week (along with more on all the following bands.)

Then there was a great panel on the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal jazz-rock masterpiece, Bitches Brew. More on that next week as well. The 1969-70 revolutionary rock magic was clearly in the air…

After a quick lunch it was over to the Jambase Treehouse Party at Cheers Shot Bar on 6th Street, up on the roof deck. Very nice setting for Red Cortez, a band out of Los Angeles that are pals and tourmates with the Airborne Toxic Event. They have an edgier sound, but clearly some of that same soulful, tuneful indie-rock thing that has long been brewing in LA’s Silverlake district.

The Mother Hips from San Francisco rocked it next, throwing down a hot set of their rich, melodic and bluesy sound. Paul Hoagland even brought his 12-string custom Hamer bass, and did it ever sound great out in the sun in the 5 o’clock hour. I was originally planning to stick around to see a couple more bands, but some gear issues had pushed it all back a half hour. I rode my trusty Trek 800 over to Threadgills to meet a friend, where we also heard a bit of Austin legend Roky Erickson, from the 13th Floor Elevators. Classic sounds…

Then it was over to Auditorium Shores, where LA’s Ozomatli was headlining the free outdoor fest by Town Lake. The band entertained a huge audience, driving the crowd into a frenzy with a “Masters of Puppets” tease during one funky bluesy jam (recalling Metallica’s electrifying semi-secret performance at Stubbs during SXSW 2009.)

From there it was over to the Austin Music Hall for Stone Temple Pilots, who threw down a true headlining set of 90 minutes that featured some strong new material and just kept getting better. The peak was during the encore when Robbie Krieger of the Doors joined the band for “Roadhouse Blues”! Absolutely epic SXSW moment that seriously raised the bar for the rest of the weekend. Krieger tore it up.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals were up to the task afterward at Antone’s, throwing down a captivating 75-minute set that went right up til 2 am, also featuring very strong material from their impending new album. At least three tunes went into sick jams catalyzed by the fantastic bass skills of new Nocturnal (and former Cardinal of Ryan Adams), Catherine Popper. The two of these gals were just dynamite and a hoped-for cover of “White Rabbit” did indeed materialize (they play it on the soundtrack for the new “Alice in Wonderland” flick), a great match on the evening with “Roadhouse Blues.”

Now I have to go find out when Potter & Co are playing tomorrow and try to get some sleep!


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