SXSW Day Eight: Charles Bradley is My Hero
We’ve nearly made it. The end of the festival is today. Yesterday is always the day I’m writing about though, so there we begin. The day started with documentary feature, Charles Bradley: Soul of America. I am a sensitive person; I tear up during movies a lot. I’m sort of hard-hearted too, mostly when people are acting a fool or hurting others do I lack sympathy. So when I say that this film had me tearing up several times, it’s because Charles Bradley deserves every bit of success flowing his way, he is a lovely human, a saintly person, an illiterate entertainer who grew up in the projects with an unstable environment and a difficult Mother to whom he devotes his entire life today. The film tells the story of a man who spent forty years covering James Brown tunes, only fifty days from the release of his debut record on Daptone, we see the utter poverty of this sixty-year old man who will soon be the toast of the music business. His words are few but all authentic, honest, spiritual, and deep. At one point he breaks out balling his eyes out, saying, “I love everyone the way God loves everyone, I never hurt nobody, and no matter how much money, fame, or anything goes my way, nobody can take that from me.” This movie is a must see, even if you simply love soul music.
I caught to few songs of Portland alt-country band, Blitzen Trapper in one of the ballrooms at the convention center. It was weird. It’s like an outdoor festival inside a convention center. The band sounded great, although it’s not my thing, they bring great songs with strong vocal harmonies to the show and that’s bottom line. After that I caught about half of The Magnetic Fields show in a tremendous state of the art venue, the Moody Theater, and I think it was being taped for Austin City Limits. They are a class act, that band. Instrumentation was basically acoustic with Stephin Merritt on harmonium and some electronic devices, a small keyboard, but otherwise it was upright piano, cello, and guitars, especially ukulele. The understated simplicity of their work and catchiness remains their signature through the years, whether it’s a lot of electronic sounds or acoustic, the band knows how to make a pop song. I can only mark them pop because what else can you call them? Not alt-country, definitely not, not folkie, not goth but sometimes they attract that audience. In this audience they had to do a lot of shushing because the gossipy chatter and obscene excitement from women in heels and tight clothes cut across the gentle sounds of their instruments and soft-spoken vocals, kind of the opposite of most bands in south by.
From there I shuffled my feet across town for Los Angeles’ Nite Jewel. I first caught her on Dublab radio and thought she had a good sound. The effected vocals have a way of homogenizing each song, not that it was bad, but I’m having a hard time recalling anything really specific about it other than liking the beats, melodies, and band in a general way. She’s a regular lady, small and humble, dancing on stage with hair bouncing – almost like a little girl in her room alone. I don’t know her history, but now she has a professional group of musicians, a smart move on her part, rather than get egotistic hipsters who can’t play, become a famous, paid act and hear your songs come to life.
There was a silly showing of Legend with a score by Reggie Watts. I’m surprised it made it to the festival, honestly. I was really hoping to see him live, but the idiots who schedule this festival put him in the same venue as Jack White, whose fans clogged the line and very few were trying to see Reggie. The score was funny and I was actually impressed with his musicianship. There were a lot of piano sections that show he can really play. And I was holding out for him to be my Facetime interview for today, but his publicist shot me down. Darn it. Other than that, I ran around trying to catch things. Balkan Beat Box, I picked over Blackalicous, but to no avail because they cancelled, but I did see a few moments of an awesome Ethiopian band instead, called The Debo Band. Thoroughly enjoyable group, awesome party band with a great sound. But, realizing the chance to see Blackalicious, I ran over to the Beauty Bar and caught the final song. And then I went home.