The first official night of South By Southwest music, you'd think, would be kind of a pace-setter, a warm-up night. But no, even if you arrive late and think you're going to do some stretching and calisthenics, grab an easy dinner, before really cooking it on Thursday, something calls you from beyond, and his name is Kid Congo Powers.
Kid Congo Powers: one of the great LA guitarists, whose sound helped define the Gun Club, helped transform the Cramps when he joined them for two of their best albums, Psychedelic Jungle and Smell of Female, and went on to become an integral member of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds.
Perusing the schedule last night in between two unmemorable bands, we stumbled across Kid Congo's name, and boom, within two minutes we were at Imo's Jr. ten feet from the stage just as he's ready to go on. Kid Congo, who just released a killer new record on the mighty, mighty In the Red Records camp out of Highland Park, CA, looks great; lithe and smiley as ever, with a thin Ron Mael mustache and that kind of ageless face that seems to grow more handsome with every passing year (kinda like Charlie Watts).
He had this wonderful stage presence — some Hollywood genius should give him his own variety show, we swear — as he tossed off swampy, bluesy riff-rock that hit a sweet spot in our Cramps/Gun Club loving heart. And just when we started missing the Gun Club, Powers tosses out that magical “Sex Beat” riff, and away we go, moving with Powers and his compact three-piece backing band. The crowd, though a little thin, rejoiced.
Then the Kid acknowledged the recent death of former bandmate Lux Interior, and thanked the late lead singer for contributing the words, “I'm Cramped” into the English lexicon. He rolled and rolled, this thin grin on his face as he sang out of the side of his mouth like a cartoon character, the riff lubricating the crowd. Magic. Kid Congo Powers. He's playing again tonight as part of the In the Red Records showcase. That should be a doozy: Vivian Girls, Strange Boys, Kid Congo, the Oh Sees.
And: If you ever, god forbid, become a music journalist and are looking for stories at South by Southwest, the best group of people to buddy up to are the booking agents. They've got the dirt, and when a bunch of them together sharing war stories, you're sure to come up with good information. Had a memorable dinner with a bunch of em last night, and were we not people of Our Word, we'd be spilling juicy tidbits left and right. But we promised off the record dinner, and it was worth it.
Finally: If you're near the radio or a computer this morning, we'll be sitting in with Jason Bentley for Morning Becomes Eclectic, broadcasting live from Austin. We'll be sharing a few songs, and talking about the fest. Tune in.