bar_big image

My Adventure in Austin -- Thursday, March 15

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief / @i_ADH

I spent last week on a working vacation in Austin, Texas, for the South by SouthWest music festival. The five days I spent there were filled with all sorts of shows and adventures, jazz and non-jazz alike. Now, I'm spending the week running down all the happenings of the city and hopefully dropping some tips on all of my favorite hangs in the city. Today's story includes pianist Josh Moshier, hints of jazz for the inclined ear, and a brief run in with Robert Glasper.

Catch this whole week of dispatches:
Wednesday, March 14 || Thursday, March 15 || Friday, March 16 || Saturday, March 17

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
I'm at El Chilito (Austin, TX)
7:12 AM - 15 Mar 12 via foursquare

El Chilito low key has some of the best breakfast tacos in Austin. Folks who are natives will swear up and down about Torchy's Tacos but in an event defined by the length of its lines, I will not do the same thing for tacos. El Chilito, very calmly and quietly, is winning the taco game. Its secret is that it's hiding out on the East Side.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
I'm pretty sure I slept all of twenty minutes this morning. I'm feeling pretty good, though.
7:26 AM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

As noted at the conclusion of yesterday's whirlwind account, I essentially slept on a concrete slab outside the Flat Top Burger Shop for maybe twenty minutes the night before. Since the restaurant sits in a little island in the middle of the street, it's surrounded on all sides by a relatively constant, though still slow, stream of traffic at all hours of the night (hey, they're bicycles, but they share the road, too). So it was a tad difficult to get sleep.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
KUT Shows, Punch Brothers at 10am (@ Four Seasons Ballroom at Four Seasons Hotel Austin)
8:17 AM - 15 Mar 12 via foursquare

Because I am an anomaly of a twentysomething, I can actually function quite well in the morning. I figured if I was going to go without sleep, I might as well take in some of the early morning charity shows. Besides, I didn't have anything else to do and I was pretty sure no one I knew in town would be awake at 8:30am, for I am an anomaly of a twentysomething. KUT, Austin's NPR affiliate station, was holding short performances at the ballroom of the Four Seasons, charging $10 for charity but also providing free coffee, tea, and breakfast tacos. I figured I had Punch Brothers and Jimmy Cliff on my schedule at other times, at least I wouldn't have to take up time in the middle of the afternoon to see them if I saw them earlier this morning. This is where the permutations of one's SXSW schedule start to crop up.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
This Ray Wylie Hubbard set is making my morning.
8:25 AM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Hubbard, a country singer, is apparently a music legend, especially in Texas. Country music isn't really in my wheelhouse but my father has always loved it, something weird but totally charming for a black man from Chicago. Combining that with the fact that I'm still Texan and this all ensured that I had something to take away from Wylie's performance.

Ray Wylie was clearly having a good time. His comic reflexes were sharp. The room, filled with the kind of older crowd who would be awake at this hour in Austin to see a revered country act, was responsive and clearly entertained by his antics. His playing, solo guitar work, was simple and understandably understated. Many of the songs he played were from his latest album, A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no c) (I told you about that wit), which proved to be filled with lovely, earthy crowd pleasers filled with bawdy material that still didn't seem too rambunctious coming from the wiley (no pun intended), old coot. It was the perfect music to hear so early in the morning. The entire set is streaming now at KUT's site.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
This Jimmy Cliff set is pretty perfect for this morning.
9:12 AM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Following Hubbard was reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. From the looks of some rasta apparelled young folks (which could in part just be because of South By but I'd still attribute to the Cliff set since they're still young, white folks in rasta gear at 9am), the hype for this set was palpable. It was clear there were people in the room strictly for a tiny piece of history and Cliff did not disappoint. As one would expect from a reggae set, the song choices here included the peaceably conscious song "Afghanistan", the Cliff classic, "You Can Get It If You Really Want", and others. The set is also up at KUT's site.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
I don't care what anyone says, @punchbrothers is a jazz band.
10:31 AM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

The whole reason I went to the Four Seasons that morning was to catch Punch Brothers, who likely do for bluegrass what The Bad Plus did for jazz when they first broke onto the scene at the end of the last decade. The quintet is playful, have eclectic ears (as signified by their tendancy to play Radiohead covers, which is how I was hipped to them in the first place), and true musical talents. The band, with mandolinist Chris Thile at the helm, has a new album out, Who's Feeling Young Now, which featured prominently in their set at the Four Seasons that morning. While many of the songs seemed to hold to a strict structure (and seemed to hold more to the more regimented work of their debut album, Punch, than their more poppier, Jon Brion-produced Antifogmatic of 2010), a certain instrumental track (which was the basis for my tweet), had the same feel one would get out of any jazz club. The main draw for Punch Brothers is the blurring of the lines between bluegrass, folk, and jazz music and their first show of at least three at SXSW clearly showed why they are getting all this glowing attention. Once more, catch their set at the KUT site.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
No matter the genre, @norahjones' voice is perfect. #SXSW
1:15 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Norah Jones always will sound like Norah Jones. The funny thing about her debut release on Blue Note, Come Away With Me, is that all the elements of what her career would be were encased in that potpourri album. So when Jones released her side project, The Little Willies, in 2003-- dedicated to the works of Willie Nelson and other country performers-- those who weren't paying attention to Jesse Harris' guitar work were a bit aghast. Yet as time has gone by, Jones has proved to embrace her diverse taste and followers of Jones have not been disappointned. Her set at Waterloo Records was a display of the group's second album, For the Good Times, and it's just like picking up where the prior eponymous album left off. The group continued with their country vibe (including guitarist Jim Campilongo rocking a fedora and a wifebeater) with the charm we've come to love. The music was rambling and followed through perfectly with Texan conventions, but it's not like the Texan crowd didn't know how to follow in the first place. The set summed up a perfect Thursday afternoon.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
Tycho at Mess With Texas (@ 1100 Warehouse w/ 9 others)
2:48 PM - 15 Mar 12 via foursquare
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
The sound guy is playing Miles Davis' "Milestones" before Tycho's set at Mess with Texas. I'm pleasantly surprised. #SXSW
2:54 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
The Tycho show is already pretty dope. #SXSW
3:02 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

The electronic group, Tycho, was a bit of a surprise to me because I wasn't expecting them to be a group. When it comes to electronics, one typically expects a single guy fiddling around with Reason in his bedroom, knocking your socks off when funnelled to your ears in an iPod but creating a generally ho hum experience live. Such is not the case with Tycho, headed by producer Scott Hansen but here in Texas with a live trio including a rather rambunctious drummer. While the sound cut out shortly in the middle of the second song of the set, the rest of the set went rather smoothly, impressing the crowd with many asking who the group was. Tycho immediately impressed a rather jaded crowd (partially because of the tonnage of music consumed during SXSW, partially because a 24oz Tecate was $9 at the 1100 Warehouse-- a travesty, I tell you), and that goes to show something in the group's one of many shows at the festival that week.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
Shangri-La has free beer so I'm at Shangri-La. (@ Shangri-La for ATL Gets Weird 2 (Pretty Ambitious Records + Mind...)
4:10 PM - 15 Mar 12 via foursquare
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
Also, props to @rangercreek for the free beer at Shangri-La (and the Flat Top where JD and Michael are now). #SXSW
4:27 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Shout out to San Antonio microbrewery & distillery, Ranger Creek, for having a delicious Oatmeal Pale Ale and giving it out for free all over East Austin last week.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
Oh, snap. This is a Coathangers show at Shangri-La. #SXSW
4:24 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

The Coathangers are just plain fun rock music from some pretty awesome girls from Atlanta. The Coathangers have been on the Atlanta scene for a few years now (I distinctly remember them playing a set at Criminal Records during Record Store Day back in my Morehouse era), so it's quite a treat to run into them playing in Austin. The band is a ball of energy and are a perfect fit for the dusty patio stage of Shangri-La.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
@darcyjamesargue Are you trying to get into Glasper's show at Elephant Room at 10:30 tonight?
5:04 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android
Dean Christesen ‏ @deanchristesen
@i_ADH Hey what's the deal with Glasper? Cover?
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
@deanchristesen Don't know but with it being official, the cover is probably $10. Show up early.
5:54 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Dean Christensen is part of the jazz scene in Richmond, Virginia, and spent much of the time giving me a run for my money on Foursquare (I still beat him out last week, which makes it a perfect time for me to ultimately quit it). Neither he, nor Darcy James Argue would make it to the Robert Glasper Experiment show at the Elephant Room later that night. It being an official show in a tiny venue, it would fill up quickly. I had to show up at 8 for Glasper's set at 10:30 and sit through a quite good band whose info I never caught and a terrible band whose info I thankfully ignored.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
Best Coast always brings it. #SXSW
6:35 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

