Thursday, March 15, 2007
Inside Austin City Limits
Since I’m at South by Southwest all week – I thought I’d provide some snippets from the fest, as well as a couple of tracks of “essential listening” each day – tracks you should download from artists you’ll be hearing much more from. So without further ado...
March 14 – Essential Listening:
Scanners – “In My Dreams”
The Needles – “Diane”
Beirut – “Scenic World”
The Mountain Goats – “This Year”
Smoking Popes – “I Know You Love Me”
Scanners at the day stage in the convention center – The lead singer belted out “Lowlife” to round out their set, rolling her eyes back and screaming gently before bursting into the popish happy melody and crooning with her charming English accent.
Screening of “Truth in Terms of Beauty” – a biographical portrait of photographer Herman Leonard who discovered how much he could like photography after glimpsing some artful nude photos of his sister-in-law.
He went on to be a successful fashion, catalogue, and yes, occasional Playboy pin-up photographer, travel the world, have children with beautiful women, and then wind up penniless at 67 years old. When he rediscovered some photos he’d taken in his youth of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis – now American icons – he made a come-back, and a bigger name for himself. Leonard always had another trick up his sleeve.
As Beirut started their 40-minute set, the band leader, a 21-year-old with a big voice from Albuquerque, New Mexico, apologized that they hadn’t been able to bring more ukuleles.
With seven band members - playing instruments ranging from drums to trumpet to violin and accordion – Beirut is a uniquely talented outfit. You get the sense that you could probably wheel out a pipe organ and at least one of the band members would know how to play it.
Part “Amelie” soundtrack, part Frank Sinatra, Beirut’s sound is nothing if not distinctive. Commonly labeled as “folk” or “gypsy,” when the band leader breaks out the bullhorn which he points toward the microphone and sings into, the truth may be that Beirut defies labeling.
Plus, that 21-year-old can really blow a trumpet.
Excited fans called out song titles, and the Mountain Goats artfully put some power behind “Going to Georgia,” from 2005’s Zopilote Machine, and “Half Dead,” from their 2006 release “Get Lonely.” But as excited as the fans were, the Goats themselves were most delighted at the finale of the show – they brought out the female Canadian quartet Pony Up!, who shimmied together on stage as the Goats covered Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Best moment of the day.