She’s the Coal Miner’s Daughter. She’s a legend of country music. She’s been at it for more than 50 years. When you get a chance to see Loretta Lynn, you take it.
The 83 year old just recently released Full Circle, her 47th studio album and she was playing the BBC’s showcase at Stubb’s in support of it. Not that Lynn cared that much about playing the new songs. “Whatever you want to hear, just holler it out and if I don’t know it, get up here and sing it yourself.” she said and when she later asked the crowd what they wanted to hear after playing her version of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You,” her son and guitarist Ernie offered up a suggestion.
“Miss Loretta? That new record you mentioned that’s selling so well? Why don’t we play one off of that?” And even though she decided that the crowd didn’t really want to hear that, the band launched into it anyways. Loretta wasn’t having any of that and shut the band down, choosing to play another song instead. While she may not be in her prime anymore, Loretta Lynn stiil sounds great, she’s still a consummate performer and that incident with her band proves that you don’t want to mess around with Loretta.
It was Friday night at SXSW and word was getting around of a storm brewing and all outdoor shows for the night being either temporarily delayed or outright cancelled (sorry, Coheed and Cambria fans). With that in mind, we made our way to the Central Presbyterian Church to seek shelter, taking literal sanctuary in a church and settling in for awhile with the music of Okay Kaya.
“I’m Okay Kaya. How are you guys?” With that unassuming greeting, Kaya Wilkins introduced herself to the audience and it was fitting with her low key, reserved persona onstage. If she wasn’t too talkative onstage, her songs make up for it – the stark, simple, spacious arrangements and personal lyrics draw you in and grab your attention. Standout songs “Damn, Gravity” and “I’m Stupid But I Love You” sounded great, but she acknowledged they may not be the most uplifting.
“I’m gonna do a cover because I can’t seem to write happy songs,” she said self deprecatingly (though perhaps accurately) before performing a version of Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.” And while her cover of someone else’s happy song still didn’t sound entirely happy, it did sound rather sweet and endearing and if it didn’t make me want to dance, at the very least, it made me feel like swaying and rocking gently in my seat.
That’s right, I went to see MAGIC!, makers of the mind numbing earworm “Rude.” You know, the one that kind of makes you side with the guy in the song who doesn’t want his daughter to get married to that dude? Yes, those guys, and yes, I saw them on purpose, walking out of the last bit of an epic, grandiose set by Mercury Rev to see what the Toronto pop-reggae band is all about. What can I say? Curiosity got the best of me and I’m easily distracted.
It was pretty much what I expected – slick and commercial sounding, but the crowd seemed to be into it I guess, especially backpack bro standing next to me who was skanking pretty heavily during their set. With his backpack still on, of course. As you’d expect, they closed out their set with “Rude” and also threw in a few cover tunes, which was good since it meant I didn’t have to hear too many of their own songs. Their cover of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” was kind of fun, if a bit obvious. Much less obvious was their cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which they announced they’d be playing the following night at The Grammy Museum’s tribute concert for The Ramones. I’m not really sure who was involved with the decision making process at the Grammy Museum and why they thought it would be a good idea to invite the lite-reggae band to perform it in the first place. Were none of the gospel acts playing SXSW available to do a cover of “I’m Not Jesus” instead? To be fair, MAGIC! were having fun with it and it’s pretty hard to screw up that song too much, but they pretty much make for the world’s least convincing punk band.
The first night of SXSW Music is also the last night of SXSW Interactive and fittingly, Japan’s Wednesday Campanella did her best to make her show as interactive as possible – in more than one sense of the word and to varying degrees of success.
As she was carried out into the crowd by members of her team to start the show, singer Komuai spoke into the microphone, both to introduce herself and to ask that the music, which had not started quite on cue, be played. Once that was dealt with, she got down to business and put on an engaging performance. She challenged members of the audience to dance offs and waded into the crowd numerous times, using the space at Cheer Up Charlie’s to her advantage and offering up a lot of audience interaction.
The performance also involved a lot of use of technology, though much of that, while amusing, seemed to be cobbled together. A small screen was set up next to the stage along with a projector which took up a bit of real estate nearby. Onto the screen they projected live real time footage of Wednesday Campanella and members of the audience filtered through those face apps that switch out your face for things like poop emojis or Donald Trump’s face. That aspect didn’t always work smoothly, but from a performance perspective, she puts on a fun show (Wednesday Campanella is billed as a group, but for all intents and purposes, as the only person on stage, it’s Komuai’s show). I imagine Wednesday Campanella would be all the more impressive with a bit more stage production and none of the time constraints involved in a SXSW setup.