The view from SXSW: Vegas band Rusty Maples does Austin
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 (11:44 a.m.)
Photo: Chase Stevens
If the Strip is the mecca of booze, I’ve found Atlantis—and it’s been in Austin, Texas, for 20 years. It’s known as the South by Southwest Music Festival.
My first five days in Austin have been spent within a one-mile radius, surrounded by more alcohol, street-side bratwursts and indie bands than I could’ve imagined. I read somewhere that if you add up all the decibels from every show at SXSW, it’s louder than an erupting volcano. My ears are still ringing.
And between crossing artists off my bucket list (Fiona Apple, The Magnetic Fields, Built to Spill, Daniel Johnston), I tagged along with Las Vegas’ own Americana-rock group Rusty Maples, which booked some unofficial SXSW shows in the area. Yeah, even though I have this shiny wristband that gets me into (almost) all of the official shows, the rumors have proven true: Sometimes the unofficial shows turn out the best.
That couldn’t have been truer than on Thursday, when I found myself in the middle of a residential neighborhood for one of the Maples’ gigs at a house show where bands played on the front lawn. This would never fly in Vegas, but here, there are sponsored house shows by Spotify and Ray-Ban, and bars that look like homes populating the length of Rainey St.
The front yard looked like the set of an Edward Sharpe music video—kids dancing with painted-faced women and a slew of Texan hipsters drinking Lone Star—while the Los Angeles vaudeville rock group He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister finished up its set. Rusty Maples closed the night following the hardest-to-follow act of the evening, New York soul band Lily and the Parlor Tricks (let’s just say, they handed out condoms after their show).
The touring Rusty Maples lineup—Blair Dewane (vocals), Ian Dewane (guitar), Mike Weller (bass) and Las Vegas City Life writer Max Plenke (drums)—sounded tight and their folksy sound felt like perfect fit for Texas. Not to mention Blair’s stage presence. “I think you’re missing Skrillex f*ck a fish downtown,” he told the audience. Yeah, it’s hard to resist Rusty Maples’ charm. The band’s 10-song set featured seven unrecorded songs, my personal favorite being “Beach Video” (that’s the working title, for now) and a revamped Skooners’ song “War Drums.”
Although most of the crowd had already packed up and moved on (probably to see Skrillex), the house show was, oddly, the best-sounding “venue” Rusty Maples has played in Austin thus far. Their Wednesday set at the Local was just as solid, but crackling speakers and drunk patrons drowned out most of Blair’s vocals. As for their 11 a.m. house-show set Friday, I think even the sound guy was recovering from the night before.
Between their own shows, the Rusty Maples guys are also filling in as the touring band for Oklahoma singer/songwriter OK Sweetheart. As I write this, they’re about an hour from starting a set down on Sixth St. … which reminds me, today is St. Patrick’s Day. If I return to Vegas a little green in the face, you’ll know why.