SXSW Finds Its Americana Roots at the Guitartown + Conqueroo Kick-Off Party
One of the many, many great things about SXSW is the seemingly endless list of artists fans can see over the course of just a few days. For a fan of any genre, SXSW is a mecca of musical opportunity. With an infinite amount of showcases to see, though, it can get overwhelming to hole up at a single venue and spend your precious time in just one spot.
But when an event is curated right, any anxiety or worries are quickly washed away with euphoria as you're pummeled with band after band after band.
Such is the case for fans of Americana and alt-country with this year's edition of Guitartown and Conqueroo's Kick-Off Party (the 15th anniversary of the event). The lineup was evenly stacked with two stages of nonstop music over the course of nine hours yesterday (March 18), all at the Dogwood on 6th Street. Jamie Lin Wilson and Kelley Mickwee opened things up and Pastor T and the Gametight Allstars closed out the night -- in between, there was an onslaught of outstanding acts, making for one of our best experiences at SXSW.
For those fans who arrived early, we were treated with back-to-back performances by Austin favorites and icons, James McMurtry and Jon Dee Graham. The former was onstage solo with just a 12-string guitar and his authentic Americana prose, and even though he started "bright and early" at 12PM, the space was packed to the brim. Graham and his gravelly voice were accompanied by a full band, and were one of the loudest performances of the day (much to the crowd’s delight).
Following Graham were Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band -- possibly one of our greatest personal discoveries this week -- and their fast-paced, redneck-inspired, washboard-soaked rock and roll. We think it's safe to say that everyone in attendance left that particular show a fan of the Indiana trio.
As we reflect on our time at the party, the two standout performances for us were Ray Wylie Hubbard and American Aquarium. Each seem to have a hold on the scene they're cornering (or have been cornering for their entire careers); Hubbard held the crowd in the palm of his hand with his sarcastic attitude and legendary gritty country rock; American Aquarium, a band many in the crowd weren't familiar with, proved that, if there is ever a documented history of alternative country, they will be a significant and exciting chapter of the story.
It seems each and every year SXSW showcases get tighter and more representative of an overall music scene, offering fans the chance to see a wealth of bands in one solitary setting. Guitartown's Little Deb and Conqueroo's Cary Baker have perfected the formula with their Kick-Off Party, and we can't wait to see what next year's installment brings with it.