Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz dishes about his love for Austin ahead of Saturday tour stop

It’s been 25 years since Counting Crows’ debut album, “August and Everything After,” took the ’90s by storm.

Ahead of the band’s Saturday show with Live at the Austin360 Amphitheater, frontman Adam Duritz chatted with reporters Addie Broyles and Kristin Finan about topics ranging from his new podcast to where he likes to eat when he’s in Austin. Here are some excerpts; the full interview will air on I Love You So Much: The Austin360 Podcast in the coming weeks.

2018 Live Photo (2) - Ehud Lazin
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz. credit: Ehud Lazin

On his love of Austin:

“I love the music scene and how much people love music. I love the food. There are a lot of good restaurants here. There’s places here that I just cannot wait to get to Austin to go to. One of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants anywhere is here, that restaurant, Sunflower. I love that restaurant. And I have lots of friends here.”

On his favorite Austin memory, which came when he hosted a festival called the Outlaw Roadshow during SXSW:

“We did about four or five (Outlaw Roadshow events) during SXSW. My favorite time was when my parents called me one year and they said, ‘Hey, you’re going to be in Austin this week for that festival you’re doing. We’re actually going to be there, too. Boy, it was really hard to find a hotel in Austin.’ I was just like, ‘Mom, it’s SXSW, that’s why.’ … They went to see a bunch of bands with me, a bunch of indie bands, and it made them love Austin forever. They’re here this week, too. My parents, who are in their late 70s, love Austin. They accidentally landed here during SXSW one year and now they love coming back.”

On the new podcast, Underwater Sunshine: The Podcast, he hosts with journalist James Campion:

“I love it. We’re music geeks, and music geeks love to shove down your throat the latest thing they’ve listed to. Now we have a way that everyone can hear us doing it. Most of my interviews, they want to talk about the shows and it’s often the same type of questions. This way we can just talk about whatever we want to talk about. I don’t have to talk about Counting Crows all the time.”

On the summer tour, “25 Years and Counting,” so far:

“It’s been really great. I’ve been trying to sort of do these spoken word things, not exactly like ‘Storytellers’ but kind of like that. That was hard because it involved a whole bunch of new writing. I don’t usually go on tour and write a bunch of stuff. It was a lot of work to write these things to make sure they were good, to make sure they didn’t drag on, then remember them. It’s been really cool. I think talking about the songs really focuses the audience and involves them in a way that’s really good and pretty powerful emotionally. It’s been pretty good for me, too, because it’s hard but I think it focuses me as well.”

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Counting Crows play the Austin360 Amphitheater on Saturday, July 21. credit: Danny Clinch

On asking fans on social media what they want to hear this summer:

“It did get me to add ‘Anna Begins’ in a little more, that was surprising. That was the top requested song last week. It’s been running at the top the whole time. It reminded me that we hadn’t been playing that song much and we started playing it more. We change the set list every night.”

On being inspired by music and theater:

“I tend to write when I’m inspired and that can happen for a variety of reasons. I wrote ‘Rain King’ after finishing watching ‘Doctor Zhivago’ one night. I was sitting by myself and I wrote ‘Rain King,’ which has nothing to do with Doctor Zhivago but I had a lot of feeling in me and I sort of poured it out into a song.”

On his new free music festival, “Underwater Sunshine Fest,” Oct. 12-13 in New York:

“I think when you start out you’re in a peer group of musicians, your friends who are at the clubs in the other bands. It’s really great. When our career took off I sort of lost all that. Unless you want to hang out at the MTV awards or the Grammys, which really aren’t my bag, you sort of lose that peer group. One of the nice things about putting on all these shows with these musicians was I found myself surrounded by other musicians again. I had a real group of peers and friends, even though we’re in different places in our careers. … The same reason I love listening to Pandora is the reason people should listen the Underwater Sunshine Podcast and come to the Underwater Sunshine Festival. We’re here to be your Pandora, to expose you to music. These are great bands making great music that are just not famous yet. We’re trying to change that.”

Austin deserves a dance break: .Gifs of our favorite SXSW 2018 dancers

It’s been a very rough month in the capital city of Texas and we deserve a dance break. Here are some .gifs of our favorite dancers at SXSW.

Amara La Negra. We saw plenty of fantastic dancers during SXSW, but no one put better moves to her grooves than the “Love & Hip Hop Miami” Star.

