SXSW Music Festival 2008. Pt 2 — The Explorers Club trek through the musical maze

Charleston pop-rock band The Explorers Club rolled into the South By Southwest Music And Media Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas last week, played several shows and showcases —and survived. Here is another update from organist/pianist Stefan Rogenmoser:

Thursday night March 13) was our Dead Oceans/Secretly Canadian showcase at Mohawk. We loaded in around 6 p.m. A cop gave us guff for unloading near Mohawk. We eventually worked it out so we could unload there.

I had time to see the Cowsills at Central Presbyterian, a church with good acoustics where we saw Donovan and Keren Ann last year. The Cowsills played awesome sunshine pop, singing incredibly high harmonies loudly and on-key harmonies that soared through the tall dark wooden arches of this church. The Cowsills are the real family band that inspired The Partridge Family. Highlights were 1967 hit “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” “Nuclear Winter,” “We Can Fly,” and “Hair,” from the 1969 musical.

We played our showcase to a packed house on Mohawk’s tight inside stage. Our set went well. At the end of our last song we were all soaked in sweat, the guitar players dog-piled onto stage while I jumped as high as I could and slammed into my piano with my hands and boots about 20 times for the last chord.

After the set we went upstairs to the balcony and listened to Jens Leckman perform on the outside stage. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. was sitting at the table behind us. I ran to the van to get promo copies of our CD. I sliced and weaved my way through the drunken crowd (which had massive B.O.) and slipped out through the exit by the inside stage. Ran uphill a block, got CDs, hustled back entering through band only entrance, bumped my way through the SXSW masses and back to the balcony. Jim and I walked up to Stipe, trying not to interrupt his conversation. We spoke to him, gave him the CDs, and shook his hand. I didn’t mind, but Jim said meeting Michael Stipe was nerve racking. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Friday. Played a day party on the outskirts of Austin at Hank Sinatra’s farm. Chickens, chicken wire, goats, green grass, rusted 1930s truck door, giant armadillo statue on the wooden outdoor stage. A group called Hymns played and we liked it.

We played a fun and hot sweaty set to a joyful crowd. Carrying gear back up the long hill was exhausting in the 90-degree heat. Iced tea, grilled beef ribs, and good spicy salsa were nice refreshments. Jason, Jim and I got massive sunburns.

That evening Dave, Wally, Jim, and I were downtown and saw our Anaheim, California friends Thee Makeout Party play a tight set at Speakeasy. After that we caught our new friends Dr. Dog’s wild set at a crowded Cedar Door.

Saturday. Played our last show at Lamberts for the Quite Scientific Showcase. We were tired, but played well and rocked out as the sun shone through the windows. Neil, who was ill the entire time, felt much better. We loaded the van for the last time at SXSW. We did a full band interview with a reporter and a cameraman from Columbus, Ohio. This was a good way to end SXSW 2008.

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