2007-3-14 SXSW Austin

Day 1, March 14, 2007

Pete's Keynote Conversation with Bill Flannagan (Hilton Grand Ballroom)

Austin Music Awards (Convention Center Ballroom)
Ian McLagan & the Bump Band w/ Pete Townshend and Jody Denberg

Day 2, March 15, 2007

Attic Jam (La Zona Rosa)
Rachel Fuller: It's a Mothefucker, Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, Pleasure Seeker, Joni Mitchell's Blue
Pete Townshend: Drowned, In the Ether, I Can't Reach You
Willy Mason: It's Tomorrow (with Pete and Rachel)
Mika: Grace Kelly, Where the Sun Keeps Shining (with Pete), Love Today
Joe Purdy: Queen Jane, Let My Love Open the Door (with Pete)
Martha Wainwright: I Have Feelings Too, Factory (with Pete and Rachel), This Song is In My Head (with Pete and Rachel), Bloody Motherfucking Asshole
Alexi Murdoch: Love My Father, My Salvation Lies In Your Love (with Pete and Rachel), Slow Revolution

Day 3, March 15, 2007

The Fratelli's with Pete Townshend on The Seeker
Muzak Party (Brush Square Park North Tent)
Rachel Fuller: Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, It's a Motherfucker, Pleasure Seeker, Blue, Sunrise (with Pete)

Direct TV's Lone Star Lounge
Rachel Fuller: Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, Pleasure Seeker, Happy to Be Sad, It's A Motherfucker, Blue, Sunrise (with Pete), In the Mix (with Pete)
Martha Wainwright: Factory (with Rachel and Pete)



Kuschty Rye & What'cha Gonna Do About It (with Ian McLagan)
Kuschty Rye (with Ian McLagan)
What'cha Gonna Do About it (with Ian McLagan)
The Seekers (with The Fratellis)
Keynote speech

Review by Lauren from Boulder

Attic Jam (w/ Pete Townshend, Rachel Fuller, Mika, Martha Wainwright, Willy Mason, Alexi Murdoch, & Joe Purdy)

The brief version...  The Austin Attic Jam made me damn glad I had gone to the Attic Jam in LA.  While I enjoyed the show, it was a great disappointment.  It was MUCH bigger than the other venues, with a capacity of 1200, I'm told (vs. about 200 at Hotel Cafe).  We were front row on the rail, always a happy place to be, but we had a photo pit full of photogs for the entire night (not just the first few songs, as is common).

The first scheduled act, Mika, was late, pushing the start time back about 20 minutes.  They work hard at SXSW to run on time, and the venue was already booked on the other end.  Bottom line - the late start added up to Pete's set being cut.

After waiting, waiting, waiting, Rachel had Pete warm up the crowd with a less than stellar version of Drowned.  Nothing wrong with it.  Just not a rousing version.

Then Willy Mason came out with a drummer and fiddle player.  He was young.  He was cute.   Nice, mellow music.  In another setting, I might like him.  I'm sure I'll butcher the song titles, but here's my best shot: We Can Be Strong or It's Tomorrow (with Pete and Rachel) / A song about a man uncomfortable with affection / Gotta Save Myself or Baby Won't You Come / Don't Be Leavin' Suicidal / She Says We've Gotta Keep Walkin' On.  On the first song, it was cute watching Pete try to find a mic to sing into.  At first he went to join the fiddle player, but his face was dangerously close to her bow.  After that unsuccessful endeavor, he made his way over to Rachel at the piano, and managed to get himself down to mic level.  It was kind of sweet.

Next up, Mika.  I found him the most engaging of the guests.  He played some rollicking barroom piano and was accompanied by an acoustic guitarist/support vocalist.  Apparently, he's got a #1 in England with a song called Grace Kelly.  He did the hit, followed by Where the Sun Keeps Shining (with Pete and someone - my notes say Martin, but I'm not sure who that is!), closing with a tune called Love Today.