Her whole team was fire, but this dude…

I mean, THIS DUDE…

And throughout the performance, the booty was in full effect.

SXSW 2018: Our favorite moments

Tinashe. The 25-year-old ‘s dance team lit a fire behind her blunted R&B.

Tinashe at SXSW. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

Yeah, they were smoky.

Tinashe at SXSW. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

SXSW 2018: Photo highlights from the fest

Pussy Riot. We don’t know exactly what to call these moves, but we’re pretty sure Pussy Riot’s performance was the Russian protest punk version of  bringing “da Ruckus.”

Pussy Riot at SXSW. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

Oshun. With lyrically incisive rhymes woven with entrancing soul, the NYC duo showed us the next generation’s New Jack Swing.

And it felt so good.

Oshun at SXSW. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

SXSW Sound Style: The Afrofuturism of Oshun

Meow Wolf. The immersive art collective from New Mexico created the weirdest dance party of the fest.

Tameca Jones. Finally,  we can’t sleep on the home team. The Queen of Austin Soul can shake it with the best of them.

Tameca Jones. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman
Amara La Negra performs at Empire Garage during SXSW, Monday, March 12, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

SXSW Saturday: Here’s a toast to the locals on the last day of the fest

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Once the roaring apex of a music-marathon long weekend, the final Saturday at South by Southwest has changed dramatically from the early years. Now it’s the fading denouement for a near-fortnight of tech, film, politics, media, style, gaming, social issues… and, oh yeah, there’s music in there somewhere.

No matter. If out-of-town SXSW attendees are increasingly arriving and leaving early, Saturday still leaves a lot of options for the locals. A final free show at Auditorium Shores was built like a home-team showcase, with Roky Erickson, Shinyribs, A Giant Dog, Night Drive and Bidi Bidi Banda. But we opted for a half-dozen of the countless smaller gigs around town, some directly related to SXSW and others that weren’t. Watch the video above to follow along on our day-to-night tour, but here’s a little more about each stop.

2 p.m.: John Doe Folk Trio at Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Wait, the guy from X? Yes, the Los Angeles punk pioneer now calls Austin home, and he’s even started a new band to mark the occasion. It’s a damn good one, too, with Willie Nelson’s bassist Kevin Smith playing an acoustic upright, and veteran indie-rock drummer Cully Symington on a bare-bones kit. Lucy’s was packed to hear Doe’s still-soaring voice adapt songs from the X catalog to pared-down arrangements, with newer tunes and surprises as well (such as a Spanish-language tune he learned from the late Harry Dean Stanton). Welcome, Mr. Doe, the Live Music Capital is lucky to have you.

5:30 p.m.: Ed Miller & Rich Brotherton at Opal Divine’s South. Speaking of people (and places) we’re lucky to have, this duo has been helping local institution Opal Divine’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for nearly three decades now. Opal’s recently closed its Penn Field location, but they’ve opened a new South Austin spot in the bar of the Best Western Plus at I-35 and Oltorf. Following the grand-parade entrance of the Silver Thistle Pipe & Drum Corps, Miller — host of Sun Radio’s terrific “Across the Pond” show focusing on music from the British Isles — teamed up with Robert Earl Keen guitarist Brotherton for a lovely set of traditional folk tunes that went down just right with a pint of Guinness.

8 p.m.: Jaimee Harris at Driskill Victorian Room. Back on the official SXSW grid for evening showcases, we began with one of Austin’s most promising young singer-songwriters, who’s finally on the cusp of releasing a debut album that may well turn heads far beyond the region. Backed by five talented players who’ve locked in tightly to her songs thanks to valuable woodshedding at One-2-One Bar, Harris came across like a tour de force — sometimes full-throttle, other times pin-drop hushed, always engaging and leading with her innate sense of a strong melody. Honoring a recently departed young Austin musician with a sign on her guitar and speaking out in support of local organizations HAAM and the SIMS Foundation, Harris eloquently addressed the serious stuff by with a cover of Peter Case’s late-’80s classic “Put Down the Gun.”

