Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Leading Occupy South by Southwest is guitarist Tom Morello

Staff Writer
Austin 360

The dichotomy of Tom Morello's personal and professional lives was on display Friday at the Swan Dive in the first song of his late-night acoustic-electric set. In "One-Man Revolution," he sang, "On the streets of Havana/I was hugged and kissed/At the Playboy Mansion I was on the list."

As the trailblazing guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and a sought-after session man, Morello enjoys many of the perks of rock stardom, including standing elbow to elbow with Bruce Springsteen on the shiny stage of the plush ACL Live on Thursday. As Morello's alter ego, the Nightwatchman, the monkey-wrenching rabble-rouser and fiery political advocate, he played the grungy, aptly-named Swan Dive, and his set was broadcast via a makeshift screen to a makeshift cast of protestors, celebrators and activists who spilled out into blocked-off lanes of Red River outside the club.

"Hello, badge holders," Morello said to those of us inside. "And hello to you all out there on the People's Stage," he addressed those on the street. A cheer wafted in through the door.

The evening was billed as "Occupy South by Southwest," which was catnip for Morello. His leftist politics are, let us say, unalloyed, and his fierce, pithy, passionate songs address race, class warfare, homelessness and income inequality on a global scale.

The most musically charged moment of the evening might have been the ominous, heavyweight version of Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a song he had sung with Springsteen the night previously.

At the end of the night, as befitted the prevailing sentiment, it was time to take the fight to the streets. Morello, serving as a self-appointed Pied Piper, led the clubgoers outside to join the sidewalk audience, where he climbed on a makeshift stage and led a rousing version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."

— John T. Davis

Bill Murray makes local band's night

Bill Murray likes Austin — this is not news. He was spotted all over SXSW this year. This is my favorite Bill Murray story I have heard as of Saturday afternoon.

Take it away, Tia Carrera guitarist Jason Morales!:

"Tia played at Headhunter's last night at 1 a.m. (technically Saturday morning). It was probably about 2:30 or 3 when we were loading out. Suddenly Bill Murray walks up and sticks his head in the van and says, ‘What are you doing?'

"I told him we just played, and he helped us load out. It was pretty funny. There's Bill Murray, helping us move gear into the van. He was pretty cool.

"When we were done, he asked if he and his entourage could get in the van with us. But at that point, the van was completely full. So we had to call him a cab."

And ... scene!

— Joe Gross

Laid-back day at unofficial SXSW

Alejandro Escovedo's Annual Taco Party on the patio of Maria's Taco Express Saturday afternoon offered a terrific lineup in about the most relaxed setting you could probably find in Austin during SXSW, with an audience that appeared to include a lot of people from the neighborhood, as well as musicians milling around before or after their sets.

Krayola brothers Hector and David Saldana were resplendent in rhinestone-bedecked suits, chatting with friends and fans.

I had pulled up to the back of the restaurant just as a band was finishing its set with a fantastic cover of the Jam's "Town Called Malice." I asked at least four people, "Who was that?" Apparently, everybody else had just walked up, too, so I went over and bugged Escovedo, who replied, "John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons — he has CDs for sale over there." Escovedo seemed to enjoy the role of mentor and curator as well as host.

— Parry Gettelman

A dreamlike tour in ‘Big Easy Express'

With thousands of musicians performing all over the city on a warm St. Patrick's Day afternoon, it felt fitting that Emmett Malloy's documentary "Big Easy Express" closed SXSW Film at the Paramount Theatre.

A long tracking shot introduces the audience to the three bands jamming in separate cars, as the silver California Zephyr train cruises through the western United States. Rolling hills and flat prairies seen through train windows flip by like Instagram photos in an album.

The bands decided to join forces on the train, we are told in voiceover, in order to reconnect with the land and each other, to lift themselves back into the magic of a simpler time. Another musician adds that it is a "tour of dreams."

Much of the film is shot and told in a dreamlike style, the loose narrative structure hinging on the ride to New Orleans and a decent amount of concert footage. The film never probed too deeply into the reasoning behind the tour or the musicians' inspiration or personal connection to the music they played. Instead their playing did the talking.

— Matthew Odam

Style X produces runway like no other

Style X, the two-day South by Southwest fashion extravaganza, officially closed Saturday evening with a fashion show featuring musicians working the runway in clothing from the emerging designers showcased in pop-up shops during the event.

One gray-bearded man came back to unofficially work the runway Saturday while attendees were being seated. Seen crashing the event by walking the runway Friday evening, he seemed to reserve Saturday to bust a move while sporting a hat shaped like a boot, multiple ties and a green sports coat showing off his bare chest.

For the official show, musicians were dressed in brands like Dickies, Australian brand Zanerobe, Rachel Roy and Cynthia Steffe.

Outfits ranged from classic preppy and urban wear to flowing dresses and swimsuits interspersed with vintage — all creating a musician-friendly vibe.

Stylists succeeded in mixing and matching emerging designers with better-known brands. Local jewelry-makers Kendra Scott and Gay Isber added finishing touches to the looks with their unique pieces.

— Courtney Sebesta