Keep Austin Weird: Billy Altman's SXSW 2012 Diary, Day One
"Keep Austin Weird" is a catch phrase that adorns many a T-shirt in this Texas town that for well over two decades has hosted the South By Southwest music festival. And as anyone who's been to one of these sprawling affairs can attest, weird and often wonderful things can happen over the course of its five-day run just about anytime you step into any one of the nearly 100 venues showcasing - in this, SXSW's 26th year - better than 2000 (that's not a typo) separate acts all vying for a listener's ear time.
It seemed nearly impossible, though, to begin this year's musical affair without paying proper respects to a group who helped keep Austin weird, and more importantly, finger-in-the-electric-socket wired well before South By Southwest ever started. Accordingly, late Tuesday night at SXSW found me at Skinny's Ballroom to catch a rollicking set by local legends Joe "King" Carrasco and the Crowns, who back in the late '70s and early '80s made not only a national but also an international splash with their unique brand of good-time Nuevo Wavo Tex-Mex rock and roll. (I know because I had a hand in it, literally, as the producer of their debut album for England's Stiff Records back in 1981).
Watching the reunited original Crowns – Mike Navarro (drums), Brad Kizer (bass), Kris Cummings (organ and accordion) and guitarist Carrasco – not merely dusting but blowing the lids off such mui calliente classics as their Doug-Sahm-meets-Buddy-Holly hit "Buena," the groove-propelled "Betty's World" and the rip-snorting rocker "Don't Bug Me, Baby," as well as several fievre-raising new tunes from their brand new collection, Que Wow, I couldn't help but agree with the giddy Austinite standing next to me when he said, shaking his head incredulously: "They sound just like they did 30 years ago." And It was hard not to feel the ring of truth of another old saying: Rock and roll never forgets. Buena, buena, buena all the time. Indeed.
More from the SXSW 2012 Diary:
Day Three: Bruce Springsteen Keynote Address
Day Four: Fun. and The Drums