Scenes from South by Southwest

After numerous close calls, true musical epiphany materializes as I stand in the drizzling rain, witnessing the deranged tuba-and-pump-organ-driven antics of a Denton, Texas group called Little Jack Melody & His Young Turks. (Technically, we’re all inside a large brick-walled club called Maggie Mae’s West - it’s just that there’s no roof.)

With their frenetic mix of Spike Jones, Kurt Weill and Frank Sinatra, the group has no trouble diverting the crowd’s attention from inclement weather to their strangely sunny repertoire: an oom-pah cover of the Doors’ version of the Weill/Brecht standard "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)," an inspired lounge version of the creation saga (with Sinatra as God, Adam and Eve played by Bobby Darin and Peggy Lee), and a whimsical ode to our generation’s social conscience ("Let’s give the beggars some delicious recipes...").

The group ends with an inspired medley of Nena’s "99 Luftbaloons" paired with the stirring fourth movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. Signaling the audience participation part of the program, Jack holding up oversized cue cards so everyone can sing along in German.

In a decade where interactivity means clicking your mouse on an icon and waiting for something to happen, the Young Turks in particular-- and SXSW in general—provide vivid reminders of the fundamental interaction that takes place when a performer and audience really connect.









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