Trip-Report: U.S.A., March '96


The Geraldine Fibbers / Lutefisk (Oklahoma City,OK - VZD)
I felt _very_ old at this All-Ages-show. I think I was the only person there over 25 and everybody else was pierced. The kids in OKC sure are trendy! The Fibbers' were good, very moody, but good. They reminded me of Come, a little mellower and of course the Fibbers add some extra special violin.


The Bottle Rockets / Michael McDermott (Lawrence,KS - Bottleneck)
Michael McDermott played mostly material from his newest release. Looks like he still gets good support from his record company, at least he can afford to take a percussionist on tour. Not as good as the show I saw in Chicago last December, though.
The Bottle Rockets were in a good mood, happy to find a club full of people (despite The Presidents of the USA show in town...). And they rocked, from start to finish.


Edwin McCain / The Badlees (Fort Collins,CO - Linden's)
This was the biggest disappointment of the trip. I came to see the Badlees (really liked their last record), but when I arrived at the club (a blues club full of frat guys) I learned they were only the opening act and already halfway through their set. What I actually saw was the "We want to become the next Hootie" show. Especially the singer was very annoying, always careful to stand in the spotlight, so the young girls in the front row could appreciate his pretty face.
Still haven't found out who Edwin McCain is. Apparently he had a radio hit recently, but not to worry, his performance was not breathtaking in any respect.


The Silos (Austin,TX - ARC)
In front of about 25 invited people the Silos (Walter, Mary, Daren and Tom) went through a decade's worth of material. The show was recorded for possible use on a live CD.


The Swollen Circus; hosted by Walter Salas-Humara and Michael Hall
(Austin,TX - Hole In The Wall)
An evening full of great music with Dan Stuart + Band, Richard Buckner (solo), David Halley + Band, Michael Hall + Band, Lisa Mednick + Band, Mary (solo), Silos, Tom Freund + Band, Damon Bramblett + Band, Michael Fracasso (solo), Duane Jarvis + Band and Kris McKay + Band. The "band" was usually Daren Hess on drums and JD Foster on bass. But then, everybody seemed to play with everybody else at some point of the night. It all ended with a great Jam of "The Werewolves Of London".


Jack Logan & Liqour Cabinet (Austin,TX - Waterloo Records)
I thought their showcase last year was quite good. Maybe it was too early for Jack + band today, at least they seemed to be tired and the set was just boring + depressing.

Lou Reed / Luna (Austin,TX - Austin Music Hall)
Missed Luna. Lou was good, but not as good as I remembered him from his two last tours (Magic + Loss; New York).

SXSW '96


2pm: Wayne Kramer (Waterloo Records)
Just back from his "Hard Stuff" tour of Australia (opening for Radio Birdman) Wayne and his band looked and acted a lot tougher than they actually sounded. But then, he's been playing that kind of music for over 20 years now. "Straight", "hard" Rock, except for the last song, which was a little bit more "experimental".

3pm: Charlie Chesterman (Tower Records)
What a contrast to Wayne! A soft-spoken guy with glasses and an acoustic guitar playing nicely crafted song about life etc. Charlie hails from Massachusetts and used to play with Scruffy The Cat. Maybe it was because I saw him right after Wayne, but I found his set to be quite average.

4pm: The Nields (Tower Records)
Not at all average. The Nields are also from Mass., are fronted by two sisters sharing vocal duties. They are excellent performers (at least it looks like they are having fun onstage), the music is Pop mixed with some Rock and Folk elements. They have a record out on Razor&Tie, which is not quite as convincing as the live performance, but still, a very good POP album. Also, they have a very nice Web-Page (

5pm: Dan Stuart (Blockbuster Records)
With almost no people present, Dan and his Band (including JD Foster, Jud Newell (from the Loose Diamonds, who had just won the "Best Acoustic guitarrist" award at the Austin Music Awards the night before, Craig Schumacher and Daren Hess) used the opportunity to rehearse for their official showcase. The band played mostly "Can O' Worms" material. Considering how little time for rehearsal they had had before, it sounded quite good. And Dan was in a great mood, which didn't seem to be the case in the old Green On Red days...

8pm: Box The Walls (White Rabbit)
Daren Hess was back on stage, this time for the LA PopRock band BTW. Lead by a female singer/guitarist, their set was quite entertaining, but not outrageous.