Then Rachel took that stage, doing a pretty standard set - It's a Mothefucker, Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, Pleasure Seeker, and Joni Mitchell's Blue.  It was quite good, as it always is.  I should mention here that the front 1/2 of the house was respectful and attentive.  By contrast, the back by the bar was loud and rude pretty most of the night.

Joe Purdy, a bearded troubadour did one plaintive number on the acoustic guitar before boldly playing a song at the piano (if only Pete would go to the piano and play Cut My Hair!).  I think the piano number was Queen Jane.  The Pete came out and joined him for Let My Love Open the Door.  In LA, I really enjoyed it.  Here, it was painfully slow and lacking cohesion.  He closed his set with some Jesus song, accompanied by Pete, Willy, and Willy's bandmates.  FYI, Joe Purdy was at Chicago 2 and LA 2.

Rachel was delighted to introduce the "only other girl," Martha Wainwright.  I don't remember where the banter was in the set, but Rachel talked about how she and Martha had really connected and how any girl who named a song Bloody Motherfucking Asshole was her kind of girl.  And at some point, either Rachel or Pete, I just can't remember, talked about the horsey pajamas that Martha had the nerve to wear at both Joe's Pub Attic Jams in NYC.  I think it was Pete, as he preferred the rather suggestive getup she was wearing this night - high heels and a short, short dress.  My best shot at her set list.  Again, my apologies...  I Have Feelings Too, Factory (with Pete and Rachel), This Song is In My Head (with Pete and Rachel), and Bloody Motherfucking Asshole.  Between songs two and three, there was a funny Rachel and Pete interlude.  Somehow Rachel started in about stretching her opera muscles and proceeds to let loose in an operatic manner, only to be followed by a hysterically funny, over the top Pete "doing opera."  You'd have to hear it, but it was a crack up.

Last of the guests was Scottish singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch who was also at both Chicago 2 and LA 2.  He's likeable enough, but by this point, after a 3:30 am bedtime and waiting in the baking sun to get in, I was pretty weary.  My best shot at his set list:  Love My Father, My Salvation Lies In Your Love (with Pete and Rachel and Willy's bandmates, but not Willy), and Slow Revolution.

Last and almost least was Pete.  They were running over and instead of starting on time or cutting everyone's set by one song, Pete took the hit.  I'm sure this was with his consent, but needless to say, I was NOT pleased by this.  As a matter of fact, I was pissed.  Still am. He did his poetic reading of In the Ether from Endless Wire.  Some people love it.  I don't, particularly.  I like the live reading better than the album version version, but I don't love it.  His one other song was quite an amazing treat. For the first time, ever on stage, he played I Can't Reach You, from The Who Sell Out.  I've always loved that song.  It was not a particularly great version, but the uniqueness of it, combined with the fact I've always loved the song made it a real treat.  Then, unceremoniously, the show was over.

No The Real Me, today (His performance of it at Hotel Café was one of the greatest thrills I've had in recent years.  I sure as hell hope Who2 never perform it or 5.15 ever again, but I sure did dig Pete doing it solo.)

Rachel Fuller with Pete Townshend
Muzak Party at the Brush Square Park North Tent

The band in the tent before Rachel was loud, loud, loud.  We hung out outside the tent, socializing.  As soon as the last notes hit, we grabbed the plastic party chairs and created three rows of seating in front of the stage in the tent.  Brilliant.  Just fucking brilliant.  We were comfortable.  The people behind us could see.  It fit the tone of Rachel's show.  Perfect.  And me, I was totally kicked back, front row in front of Pete with a birds eye view of Rachel, with my feet up.  Yeah.  The set was very good, as usual.  Pretty much the regular Barnes and Noble or Attic Jam gig.  Along with acoustic guitar accompaniment from a bloke called Julian Dixon, she did Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, It's a Motherfucker, and Pleasure Seeker.  The SWR intro was the first time I "got it."  Apparently, he's the guy who came to America and returned home to England with tobacco and potatoes, two of Rachel's toughest to break addictions.  Then she did a solo version of Joni Mitchell's Blue, followed by a particularly lovely version of Sunrise with Pete.  Unfortunately, my recording friend was not there.  :-(  Of course Justin was, but I don't know if we'll ever see it.

