SXSW Notebook Dump: Jack White/Third Man Records Showcase

Jack White performs at his SXSW showcase. (Photos by Jo McCaughey/Courtesy of Jack White III.com)

Note: This review was written by Lily Angelle, the junior member of our reporting team.

AUSTIN – Friday’s official Third Man Records Texas Stand-Off showcase was surreal, something out of a music junkie’s fantasies. As I stood in the crowd, there was a trending statement amongst Jack White fans: “This is the best night of my life!”

What’s troublesome yet kind of poetic was the strict policy prohibiting photography or video recording of any time within the venue – I have no documentation from Friday’s showcase save for the sweet memories within my cranium, but I’ll try to lay down what happened as best I can.

Around 5:30 Friday evening, the Third Man Rolling Record Store honked its way down Sixth Street to The Stage (an intimate concert venue), and set up shop. That’s about when the badge holder line got a little out of control – as the line to get inside that night stretched back a couple blocks, my hope for gaining access in began to wane.

Jack White played with an all-girl band ...

Nevertheless, with a little luck and a lot of waiting, I slipped my way in just in time to catch The Black Belles, a female four-piece garage rock group with a gothic twist. As schmoozing Third Man Records affiliates and privileged one-percenters stood amongst badge holders to watch the hard-rocking chicks, front woman Olivia Jean raucously belted out penetrating words that cut right through the thick synthesizer played by the stoic Lil’ Boo. Drummer Shelby Lynne was a sight to see as well, as she played the drums like a powerhouse demon.

As waves of people flowed over to the main stage for John C. Reilly and Karen Elson, Pujol took the outdoor stage to a small gathering and rocked hard, giving a brief summary of the stories behind his lyrics with each song. Pujol’s riffs are simple but powerful, conducive to quick-paced rocking out in all its loud, fast glory. Playing new tracks from the band’s forthcoming album, United States of Being, as well as crowd favorites like “Black Rabbit,” Daniel Pujol and his band mates gave an exceptionally bad-ass performance that turned the heads of many people in the venue.

Finally, the big man Jack White took the stage after his suited techs prepared the stage with careful precision. If you watched White’s recent “Saturday Night Live” performance, you know of his new set-up: an all-female band, and then an all-male band. He traded them out halfway through the show, with the females backing him for the first portion, along with the amazing new talent Ruby Amanfu.

... then he played with an all-boy band.

They kicked off the show with a White Stripes oldie, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” to the excitement of the audience. From there, White serenaded us with some new tracks from his forthcoming solo effort Blunderbuss, as well as a countrified rendition of “Hotel Yorba” and some other White Stripes gems. As White finished the first half of the show with “I’m Slowly Turning Into You,” he told us to text quietly while they took a short break. At that point, the crowd was buzzing with ecstatic energy, and it was heightened even further when Bill Murray appeared in the crowd, causing a geek-out overload.

The intermission came and went, and then White took the stage again, this time with his all-male band. With this half of the set, White varied his musical selections, performing a number of songs from his range of projects: “I Cut Like a Buffalo” by The Dead Weather, “Steady As She Goes” by The Raconteurs and “Two Against One,” which he made alongside Danger Mouse. The last leg of the show consisted of heavy, familiar riffs from White Stripes favorites like “Seven Nation Army,” “Hello Operator” and “Hardest Button to Button.”

The show came to a close with a sing-along of “Goodnight Irene,” with Bill Murray standing on the bar dancing and singing along, people snapping pictures of him despite the strict policies. With that, White disappeared off the stage and most likely went straight to a car and high-tailed it out of there, like an apparition.

Jack White is not a rock god, but a rock ghost; the elusiveness and mystery of him plays a huge part in why he is f**king amazing. From there, people lingered around the venue, almost stumbling over themselves in sheer amazement toward what had just happened. It wasn’t just a SXSW showcase – for me, it was something more sacred and close to the heart.