Other Showcases missed: Iggy Pop, Paula Jean Brown

9pm: The Drakes (Babe's)
They are from the right town (Tucson), they play the right music (Rock) and they copy the right bands (Sidewinders, ...), however they fail at adding their own and unique signature.

Other Showcases missed: Blister (from New Mexico), Engine 88

10pm: The Nields (Waterloo Brewing Co.)
Mmmm, let's see: what's my official alibi for seeing this band twice? Well, let's say that halfway on my way to the AMH (where Martin Zellar played) I realized that I would not be able to make it on time. With Waterloo nearby I thought it might be interesting to see The Nields perform in front of a bigger audience. And for the second time that day I was impressed. It was really fun to watch this band perform on larger stage and for a longer set. The audience loved it and so did I. They are currently on their first national tour, check them out when they come to your town.

Other Showcases missed: Martin Zellar, The Crow, Elliott Murphy, The Shivers

11pm: Lisa Mednick (White Rabbit)
Another tough decision: Should I stay for Cheri Knight (of the Blood Oranges) or should I go and see Lisa Mednick? The three-song set I saw Lisa play earlier that week was very promising, so I decided to go and see her play a longer set, too. Dana Myzer from the Loose Diamonds played drums, Sarah Brown played bass. The band also included a cellist and another girl (Alison ?) singing harmony vocals. The set was good, very good actually. The cello worked very well with the keyboards and the girls' vocals harmonized perfectly.

Other Showcases missed: Cheri Knight, The Model Rockets

12mid: Loose Diamonds (Ritz)
Another hard decision. I opted for the shortest path again and followed Dana M. over to the Ritz. The LD sounded just like last year, and they sure sounded fine then. Troy's vocals bring back memories of the Rainmakers.

Other Showcases missed: Go To Blazes, Alejandro Escovedo, Richard Buckner

1am: The Yahoos (Waterloo Brewing Co.)
Just in case you don't know: The Yahoos are Eric Ambel on guitar/vocals, Dan Baird on guitar/vocals, Terry Anderson on drums/vocals and Keith Christopher on bass. The showcase was exactly what I had expected: Plain loud Rock, exactly the right kind of music for that time of the evening/night.

Other Showcases missed: Golden Smog, Friends Of Dean Martinez, David Halley, Holsapple + Cowsill, Peter Case, Pond, Girls Against Boys


2pm: Golden Smog (Waterloo Records)
A second chance for everybody who had missed their set the night before. The store was more than crowded and the band clearly hungover. Jay Farrar arrived fifteen minutes into the set! But as soon as they started playing I forgot how early it was and so did the band. Pure Magic!

4pm: Jo Carol Pierce (Tower Records)
Finally got to see her. So many people recommend her highly, so it was about time for me to witness one of her performances. Jo played keyboards backed by JD Foster (bass), Fluffy (mandolin) and another guy on acoustic guitar. The stories and the performance were quite remarkable, the music okay.

8pm: Starbilly (Copper Tank)
I'm not sure why, but I never really got into those 8pm showcases. Were the bands really mediocre, or was it just me feeling a little tired after dinner? Anyway, Starbilly are from Louisville,Kentucky and play high-energy alternative rock. And that's about all I remember. Oh, the singer used to be in Squirrel Bait and kept beating his own chest. I hope this doesn't sound to negative, their record is actually quite good!

9pm: 13 Engines (Tropical Isle)
Being a fan of this band since '91 I really looked forward to this showcase. Most of the songs they played were from their latest CD and featured their typical "Wall-of-guitar" sound. Canada's answer to the Screaming Trees?

Other Showcases missed: Sleestacks

11pm: John Dee Graham (Stubb's)
John Dee is probably best known as a member of the True Believers. He has also toured and recorded with Calvin Russell and others. I could only stay for the first couple of songs, which rocked and gave him ample opportunity to show his guitar skills.

Other Showcases missed: Lucinda Williams

11:30pm: Psycho Sisters (State Theatre)
The State Theatre hosted an evening with "Giant Sand & Friends". The "friends" included Chris Whitley, Lisa Germano and The Psycho Sisters. The Sisters were supposed to go on at 10:30, but, as with all Giant Sand events, timing was not that important, so two hours into the evening they were already running one hour late. Susan Cowsill + Vicky Peterson recruited the help of Peter Holsapple, Robert Lloyd and John Convertino for their half-hour set. Marred by technical difficulties they still showed what the Psycho Sisters are about: "Psycho" lyrics nicely crafted into bittersweet harmonies.

