Rocks Off Jr.'s fourth night of SXSW frolicking starting off groggily as we woke from a well-needed nap after what has seemed like a month now pounding the pavements of Austin, seeking out new music from club to club like soldiers kicking in doors in Iraq looking for bad guys.
First up was the Ecstatic Peace showcase at Red 7, with Thurston Moore hitting the stage around 8 p.m. Alone, the Sonic Youth co-fronter makes metallic guitar noise with just him and an axe on the stage. It's a far cry from what the mainstream is used to seeing him do with SY, but it's still a rewarding peek into the mind of the noise-pop maven's creative outlet beyond his influential band.
He actually runs the Ecstatic Peace label in his sporadic free time. Another EP band, Boston's Black Helicopter, was keeping it nice and gristly on the Red 7 patio.
We stopped in quickly at the Americana Showcase at the Red Eyed Fly down the street for a double shot of Glossary and Justin Townes Earle. Tourmates of Lucero, Tennessee's Glossary didn't stray too far from the earnest boogie of Ben Nichols' band.
We have seen an abundance of Southern rock this SXSW, some good and some bad. Glossary seemed to be doing it right. After Glossary, JTE debuted more new stuff from his as-yet-recorded album, with bandmates Joshua Headley and Bryn Davies holding down fiddle and bass. White Mice over at Headhunters may have a mildly cute name, but the band's garish zombie-rat costumes and Locust by way of Ministry sound would melt most rodents where they stood.
Think grind for stoner-rockers and you get the idea. Not too spazzy with just enough doom riffs to keep the heshers happy. All they needed was a bass guitar, drums, and a deck of sequencers to make their clamor. They will be hitting Super Happy Fun Land in Houston in early April as well. We went ahead and bit the bullet and camped out at Dirty Dog to get a glimpse at Hole later in the evening.
The line to get in wasn't getting shorter so we queued early. Sadly, we had to sit through Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump's new solo project. The formally plump character has lost a large excess of weight and has donned a sort of Michael McDonald-style lothario image. It's unsettling, especially him onstage by himself all alone running his own programming.
The last band before Hole, Foxy Shazam, brought the ruckus for a good hour with a show that had most people converted by song three. Led by Eric Sean Nally, the band is a glam-pop face-melter, seemingly coming out of leftfield. The band's sounds falls somewhere between Queen, Meatloaf, and a bag of trucker speed. Nally is a beastly haughty terror as a frontman, cracking lies left and right and at one point eating three lit cigarettes.
After a lengthy set-up process, Courtney Love and her new version of Hole took the stage. Gone are the members of the classic alt-rock line-up, leaving Love as the sole name proprietor. From both opening songs, "Codeine" and a gritty take on the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," Love took no shit off anyone declaring this show was for her and her alone. It seems like a bratty deal, but after all that she has been through, you have to at least give her props for grabbing her legacy back by the balls.
Instead of alt-rock or power-pop, she's coming back with the blues as her weapon of choice. At times she was wobbly and she was demanding to her guitarist to her left, but her trademark howl is still intact and so is her own guitar playing. The night was one of an artist climbing back up the rungs of the rock ladder after a good decade or so of personal distraction.
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The new songs are extremely strong, and the old stuff like "Doll Parts" and "Malibu" are now '90s treasures. It was fun seeing Love in a rock and roll element again and not being used as a media sideshow. She even dusted off her 1995 cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" towards the end of the set. After closing with an acoustic version of Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes," Love lept into the crowd and made her directly to the bar for a beer.
It was well-deserved if not off-putting for those maybe worried about her intake. For most it just played right into what their image of her has been since the mid-'90s. It didn't take away from the strength of this new comeback that she undertaking in the slightest.