Stone Temple Pilots Launch Revival Tour At SXSW
Stone Temple Pilots at SXSW Getty

The music kicked into high gear on the second full day of the South By Southwest Music Festival + Conference in Austin, TX, though the celebrations were tempered by sadness as fans and fellow musicians reacted to the death of Alex Chilton.

Big Star's Jody Stephens said he felt "a little numb" in the wake of the death of bandmate Chilton but said the show -- and panel discussion -- should go on. As we reported last night, Stephens said he and current Big Star members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer will "house band" for Saturday night's previously scheduled Big Star show at Antone's. Original Big Star bassist Andy Hummel is also in town to take part in a panel discussion at the Austin Convention Center that afternoon and will likely take part in the show. M. Ward, John Doe, Chris Stamey and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills are among the guest who has signed on for the concert.

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While many artists mourned the death of Chilton, fans gathered at the Austin Music Hall to witness the rebirth of Stone Temple Pilots, who gave the first public performances of songs from its forthcoming album, the first for the alternative rock band in nine years.

Besides the thick-grooving "Between the Lines," STP also previewed the rootsier "Hickory Dichotomy," a chugging rocker called "Bagman" and big-beat bounce of "Huckleberry Crumble." Weiland also toyed with the crowd, introducing a new song that turned out to be the 1993 hit "Plush."

Mostly, though, Thursday's show focused on STP's prodigious rash of radio hits, including the opening "Vasoline," "Wicked Garden," "Big Empty," "Creep," "Plush" and "Sex Type Thing," while the group also delved into deeper fare such as "Hollywood Bitch" -- which Weiland noted the group hadn't played "in a while" -- "Sour Girl," "Dead and Bloated" and "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart."

The encore came with a surprise; Robbie Krieger of the Doors, in town to promote the new Doors documentary "When You're Strange" -- joined STP for a spirited rendition of "Roadhouse Blues" and joined the band, and bassist Robert DeLeo's son, in the show-closing bows.

Cheap Trick got the 2010-11 season of "Austin City Limits" off to a rocking start on Thursday night with a 17-song SXSW-week taping at the program's headquarters on the University of Texas campus.

Starting with a special intro tape that includes a Japanese DJ Homer Simpson and a demure woman's voice formally welcoming "the best f***ing rock band in the world," Cheap Trick came out roaring with "Way of the World" and "When the Lights Are Out," mixing hits ("I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender," "Voices," "Dream Police") with less- celebrated catalog gems such as "Baby Loves to Rock" and a particularly generous selection from 2009's "The Latest," including "Closer, the Ballad of Burt and Linda," "Sick Man of Europe," "Miracle" and "Miss Tomorrow."

Pick-tossing guitarist Rick Nielsen was in jocular form throughout the show, hawking the 8-track version of "The Latest," quipping about "'Austin City Limits' 36th year, Cheap Trick's 36th year -- this is the first time they've been lucky enough to have us" and noting that the group has "been in a lot of buildings before they've been torn down. "ACL" is moving to a new studio facility in downtown Austin later this year.

But things turned serious when Cheap Trick paid tribute to the late Alex Chilton, whose Big Star song "In the Street" was the basis for the group's theme song for TV's "That '70s Show." After Nielsen noted that "a good friend of ours passed away," the group fused "Sleep Forever" with "Heaven Tonight" before playing "That '70s Song." Nielsen's son Dax sat in on drums for an ailing Bun E. Carlos at the taping, while two keyboardists -- Magic Christian and Jellyfish alumnus Roger Manning, were along to help fill out the sound.

Cheap Trick's "ACL" episode will premiere in October. Meanwhile, the group is scheduled to perform a free public SXSW concert Friday night at Austin's Auditorium Shores.

Ray Davies was another of the many artists at SXSW paying tribute to the late Alex Chilton during Thursday's showcases. During the acoustic portion of his 90-minute set, Davies told the crowd about how Chilton had come to his aid after the Kinks leader was shot in January 2004 in New Orleans. "He would come over and lend me a guitar," Davies recalled. "He became my friend ... He helped me a lot." Then, adding that "I didn't know his band (Big Star) had covered this song, " he performed the Kinks' "Till the End of the Day" and dedicated it to Chilton.

At Stubbs, the Drive-By Trucker's Patterson Hood dedicated "Let There Be Rock," its paean to the healing powers of music, to Chilton. They were preceded by San Diego garage-surf outfit The Soft Pack, who delivered a tight set that featured most of the songs from its Kemado Records debut. Band of Horses previewed songs from its latest, adding spacier sounds to its original alt-country base.

At 6 p.m., Polaris prize-winning Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up gave a no-credentials-needed performance on the sidewalk in front of Beerland to street-blocking crowd. "Do you know who I met today? Smokey Robinson," said famously large, shirtless and guttural frontman Damian Abraham. "I told him I sing just like him. He'll never know."

Toronto quartet Holy Fuck, another champion of Canadian profanity, gave one of their eight planned Austin shows at the Mohawk patio showcase, which drew lines around the block all night. Having gained acclaim for making electronic music without laptops or programmed tracks, the two DJs, drummer and bassist energetically created alternately intense, alternately poppy wordless dance music to an enthusiastic crowd.

Holy Fuck was followed (40 minutes late), by the Wu-Tang Clan's GZA, who rolled through hits including "I Gotcha' Back" and ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya". The rapper was a little on the relaxed side, even checking his Blackberry once or twice mid-lyric, but without missing a beat.

By 1 a.m., hundreds were still waiting outside the Mohawk in hopes of seeing or at least hearing the UK's the xx, whose chilly intensity enthralled those who made it through the door. The band, whose self- titled debut made most 2009 best-of lists, is easily one of the most talked-about artists at this year's fest.

It was an eclectic night at the Billboard Bungalow, with an array of rappers and rockers taking the stage. The evening started with a set from upbeat backpack rapper Grynch, spitting verses about positivity and his beloved 1986 Volvo. He was followed by Inglewood group U-N-I, who recently celebrated the release of a new album, "A Love Supreme, Volume 2.0." From the pounding beats of U-N-I, the evening took a sharp turn with the hazy rock of Toronto act Dinosaur Bones, followed by quiet Brit poppers Athlete.

If Athlete mellowed the packed house, Those Darlins woke them right back up with a twangy, frenetic, and drunken set, which saw two members careening in to one another. Man Man kept the energy high, taking the stage in face paint and costumes and inspiring wild dancing with their gypsy jazz stylings. Finally, Dead Confederate closed out the night with some good old fashioned Southern rock.

(Reporting by Cortney Harding, Evie Nagy and Gary Graff)

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