Little Mazarn performs at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room during SXSW on Saturday, March 17, 2018. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

9 p.m.: Little Mazarn at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Trawling the two blocks down Sixth Street for this one was an arduous ordeal of dodging barricades and masses of partiers, but the reward was an upstairs hideaway where Lindsey Verrill and Jeff Johnston were playing some of the most fascinating music I heard all week. Thumping bass vibrations drifted up from the cacophony below, a surreal juxtaposition to the duo’s otherworldly blend of banjo, bowed saw, droning keyboards and Verrill’s vocals. The space was perfect, a small open room lined with the most comfortable chairs at any SXSW venue. Little Mazarn’s set was a perfect bookend to Monday’s Max Richter “Sleep” show at Bass Concert Hall: How grand it would have been just to line the whole room with Beautyrests and let these two play for eight hours straight as we drifted in and out of consciousness/reverie.

READ MORE: Our review of Little Mazarn’s recent self-titled EP

10 p.m.: Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few at Elephant Room. We almost didn’t want to leave that Gibson Room escapist fantasy, but a few blocks away, country mainstay Warden and his new pop-jazz ensemble were making their Elephant Room debut. Fixtures at the Continental Gallery for a couple of years now, they’ve honed their chops with a fine set of songs that Warden boasted makes them “the world’s only all-original-material cocktail music band!” The crowd gave them a boisterous stamp of approval at the end of their 40-minute set. Now it’s just a matter of how and when these songs will appear in recorded form.

READ MORE: Monte Warden makes classic crooner pop fresh again

11 p.m.: Knife in the Water at Lamberts. The recent resurgence of this atmospheric indie band, which last year released its first new record in 14 years, has been a nice surprise. A five-piece ensemble that supplements a guitar-bass-drums core with female backing vocals and steel guitar, Knife in the Water gradually pulls you in. Their set started unassumingly, amid chatter in the upstairs room above the venue’s barbecue restaurant. But the more they played, the more entrancing their songs became. It’s good to have them back in action.

A Postscript: Our Saturday finale didn’t fit the local theme (except that he has a memoir due out on University of Texas Press next month) but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the gorgeous acoustic chamber-folk performance North Carolina’s Chris Stamey presented at the Driskill Victorian Room at midnight. Known largely as a producer and arranger — he was the music director for Alejandro Escovedo’s annual ACL Live show this past January — Stamey has written many splendid songs across a 40-year career that intertwined with the heyday of New York’s legendary CBGB club in the 1970s. (Stamey took part in a Friday SXSW panel about the CBGB scene alongside the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, Television’s Richard Lloyd and others.)

Neatly sidestepping technical problems with his acoustic guitar, Stamey and his locally recruited cello/violin accompaniment wove magical spells with songs such as “Something Came Over Me,” “Lovesick Blues” and “27 Years in a Single Day.” Like Little Mazarn’s set earlier, it was a sweet moment of enchantment, right there in the heart of the cacophony.

SXSW: Cut Copy can’t catch a break in Austin

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Cut Copy can’t catch a break in Austin it seems. In October, the Australian dance act was playing a late afternoon set at ACL Fest when their sound was cut off mid-way through their set-closing biggest hit, “Lights and Music,” as part of a festival-wide Tom Petty tribute. At Lustre Pearl Saturday night, at their only honest-to-goodness SXSW show (two members played a DJ set earlier in the evening), the four-piece wrestled with persistent sound issues.

Frontman Dan Whitford was visibly upset, wincing at the piercing shrieks of feedback and knocking down his keyboard during crowd-pleaser “Hearts on Fire.” Having a seemingly amateur sound issue like egregious feedback tarnish the polish of their slick, carefully crafted electronic sound was no doubt frustrating for the guys of Cut Copy, but they played on and made the best of it, with Whitford rebounding from the apparently unfixable annoyance by focusing on pushing the crowd harder to sing and get moving.

“It’s the last night. If you’re not going to dance now, when?” Whitford asked.

Adding to the mix of sound pains was music pouring over from a neighboring Rainey Street bar. But, as with the feedback, the crowd seemed eager to forgive and focus on dancing. “SXSW is a bit of a battle of the bands sometimes. But as long as you’re on our side,” Whitford said with a smile.

Through it all, Cut Copy kept the packed crowd at Lustre Pearl moving, with hands waving in the air and voices raised shouting along the words from a short run through hits from albums In Ghost Colours, Zonoscopeand their latest, Haiku From Zero.

Maybe next time the band can undo their current streak. Fortunately, fans won’t have to wait long: Cut Copy gets a redo in Austin next Friday, March 30, at Stubb’s. Let’s hope they can find and replace the sound guy before then. (I’ll see myself out…)

Setlist

  • “Need You Now”
  • “Black Rainbows”
  • “Airborne”
  • “Pharaohs & Pyramids”
  • “Hearts on Fire”
  • “Take Me Out”
  • “Out There on the Ice”
  • “Lights and Music”
Crowds line up to get into day parties along Rainey Street during SXSW on March 13, 2018. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

SXSW 2018: Hinds triumphed over hoarseness in their 13th set of the week

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Contrary to whatever cliché you may have heard, 13 was not a particularly lucky number for Hinds during their Barracuda set on Friday afternoon. First, there was the incessant feedback that’s plagued the Spanish garage pop quartet for years at SXSW. Then, of course, there was the inevitable physical deterioration that comes with playing 13 shows in a week. So, just to be safe, singer/guitarist Carlotta Cosials issued a warning at the beginning of their set.

“Before It gets awkward, just to let you know, we have some issues with the voices,” she said. Fellow singer/guitarist Ana García Perrote chimed in, “Use your imagination with sweet angels’ voices, because that is what we have.”

To which the audience collectively responded with: Girl, please. Hinds could’ve made whale noises and told knock-knock jokes onstage and the audience would’ve eaten it up. These ladies are one of the brightest buzz bands at this year’s festival, and their delightfully rough-around-the-edges set felt like a hard-earned victory lap. What’s a little hoarseness when the band members were shouting triumphantly between songs and hopping around the stage like prizefighters?

It’s easy to see why Hinds dominated SXSW this year. Cosials and Perrote flex their pop smarts with dual lead vocals that recall veteran girl groups of the late ‘90s, while their crunchy guitar leads satisfy the DIY kids who cuff their jeans two inches above their Vans SK8-Hi’s and smoke American Spirits by the pack. Cosials, Perrote and bassist Ade Martín cut rock goddess power stances and aimed their guitars into the crowd, emboldened by the throng of women jumping against the stage and singing their infectious choruses back at them.

In the end, rapturous applause overruled the sound tech’s call to end the set, and Hinds eked our one more song. All they could do was smile in exhausted, ecstatic disbelief as they garnered the loudest reaction I’ve personally witnessed all week. The members of Hinds have earned themselves a solid week of rest — and a bigger venue next time they come to town.

A “do not talk to sound guy” sign hangs next to the sound board at Barracuda during the 2018 SXSW Music festival March 17. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Naked Giants’ fully clothed fun jump kicks its way into SXSW’s rock-hungry heart

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I’ve heard plenty of veteran SXSW-ers who bemoan the lack of rock at the festival. With hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music making up more and more of the lineup, many long for a simple drum-guitar-bass setup played loud and played fast. For these, Naked Giants are the cure for what ails. The bombastic Seattle rock trio are an absolute delight, with an energetic live show that is loud, fast, and, dare I say, the most fun to be had at a live rock show at SXSW 2018.

Despite the name, Naked Giants are clothed and of only slightly above-average human dimensions, but their presence on stage is huge, with goofy on-stage antics, high-flying moves, and serious face-melting solos. This is gnarly garage rock delivered with guitar straps worn high and tight and a seemingly endless array of effects pedals. Think: (Thee) Oh Sees or Ty Segall but firmly rooted enough in classic rock basics to appeal to your Stevie Ray Vaughan-loving mother just as well as your record crate-digging music snob pal.

The secret in their mass appeal is the live show sauce. They feel like they’re three buds who just happen to be wickedly talented musicians having a good time together on stage–as well as off stage. Early into their Little Woodrow’s show Thursday at SXSW, bassist Gianni Aiello jumped the railing and played from the sidewalk, holding his bass behind his head and thrashing about, all the while drawing delighted or concerned stares from passers by. My favorite reaction? A child in his caregiver’s arms, smiling while tightly covering his ears: an apt analogy for the Naked Giants gleeful/ear plugs-encouraged live experience. Many smilers turned the corner and walked in to watch the show. (Who needs fliers and email blasts with promotional work like that?) Meanwhile, back on stage, guitarist-vocalist Grant Mullen’s eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth hung open, looking possessed as he sanded down the fretboard with a non-stop spidering of flying fingers. Throughout it all drummer Henry LaVallee played at a frenzied pace, exhibiting superhuman stamina–even more so later during an 8-minute-or-so solo-stuffed jam.