Bethany Cossatino has been wowing indie music fans since her debut album, Crazy For You, released in 2010. Her hazy, 1960s-inflected surf rock brings back a nostalgia for the now and seemed a perfect fit for a spring day in Texas. Her performance in the back lot of an Urban Outfitters this Thursday afternoon was an intimate show (which I couldn't get into but managed to still hear outside the fence out back) with a good mix of old and new material from her upcoming Jon Brion-produced (noticing a theme here?) album, The Only Place. The funny thing about the new songs is how one can hear the tightness that comes with a Brion production but the perfect intactness of the artist's voice, whether it be the jazz songs of Brad Mehldau, the turbulent fury of mid-career period Fiona Apple, or the laid back jams of Best Coast.

Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
I'm staying post for a while. (@ The Elephant Room for Robert Glasper Experiment)
8:43 PM - 15 Mar 12 via foursquare
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
The Robert Glasper Experiment, I sort of can't believe I'm witnessing this right now.
12:10 AM - 16 Mar 12 via picplz
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
I couldn't say it at the time because the Elephant Room is buried in a signal-less cave, but the @robertglasper Experiment is a must see...
12:10 AM - 16 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

If you haven't read my review of Glasper's SXSW show, you really should.
Other side notes from the few hours I was locked in a phone signal-less basement:
When I arrived at 8, I sat with a group of middle-aged folks who, oddly enough, were there for a prior act. They were in fact more smooth jazz fans (I told y'all they're out there) talking up the Telluride Jazz Festival and other acts that would have been more to the liking of my parents than the more youthful-inclined RGE. The Elephant Room is a famed jazz venue in Austin (one of the few) and has a draw all its own. Discovering folks in there not staying posted for the biggest jazz act of the year was a bit jarring.
That sound was pretty bad. Static ran rampant for the first two or three songs but after a while, the show got so good that no one even noticed anymore. The piano also had a bad key that Glasper would intentionally hit and stare daggers at the sound guy thereafter on purpose.
Robert Glasper is what I call a "casual perfectionist"-- everything he does looks so cool and he seems so laid back but when something goes wrong, he makes no secret that he's irritated. These are the best kinds of perfectionists.
I've heard recordings of the RGE and how live the crowd could get. While I certainly tried to evoke the same feeling in my constant cheers, I feel things could have pushed a little more to the edge. It felt like there were certainly some folks in there who didn't completely know what to think at the start but grew to love the show as time went on.
It was here when I first ran into Josh Moshier, who so graciously held down a booth for my friends and I but ended up not sitting in it by the end of the show. Yes, it got that live.
While Glasper really did wait a long time for his vodka and cranberry, I seemed to have little problem getting my Jamesons from the bar, my first hard liquor for the day after a day of beer drinking which likely influenced my notes for my review and the subsequent tone of the review itself.
I really need to work on how I introduce myself. I'm far too timid to be a journalist.

Mama Digdown's ‏ @mamadigdowns
@i_ADH Have you had that cupcake yet?
10:05 PM - 15 Mar 12 via Twitter for iPhone · Details
Anthony Dean-Harris ‏ @i_ADH
@mamadigdowns Not yet. By the end of this week, it's bound to happen, though.
12:55 AM - 16 Mar 12 via Plume for Android

I never did. Seriously, $4? It's like they wanted to keep their cupcakes there.

Tune in tomorrow for a lot more free drinking, running into Darcy James Argue, a ridiculously long line, and a crazy Best Coast/Wavves combo run-in.

Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio. More of his writing can be found at his blog, In Retrospect and you can also follow him on Twitter.