"Eight members, 25 egos, 6 livers"

Well, it's only fitting that the first post here is about South by Southwest. And I promise future posts won't be so long...

Every serious music buff has at least one or two bands they'll never get over. Bands they couldn't bear to see split up or fade away. Bands they still pimp to their friends and anyone else who will listen. Any whiff of a reunion rumor is a hit of purest oxygen for that loyal fan torch. For me, it's The Faces and Lil' Band O' Gold. Both bands were rumored to have surprise reunion shows at SXSW this year. But of course that would've been too good to be true, even in a perfect and just world.

So I'd been a little down about that and cancelling the big planned Louisiana trip this year--the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Fest, etc. Then came the news that the SXSW Film Festival was premiering The Promised Land--the long-languishing documentary about Lil' Band O' Gold.

It's hard to explain the significance of Lil' Band O' Gold to someone who's not way into Gulf Coast music. This is one of the few bands who can get away with the label "supergroup." Each of the eight members is an accomplished, revered Louisiana musician bringing his own top-drawer talent to this smokin' mix of Cajun, blues, swamp pop, and rock. Here's their MySpace page. Shameless indulgent gush: They were one of my favorite bands to see live. I've driven across half of Texas and Louisiana to catch them, even with $3/gallon gas, and consider it well worth every penny and every mile. In 2007, my husband Charlie and I took a day off work to drive out for a benefit for their ailing emcee. (We'll always love and miss you, 'Uncle Donald'...)Steve Riley rockin' the accordion

Their music led me to more about swamp pop and obscure old Louisiana R&B and the Ponderosa Stomp showcase, as well as the music scene around Lafayette and a deepening fondness for Acadiana in general. (All of which I plan to expound upon here soon. Paying it forward.) It's a lot of what's made south Louisiana my first choice for a quick cheap getaway to recharge my batteries. It's the kind of music and spirited live show that makes me feel what I wish I felt in church. Maybe this is my church. Maybe theirs, too.

Standing in the ticket-purchase line for the premiere like the no-pass/no-wristband losers we are, we wound up right where their van pulled up. Most of the band got out, and some of them even recognized us and stopped to say hi. A nice surprise, since it's been almost two years and they've all been busy. It's true that the real rock stars, the real legends, never act like it. Only the posers think they're too good for anyone.

The film doesn't have a distribution or DVD deal (yet), but the production company, Room 609, has a great little trailer here to get us by in the meantime. That does the film more justice than I can here, but suffice to say it's got a lot of heart and soul. Just like the band, of course. Even the misspelled quote attributions lent a certain scrappy charm. The film conveys the spirit and feel of the band, framed neatly in the context of their proud Cajun heritage.

I went to that Tuesday night premiere in case I couldn't make it to the even bigger showing the next day. Workwise, the timing couldn't have been much worse. Massive overtime, crazy projects, irate clients, and being more short-staffed than usual. I was almost physically sick when I heard about the second showing, complete with crawfish boil and a short set from the band. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday. How in the hell was I gonna make that? So I leveraged some overtime into a few hours off that afternoon, with the help of a sympathetic co-worker. After losing this trip, almost losing Charlie last June to illness, once again shelving my artistic stuff for The Day Job That Ate My Life (But Pays My Bills), and that crazy week, among other stuff, well, dammit, I needed this.

I'd always heard legendary things about LBOG sax player Dickie Landry's cooking. But I never dreamed I'd actually get to taste any. So, much to my additional delight, they were serving not only fresh boiled crawfish, but Dickie's own sumptuous crawfish etouffee. Most etouffee I've had in restaurants (here and in Louisiana) has been rather bland. Something safe for the tourists. I'd usually just sample a spoonful from a friend's order, then shrug and go back to my gumbo. Or boudin, bisque, crab, etc. Pretty much anything but etouffee. But Dickie's etouffee was unmistakably the real deal. It was richer, the spices a bit more complex, and it even had a nice little afterburn. People's eyes were fluttering shut after nearly every bite. It was the perfect companion to the festivities, eliciting the same reaction as their music: ah yes, this is what it's supposed to be like...and isn't it great to be alive in the South...

Is it fair to be an incredible world-class saxophone player and an amazing cook?

In bohemian arthouse fashion, they projected the film on a large bedsheet duct-taped in front of the stage. As the end credits rolled, someone yanked down the sheet, and the band roared to life. (I think it was "Shirley.") They were in their usual exceptional form. They wowed with a bunch of their favorites like "7 Nights 2 Rock" and "Cajun Twist" and others. With the notable omission of "Seven Letters," but that's OK. Mostly. I'll get over it.

They also scored big with new stuff from a forthcoming CD. The Godfather of Swamp Pop himself, Warren Storm, top notch as ever, sang a wrenching cover of Bobby Charles' "I Don't Want to Know," and the de facto single (featured prominently in the movie and site) has got to be the catchy "Spoonbread," by their own keyboardist and songwriting secret weapon David Egan. (Who, by the way, is also promoting his own new CD, You Don't Know Your Mind. Which he was kind enough to give me even without knowing I could/would do anything to promote it. "There's an email in there," he said, tapping the jewel case. "So live with it a little while and let me know what you think." Well, it's really good. More about that very soon to come.)

This being SXSW, a certain influential music business person was spotted off to the side. Charlie knew him from a while back, so he chatted him up and directed him to the remaining crawfish, which he hadn't known about and delightedly ate an impressive mound. (Who knew?) Later he was seen heading toward a side room with them for a talk. So between Charlie easing that and me catching a falling mic during the set, maybe we had a small hand in helping them along that night. Here's hoping they finally get the broader audience and acclaim (and money!) they so deserve. And now more than ever, the rest of the music industry needs to be reminded what the real thing sounds and feels like. At least on this night a bunch of them seemed to get it.

Next up: the annual SXSW 'sampler' showcase of the Ponderosa Stomp that Friday. Now that I'm learning how to drive this thing.