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iPO at SXSW - Thursday Music: Body of War, Wheatus, The Presidents of the USA, Bowling For Soup
Friday, March 14th, 2008 at 4:20 PM - by
The South by Southwest Music conference and festival is in full swing now in Austin, Texas. After my evening on Wednesday, I didn't have any concrete "must see" acts on the agenda for Thursday. After consulting with friends, readers, and listeners, a schedule started to come together.
To start the evening I went back to Stubbs (and stood in nearly the same place with the same folks as the previous night!), to see the musicians who provided songs for the "Body of War" soundtrack.
If you aren't familiar with it, Body of War is an anti-war documentary based on the story of Tomas Young, an Iraq war veteran who was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot in the spine one week into his tour of duty. Tomas returned to the US and changed his opinion on what the US is doing over there, and inspired the film and accompanying soundtrack to be created.
The two hour showcase event at SXSW featured individual performances by Billy Bragg, Ben Harper, Tom Morello, Serj Tankian, Kimya Dawson, Brendan James, RX Bandits, and American Bang. Each performance was fantastic in its own right, but the highlight was a final "all-star" performance where Tom Morello orchestrated all of the musicians into a moving version of Woodie Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." The night ended with the entire crowd -- 2,000 plus -- jumping up and down in unison while singing along with the chorus. A moving event, to be sure, and Tomas Young was on stage all night watching the performances from his wheelchair off to the side.
Leaving Stubb's, I had a decision to make, and opted to head to the Cedar Door to see Bowling For Soup's 1:00 AM set. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a worthwhile endeavor, but my time at the Cedar Door was positive, overall. I walked in just as Wheatus started their set, and if you check out my Twitter stream from that night, you can see that I didn't start out happy.
The sound was atrocious, with feedback blaring through the mains for easily the first half of their set. The drummer was also using Roland V-Drums which, while they sound good in the rehearsal room, really didn't work at all in this mid-sized club. Everything sounded flat, and it took the sound team a LONG time to sort it out. By the end of Wheatus' 40-minute set they had it together, and the band really was entertaining with their own brand of harmony-infused edgy pop.
Next up was The Presidents of the United States of America. I had forgotten they were playing until I arrived at the club, and this was, by far, the best performance of the night for me. Though they took quite a few years off before returning to the scene in 2004, they play like they never stopped, a true power-pop trio with tight harmonies and even tighter arrangements. The room was packed, and The Presidents delivered in a way that few bands can.
Following the Presidents, most of the club emptied out, but I figured I might as well last it out. Bowling For Soup came on right at 1:00 AM to a room that was about 30% full, but proceeded to pour their hearts out to the very appreciative crowd, most of whom seemed to know every word. Lead singer Jaret Reddick spent a good chunk of the set doing his own brand of rock-and-roll front-man cum comedian routine, and was perhaps a little too laid back about the timing, forcing the band to run overtime at the dismay of the club, which needed to close to the public at 2:00 AM. Still, their banter was entertaining, and the music was even better.
Another late night is planned for Friday, with The Supersuckers 1:00 AM set being the primary goal of the evening, and perhaps catching the premier of the Martin Scorcese-directed Rolling Stones film, "Shine a Light." Yes, folks, for a guy who is often found listening to "musician's music," I'm taking in lot of straight-ahead rock and roll this week, and I'm loving every minute of it.
Feel free to follow my Twitter stream throughout the night. If I'm somewhere and bored or otherwise moved to speak, that's where it will appear.
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