Austin was blissfully cool and breezy this morning as the floor in front of our stage at Mellow Johnny’s filled – excitement for the start of our SXSW programming clear. And what better way to kick off the week than with the iconic and hilarious Robyn Hitchcock, who took stage alone but totally filled the entire room with his antics and charm (which, he was quick to point out, is full of bicycles). He’s been putting out great pop music for almost forty years — and can count among his fans and collaborators the likes of Jon Brion, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Jeff Mangum, Gillian Welch, and Peter Buck among many others. He first rose to some level of fame as a member of The Soft Boys in the early 70s, and went on to produce decades of material as a solo artist and with his group The Egyptians. Earlier this month Hitchcock released Love From London, showcasing his lyrical and surreal songwriting yet again more than two decades after he began.
Due to a hand injury Hitchcock would be playing the songs with more slide guitar than normal, but may of the songs were already separate renditions unto themselves. He started his set with a beautiful version of “The Abyss,” and managed to also get in “Be Still,” “Sometimes a Blonde.” It was for “Olé! Tarantula” off the 2006 album by the same name, that the banter reached it’s heights. He would, he announced, be playing live, which is distinctly different from listening to the recording – not just because live is different (more intimate, better sound quality) but because he would alternate between two harmonicas, one of which would become stuck in his pocket, the other of which was simply the wrong harmonica, and he was also playing (pretending to play) the other instruments present on the track. All in all he was as engaging as ever – mixing the absurd and beautiful imagery of his lyrics (tarantulas, nightfall, love), with the wittiest banter a morning could start ff with. He ended with “The End of Time,” but the song before the last, “I Love You” he dedicated to Seattle’s own iconic Space Needle.