Rachel Fuller with Pete Townshend
Direct TV's Lone Star Lounge

It wasn't nearly so comfortable as the tent, but Direct TV and SXSW did a really good job of what they were doing.  They had two big Convention Center rooms with artificial signs that created the illusion of two different clubs.  Also, the rooms were so big that everyone who showed up got in.  Direct TV broadcast the sets live (and looped during off-hours), alternating rooms.

Again, I was in my happy spot, with a perfect view of Rachel and right in front of Pete.  Rachel's music doesn't really lend itself to a standing room/club environment, but it was fine.  It was another great show.  Again, Julian joined Rachel on acoustic guitar for Cigarettes and Housework, Sir Walter Rayliegh, and Pleasure Seeker.  With more time to play with, she also added in Happy to Be Sad.  Then they went off-air and played It's A Motherfucker to be broadcast late night at some future date.  (BTW, Rachel had made note at the earlier show how challenging it would be to curb her language for the broadcast show.  It was kind of cute and funny.  I've sometimes thought that's one of those strange little things that she and Pete have in common - potty mouths.)

Then they came back on air, Julian left the stage, and Rachel introduced Martha Wainwright who was dressed MUCH more conservatively than at the Attic Jam the night before (still high heels, though) and Pete.  The three of them performed a song of Martha's called Factory.  Martha and Pete left the stage and Rachel did a solo version of Blue.  Then Pete came out and in the process of the intro, they had a hilarious exchange.  Pete:  "I am your humble slave."  After a pause, gesturing towards the audience, "Yours, not theirs."  Rachel:  "You're not my slave, Darling."  Maybe you had to be there, but it was adorable.  They then introduced Sunrise.  With my prompting(?) Pete knew that it was from Sell Out, but he seems to think it's from The Who's second album.  (Maybe he doesn't count A Quick One since he had to share the publishing!)  Sunrise was good, but not as good as the tent version a few hours prior.  Then another fun exchange between the two of them where Pete coaxed Rachel out from behind her piano to come out front and sing a song with him.  They were side by side at the two mics.  Pete playing acoustic guitar.  They played Rachel's In the Mix.  It was fucking fantastic.  Loved it.  Loved it.  Loved it.  Other than the keynote, I'd say it was my highlight of the conference.  And that, my friends, was it.

Review by Alan McKendree

Advertised showtime 18:00. Show was delayed until 18:20. Thanks to some excellent work by Lauren, I ended up about two people from the  stage in this GA show. I'll just spill the beans up front by saying there wasn't a single guest that did much for me. They ranged from fair to inadequate.

Rachel started things off by saying their first guest was late, so Pete would play. He came on and did "Drowned", which was received with a roar. Some small girl in an army jacket next to me seemed to be quite a Quad fan as she yelled like crazy for Pete and for the song.

The first guest still being late, Rachel brought out Willy Mason. He has the name of an old black blues singer. However, he's a white guy in his 20s. Came out with his sister(?) if I heard correctly, who played violin, and brother who played drums. The girl was wearing a tight shirred camisole, peasant skirt with a sash at the waist and her hair was a combination of patches that were braided and possibly a few dreadlocks in the making. In harmony with the clothing, she had the tired, sad eyes that you've seen in pictures of 1920's Eastern European refugees. She too was 25 at most. She didn't have much expression, but was very watchful of the audience and Willy as she played. Willy said nice things about Pete. Slow, mournful song about being strong in the face of a hopeless tomorrow. His voice is a foghorn type, reminiscent of Eddie Vedder, Leo Kottke, and Leonard Cohen. Another slow, mournful song about pain, disease, dead friends and failed dreams. Oy.