One notable fan in attendance (or at least in the same venue) was Rory McCann–Game of Thrones’ Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.

Naked Giants played SXSW last year but returned this go-round ahead of their upcoming full-length debut, SLUFF, due out March 30.

SXSW: At Scoot Inn, a ‘backstage’ peek at life of a legendary roadie

There were two things happening at the eastern fringe of SXSW on Friday afternoon.

In the sun-splashed dirt courtyard of the Scoot Inn beer garden, the Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion was in the final stretch of a three-day run — Erika Wennerstrom’s enormous voice on “Extraordinary Love” was swamping the place like a tsunami, drowning out pockets of disinterest.

But inside Scoot Inn proper — what was on this afternoon the “Roadie Lounge” — the star of the afternoon was a legend on a different level. Ben Dorcy, who maintained his title of “oldest living roadie” by working until the week he died at the age of 92 last September, was being celebrated with sneak peeks at a documentary 13 years in the making.

Every now and then Amy Nelson, daughter of Ben’s longtime employer Willie, would try to bring the two events together, speaking to the outside crowd of the virtues of “Lovey” — as Dorcy was known to those close to him. But still, a separation remained: The show and … backstage.

For an event honoring the original roadie, it was only natural.

Erika Wennerstrom plays during The Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion at Scoot Inn during SXSW Fri., March 16, 2018 JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

It was fitting that the Scoot Inn would host — it is one of the few Austin bars old enough to encompass the legacy of Dorcy, who was born in 1925, two years before the first jukebox. After serving as gardener and valet to John Wayne, Dorcy would hit the road for 65 years with the giants of country music.

Inside the dark and cool interior of the historic bar, the first 15 minutes of the documentary: “Lovey: King of the Roadies” began with Dorcy aboard Willie’s bus, sharing a joint with his old boss and recounting stories of misbehavior and wild times. It is a professional and polished film of music legends sharing what is legendary to them. Among the many icons on screen, we don’t lose sight of who the star of this show is. There’s Dorcy, shuffling along on his cane, his countenance weathered to sharp angles. In portraits, his eyes are inscrutable. In snapshots with friends, they are alive with joy.

RELATED: Remembering Ben Dorcy, ‘King of the Roadies’ and a Texas legend

“He took care of all these stars with this star power,” Amy Nelson said. “And he had that same kind of star power. He could have been an actor, too. He was hanging around all these amazing people and he chose to serve them.”

Amy Nelson — there on Friday alongside her co-producers of the film, David Anderson and Lana Nelson — co-directed the film with her cousin Trevor Doyle Nelson. Her love for the man who was part of the Willie Nelson Family band, and by extension, her own family, was apparent in her conversation … and also in the years she has spent on the film.

All along, she pictured Dorcy at events like these and on the red carpet at the premiere. “It was hard to keep working on (the documentary) after he was gone,” she said. But Austin’s High Brew Coffee stepped in at that moment to help push the project forward.

Now Amy Nelson says the film is nearly complete and she hopes to have details like publishing and licensing complete in time for the fall film festival season.

Ben Dorcy got his start in the music business working for Hank Thompson, but also was connected to Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash.

Inside the Scoot Inn, Dorcy’s fellow roadies are lined up for free custom earplugs being given out this afternoon by MusiCares. Those not on barstools having their ears peered into are watching the screen as Jamey Johnson sings a cover of “Night Life.” Toward the end of the clip, Dorcy is shown in the plaza of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, when a fellow in a Batman costume sidles up to him. “Where are the drugs going?” he asks. Is it a real moment or a setup? Either way, Dorcy’s reaction is authentic: “Get away from me!” he snarls.

The room erupts in laughter. These pros know, the meek don’t survive 65 years on the road.

RELATED: The Year in Willie, a look back at Nelson’s busy 2017

Dorcy was connected to Willie for many of those years, but he also worked with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Ray Price, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, among others.

In his later years, Dorcy was connected to a similar run of “Texas music” artists: Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott, Cody Canada and, particularly, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.

As it turns out, it’s no accident that Dorcy stayed on the road with the younger generation — those artists and their roadies worked together to take care of the man who had no living relatives.

“All of these fellow roadies were becoming like his sons,” Amy Nelson said. “They would network and figure out where Ben was going and where he going to work and where he was going to spend the holidays and how they were going to pay his rent.”

