aSOUNDS SCENE AND HERD SIGHTS: When you do this job for awhile you get to see and hear a few strange and wonderful things. Sometimes they happen simultaneously.
During the recent South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, I was at a small cafe on the University of Texas campus listening to folk/country singer-songwriter Sarah Elizabeth Campbell and her band.
Her full, husky voice filled her love songs with a melancholy beauty that riveted everyone's attention. Much of what she sang was from her '94 Deja Disc album Running With You. My favorite tune on that disc is the title track, and I was getting a little worried as time slipped away before the next performer was scheduled to take the stage that she wouldn't get to it. Luckily, she saved it for last.
I joined everyone else in a standing ovation as she stepped down from the stage. As she walked by me, I thought what a shame it is that someone with such an incredible voice is probably doomed to play little cafes around her hometown of Austin forever. You see, Campbell is a large woman. She isn't unattractive, she's just very big. In the music business that's a huge strike to have against you. It isn't good enough to sing like an angel, you have to look like Cindy Crawford, too.
I walked outside to dilute the gin fumes with a little fresh air. As I got to the doors I heard some guy running up behind yelling, "Hey, man! Hey, dude wait a second!"
Smiling, hand extended, he asked excitedly if I were a musician. Before I could answer, he said, "Want to be in a progressive country band? We're looking for someone with your looks for our group, you know, someone with long hair and a cowboy hat. Someone with that rock-and-roll look, but still country enough for a cool, progressive band.
"Yeah, I understand," I told him with a laugh. "Sorry, but I'm not a musician, I'm a writer."
"Do you write music?" he asked with a dimming glow in his eyes.
"No, I write about music," I told him, putting out the fires completely.
"Man, that sucks. We're looking for someone just like you. Do you know anyone who looks like you who plays?"
No, I told him. He continued with his spiel anyway. He was Clayton DuBose's manager (I'd never heard of him either) and he and Clayton had been scouring Austin for days searching for someone with my "look." Before that he'd spent weeks in Los Angeles going through the clubs in his futile quest.
It wasn't until after he'd made absolutely sure I didn't play guitar (not ever, he'd asked sadly) and left, did it occur to me that all he needed was a guitarist with long hair (no shortage of them as far as I can tell). Put a doofy cowboy hat on him and the problem would be solved. Either that, or get a player who already wears a hat to grow his hair for a few months and the search would be over.
It's just one example of the cruel idiocies running rampant through this business. Campbell sings her heart out night after night to small crowds, and Clayton DuBose's manager runs around the country looking for me. Madness.
MORE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: I also heard the band with the biggest industry buzz at this year's SXSW--Wilco. The band is fronted by former Uncle Tupelo bassist Jeff Tweedy. Their alt-country jangle-pop sounds like the stuff of future stars to me, but then I'm almost always wrong about that kind of thing.
My favorite SXSW concert this year was one that included a set by Dashboard Saviors of Athens, Georgia. They're what you might hear if Neil Young showed the young Rolling Stones some of his old guitar tricks: fuzzy lashes of guitar din whipping against compact, intense pop melodies and thick kicks of percussion.
Get yourself a copy of their new Love Sorrow Hatred Madness album if this sounds anything like your favorite brand-name-dropping style of rock and roll.
LAST NOTES: The Hoodoo Kings album release party in Tucson has been canceled. They were going to debut One Foot In The Groove at the Santa Rita Ballroom this Saturday night. Hopefully the blues band will be able to get down here from Phoenix soon and treat us to some of that good stuff.
Don't forget: This Saturday, April 15, the second annual Bob Marley Festival takes over Reid Park from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. At least 18 different performers are scheduled to take their places on the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center stage. The event is free, so be sure to get there early if you want a prime viewing spot. Bring two cans of food or a couple of non-perishable food items for donation to the Community Food Bank. Thanks to KXCI community radio for bringing this event to us.
That same night the Newport Jazz Festival Tour plays Centennial Hall. Call 621-3341 for ticket information.
The Poster Children are at the Downtown Performance Center, 530-B N. Stone Ave., with Brenda's Never Been on Saturday, too. You can get admission information on this show and other upcoming DPC concerts by calling 628-1650. That includes the Wool concert with Teeth and Sinister Six on Sunday, April 16.
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