Music festival showcases Austin scene

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the Jayhawks) Äbut they were spread out to the far corners of the downtown area. Friday was also one of the biggest buzz nights, as the heavily hyped Elastica were set to perform at Austin's Liberty Lunch. I tried getting to this show a little early, also hoping to catch retro-Hawkwind types Monster Magnet. Unfortunately, I was not alone. After a half-hour wait to get inside, I was finally able to catch the last two songs of Monster Magnet's tight psychedelic rock set (including a schizophrenic lightshow provided by KAMP radio's Keith Ozar and Rich McDermott) which had the gigantic crowd thoroughly entranced.

Bridging the gap between

Monster Magnet and

Elastica, was England's Ned's Atomic Dustbin. This band is a good four years past its peak, and they offered up their lifeless shows as evidence. The best songs out of their ten song set were sadly the three of their hit debut album. And that's not saying much.

When Elastica finally took the stage, they proved worth the wait Ä and the hype. The English band's three-girl, one-guy attack powered through chunky and catchy songs that harken back to the pre-disco Blondie days. Filled with hooky passages and buzzing guitars, Elastica is the type of band, with the right "Buzz Clip," that you'll be sick of by the end of the summer.

I tried to close out the night by catching former Big Star honcho Alex Chilton's solo set at The Terrace. Earlier in the week I had seen Jody Stephens, another former Big Star member, in an Austin convenience store, and my mind had been racing with reunion fantasies. Again I would be disappointed. Chilton drew from his recent (and inferior) solo releases, which provided for an utterly dull performance. Time and time again, the audience would yell out their Big Star requests until Chilton sheepishly declined.

"I'm too old. My voice can't go up in those registers anymore," Chilton said.

I walked home dejected.

Saturday night was an

other night filled with in

credible lineups. It was also the night for the Tucson Showcase at the Electric Lounge. Local acts Dog and Pony Show, Ginger, Giant Sand, Al Perry and Dan Stuart, and Naked Prey all were slated to perform. With the exception of Giant Sand, none of the bands had new material to perform behind, and some of the acts (especially Naked Prey) hadn't played for awhile. More than anything, the acts chosen to represent Tucson don't really represent the scene here. Part of what makes Austin's music scene so special is the incredible diversity in the music. There are a number of blues, country, rock, underground, and funk bands in Austin, all vying for club space. Tucson has diversity as well, albeit to a lesser extent. But when the mythical "desert rock" axis is touted over and over again as the "Tucson scene," then the more worthy local bands that don't fit that narrow genre are left out. The Fells, Black Moon Grafitti, Pork Torta Ä these are all bands with quality material out and are ready (and deserving) to be discovered.

That said, Giant Sand played a show so strong that people were still discussing it the next morning in the street. Unless they were talking about the outstanding Matador showcase the night before, in which Yo La Tengo and Guided By Voices proved that the most interesting work being done in American music is still being done on the independent level.

The whole SXSW ceremony was closed by the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra, a ten-piece combo featuring horns and strings accompanying Escovedo's superior songwriting. As with the Robert Earl Keen show, Escovedo demonstrated what the Tucson scene is lacking. There were a lot of people out supporting the shows, but, more importantly, they all were there for the music. At the Keen and Escovedo shows, people were dancing and singing along to the music. Until Tucson is able to pull people together enough to have masses of people coming to see local shows, buying local products and celebrating the diversity of the music, there will be no Tucson scene to speak of.

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