On 3/16/17, Blurred Culture got a special invite from our friend Jamie Kent to spend the day on a pair of riverboat cruise showcases on Lady Bird Lake. We support all of our friends, and gladly accepted an invite. In a slight departure from the rest of our SXSW coverage, because there was so much music showcased on both cruises, each cruise will have a general overview with links to separate pages hosting artist photo galleries and video clips that were were able to capture. The evening cruise review, photos and video clips can be accessed by CLICKING HERE. To access photo galleries (and video clips when available), click on the photo of the artist.
For the past several years, Americana singer-songwriter Jamie Kent has been hosting a Riverboat Cruise showcase. For his 2017 installment, he hosted two separate showcases. The afternoon cruise was distinctly Americana, and for the next 3 hours attendees would be treated to a total of 8 different artists.
Now, getting onto the boat to enjoy the musical offerings would prove to be the only criticism I have for the event. As I arrived, there was a particularly long line hoping to board the boat. If I were to guess, there were at least two hundred people waiting in line. Less than half of them would actually board the vessel. But once you boarded, you were greeted with free beer (or wine) and wonderful music.
As soon as the boat set sail, the first performer, Eric Erdman, began playing in the lower deck. Dressed sharply in black slacks, vest and bowler hat, with a deep purple shirt, he played a gentle acoustic set that helped the audience get into a musical mood. Though the boat was bustling with people waiting in line to procure the free booze and/or snatch up some of the sponsored goodies on the table across from him, he focused on his music, got in the zone and sang with the passion that only true artists possess.
Where the lower deck started with mellow vibes, the upper deck was definitely more rocking. Anthony Peebles, backed by Jamie Kent’s band mates, was particularly impressive as the opening set for the early afternoon. Whether it was the genial stage presence or his confident demeanor, my friend who accompanied me on this outing made it a point to note that she really enjoyed Anthony’s performance, and she isn’t necessarily the Americana type. For me, I was particularly draw to his voice which seemed to carry very well, especially when he hit notes in his upper register.
Of both the afternoon and the evening showcases, there was only one solo, featured female artist: Lindsey Thompson. Husband, Will Thompson, joined her for a song (and she also played with Will for his set later on the cruise), but I certainly enjoyed her brief performance. She got a nice timbre to her alto voice and with her singing her country tinged folk, I definitely got some nice K.D. Lang vibes from her. I certainly wouldn’t have minded a longer set from her … and if I weren’t working the event, I would have definitely had a seat with a nice glass of wine to enjoy her dulcet tones.
For someone who organized and hosted both of the riverboat excursions, one could have anticipated that Jamie would have slotted himself for one of the “headline” spots on either cruise. But having some time with him, I kinda knew that that wouldn’t be the case. He’s the kind of fella who likes to let his friend shine, so he put his set right in the middle of the festivities. No worries though, cause Jamie’s performance speaks for itself. He’s a born showman who knows how to work an audience; and with killer songs to play, it really doesn’t need to be said that he fully entertained the crowd during his 30 minutes.
Downstairs in the lower deck, the energy was picking up when Kenny Taylor gave guests at the bar a sampling of his acoustic pop-rock vibes. Though the mood of his music was upbeat, I noticed particularly emotional lyrics. The only notes that I wrote on this performance in my iPhone notes was “melancholy happiness”. Does that make sense? Perhaps the notes are reaching a bit considering that Kenny’s performance (like all of the other lower acoustic performances) were only 15 minutes in length, but there was obviously something there for me to want to pull out my phone to write a note. Hmmmm…
Will Thompson seems to embody the essence of country. During his performance, he spoke a little bit about his struggle to keep music in his life, professing that there was a point when his prospects look dim. But with some good fortune, and good friends, he got his inspiration back, recorded a new album, “Turn It Up”, and expressed how grateful he was to be in Austin, performing, of all places, on a boat to new ears. When he sang, he sang with an earnest honesty that is a hallmark of good country music.
Other than Jamie, there was only one other artist to perform on both showcases: Nick D’Virgilio. Known more for his drumming skills (he was one of of two drummer chosen to replace Phil Collins in Genesis on the Calling All Station album and has done session work with Tears for Fears), Nick used his 2 fifteen minutes sets to flex his musical chops playing toned down acoustics melodies. A far departure from his progressive rock credentials, but perfectly suited as the final set in the lower deck.
Closing out the music for the afternoon riverboat showcase was the Dallax, TX based band Vandoliers. With cowpunk making more and more headways every year- the return of X certainly helped- Vandolier’s music seems to be in the right place at the right time. Their alt-country sound has been molded by their aggregate punk experience, and served as an energized ending to the afternoon showcase.
Each of the artists donated tracks to a compilation album to give away to each others fans and support each other as independent artists. If you’d like to get a FREE copy of the “Riverboat SXSW Mix” compilation album CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW.