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


SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 4: Jakob Dylan and Three Legs (featuring Neko Case)

This is where the weather gods ceased to cooperate, with a storm front moving in overnight that plunged Saturday’s high temperatures into the low 50s. It was a chilly, windy day that felt more like a late autumn football Saturday in Columbus than spring equinox in Austin, but SXSW fans would not be deterred. Rachel Ray’s day party at Stubbs BBQ was the place to be on Saturday afternoon. Free margaritas and bloody Marys were served, along with tasty chicken mini-quesadillas and meatball sandwiches.

Jakob Dylan played a half-hour set with the fabulous Neko Case accompanying him to create a bluesy sound with majestic Americana flavor that seemed to fit the gray afternoon perfectly. The sound was reminiscent of some of Dylan’s father’s recent work, blending a variety of retro flavors for an artful old-school vibe. The younger Dylan’s distinctive rasp sounded great, and even more so with Case harmonizing.

The last song, perhaps titled “Shine Along,” featured some mandolin on a melodic major key tune for a more uplifting vibe. The harmonies between Dylan and Case were superb throughout the set, like two great tastes that tasted even better together. Fans can only hope that these two will continue to work together further.

Jakob Dylan and Three Legs featuring Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, SXSW 2010
Photo by Steve Hopson


SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 3: Hole

6th Street was filled with delightful sonic mayhem in the midnight hour, with music coming from everywhere. A sublime moment occurred when a drum circle’s thriving jam seemed to blend into the band that was rocking out at a nearby bar. Meanwhile, there was a huge line in front of the Dirty Dog Bar where Courtney Love and Hole were scheduled for a 1:00 AM set.

The Dirty Dog was jammed like a sardine can and it was amazing that a fire marshal never came in and broke it up, because there were way too many people in this place. It was apparently the place to be though, with the likes of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey watching the set from the side of the stage. Their entourage even got a security escort to the men’s room, which was probably the only way to get across the packed bar at that point.

Hole opened with a Nirvana-ish tune, followed by “Doll Parts,” which sounded great. The band was tight, but Love’s voice was ragged, which she unfortunately dwelled on throughout the set. The jam-packed conditions were rather uncomfortable for the first 15 to 20 minutes, until some folks gave up and left, at last creating a little elbow room. Love bitched at her guitarist for playing too loud, and harped about it being tough to sing at 1:00 am when you’re a chain smoker.

It seemed like she might call the set at any moment, but she soldiered on, with “Malibu” taking the crowd back to the mid-’90s for one of the era’s most memorable alt-rock hits. The new material had that powerful alt-rock vibe too, suggesting Love hasn’t lost her touch. “Gold Dust Woman” was also well-received, despite Love’s voice, which should have told her to quit bitching and just play through. But instead of acknowledging her voice issues and moving on, Love continued to dwell on it, constantly setting back the vibe of the set. “Worst show of my life. I’m so glad you were here to witness it, now go see a good blues band,” declared Love at the end. Her defeatist attitude and voice-ragging chain smoking sadly don’t seem to bode well for Hole’s big comeback.



SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 3: Girl in a Coma

After Muse’s electrifying set, I rushed over to Buffalo Billiards on 6th Street, where San Antone’s grrl power trio were rocking the upstairs hall with their trademark Tex-Mex grunge sound. Guitarist/vocalist Nina Diaz is a truly mesmerizing talent, while sister/drummer Phanie Diaz and bassist Jenn Silva form an increasingly strong rhythmic backbone behind her. The 22-year-old Nina has fronted the band since she was 13 and has added an increasing sonic complexity to her guitar playing, with some nice alt-grunge delay-harmonics on “Pleasure and Pain.” Another song was dedicated to Jeff Buckley and started off with Diaz emoting in a slow and bluesy way before the band moved into a swinging jam.

Another extra special SXSW treat occurred when the band welcomed girl rock pioneer Cherie Currie of the Runaways to the stage for a fabulous sit-in on “Cherry Bomb,” which saw the whole crowd singing along on the classic chorus. Currie looked and sounded fabulous, and the Coma girls were clearly thrilled at the chance to play with one of their idols (The Runaways’ Joan Jett signed the band to her own Blackheart Records label.) “Static Mind” was also a major highlight, with the band rocking out on one of the best cuts from 2009’s superb Trio BC album, blending a Latina rock intro with an alt-rock surge that had the delighted crowd rocking out once more. Girl in a Coma remains a unique band poised for even bigger and better things.

girl in a coma
Photo by Sarah Quiara


SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 3: Muse

This was the big semi-secret headlining slot that had been rumored throughout the week, with a blank in the Friday night Stubbs schedule hinting at a special surprise. Arena headliners Muse did indeed appear at 10 pm (filling the slot held by Metallica last year), and delivered an electrifying set that wowed the packed throng.

The Brit prog-rock power trio hit the stage with the anthemic “Uprising” and never let up throughout a furious 75-minute set that featured the band’s epic laser show dazzling the audience with reflections off the trees and power lines that added an extra level of psychedelia. The band’s mix of influences from Queen to Metallica and Smashing Pumpkins provided one of the hardest hitting sets of the week, yet with a melodically accessible flavor that clearly crosses over to multiple audiences.

As someone who hadn’t caught the band live before, I was taken with how much heavier they sounded live than on record (and was kicking myself for having missed them at Kent State’s Flashfest in 2006). “The Resistance” was another high-energy winner from the band’s new album that combined their hard rock and melodic pop influences together in dynamic fashion. The heavy “Stockholm Syndrome” mixed an ’80s metal flavor with a ’90s grunge influence that was a sonic treat, with guitarist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy’s almost operatic vocals providing an extra grandeur.

Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard made a tight and powerful rhythm section, killing it all night, while Bellamy’s guitar playing simply dazzled time and again throughout the set. “Knights of Cydonia” closed out the show with a galloping jam that thrilled the crowd once more, as the band capped off one of the top highlights of SXSW 2010. It was readily apparent that this is truly one of the best bands on the planet, and it was a rare and special opportunity to catch an arena level headliner in a more intimate setting.