Bob Mould/Dengue Fever/The Octopus Project/The Gossip, SXSW XXI, March 15, 2007

I knew the risk of attending shows by performers with a vast back catalog, when I’ve only listened to one album of theirs. But I went to the Bob Mould showcase anyway because, well, nothing else really grabbed my attention on the Thursday schedule.

(I opted not to see Cho Brother-Sister, nor Akiyama Tetsuji. I listened to their MP3 samples, and they weren’t enough to convince me to go.)

I didn’t know how difficult it would be to get into the show, so I decided to show up a showcase early just in case. I wasn’t the only person to come up with that plan. The line to get into Buffalo Billiards snaked along Brazos St. I got in half way through Say Hi to Your Mom. (Not bad, but not my thing, either.)

Mould brought only his guitar, so setting up for his showcase was a matter of getting stuff off the stage. He started 10 minutes early and took full advantage of the time alloted.

I recognized only two songs out of the entire set — "Circles" from Body of Song, and "See a Little Light" from Workbook. Everyone around me was far more familiar with his repertoire.

But Mould is an energetic performer. A guy and a guitar usually elicits such adjectives as "intimate", but Mould’s solo set would be more accurately be described as "direct". A backing band would have added slightly more to the output, but he didn’t need it that night.

Mould did mention between songs he is two weeks away from finishing his new album, and it should see a release in the summer.

The only other band I wanted to see on Thursday was the Gossip, who were playing at Emo’s. After pouring through the schedule to see what I could do for the two hours between Bob Mould and the Gossip, I reached the conclusion just to say at Emo’s for the rest of the night.

The Gossip was part of the Kork Agency showcase, and the Octopus Project and Dengue Fever were scheduled before them. I’ve heard of both bands but not their music itself.

Dengue Fever started out when Ethan Holtzman (keyboards) and his brother Zac (guitar) formed a band to perform covers of their favorite Cambodian rock music from the ’60s and ’70s. The group auditioned singers and offered the job to Ch’hom Nimol, a star in Cambodia herself.

I liked what I heard, and the band certainly enjoyed performing. But I didn’t stay for their entire performance. I wussed out and found a bench to rest my feet.

The Octopus Project came on next. This band really gets into the music their playing, and the way they trade off instruments looks like controlled chaotic dance. I loved their stage presence, which reminded me of … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. I’m just not sure I get the music itself. It reminded me of Polysics, and I don’t consider that a compliment.

I would have ditched the Octopus Project for another comfortable bench, but a friend of mine showed up. She likes the band, so I stayed for the rest of the showcase.

Finally, it was time for the Gossip. Beth Ditto rocks my world.

I didn’t get a full appreciation of Ditto’s full figure till I saw her onstage. No, she’ll never be mistaken for a pop star skank, but she has a rapport with the audience and a naturally soulful voice. She reminded me of latter-day Aretha Franklin, and I do mean that as a compliment.

However much I love the fact she sings down and dirty rock ‘n ‘roll, I would so be there if Ditto did an entire set of soul music. And she displayed her credentials in that regard when she led the crowd in a sing-along of Tina Turner’s "What’s Love Got to Do with It?"

Guitarist Brace Paine pretty much kept out of Ditto’s way, playing off to the side as she worked the audience. At one point, an appreciative fan jumped on stage, and Ditto serenaded her while they danced. By the end of the show, Ditto was down to her underwear, having stripped off her dress drenched in sweat.

The Gossip finished the showcase with the title track to Standing in the Way of Control, which got the crowd wild. Hell, even I pogoed a bit.

On that very high note, I took my aging ass home.