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David's SXSW Wrap-up: Day 1 (Wednesday, 3.18.09) [3/20/2009 12:25:00 PM]:
[Ed. Note: David Cobb's been running nonstop since getting up to Austin, not too surprisingly, so I'll be posting his emailed-in updates in his stead. All photos were taken by David, too...]

The first day of South By Southwest always starts with travel of some sort. This one was a cheap, early bird flight to Austin from Houston. After some time at the hotel, an old friend and I headed to the convention center to check in, and then headed to the Fader party grounds to get a jump on the wristband line.

I had wanted to check out Wild Moccasins at Club 1808, but after seeing how far it was we decided to keep it around the general 6th/7th street area for a while. After an entertaining set by DJ Ceeplus Bad Knives at the Austinist party (and apparently just missing a Levi Johnson sighting), we headed to a RealAle party at Lovejoys. Free beer at noon should have been an omen but we've never been that good at decision-making, so we binged for 45 minutes and then took a cab to the "Texadus" Houston band party at Co-Lab to see Benjamin Wesley.

Unfortunately, the Austin fire marshal had beaten us to the show and shut it down before it even started due to the lack of proper permits. Thankfully, Reggie, Gretchen, and the rest of the gang were very accommodating and let us hang out a while and partake of their free Tito's and Chipotle. Free Tito's and Sweet Leaf tea, that is. Crazy... But we met some great people and had a good time for the hour and a half we were there.

Of course, SXSW is about more than free food and drinks. It's about the music, and the rest of the day/night was a blur of great musicianship. Austin Collins & The Rainbirds played a stellar, much-too-short, set out at Saxon Pub. However, The Damnwells' set at Threadgills South ruled the afternoon. After great opening sets by The Winterpills and KaiserCartel, the band -- which features Houston musician Matt Hammond on drums -- played essentially a greatest "hits" set, including songs from its latest album, One Last Century (which is free at www.thedamnwells.com).

Next, I got back to the rock with a packed set by Ume at Maggie Mae's. Lauren and the gang absolutely killed it, and watching her work the stage makes me think that Ume will have a very successful career. The entire room was captivated by the band's set, which was highlighted by "The Conductor" from its new Sunshower EP.

Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues I arrived at the Young Mammals' showcase as the band was packing up its gear. Sucks, but I got to talk to the guys and grabbed a copy of their new album, Carrots. Next, I made the trek out to The Tap Room at Six to see Johnny Goudie and The Little Champions. It has been years since I have seen Johnny Goudie and he did not disappoint. The mostly female crowd was in love with his music, which was culled from the band's new album, El Payaso (which you can get on emusic or iTunes). His set was cut short (not an unusual occurrence during SXSW), and he wasn't happy about it but I couldn't blame him. Don't most bands save their last song for the big one?

Zolof The Rock'n'Roll Destroyer -- a band I have heard about a lot over the years but have never seen live -- played a great set at Maggie Mae's. A heavy blend of synth-pop and hard riffs, the trio isn't breaking any new ground but singer/keyboardist Rachel Minton has a Veronica Mars thing going on that only enhances her stage presence. Cute doesn't begin to describe her. Similarly, I met Kelly Ogden, the singer from The Dollyrots, on 6th Street in line for pizza.

Austin instrumental rock band My Education played an impressive, ear-shattering set at Soho Lounge. This was the second time I have seen the band live, and wasn't disappointed in the least. It was the perfect time for moody, instrumental rock, and the two songs I saw next by Athens' Maserati were big stunners as well. While I could watch Maserati all night long, The Damnwells were playing another set -- and who knows if the band will ever play again -- so a friend and I headed to Vintage Lounge for the set. The band again played a great set, punctuated by front man Alex Dezen's trio of solo songs to end the night.

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