Wednesday and the SXSW Music festival had started good and proper. A quick glance over the balcony revealed the freshly installed road blocks attended by a beady-eyed cop who loves his job, rendering downtown Austin a pedestrianised gigging precinct. The sun was beating down, several soundchecks at various distances attacked and billowed through our patio window as neatly assembled lines of people wrapped around the block, queuing for an unofficial day party doubtlessly tanked up with free beer and brisket for those RSVP'd in good time. These were all the indications required to let us know it was time to get in amongst the monolithic musical theme-park that is SXSW.
Venturing outside and onto 6th Street we bumped into Doll And The Kicks again who were in the midst of a spontaneous street gig (in true SXSW spirit), promoting their evening showcase later that evening at Emo's. We were on our way to Jack White's pop-up record shop at Frank's Diner on 4th and Colorado St, where Jack had installed his nomadic Third Man Records for the duration of the festival. With vinyl in hand we delivered the latest TGTB album 'From 018 To 033' to Miles and Ben, Jack White's 'third men' who promised to pass it on to him, though judging by their ogling of the artwork, they probably kept it for themselves.
You have to hand it to Jack. He knows and celebrates the art of special edition releasing and merchandising. On offer were 'Texas-sized' 13" limited edition vinyl versions of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs albums, yellow and black Dead Weather vinyl singles as well as all manner of badges, cameras, t-shirts, posters and instruments. Upstairs was a hastily arranged stage where Karen Elson (Mrs Jack White) was due to perform an exclusive gig to 50 competition winners later in the week. Hats off to Third Man Records, they know there's more to distribution than clicking Buy Now on iTunes. An example to us all.
Gearing up for our own hastily arranged gig round the corner at Prague (the venue, not the capital city of the Czech Republic) we went to a rooftop bar next door where St Patrick's Day was in full swing. Green-clothed Americans pretended to be Irish, indulging in great Irish anthems presented by the house band such as The Proclaimers '500 miles'. We didn't have the heart to tell them it was Scottish.
Then we got the call from Strummerville back at Prague. They had made some room in their stage schedule to allow The Good The Bad to make a guest appearance, going on after the legendary Wayne Kramer from MC5 and before Chris Shiflett from Foo Fighters. No pressure then, just an average day at SXSW...
Wayne and Chris were in town to promote the launch of Jail Guitar Doors USA, an initiative which aims to rehabilitate prisoners through music, and were due to visit Travis County Correctional Complex on Friday to deliver six guitars and play some jailhouse rock n' roll alongside Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) and Billy Bragg, founder of Jail Guitar Doors UK. We were also eagerly looking forward to their JGD gig later that Friday night downtown.
After our set, Wayne, Margaret and Kevin from Jail Guitar Doors amazingly sought us out backstage and shared a few kind words, whilst Chris also gave us a big shout on-stage. What a great way to kick off the greatest music festival in the world.
For those of you that missed MC5, and we know there's some of you, check out Kick Out The Jams and Let Me Try, two musical gems of theirs. And take note of Wayne Kramer, one of Rolling Stone's greatest 100 guitar players of all time. Here he is back in the day: