SXSW: South Congress Circuit
As usual, Saturday afternoon for me was all about South Congress. Bands like Houston's own Allen Oldies Band - fronted by the High Priest of the Oldies and the State of Texas's official unofficial Minister of Fun - are traditions, as are people like Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry at Mojo Nixon's party at the Continental Club.
Photo by Mark C. Austin
There are always a few revelations each year. For me, on South Congress anyway, that person was Amy Lavere. A somewhat rare female upright bass player, Lavere has a little bit of a sultry Norah Jones vibe to her, although her music sounds like acoustic Zeppelin.
Back at the Continental, Graham put on an absolutely mesmerizing set which had his fans singing quietly along with his every word. Graham has been through a ton in his personal life over the past few years, and it showed in this utterly cathartic gig.
McMurtry joined Graham on a guitar duel near the end of the set and then took the stage for his own. For me, his performance of "Chocktaw Bingo" co-starring the feather boa- and cocktail dress-draped Dancing Sisters (Houston's own Tricia and Becky Gernand) is one of the absolute must-sees of any SXSW - a mesmerizing spectacle of good, clean, debauchery set to McMurtry's trance-blues riff and one of the most amazing sets of lyrics of the past decade.
It just doesn't get any better than that so I set off in search of another adventure with "Chocktaw Bingo" still ringing in my ears.