Last year, the tail end of my SXSW went suddenly - well, south - for reasons beyond my control, and I missed the last two days of the festival. And the part I missed the most was the low-key Saturday afternoon vibe over the Congress Avenue bridge on the other side of Lady Bird Lake, were unafilliated-with-SXSW day parties take place in art galleries and taco and fried chicken joint parking lots.
This year, after morning coffee at Caffe Medici on Congress - blessedly back open for business after it was taken over for a Grumpy the Cat promotion last year - I headed back to Yard Dog to check out Bad Luck Jonathan, the new project teaming Jon Langford of the Mekons and Waco Brothers with former Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher, and three other rowdy blokes. It turned out to be thundering stuff, unabashed hard rock with stretched out 70s-style songs and mordant lyrics. The debut album is due in May on Cleveland's Blue Arrow records.
SXSW can be an overdone hassle, but it can also be a place of wondrous serendipity. I walked across the street to get some grub from a taco truck, and sat down at a picnic table. Also seated there was a publicist I had emailed scores of times but never met - from Philadelphia - who happened to be working with Boyfriend, the New Orleans based "rap game Bette Midler" performance artist I had been most intriguingly entertained by in NOLA during Jazz Fest a couple of years back. And what do you know, there was Boyfriend herself, with curlers in her hair, as a sort of living breathing art installation involving brassieres and cupcakes. Small world!
I strolled down Congress to have a peak inside the Continental Club, the roots-rock mecca where Sirius XM Outlaw Country radio host Mojo Nixon usually holds a Saturday afternoon throwdown. That turned out to be true on this day, and not only was legendary record man Seymour Stein - who signed The Ramones, Madonna and The Replacements, among others - in attendance, but Linda Gail Lewis, Jerry Lee's 68 year old little sister, was sitting at the piano tearing it up in a hard driving boogie woogie style with staggeringly impressive technique, and occasional use of her heel on the keys to strike a note of emphasis .
She vivaciously ran through a set of songs associated with her brother - who taught her to play when she was 40 - as well as Joe Turner, Wanda Jackson and Chuck Berry, with her daughter Anna Marie helping out on vocals, and rockabillly guitarist Danny B. Harvey helping to kick it into high gear. The recent Austin transplant's 2015 album is called Hard Rocking Woman! So much fun.
I heaed out, and heard a voice calling my from across the street at South by San Jose, the free party hosted by the chic San Jose Hotel. Turned out it belonged to AJ Haynes, the singer for Shreveport, La. hard rock quartet Seratones. She can sweetly coo and seriously screech, and the bad was driving towards a set closing crescendo when i got there, that ended with the singer making her way into the crowd on a ripping and raucous cover of the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" that didn't let go. Another band to keep tabs on, serendipitously found.