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South by South West: Austin, Texas 12-16 March 2008

And you won't know us by the trail of dead...

  • Tom Robinson - 6 Music
  • 14 Mar 08, 01:42 AM

The big event of Introducing's SxSW calendar is almost upon us. Bleary with jetlag I'm trying to dash off these few words before rushing up to join everyone else at The Rio for Lammo's BBC Introducing showcase. Producer James Stirling says it's going to be rammed - and turning up at the last minute, it may be touch and go getting in. BBC pass or no BBC pass.

Anyway I finally got to meet one of my longstanding email correspondents from Texas. Rush Evans called the hotel to invite me over for a bite at the venue where he was road managing this afternoon at Roky Erickson's Ice Cream Social - a benefit for the HAAM musicans' welfare fund - held at Threadgill's World Headquarters (ie the beer garden of a "Chili Parlor / Southwestern / Meat-and-Three" restaurant across the river).

Former 13th Floor Elevator Roky Erikson was about to play one of his legendary comeback gigs, defying his lifelong struggle with mental illness, with the help of his superb band The Explosives - masterminded by the ever generous Freddie Steady. It's such an American thing - guitars and drums in the hands of middleaged musicians who really know what they're doing generate a sonic tsunami that sweeps all before it - as with Iggy and The Stooges at Glastonbury last year. Having gone there by the purest fluke, I witnessed some of the most elemental rock'n'roll I've ever seen in my life. As a unit, Cam King on lead guitar, Chris Johnson on bass, Freddie Steady Krc on drums - and Roky's powerchords and growling/howling vocals - were simply wonderful. A huge cheesy grin spread all over my face as they played.

Earlier, as I arrived, Thurston Moore and his band had just been closing a set of the loudest acoustic guitar music I've ever heard in my life. I especially liked watching one of indie rock's greatest legends cheerfully packing up his own equipment after playing, in full view of the cheerfully unconcerned audience who were talking among themselves. Backstage I caught sight of the concert running order from earlier in the afternoon. What ? Trail Of Dead had just been playing HERE - in this little beer garden? "Rush - WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME they were on????" I demanded. My Texan friend shrugged in that laid back endearing manner of the true Austin native.

"I didn't think you'd have heard of them" he said.

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