The South by Southwest music and media conference ended Sunday, and it made the Negress a tiny bit nostalgic. She had also just heard Joe Boyd and Robyn Hitchcock at the Old Town School of Folk Music so old stories and sweet reminiscence seemed like the thing to do. Also, she’s afraid she will forget some of this stuff if she’s not careful.
My first SXSW was in 1989. I shared a room with two women from a club in Houston that has a namesake in Berwyn, IL. (note foreshadowing) and couldn’t have been there otherwise. The Negress slept little, walked and cabbed around, heard mainly Austin bands and met a lot of people she hasn’t seen since. The Negress quit it in 1999 after some medical mayhem and the sense that staying too long at this fair would be dangerous and unrewarding. But there some moments that are worth calling out of memory. Here are the 10 I can remember best:
1. Dragging Chris Morris then of Billboard to see Townes Van Zandt at the Hyatt Ballroom back when the whole festival fit into the Hyatt. I think it was 1989.
2. Seeing Gail Davies, a Nashville veteran, at the Hole in the Wall, strutting her stuff. She’s a book waiting to happen as far as being female, writing, producing and performing in Nashville when they had almost gotten over the “gal singer” syndrome.
3. The first time I saw Alejandro Escovedo and his orchestra there. The Negress got over Escovedo’s toxic charisma after a few more encounters (anyone who ever made it through a Buick McKane show might have some idea what the Negress means), but the musical was moving and special that night.
4. Playing tambourine onstage with the late Molly Ivins while shouting out “Wild Thing.”
5. Seeing a young mess of a band from Houston, Dive, making its way through a loud, furious showcase from which nothing came forth.
6. Having the courage to realize that “supergroup” Little Village was awful. Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner were not good together.
7. Being by the fireplace at the Four Seasons while Huey Lewis stomped out a blues rhythm with his cowboy boots and tried to explain a song idea to Nick Lowe. Once this hysterical outtake was over, the Negress went up to Lowe and thanked him for saving her life.
8. Meeting and befriending Rosie Flores, Jo Rae DiMenno and the rest of her family and others too numerous to mention. Some of our lights have faded but the Negress still loves them all.
9. Confirming that Will T. Massey was awesome and remains so in spite on one overproduced, muddled major label album, but a body of work before and since that’s dazzling.
10. Deciding one year that enough ground had been broken and heading off to see Jeff Beck with fellow rock goddess Jaan Uhelszki and not being sorry for a moment of that set.
The Negress will get back to other delights shortly.