In the midst of the mayhem, there's a legendary musical respite carved out on the south side of Lamar. Sure, the lines still form for official showcases, but the Saxon Pub offers an intimate setting for SXSW musical discovery, and on Tuesday night, family was the name of the game.
Hill Country Live (The NYC-based barbecue joint that is bringing boots and roots music to the Big Apple), hosted an opening night showcase at Saxon Pub affectionately dubbed "Fam Jam." Broadcast live on KDRP (100.1 FM), the showcase brought together some of the most iconic names in Texas singing and songwriting to share the stage with a new generation — namely, their talented offspring.
As the sun set on South Austin at 8 p.m., Fam Jam kicked off with two Flatlanders — Butch Hancock, followed by Jimmie Dale Gilmore — and continued late into the night with sets from Jon Dee Graham, Kevin Welch, Terry Allen and the Braun Brothers.
Director Jessie Scott announced the showcase as a "celebration of family" before the night's first players, Butch Hancock and his son Rory, took the stage. Armed with an acoustic guitar and his harmonica, Butch was backed up by the electric guitar sounds of his 15-year-old son.
Though much younger, Rory has clearly been reared in his father's musical persuasion, one that must flourish among the setting of Terlingua, Texas, that the family now calls home. They played a few warm-up tunes, including "Naked Light of Day" before Butch took a moment to tell the roots of "Long Sunsets." It's a song, he said, that was written one week after Townes Van Zandt's untimely passing — a song originally written for the master of poetic verse. "This song is for everybody," Butch said.
The duo also christened some new material from a forthcoming album that Butch joked is currently "assimilating." (There's no date set for the release.) There were some lyrical flubs on the new tune, "Me and Jonah," but, as a Flatlander, perfection isn't key — it's the passion that counts. And, as the song said, Butch was "singing from the heart." The stumbles caused no pause for the audience and only rousing applause were heard as it came to a close.
After a 45-minute set, Jimmie Dale Gilmore took the stage with son Colin, along with their merged band comprised of "a bunch of Chicagoans," as Jimmie Dale noted. Sharing one profile — one silhouette — Jimmie Dale and Colin played a shared set, alternating lead singers and slipping effortlessly between The Flatlanders' West Texas grit and Colin's more polished alt-rock sounds, songs like "Georgia Rose" and "The Way We Are," respectively.
Particularly notable was the attuned mandolin playing from The Greencards' Kym Warner, which captured the cherished lo-fi sound of The Flatlanders, while also creating more robust fills fit for Colin's modern songs. The band closed its set with a rousing rendition of Jimmie Dale's "Midnight Train," leaving the Saxon audience with an all too familiar proposal: "It's love or fear."
The Fam Jam showcase continued with sets from Jon Dee Graham and son William, Kevin Welch with Dustin and Savannah, Terry Allen with sons Bukka and Bale, and a closing set from the Braun Brothers (members of Micky and The Motorcars and Reckless Kelly).
Hill Country Live hosts a second official SXSW showcase at Saxon Pub on Wednesday, March 13 featuring Troubador Kings, Howlin Brothers, Sons of Fathers, Cody Canada and the Departed, and more. The showcase will also be broadcast live on KDRP. While it's an official show, there are tickets available for non-badge and wristband holders, depending on capacity.