SXSW 2010: So Far, So Good
In the first of a series of reports from Texas’ South By Southwest music festival, Classic Rock hangs out with Motörhead, goes to an intimate Cheap Trick gig, gives Yogi a lift (not the bear) and gets bowled over by ‘punk rock supergroup’ Batusis…
Words: David Glessner
Ever the bleary-eyed orgy of music, booze and cell-phone abuse, the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival and thousands of ‘unofficial’ spin-off gigs made landfall in Austin, Texas, this week bringing some 2,000 bands to every electrical socket in town.
While all manner of music was offered over five days, Classic Rock went sniffing for the hard stuff of Motörhead, Danko Jones, Cheap Trick, Michael Monroe, Broken Teeth, Batusis, Voivod and myriad others such as Stone Temple Pilots and High On Fire proving impossible to capture due to jigsaw logistics.
With priority admission given to those wearing costly SXSW wristbands and badges, Classic Rock revelled in the charity of free festivities while making use of local connections, some little white lies and lots of dumb luck.
Although SXSW officially started Wednesday, temptation beckoned as early as Monday when feverish text messages confirmed free beer, gigs and gossip were threatening tomorrow’s employment. Thanks, but no thanks.
By Tuesday, the voice of reason was killed by Motörhead, who delivered an ever-ready set of spades at a pre-SXSW gig before making things ‘official’ at Wednesday’s follow-up performance. Never to be mistaken for Johnny Depp, Motörhead’s honcho also took a turn as SXSW movie star when the bio-film, Lemmy, made its official premier (as did The Runaways). As it stood, Classic Rock will have to wait for the DVDs.
With approval granted by the wife and work, Classic Rock was free to roam by Thursday, which was good news for former Buckcherry and Chris Cornell guitarist, Yogi, who needed a lift from the airport to his one-man acoustic gig on trendy South Congress Avenue. From there, Classic Rock dove headlong and sleepless into SXSW and its surrounding scene.
First up was exclusive entrance to the legendary Austin City Limits studios where Cheap Trick were being filmed for future television broadcast. The arena rockers would play a huge outdoor stage the next night, but on this day only 300 lucky souls were admitted to drink free beer and watch comedic guitarist Rick Nielsen play an arsenal of axes while singer Robin Zander strutted in his leathers alongside bone-thin bassist Tom Petersson who plucked a glitzy 12-string guitar with ultra-cool swagger.
Drummer Bun E. Carlos was curiously absent, being replaced by Dax Nielsen (relation?), but when Surrender, I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police and the show-closing Gonna Raise Hell were delivered within spitting distance, any complaints fell on deaf ears.
The mad rush continued to a club called Prague where Classic Rock was registered as ‘road crew’ in order to witness the buzzed-about debut gig by Batusis, featuring legendary punk guitarists Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls and Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys.
With journeyman bassist Chuck Garric (Alice Cooper, Dio, LA Guns) looking the part of Dee Dee Ramone, Batusis turned Prague into CBGB’s as they blasted Jetboy, Trash, a crushing Sonic Reducer and tracks from a new, self-titled EP.
Spotted in the audience were former Blondie/Ramones drummer Clem Burke and Hanoi Rocks bassist Sam Yaffa.
Batusis may be older, but they proved to still be as loud and snotty as decades past. As for Classic Rock, the party rolled into the wee hours leaving precious little time for sleep.
To be continued…