Annual bash opens up festival

The annual Conqueroo/Guitartown party held at Mother Egan’s, one of several kickoff parties held Wednesday, the first day of the music portion of SXSW, boasted a roots oriented lineup and a convention of friends who see each other but once or twice a year.

Early afternoon portion of the event that stretched from noon until 9:30 PM featured primarily singer-songwriters.

First highlight of the day: James McMurtry. The Texas poet proceeded in workmanlike fashion through four crunching tunes, three from his forthcoming release, “Just Us Kids”. Following some brief political commentary from McMurtry on the resignation of Admiral Fallon over differences on Iran, the band launched into “Cheney’s Toy”, this record’s follow-up to McMurtry’s award- winning tune, “We Can’t Make It Here”.

Chris Stamey, the North Carolina based purveyor of melodic pop tunes, fronted the Chapel Hill based band, Ceremony, for an uplifting set. Tom Freund, with the renowned drummer, Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson), displayed his songwriting skills and offered a couple of new tunes from his soon to be released CD produced by Ben Harper.

Shawn Mullins, from Atlanta, performed solo and offered four mostly infectious, melodic tunes mixed with a two politically charged tunes.

When Austin-based Jon Dee Graham hit the stage, the crowd began to reach for their ear plugs and admire his incendiary guitar solos. SXSW 2008 was underway.

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