West by Southwest Tucson New Music Festival

Various Venues, March 13, 19 and 20

What's South By Southwest and West By Southwest, you ask? SXSW is a music festival in Austin that sees more than 1,000 bands over four days. WXSW is Tucson's version of the event, this year spaced out over three nights and two different weeks, requiring the purchase of two wristbands. (Full disclosure: I put the WXSW bio insert together, but had no hand in organizing the event.)

For those of you who were cashed out from Spring Break or out of town, here are some of the highlights.

Tuesday, March 13: We started with Los Angeles' Bodies of Water, who brought their uplifting songs to the early risers at The Hut around 9:30 p.m. Then we were off to Solar Culture to catch Philly's Dr. Dog, who've got every music critic and blogger championing their majestic Beatlesque pop-rock. Back to The Hut to catch Cali's Brit-popsters Kind Hearts and Coronets, who are much louder (and drunker) live. The Cassettes at Club Congress really did have two theremins--God bless 'em. Their self-described "vaudeville steam-punk" was a perfect way to end the night.

Monday and Tuesday, March 19 and 20: On Monday, as the song goes, this town was a ghost town. Fourth Avenue was eerily quiet; you could still see remnants of St. Patrick's Day blowing around. Congress' '80s night, normally lining folks out the door by 11 p.m., was dead. At Plush, the only live venue of WXSW this night, the alt-country Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter treated the crowd to an extra-long set. On Tuesday, Scottish folk-pop phenom Paolo Nutini caused a stir at a sold-out Congress (250 presales) as those with Monday's wristbands crowded the lobby, missing part of Elvis Perkins' opening set. Nutini's incoherent take on David Cassidy drove us to The Hut to see a full-blown indie version of The Partridge Family in L.A.'s Let's Go Sailing, featuring a deceptively young-looking girl on tambourine and violin who turned out to be 22. Meanwhile, the filthy, sexy synth-punk of The Trucks floored an enthusiastic yet thin crowd at Solar Culture. More Girl Power at Congress with The Randies and The Start, while The Hut closed the night with a decidedly Tucson-friendly combo of the Los Lobos-like Vaquetones and the Calexico-influenced Thrift Store Cowboys.

Overall, not a bad event. Next year I suggest dedicated wristbands; contain it to one week, and include more local bands.

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