"Mika" came out. He is a bizarre hyperenergetic dude in his mid-20s wearing bright red slacks, who bashed away confidently on the piano singing like a combination of Queen (Freddie Mercury) and a music hall entertainer...virtuoso falsetto going full blast, rolling eyes, grinning...it was a bit alarming. Beautiful teeth. The best part was when his buddy came out to play guitar and they sang some harmonizing falsettos, which actually sound pretty cool if the pitches are spot on, and they were. Rachel said he was very popular in England, and I don't doubt it, but either he doesn't have a chance in the US or I'm totally out of touch with popular culture. I'm equallyprepared to accept either alternative. Unusual and even determinedly weird as it was, at least the music generally had an upbeat sense of life and a feel of movement and energy, unlike some of the others.

Rachel did "It's a Motherfucker", "Cigarettes and Housework", "Sir Richard Raleigh", "Pleasure Seeker", and "Blue". "MF" elicited a few snickers at the opening line, but all were enthusiastically received. Next up...

Joe Purdey has the name of a country singer. Instead, he turned out to be a young recreation of Woody Guthrie, complete with an impressive beard and a Woody Guthrie workingman's cap with a brim so long he seems to be mainly cap, beard and nose. He seems like a nice, down-to-earth guy. Whiny, folk (country? bluegrass?) voice, did a slow folk song with references to smoky mountains, sunrise, cornfields, etc.. Frequent use of that sort of rising vocal hiccup or crack that's so stereotypical of country music, and which drives me up a wall. Then Pete came out and they did a slow (about 60 beats/ minute), pensive, Dylan-esque version of "Let My Love Open the Door" complete with harmonica breaks. Pete provided all of what little energy there was in this song. The Willy Mason group all came out to join Joe & Pete on a minor-key military-beat song that brought confederate soldiers going off to war to mind, but turned out to be a song about suffering here below and following Jesus through this world of sorrow. The violin sounded occasional bits of a weary dirge. I'm told that he's capable of rocking, and did so at at least one of his other SxSW appearances, but he didn't bring the rock for this show.

Martha Wainwright is pretty bordering on beautiful, funny and smart. Isn't that enough? Why must she write songs as well? She seems like someone I'd like to hang out with (not much danger of that after this review) but the songs were rambling. Couldn't make out much of the words but at least they (and she) seemed generally upbeat. A surprisingly nasal voice, reminiscent of Dolly Parton's. Played with lots of emotion...actually a good performer, but her songs seemed mostly three-chord variations, or tone poems where the drama comes from the chord changes themselves. I can't make out the lyrics but they might be French. Or not. Hey, there's another chord change. At one point her guitar cable seemed to be coming loose and Pete walked over during the song and tried to push it in, and she made a joke about "Hey, do that again", and swung the guitar (and her hips) invitingly, but he kept back and kept his eyes down, refusing for once to turn the moment into a clowning opportunity and letting (telling) her keep on with her song. One of the few times I've seen Pete turn down a chance to pull focus.

Alexi Murdoch is another lanky young man with a guitar and beard, but no cap. He mostly stands still and plays more one- and two-chord songs. One can only do so much with a song that literally alternates between two chords for about two minutes, no matter how you change the volume or intensity. A funereal profession of love -- for either God or some person, probably the former. The tune seems to be nothing more than a simple foundation for some equally simple lyrics. I remember one mentioning that he loves his father well, and hopes to meet him someday, which I assume is another reference to God. All his songs, as I remember, are mostly simple alternating chords or melodies that, again, seem designed to induce a trance and form a foundation for his heartfelt lyrics. Was surprised at the warmth of the applause by the audience.

Finally Pete comes out and does In The Ether, with lots of emotion. The crowd is respectful. He doesn't recreate the extreme Tom Waits voice of the recording, and it sounds fine. Then he says that he's going to do a song that he's never played in public, sits down, adjusts the music stand, and does Can't Reach You. We're just getting into the Pete set but he stops...as we decided later, because the venue had to pull the plug to make room for the next guys. Whoever the late first guest was [later determined to be Mika], s/he cost us time enough for a good 3 or 4 more songs from Pete.