Morello, Townshend Kick Out The Jams At SXSW
With hundreds of performances every day, its identity as a festival is pretty easily established. But two particularly special performances on Thursday (March 15th) marked South by Southwest's secondWith hundreds of performances every day, its identity as a festival is pretty easily established. But two particularly special performances on Thursday (March 15th) marked South by Southwest's second day and will likely still be the most talked-about shows when the event wraps up on Sunday.
At the end of his showcase set in the wee hours of this morning, Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello proudly told an ebullient crowd at the Parish that "I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend, 'cause you ain't gonna top that s***." And he was probably right.
What was supposed to be a solo acoustic set by Morello, under the guise of his protest-singing alter ego the Nightwatchman, turned into a plugged-in all-star throwdown with a guest list that included Guns N'Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash, Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and Primus leader Les Claypool, among others. Morello, in fact, didn't even hold back the surprises, starting the show with the ensemble thundering through the Jane's Addiction favorite "Mountain Song" and promising more where that came from.
He did play several songs from his politically charged Nightwatchman debut album -- "One Man Revolution," coming April 24 -- but Morello and company also rocked their way through the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," Rage's "Guerrilla Radio" and a fierce, set-closing rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," complete with electric guitar solos and the final, censored verse that's unfamiliar to most listeners.
Earlier in the evening, Pete Townshend and his girlfriend, Rachel Fuller, presented a more subdued but even more ambitious series of collaborations with a special edition of their Attic Jam concert series at La Zona Rosa. With fellow big names like R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Robyn Hitchcock looking on, the duo worked with a collection of younger artists -- including Martha Wainwright, Massachusetts troubadour Willy Mason, new British sensation Mika, British singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch and Joe Purdy, a Los Angeles artist with whom Townshend performed a duet version of his solo hit "Let My Love Open The Door."
Townshend, along with Fuller -- who likened the show to "a hootenanny" -- served generously as a sideman for portions of each artist's set, happily playing a support role even though his mere physical presence eclipsed anyone else on stage. For his own performances, Townshend dipped into the Who songbook, launching the evening with a solo acoustic rendition of "Drowned" from the "Quadrophenia" album. He then closed the show with a spare voice-and-piano version of "In The Ether" from the Who's latest album, "Endless Wire," and "I Can't Reach You," a Who chestnut from the '60s that he told the crowd, "not only have I never played in public, nobody I know has played this song in public."