AUSTIN, Texas — Who said punk is dead?
Nobody after The Endtables broke their 30-year silence a little after 11 p.m. last Friday at Barbarella, one of 200 venues hosting showcases at the 25th Annual South By Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival. Wearing a jumpsuit and a black-and-blonde-streaked wig, singer Steve “Chili” Rigot towered over the audience as bassist and guitarist siblings Alex and Albert Durig squealed and shredded through opener “Break the Bank, Break the Figurine.”
It was the first time the band had been on stage together in three decades. A crowd of old friends and newcomers, some of whom were in diapers when the band was writing music, absorbed every note, head-banging and grinning ear to ear. Jersey City, N.J., public radio station 91.1-FM WFMU simulcast the set so locals who grew up listening to Louisville’s punk forefathers could tune in.
Kentucky musicians have always had a presence at SXSW, and this year was no different. Independent marketing firm Crash Avenue became the first local organization to host a day party — an unsanctioned afternoon event that often draws more people than official showcases do.
Cheyenne Marie Mize, who debuted solo material on last year’s Before Lately, returned for multiple appearances, as did Lohio, who counts among its members onetime Louisvillian Elizabeth Adams. The Fervor made its SXSW debut with a showcase at The Marq on Congress Avenue. Lexington experimentalist Idiot Glee, aka James Friley, whose material has drawn comparisons to Another Green World-era Brian Eno, kept busy with multiple-day party and showcase appearances. Friley’s debut album, Paddywhack, comes out in June.
Meanwhile, at St. David’s Sanctuary, fellow Lexingtonian Ben Sollee had a tough act to follow — Ron Sexsmith — but Sollee delivered, previewing songs from his forthcoming album, Inclusions, and enlisting a string trio that included Tracy Bonham, Phoebe Hunt, Mize and Sparrow Quartet leader Abigail Washburn on backup vocals. Sollee’s set was a power bar of neo-classical tangents, galloping bluegrass and contemplative charm.
Former Kilowatthours drummer Ben Lord, who now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is backing current buzz queen Sharon Van Etten full time. Van Etten performed two official showcases in Austin and a daytime set at French Legation Museum, thrown by Manhattan-based record store Other Music and video production company Dig for Fire, that also featured Low and !!!. Van Etten’s full-length, Epic, has earned her boatloads of critical praise and opening slots for The National.
There were a few pleasant surprises. My Morning Jacket frontman Yim Yames joined Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Thursday at Moody Theater for a live taping of “Austin City Limits,” the second recording in the show’s new digs. Yames sang on the New Orleans group’s last album, Preservation.
Freakwater, the duo of Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean, played a brief but spirited afternoon set on Friday at Yard Dog, a novelty shop on South Congress Avenue as part of Chicago-based Bloodshot Records’ annual day party, which also featured X frontwoman Exene Cervenka. Bean and Irwin say a new Freakwater record is in the writing stages. Irwin heads to Ironto, Va., next month to record a new solo album.