SXSW

The BMI and Billboard Acoustic Brunch

By Niki D’Andrea

What the hell am I doing here? It’s 11 a.m., I drank an entire bottle of red wine by myself last night, I have a bad hangover, and this brunch dealio at the Four Seasons looks way more swanky than I feel.

Actually, I don’t feel swanky at all, and aside from my friend and independent musician Jody Gnant (the reason I’m at this thing), I don’t know any of these hundreds of people who are dining on crepes, drinking mimosas (yeah, gimme three, please), and lounging around in the shaded grass by the lake.

I don’t know any of the performers, either. But my aching medulla oblongata is grateful that I don’t see anybody setting up drum kits or stack amplifiers (hence the “acoustic brunch” tag, duh). In fact, the first performer – a Nashville crooner named Ford Turrell – is just up there with an acoustic guitar and two dudes accompanying on acoustic guitar and bass.

Turrell’s style is similar to Dave Matthews’, and his folk-rock-troubadour love songs were well-crafted and easy enough to listen to with a hangover while sitting directly under the glaring sun.

Ford Turrell

Brooke Waggoner (also from Nashville) performed next, and had the misfortune of having the banner behind the stage come flapping off in the wind while she was performing. This mishap was followed by the crackling of a short-circuited amplifier. But Waggoner weathered the storm, and continued playing her melodic folk-pop in spite of the snafus. I’d be interested in seeing another performance by her, in another setting.

Next up was Russian-born jazz pianist Eldar, who’s performed everywhere from the White House to Late Night with Conan O’Brien. With his dark shades, mysterious presence (he never addressed the audience), and strange sonic brew of pop, hip-hop, and jazz piano pieces, the 20-year-old phenom made me think that this is what Brian Eno might sound like if he performed in an acid jazz club on the outskirts of some parallel universe.

Eldar

New York singer-songwriter (and fiercely talented guitarist) Kaki King took the stage next, and the main thing that stuck with me was her frantic, deft, over-handed picking style.

I didn’t stay for the remainder of the performers (six more artists took the stage), because it was getting even more crowded and the line for free mimosas was getting longer.

Plus, I had to go and get my ass kicked at Rhino’s Geekus Musicus Maximus challenge (more on that later).

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea