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All photos by Clint Gilders
SXSW 2007 was my introduction to The Nightwatchman. A surprise show in a back room at Stubb's jammed between sets on the main stage. I've been singing the praises of Tom Morello's solo creation ever since. After I played Christie a little bit of his music she was interested too, and we made plans to head to Esther's Follies at 8:00 on Wednesday and then over to Stubb's for R.E.M.
Cut to 7:00 pm at the hotel for a quick break and to dump the photos from my camera. I open up iCal to double check the schedule and now The Nightwatchman is listed at 11:00 pm. The SXSW Music Big book says 8:00 though. The only way to be sure is to head to the venue and check the schedule posted on the door, and sure enough Tom goes on at 11 now. I kill 3 hours by heading up 6th street and seeing a couple of forgettable bands and the back to Esther's Follies for a couple more forgettable bands.
11:00 arrives and Esther's is packed. Everyone had been sitting in their seats and acting civilized during he earlier bands but during the changeover the floor in front of the stage quickly filled. We made a dash for the front and staked out prime piece of stage front property.
Tom's set this year was fierier than last year. I suspect he's more comfortable in his Nightwatchman role than he was 12 months ago. We were asked to make the loudest noise in Austin while he tuned his guitar to avoid any uncomfortble dead air. He shouted "they turned off my shit" when his guitar unexpectedly cut only to soon realize it was his own doing and to sheepishly intone "I meant to say I turned off my shit". The set included "One Man Revolution","Union Song","Guerilla Radio", and "Flesh Shapes The Day" and the highlight for me "Battle Hymns". No, Slash didn't show up (like he did at the Parish last year), but late in the set Tom was joined by Ben Harper. It was a fantastic duet with their vocals a great counterpoint to each other.
The set ended with an extended version of "The Road I Must Travel". At one point Tom asked for the house lights to be turned on and for everyone to jump up and down and sing because he thought it would be cool to see. We of course complied and it was pretty cool. Oh yeah, I spotted Perry Farrell singing along in the wings too.
[UPDATE from Christie:] Sometimes it's about the music. Sometimes it's about the power of an idea or a cause. Sometimes it's about being in the place where something new, different, or important is happening. And sometimes it's all three of those things. And that's what The Nightwatchman show at SXSW 2008 was.