The best British music at SXSW as selected by 'Mojo' editor-in-chief Phil Alexander
The Mean-Eyed Cat, 2:30pm
The joy of South by Southwest is encapsulated by the tumultuous mix of official showcases, appearances of "very special guests" (quite often superstar acts on the caliber of Metallica) at assorted soirees, and parties that appear to throw together the unlikeliest of acts.
This year, Blur guitarist Graham Coxon is symbolic of all three of these different scenarios, having already played the official Billboard bash at Pangaea last night and being accorded the "special guest" status at the Fader party the day before. This afternoon, he lets it all hang out at the Mojo-sponsored Bootleg BBQ at the Mean Eyed Cat alongside the likes of the Proclaimers, Rolo Tomassi, Dan Auerbach, Hot Leg (featuring ex-Darkness' Justin Hawkins), and Alela Diane, among others, on a most berserk party lineup.
Coxon's arrival in the U.S. pre-empts the return of reformed Britpop kings Blur, whose summer shows in the UK rank among the most anticipated of the festival season. It also coincides with the release of his new solo, The Spinning Top, which emerges from the Transgressive label on May 11.
His seventh solo set, Top's also his most reflective, a conceptual work featuring 15 tracks of one man's journey from birth to death. Musically speaking, it's Coxon's most mature effort, his previous punkoid sound being replaced by a deeper, more pastoral quality that appears informed by both his well-publicized love of Syd Barrett and his affection for contemporary folk music.
"The album's mainly an acoustic journey," explains Coxon, "although there is, of course, some explosive electric guitar action! I wanted to show how exciting acoustic instruments can be, how dynamic and rich and heart-thumpingly raw they can sound at a time when acoustic music seems either too cute or too soppy."
Coxon's also quick to point out that the guitar textures defining Spinning Top are very much a tribute to some of his great British guitar antecedents.
"Obvious influences are the amazing Martin Carthy; the late, great Davey Graham; and the late, great John Martyn," he says.
While The Spinning Top features guest appearances from Robyn Hitchcock, legendary bassist and Pentangle co-founder Danny Thompson, and jazz drummer Graham Fox, Coxon's SXSW jaunt is a solo affair. Today, at around 2:30pm, grab a cold beer, and prepare to be transported by one of Britain's most enigmatic talents.
Four more 'MOJO' Brit Picks for Saturday:
White Lies, Stubb's, 7:40pm
Christopher Rees, Stephen F's Bar, 10pm
John Fairhurst, 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn, 12mid
The Crimea, the Rio, 1am