Dog Days: The Chronicle’s Hair of the Three-Legged Dog Day Party Reminds Us That Music is Mankind’s Best Friend

Yard Act, Surfbort, and hometown vibes at Hotel Vegas

Packed house for the Austin Chronicle's annual Hair of the Three-Legged Dog day party, named in honor of the Chronicle's tripaw mascot, Hank, and co-emceed by Chronicle Music Editor Kevin Curtin (center) (photo by John Anderson)

Although I am not nearly young enough or active enough to attend a high number of the many great SXSW parties, I do feel that I can say with pretty solid confidence that the annual Austin Chronicle Hair of the Three-Legged Dog party is one of the best.

The mixture of styles, genres, and generations is a music lover’s paradise, both onstage and off. Viewing this year’s lineup, I was previously familiar with only one of the bands, which is great because that means I’ll be walking away with something new to sink my teeth into.

Chief Cleopatra (photo by John Anderson)

First up was one that’s been on my live list for a while now, Chief Cleopatra. Standing confidently on her singing talent, Cleo doesn’t need to move around the stage much in order to captivate. With every member of her backing band holding down their roles tightly, the visible chemistry between the bass player and the keyboardist definitely created a spirited connection with the crowd. Watching them egg each other on musically was making me want to get up and take a solo, even though I don’t even play an instrument.

Surfbort (photo by John Anderson)

Following them was Surfbort. Formed in NYC, now based in L.A., and featuring Austin underground hero Sean Powell on the drums, they had long-time SXSW attendees buzzing. I don’t know if it’s possible to look so decidedly pre-punk and still be classified as post-punk, but if it is, that’s Surfbort. Stylistically they seem to capture that magic period between ’75 and ’76 when the Ramones were gaining traction, but things hadn’t quite yet codified into the solid “look” that came with Nevermind The Bullocks.

Their perfectly awkward singer, Dani Miller, has a wonderfully nervous smile that’s really contagious. It makes you want to have the exact fun she’s having – demonstrated when she spent the final minutes of the band’s performance immersed in the crowd. I also have to say – as a man over 50 – Surfbort brings punk back, full circle, to the perfect BPM for my generation’s failing knees and stiffening backs, but somehow they do it with the energy and sincerity of something brand-new.

Magic Rockers of Texas (photo by John Anderson)

Filling in for TC Superstar, who had to cancel because of an illness in the band, was another fresh bit of terrain to my Austin roadmap, the Magic Rockers Of Texas. Upon hearing their name, I was struck with a mild case of band-name snobbery. Magic Rockers of Texas? It honestly sounds like some kind of all-star blues band centered around Johnny Winter and Jimmie Vaughan. Fortunately for all of us, my prejudice was completely unfounded and quickly disproven. Slightly more driving than Surfbort, but with touches of psych, pop, and alternative folded into their heavy sound – all that combined beautifully on their spirited version of Tanya Tucker’s “Texas When I Die.” MRT were the perfect sonic boost mixed with good pop hooks to take things up a notch for the headliner, British pandemic groove-poetry sensation, Yard Act.

Yard Act (photo by John Anderson)

After seeing Yard Act’s relentless SXSW schedule, I couldn’t help but wonder if there would be a fatigue factor. But if they were tired or run-down from playing a metric shit ton of shows, it certainly didn’t show. By the second song I was reminded why there is just nothing like right there, in your face, soul synchronizing, head bouncing, tight four-four groove heavy rock music. I do have to stand by my previous analogy that if D. Boone and Fatboy Slim would’ve started a band together, this would have been it. Such a stream of good hooks and biting satirical lyrics from Lone Star gripping vocalist James Smith. Rather than appearing tired, their intense schedule seems to have tightened them up to a level of effortless perfection.

On the way out, while settling up my tab at the outside bar I realized that even after being told where the free drinks were for the staff, I still managed to rack up a $92 bill because well, Espolòn…

Damn you, mango!

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SXSW Music 2022, Chief Cleopatra, Surfbort, Yard Act, Magic Rockers of Texas

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