When the past is looped over the present

Each performance space played a significant role in that particular show’s experience. From the cold, grey Austin Music Hall, to the sunny tented patios, and pulsing honky-tonks. The final show I saw was in the quiet sanctuary of a church.

Jacob GoldinJacob Goldin In order to assure a seat for the featured sets later, we needed to wait nearly an hour for the first of three songwriters, Josh Goldin. The doors opened early making the wait pretty painless.

Josh Goldin sang. The lights were on. The crowd politely clapped. It made for a decent show to draw. I kept thinking what a treat it would be to be able to perform in his spot. Great listening audience hungry for something interesting. Anything interesting. It wasn’t to be. But the drawing was fun.

The lights went down, down. M. Ward walked on stage, began a guitar piece he recorded then looped guitar harmonies over the original. A classic Don Gibson song, “Oh, Lonesome Me” from the 1950's I think. Neil Young recorded this song on "After the Goldrush". M. Ward paid tribute to both, keeping the song alive in 2008, then moved into his original material.

A fine guitarist, he is able to articulate guitar arrangements that both support the lyrics and serve as a instrumental piece on their own. He began a song, moved away from the lyrics into guitar improvisations and back to the song as if it were written that way. Midway through his set Jim James from My Morning Jacket joined him on guitar and harmonies.

The light stayed low in the chapel. It was the most intimate of spaces for music. A driving bass line bled though into the silences from an outdoor show around the block. It was a quiet ending to a series of 40 different shows over the past four days.

M. Ward finished his hour, leaving Jim James alone on stage. Covering some My Morning Jacket material, he was soon joined by another guitarist from that band.

Jim JamesJim James Jim James has a voice that floats in the high ranges. He finished the night, and for me the festival, with Gideon, a song from My Morning Jacket's cd Z. Stripped of his band’s instrumentation the song was left to hang on his soaring vocals like an ancient choir in the vaulted sanctuary ceiling.

It echoed up above, joining voices of the past in the churches and honky-tonks of Austin, and disappeared into the night.