The opening of Auditorium Shores provided a nice anchor around which to build another long South by Southwest day, but after twilight it was time to venture back out into the wilds of town again. Here’s a quick rundown of a few hits along the way, starting with a brief clip from the start of the Auditorium shores concert with local band My Jerusalem:
St. David’s Episcopal Church once again proved a wonderful haven of a venue at the start of the night, as its Bethel Hall room proved a perfectly quiet and respectful spot to catch the Australian duo Luluc. When I first heard this band four years ago, I was so impressed that I flew 500 miles to see them live. Having SXSW draw them here sure makes it easier, and they didn’t disappoint, treating a full house to a selection of mesmerizing songs drawn primarily from their 2014 Sub Pop album “Passerby.”
A short walk down the street provided an opportunity to catch the great Austin country singer Kelly Willis, who’s mostly been performing with her songwriter husband Bruce Robison the past couple of years but fronted her own band this time. She still relied on some of Robison’s songs, including the ringers “Wrapped” and “Not Forgotten You,” but the most fascinating development was the inclusion of some new material, which her longtime booking agent Davis McLarty said she’s been recording at a new studio Robison recently built in Lockhart. Here’s a quick bit from one of those new songs:
A walk west to TenOak proved to be a misfire, as a mostly disinterested crowd of people seemingly not there for the music milled about before Gomez singer Ben Ottewell was scheduled to play. At 10 minutes past the scheduled starting time, he hadn’t gone on yet, so Plan B involved heading south across the river to the Continental Club, where Chuck Prophet was scheduled to start up at midnight.
I try to catch Prophet at least once every year he’s at SXSW, which is almost every year, and he never disappoints. He seemed especially on fire this night, rocking and rolling a sweaty but happy throng of patrons with older barnburners such as “Doubter out of Jesus” (which brought the club’s beloved bartender Clara Reed onto the stage riser to dance up a storm) and “You Did” (with its eternal question, “Who put the bomp in the bompity bomp?”). He also delivered newer material such as “Ford Econoline” from his most recent release on Yep Roc Records, whose bands had the run of the Continental for the entire night Thursday.
Prophet’s set was an ideal way to cap the night, especially with Friday morning commitments looming. Those A.M. obligations likely wouldn’t be as enjoyable as Thursday’s, which involved an annual ritual at Butler Park Pitch & Putt just west of the Long Center. Old friend and former Austinite David Menconi of the Raleigh News & Observer helped to get this tradition going more than a decade ago.
Joining us this year was SXSW co-founder Louis Meyers, who says he’s moving back to Austin from Kansas City later this year, to manage singer-songwriter Sam Baker and to play music. Catch him Saturday at 6 p.m. at Threadgill’s playing a bluegrass version of The Who’s “Tommy” with Kansas City band the HillBenders.
Also taking part was singer-guitarist Cory Reinisch of the Austin alt-country band Harvest Thieves, who play at noon on Saturday at Lucy’s Fried Chicken before their official showcase at the Lucky Lounge Saturday at 11 p.m. Reinisch once claimed that if Butler Park ever is threatened by development, he’d chain himself to one of its trees, which earned him an obvious invitation to join our foursome.
One last quick hit from Thursday, though I didn’t witness it myself: On his way over to the dedication ceremony for the new Brent Grulke Plaza adjacent to Auditorium Shores, Brent’s brother Brad happened to spot Lyle Lovett strumming a guitar and singing in front of the Willie Nelson statue at ACL Live. We don’t yet know what the deal was, but here’s the photographic evidence Brad smartly snapped: