At South by Southwest, nothing says alt-country like booze and beards at the New West day party


There was an odd dearth of bearded people on the streets of Austin Thursday afternoon. Turns out, they were all at one of SXSW’s best day parties, hosted by New West Records, home to such alt-country acts as Drive-By Truckers and the Old 97’s (as well as former Kinks frontman Ray Davies). There may be hipper day parties happening during the four-day music festival, but none embodies the spirit of SXSW’s Americana roots more than New West’s annual bash. (I also wasn’t invited to any of those. But that’s not the point). ... Akron native Tim Easton did a set during the four-hour party at Club De Ville, as did veteran singer-songwriter Buddy Miller, who was joined by ‘60s pop star Johnny Rivers (“Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side of Town”) for several songs – including smoking covers of “Hound Dog” and “Red House,” as well as Rivers’ old hit, “Mountain of Love.” But most whoops and hollers (to use a pair of alt-country words) were reserved for the Old 97’s, who played a bunch of songs from their blah new CD, Blame It on Gravity, which comes out in May. And because this was an alt-country showcase populated by guys sporting ironic bowling shirts and Grizzly Adams beards, the occasionally poppy Old 97’s played a strictly twang-filled set. That meant no “Nineteen” or “Oppenheimer.” But frontman Rhett Miller (by far the prettiest man playing rock music these days) never looked more ready for his mainstream close-up. -- Michael Gallucci


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