Day Four of South by Southwest Music Festival

Today I found myself exhausted. I think the late nights are catching up to me, that or I’ve turned into a pumpkin! That being said, I knew tonight’s choices wouldn’t be so hard as I had to call it an early night. I settled on checking out the Los Angeles band, King Straggler.

Before King Straggler was a local Austin band called The Dime Store Poets. If they explained the meaning to their name, it must have been before I arrived. It was in a showcase for “alternative country” music. Theirs had the country feel to it, which usually isn’t my thing. But they weren’t horrible. However, after hearing Juliette and the Licks last night, a normally bad band might sound pretty good. I’m not going to go out of my way to see them again, but I wouldn’t run in the opposite direction. Much like Taylor Hawkins last night, The Dime Store Poets just sound like a bunch of other bands out there. They need to find their hook that sets them apart and then they would have the potential to be really good. But until then, they just sound like more of the same.

Before I get to the review of King Straggler’s performance, I want to tell you about who they are. First we have Brently Gore. He’s played and recorded with some pretty cool folks like The Cars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Billy Preston. He’s considered the “eye candy” of the band. Next is Rodney Eastman. He’s the most attractive in my opinion and you’ve seen him in music and movies for quite some times now. He’s the kid from Nightmare on Elm Street III if you really want to know. And then, for all you Deadwood fans, we have John Hawkes (he plays Sol Star). All three of these guys play guitar and share singing and songwriting responsibilities. Brently also plays some keyboards and harmonica on certain songs.

All three men sound different and I am not sure how they would work on their own. But with the variety and sharing of singing, it really works well. Brently definitely has the voice that can do the most. John can get the twang going. And Rodney … well, he’s lucky he can write because he sounds somewhat like Weird Al. On that note, Rodney is actually the best songwriter of the three, so it all works out.

Again, their music is classified as “alternative country,” whatever that means. If it means rock with country influences, then that sounds about right. They have a drummer and a bass guitarist. And they bring in a guy to play violin. Tonight was a guy that used to play with the Asylum Street Spankers (Guy Forsyth’s band). They have songs that are optimistic and pessimistic, totally folk or loud rock, and of course the country anthems.

The guys range in age, from 20-something to 40-something. But somehow they each add a little touch to really make it come together and seem complete. They are fun to watch. And since there is a different singer for each song, there is variation to their sound. What does that mean? It means the problem that plagues so many bands today of all their songs sounding the same really isn’t an issue on any level.

King Straggler also tells the same jokes every night. Ladies, even though they say they are all single and Scorpios, I am not sure that any man in the band is either. But man, are they obsessed with their penises. I cannot tell you how many jokes or references they made to a penis. It really was quite the enjoyable show. It wasn’t packed, which meant there weren’t crazy drunk people rubbing up on me. It also meant there was plenty of room for those who wanted to dance and really get into it.

This is the only South by Southwest show I have been to this year where people were dancing in more than a “bob your head and bend your knee” kind of concert dance. It was fun. I already have their CD, but if I didn’t, I think that show would have inspired me to go out and buy it. And yes, King Straggler is one of the 900 bands that has a free download on the SXSW website.

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