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South By Southwest kicks off with birthday bash … and more
March 14, 2012
Daily Trubune
Mount Clemens, Michigan

AUSTIN, Texas – You kind of know you’re at South By Southwest when a solo ukulele player from Hawaii brings a bar crowd to hushed and reverent silence – with a solo rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

That’s what Jake Shimabukuro, making his first visit to the annual music and media conference that’s considered the industry’s spring break, did on Tuesday as part of Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson’s 61st birthday bash. It was a reminder that when more than 2,000 musicians descend on one town – along with 13,000 or more conference registrants – some special things are bound to happen

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If the Benson bash was a uniquely Texas experience, BMI and SESAC helped SXSW attendees say Howdy Texas! with its annual party at Stubb’s barbecue restaurant. The mostly rootsy affair showcased groups such as the Ben Miller Band, Whiskey Shivers and Lera Lynn, along with the ambient rock of Austin’s Courrier. Meanwhile, the Hobart Brothers and Lil Sis – the all-star trio of Freedy Johnston, Jon Dee Graham and Susan Cowsill – had a good time making fun of their lack of preparedness for their three-song set; it was the first time they played live since last year’s SXSW, although they just released their first album earlier this month. Cowsill sang with lyrics taped to her microphone stand and cracked that, “We never rehearse. Rehearsal is for sissies!”

The trio will likely become much tighter, however, with 16 more shows slated for the week.

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