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SXSW 2009: New And Old For Day Two
03/19/09 10:11am


by Steve McLean (CHARTattack)

I'm on a quest to hear great music until the first few days of spring at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, and I intend to do it without spending a penny on food. Here's the report from my second day in the live music capital of the world:

I arrived at the Bitch Magazine/Kill Rock Stars party at Club De Ville by noon to get a free and tasty cheese and egg breakfast taco. Explode Into Colors were still soundchecking, so I went next door to The Mohawk Patio to check out Telekinesis. I'd heard positive reports on them, so it was unfortunate that I only caught their last bouncy indie pop tune before they left the stage.

I went inside to see Brooklyn, N.Y. singer/songwriter Kevin Devine. He performed solo with acoustic guitar and did a bit of Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2" before officially starting his set. He played with a mix of subtlety, enthusiasm and passion, praised the Fuck My Life website and had intelligent lyrics, so he was alright in my book.

I returned to Club De Ville to see Portland, Ore. quartet The Shaky Hands. They played fairly aggressive guitar-based indie rock and there was nothing wrong with it — it just wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be.

I moved on to the Paste party at Radio Room and caught a couple of songs by singer/songwriter Samantha Crain, who played acoustic while backed by the standard rock trio of instruments. She was OK, but I was really here to see Amanda Palmer outside, so I staked out a prime spot at the base of the stage and waited for the Dresden Doll to grace it.

Palmer said she was jetlagged because she'd just flown back from Australia and was "fuckin' tired." She used the word "fuck" and some of its derivations more during her brief set than any act I'll probably see this week. Palmer's an avid and entertaining blogger, and her between-song banter was as good as her songs — and I like her Who Killed Amanda Palmer solo debut more than her Dresden Dolls work.

"Ampersand" received a dramatic delivery and a huge crowd response. Palmer's solo piano take on the banned-in-the-U.K. single "Oasis" would have been better with a full band, but it was still outstanding. The happy-sounding song about date rape and abortion shows off her dark humour perfectly.

"Runs In The Family" was very good, as was her closing number. Palmer stepped out from behind the piano and away from the microphone, picked up her ukulele and played a surprisingly good cover of Radiohead's "Creep" that showcased her voice and had the crowd singing the chorus with her. She has very dedicated fans who gave her an almost overwhelming ovation at the end of her performance...