Freestyle: SXSW honors Austin music

Mar. 20, 2015 | 0 Comments
COURTESY  FRANK MADDOCKS/WARNER BROTHERSGary Clark, Jr., burned up the frets during an Austin Music Awards appearance on Wednesday, March 18.


Austin High graduate (Class of 2002) Gary Clark, Jr. burned up the frets during an Austin Music Awards appearance on Wednesday.


I’ve been at the South by Southwest conference and festivals for six days — and nights — now, and I have an overwhelming number of impressions to sort through. So much music, so little time.

Thankfully, the Austin Music Awards on Wednesday helped to clarify why I’m here — to soak up sounds and be nurtured by the passion for art and music this city represents.

freestyle sxsw header 2015


TGIF Editor Elizabeth Kieszkowski will be blogging from Austin, Tex. during the 2015 South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival. Read more SXSW posts at

Charlie Sexton, an Austin son and prodigious guitar-player who has long toured with Bob Dylan, was bandleader throughout the awards show, which included recognition of musicians who graduated from Austin High, and a jam featuring female Austin musicians.

Gary Clark, Jr., provided the guitar fire, getting cocky and trading licks during a rockin’ blues/rockabilly jam with Eve Monsees, who also happens to co-own the wonderful roots and vinyl haven that is Antone’s Record Shop. (See the video below.)

A highlight, and reason for my attendance: This year’s tribute to Austin transplant and member of seminal rock bands The Faces and The Small Faces, Ian McLagan, who died last year at age 69.

McLagan was a style-setting keyboardist and leader of the Bump Band in Austin. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Faces and the Small Faces in 2012.

The Brit-born artist was a big booster of Austin, where he said the rock ‘n’ roll spirit was kept alive. Many others have agreed with him, from Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, who lived and recorded there for a time, to Ohio-originated band The Heartless Bastards, a fave of mine.

McLagan was a famously sunny personality who held court at a regular, early-evening show at Austin’s Lucky Lounge. I was keen to see him, and did make the pilgrimate on a previous Texas visit. Glad I did!

The tribute was classic! Alejandro Escovedo joined to sing “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” that great Kinks song that sets the tone for so much indie rock.

Wearing high-heeled cowboy boots at the microphone, Patty Griffin brought the audience (well, at least me) to tears with a beautiful, gently sung rendition of the title song from McLagan’s 2008 album, “Never Say Never.” She recorded the song with “Mac” for the album release.

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, a former bandmate to Mac in the Faces along with lead vocalist Rod Stewart, showed up in a video tribute, as did Bonnie Raitt.

COURTESY  IAN MCLAGANThe Austin Music Awards paid tribute to British keyboardist Ian McLagan, who died in 2014, as part of its annual ceremony.


The Austin Music Awards paid tribute to British keyboardist Ian McLagan, who died in 2014, as part of its annual ceremony.

THE BIG SURPRISE of the evening, though, was an appearance by Stevie Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Van Zandt doubled the energy level in the room, tearing into the Small Faces’ “Tin Soldier” and a funked-up version of “Stay With Me,” trading vocal verses with Austin-based singer Tameca Jones.

The night ended with the cheery romp “Ooh La La,” with its verse, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger…” (Look below for a clip of the Faces, with McLagan at his Hammond organ, performing the song at the band’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.)

Musicians crowded the stage to be part of that upbeat send-off, which left us all “Glad and Sorry” — to steal the name of another Faces song performed that evening.

Sexton introduced the tribute by reminding us that McLagan had chosen Austin as his adopted home, joining the local music scene.

“That’s why we’re all here,” Sexton said, taking pride in Austin’s music and musicians. That spirit draws music-lovers from all corners to this “live music capital of the world.”

Get the list of winners of the Austin Music Awards via sponsor Austin Chronicle.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.


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