“It was amazing to see this brotherhood and how they came together to take care of their fellow roadie.”

It was in this spirit that Joel Schoepf (former roadie who now works for John T. Floore Country Store) and John Selman (Willie Nelson stage manager) created the Live Like Lovey foundation, to help benefit other roadies who need financial assistance.

A silent auction at the Scoot Inn on Friday, featuring items ranging from Willie-signed bandanas to original Jerry Garcia art, helped raise funds for the roundation. Looming over the auction was a huge framed movie poster for the “Lovey: KIng of the Roadies” documentary.

Before he died in September, Dorcy did see a cut of the hour and 40 minute film about his life. His judgment?

“He loved it,” Amy Nelson said. “After 20 minutes, he was like ‘I like it.’ And when it was over he said, ‘I love it.’”

“Thank God.”

SXSW 2018 free fun: Knox Fortune at Urban Outfitters

Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Knox Fortune, perhaps best known as the vocals behind the earworm chorus on Chance the Rapper’s “All Night,” ends a hectic SXSW run with a free all-ages set Saturday evening at Space 24 Twenty, the sunny courtyard behind Urban Outfitters’ campus location.

Knox Fortune performs during South by Southwest at Fader Fort on March 14, 2018. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

With free Austin Eastciders and Topo Chico as well as food available for sale from Frank and Bananarchy, it’s shaping up to be a chill destination as SXSW enters the final stretch–and one that feels light-years removed from the relatively close chaos of SXSW central to the south.

This is the fourth and final day of the annual all-ages, no-credentials-required event, which, for future reference for any parents out there, is one of the best-kept kid-friendly parties at SXSW (for people that don’t want to see kids’ music).

Kaytranada-produced rapper Buddy goes on at 5 p.m., followed by Knox Fortune at 6 p.m.

The most intense SXSW show? A brutal, ear-wrecking combo of Metz and Idles

If you were looking for the loudest, most hardcore, most moshing-est show at SXSW 2018, hopefully you found your way into the packed Barracuda Backyard for an up-close-and-personal, all-bands-on-the-floor bill featuring insane Bristol punks Idles and acclaimed Canadian noise masters Metz Friday night.

Guitarist Mark Bowen and lead singer Joe Talbot of the band Idles perform at the British Music Embassy Official Showcase at Latitude 30 during the 2018 SXSW Music festival in the early hours of March 16. 03/16/18 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The off-stage show at Barracuda is likely one of the more intimate setups you’d catch Metz playing these days—and probably the tightest quarters you’d want to see Idles in, lest you desire to spend an hour feet removed from the floor caught up in a battering human blender of rage-releasing fans slamming together. And that close to the band, no less, who are even more energetic than the frenzied fans crashing around them.

This all may sound like your idea of a nightmare or comical if you think the scene is silly, but Idles’ SXSW 2018 performance at Barracuda may be the best punk show of its kind I’ve ever witnessed. Think: Nick Cave meets Mclusky, gritted teeth and grins, bruises and embraces with strangers, uplifting and angry. It felt like experiencing something people will be talking about for years to come.

Pacing the circle of fans enclosing around him and spitting on the ground, frontman Joe Talbot had the ready-to-strike walk and intense gaze of a man one wouldn’t want to cross. Guitarist Mark Bowen brought a sense of levity and used the combination of wireless microphones and the flanked-by-fans setup to be even more mixed in to the crowd than usual, at times handing off his guitar, climbing on swaying towers of audio gear, or, in the ultimate act of subversion, jumping onto the empty Barracuda Backyard stage behind the band to perform.

“Mike Stand, everybody,” Bowen said, giving an acknowledging motion to a fan holding his mic for him.

“Don’t ever give us wireless microphones again,” Talbot said.

Beneath the surface level of barely contained chaos, Idles’ performance felt urgent and like a needed catharsis—not just for weary, worn-out music fans nearing the end of a long week, but for the world at large—touching on anger, humanity, sexism, politics, poverty, and love in that sometimes surprising way that only visceral rock music can.  

“I know things are [expletive] right now, but remember to love yourselves and the people around you. Love conquers all,” Talbot said as the set drew to a close.

Weirdly, I almost felt bad for Metz to have to follow such a show.

Guitarist Mark Bowen of the band Idles takes his performance out onto the bar top at the British Music Embassy Official Showcase at Latitude 30 during the 2018 SXSW Music festival in the early hours of March 16. 03/16/18 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The calm before the next coming storm was short, and Toronto-based trio Metz soon entered the pit of fans, unleashing a blistering barrage of pure melodic noise, rusty razor-wire guitar squeals, and speedy, piston-pumping bass to a backdrop of jumping and moshing and flying cups and cans.

Grungier than grunge rock played at a volume that would make even hardened shoegaze fans flinch, the static contortionists of Metz unleashed their signature sound of eardrum-killing klaxons of minimal bending guitar screeches that rise and fall like passing sirens, touching on the best bits from their three albums to date, including their latest Strange Peace.

The show began to really come into its own a few songs in. “This song is for dancing, so move your [expletive expletive],” said sweat-drenched vocalist-guitarist Alex Edkins, launching into the explosive “Get Off.” (Side note: While I agree—it is for dancing—I couldn’t help but think this must seem a hilariously confounding moment for any uninitiated listener roped into going to the show with a friend: “This is for dancing?!?”) Dance the crowd did, as event photographers on the frontlines cradled their gear and up-front fans tried to hold the door against the thrashing bodies slamming against their backs to avoid trampling guitar pedals or tripping on monitors past the invisible barrier between fan and band.

As the last bit of feedback faded away, the ringing in the ears came up in the mix. Fans assessed themselves and their belongings, turned and smiled to talk to strangers, and headed out: nothing was broken, no one hurt.

The doubleheader of hearing-ruining ruckus followed sets from “semi-legendary” (as described by frontman David Gedge) British indie icons The Wedding Present and wild, positive political punk newcomers Life. Entry to Barracuda slowed to a crawl well before Idles hit the floor, with long lines of fans inside waiting to move between the inside stage to the outdoor one. The show marked the final set for Idles at SXSW this year. Metz plays Saturday afternoon at the Thrasher X Vans Death Match party at 6 p.m.

SXSW 2018: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Shakey Graves at Auditorium Shores

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Austin’s own less-grumpy Ryan Adams Alejandro Rose-Garcia (a.k.a. Shakey Graves) took to the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores as to the sun began to set on SXSW Music Friday. In a sleeves-rolled-up red flannel shirt and Meow Wolf baseball cap, the gentleman from Austin is nearly a living, breathing physical manifestation of the town as it aspires to be: a little country/a lot rock, polished and cool but welcoming and warm.

Shakey Graves performs for a small crowd of fans, friends, and contest winners at Geraldines on Rainey St. during SXSW Thurs., March 15, 2018 JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

 

Rose-Garcia and his band opened with new single “Counting Sheep” and followed it with a set of mostly new material from the upcoming album, Can’t Wake Up, due out in May.

Shakey Graves’ new sound skews more barroom-ready blues rock than dusty Americana stompers and just feels bigger. Or maybe it was the setting: Watching Rose-Garcia play the sun down with the downtown Austin skyline behind him felt like an epic moment for the hometown hero.

Need something to do for the last few days of SXSW? Check our party guide 

Halfway through the 45-minute set, Shakey Graves shed the band for just his guitar and signature double-pedalled kick drum/tambourine suitcase contraption (remember: machines will take all our jobs–even yours, percussionists), starting with new song “Kids These Days” and later closing with the muted picking and plucking of pounding hit “Roll the Bones.”

“Y’all be excellent to each other out there in the world,” he said leaving the stage.

Up next was the main event for the evening: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, an eight-member band with a classic, classy sound driven by a horn section and electric organ flourishes to church up the affair. The band’s rowdy, vintage rhythm and blues and soulful revival rock make them a surefire crowd pleaser and tonight’s show didn’t disappoint. Fans danced across Auditorium Shores as far back as the Long Center lawn outside the gated perimeter.

The band took the stage with “Shoe Boot,” the first in a line of non-stop irresistible top-tappers that would include current single ”You Worry Me,” from their just-released album Tearing at the Seams, and previous monster hit “S.O.B.” Familiar or not, each song feels like a greatest hit delivered with Rateliff’s voice never faltering voice, equal parts gruff and honey smooth and never breathless between bouts of celebratory fancy footwork stepping and strutting across the stage.

Rateliff was gracious to Austin fans for their support over the years, including an ACL Fest appearance in 2016. “We wouldn’t be here without you,” he said. “And not just us but our families and friends, we really owe you so much.”