Within the seven days of the start of the festival, SXSW paused for a moment in order to properly orchestrate an official tribute to the late Lou Reed. Fans of the rock and roll legend flocked to the Paramount Theatre where twenty-four acts performed to pay tribute to the Velvet Underground legend. Pieced and curated by Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Barone, the two ensured a night full of music, laughs and stories. The night was packed with either fellow musicians who were musically inspired by the guitarist and wanted to pay their respects. Others who shared the stage had known Reed during the wild years of the sixties and seventies, creeping around with Andy Warhol and the underground music scene of that day in age.
Escovedo and Barone kicked off the night by performing “Sweet Jane,” off of the Velvet Underground’s 1970 album Loaded written by Reed. The spirit was upbeat and fun, which allowed the crowd to connect in a positive light. Other performers graced the stage, such as Garland Jeffreys, Bobby Bare Jr. and Rosie Flores. Down the list of twenty-four acts on the roster, each covered a song written by Lou Reed, allowing his music to ring throughout the halls of the Paramount Theatre.
One of the most entertaining and quirky acts of the night was by Sharon Needles. As an American drag performer and recording artist, Needles rose to fame on the fourth season of the Logo reality competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race. On stage she cracked jokes and dished out a level of sass that the entire theatre needed. After the laughter settled, Needles took on performing Reed’s “Candy Says,” a fitting song about 1960s’ transsexual, Candy Darling. Needles’ airy vocals successfully brought back to life one of Reed’s songs that resonated with Needles and the whole audience.
Crawling deeper into the night, Warhol’s infamous male sex symbol of the sixties and seventies, Joe Dallesandro adorned the stage. Instead of covering the song “Small Town” (written by Reed and John Cale) in a regular manner, Dallesandro decided to do the rendition in spoken word. A violinist and bass cellist shared the stage with him, providing background music, leaving an eerie feeling attached to the piece. After a wave and a thumbs-up to the crowd, Dallesandro quickly exited off the stage.
Throughout the night the consistent flow of adoration, respect and a small token of heartbreak filled the theatre. The acknowledgement from the assortment of bands such as the Black Lips, who took the stage and voiced Reed’s impact on them as a band, showed Reed’s relevance in today’s music. Sharing stories about Reed and his interactions with other musicians in addition to the covers of his music truly brought alive his spirit. On that night off Congress and 8th Street in downtown Austin, Lou Reed’s spirit, energy and love for rock ‘n roll was alive and well. The beauty of it all lies in the fact that although such a legend and inspiration has left us, his genius will live on forever, waiting to inspire more future musicians.
“Sweet Jane” – Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Barone
“Cool It Down” – The Bizarros
“Romeo Had Juliet” – Cheetah Chrome
“Femme Fatale” – Cindy Lee Berryhill
“Vicious” – BP Fallon and the Strypes
“Oh Sweet Nothing” – Bobby Bare Jr.
“I’m Waiting For My Man” – Garland Jeffreys
“Perfect Day” – Lousie Goffin
“Waves of Fear” – The Fauntleroys
“I Love You Suzanne” – Rosie Flores
“Coney Island Baby” – Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3
“Candy Says” – Sharon Needles
“Smalltown” – Joe Dallesandro
“White Light/White Heat” – Escovedo and Barone
“All Tomorrow’s Parties” – Richard Barone with Cindy Lee Berryhill
“Rock and Roll Heart” – Chuck Prophet
“Sally Can’t Dance” – Jesse Malin
“Real Good Time Together” – The Fleshtones
“Walk on the Wild Side” – Suzanne Vega
“Kill Your Sons” – Wayne Kramer
“Pale Blue Eyes” – Lucinda Williams
“Run, Run, Run” – The Black Lips
“Sister Ray” – The Baseball Project
“What Goes On” – Sean Lennon
“Street Hassle” – Alejandro Escovedo
“Satellite of Love” – Spandau Ballet
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” – Richard Barone
“Rock and Roll” – All