12mid: Joe Henry (Electric Lounge)
The plan was to see Son Volt. But the 50+ meter line in front of the Austin Music Hall made us change our plans. And I'm REALLY glad it worked out like this! I always liked Joe, but the all-new '96 model Joe Henry just blew me away. Less whining, more volume. A smoking set, featuring Helmet's Page Hamilton on guitar. Much better than anything I had heard from him before and one of the most memorable SXSW events.

Other Showcases missed: Son Volt, For Squirrels, Dash Rip Rock, Dan Stuart, The Posies

1am: Bottle Rockets (La Zona Rosa)
Once again: Just good old Rock to end the evening, featuring Eric Ambel and Cheri Knight (Blood Oranges).

Other Showcases missed: Michael McDermott, The Plimsouls, The Pursuit Of Happiness


2pm: Jason & The Scorchers (ABCD's)
Another highlight: Exactly at 2 Jason & The Scorchers stumbled into the already crowded store, coming straight from the airport. They set up and managed to break four strings during the first four songs. While strings were changed, the showcase turned into an interactive event, with band members telling stories from the good old days and chatting with the audience. Ignoring any time limits they stayed on for well over an hour, playing classics like "Long Black Veil", "Countryroads", "Broken Whiskey Glass" and "Hot Nights In Georgia", getting louder and crazier with every song!

4pm: Walter Salas-Humara (Waterloo Records)
Walter played mostly stuff from Radar, backed by an excellent band: Daren Hess (dr), Tom Freund (bass), Mary (violin) and Chuck Prophet (guitar).

5pm: Honeydogs (ABCD's)
Caught only the last bit of their set. Not enough to get into the mood. Maybe a little too quiet and country for me.

8pm: Violet Crown (Ritz)
This band includes Kim Longacre (Reivers). Hmmm, another typical 8pm showcase. Good, but not great.

Other Showcases missed: Mark Eitzel, The Hangdogs, John Wesley Harding.

9pm: The Mysteries Of Life (Liberty Lunch)
This show was almost as good as seeing The Vulgar Boatmen themselves. During the time that Jake spend playing bass for the Boatmen he obviously picked up a lot from their style (eg. the famous Boatmen Swing). In his own band he plays guitar, his wife Frieda (who used to be in The Blake Babies) plays drums. The new record is out on RCA...

Other Showcases missed: Gary Heffern

10pm: Kris McKay (Ritz)
I wanted to see Whiskeytown, but the line in front of The Split Rail was quite long, so I went back to the Ritz. News from Kris is that she has a new album coming out on Shanachie Records, which includes a duet with Matthew Sweet. Hopefully it will sound a little less polished and overproduced than her "What Love Endures" release. The evenings performance was not as convincing as her showcase last year, but she is definitely a great performer.

Other Showcases missed: Whiskeytown, Buzz Zeemer

11pm: Michael Hall (Ritz)
Knowing that Michael would come to Europe soon I had planned to skip this one, but after he told me his plan for this showcase I just had to be there: He performed exactly one song: "Frank Slade's 29th Dream". Yup, all 38,5 minutes of it! Backed by a large band (drums (Dana Myser once again), bass, two guitars, violin (Mary) and cello), Michael played keyboards and sang. Some people left after 15-20 minutes, but most were mesmerized by this one-time performance. Clearly another highlight!

11:45pm: The Health & Happiness Show (Lubbock Or Leave It)
This was actually not part of SXSW. And of course not in sync with the SXSW performances. But this band is definitely worth a detour, featuring ex-members of The Bongos (James Mastro) and Television (Richard Lloyd). Great musicians, great songs. Check out their record "Instant Living"!

12:15am: Butch Hancock (Lubbock Or Leave It)
Another non-SXSW show. Butch was backed by the H&H Show, who also play on his upcoming CD and delivered his usual blend of Rockabilly, Folk, Country and Rock.

1am: Blue Mountain (Split Rail)
Being _the_ up-and-coming act of the "Alternative country" scene they proved to be more than just hype. Yes, they are excellent musicians and live performers. Yes, they mix country and rock. But they also add something truly unique. I'm not yet exactly sure what it is, but there is something to this band. Amazing guitar work and solid drum/bass foundation. Their songs continued to loop endlessly in my head on the flight home...

Other Showcases missed: Walter Salas-Humara, Jason & The Scorchers, James McMurtry, Bryndle, Perfect