SXSW Thursday, March 18, 1999
at the Atomic Café
Fleeing the rain showers for the steamy confines of the Atomic Café, we managed to catch Orange Kandy. Hailing from the land of Godzilla, sushi, and pornographic cartoons, the Japanese quartet delighted the large crowd, with their sweet yet edgy power pop. Coming off like a Japanese version of the Darling Buds, they played their way through an entertaining, occasionally flashy set. Their stage presence and sound would put many American bands to shame, but they were quite tame compared to some of their Japanese contemporaries like Lolita # 18, Guitar Wolf, or Demi Semi Quaver. Orange Kandy is a much sweeter band, not going for the outlandish. Their songs are tight and lush, and their lead singer/guitar player is quite good, but not spectacular. Nevertheless, they were a hit with the crowd, as there was a crush to the front of the stage, and the Atomic Café is rather large. People just looking for shelter would have plenty of places to be inside without being jammed against the stage apron. Personally, it left me feeling good, but not great. Entertained, but not in awe.
at the Ritz Lounge
Although this Columbus, OH singer-songwriter recently released his first solo effort, Special 20 (Heathen Records), he is still probably best known as the main force behind the Haynes Boys.
This band’s rough and tumble Midwestern rock ‘n’ folk ‘n’ honky tonk bar roll usually makes for a memorable evening when live. Easton in the past has been rather effective as well as a live solo performer, but his catch is grabbing you through the song and the voice rather than the hook and the power of the ‘Boys.
For the long journey to Austin, Easton brought along his compatriots to back him up, raucously punching through both Haynes Boys standards such as “New Franklin County Woman” and Easton solo songs such as “Just Like Home.”
The venue was a little too swank for such a raw performance, although the crowd was attentive and rather transfixed. Shoved in a small corner of the front below a big film screen, Easton and the ‘Boys filled the Swingers -esque room with their Replacements meets Wilco sound.
Easton’s vocal twang can sound slightly forced at times when recorded, but he eased into a comfortable drawl on stage that fit the music and him rather well. It rose to a powerful swell when necessary to pierce the rocking din, and gave quieter moments an edgy, emotional feel. Many artists can’t effectively pull off such vocal range, but Easton handled the switches nicely.
While the general subjects of Easton’s songs typically have something to do with a woman, the lyrics and songs are usually more complex. He is a bit of a storyteller in song, a fact that comes through very clear on solo nights.
On this night, however, he was not a true soloist. Nonetheless, it was an impressive display from a fine singer-songwriter and his ready-to-rock buddies.