SXSW 2009: Jason Lytle Shyly Resurfaces + An Exceptionally Poor Band-Venue Combination


Jason Lytle (Home Slice Pizza)
Explosions in the Sky (Auditorium Shores Stage)
SXSW Saturday Afternoon, March 21

So I’ve got this Grandaddy fixation thing I’d just as soon not gas on about. (Anymore.) Suffice it to say that ex-frontman Jason Lytle remains a person of interest, of confusion, of concern — following the ELO-playing-NES indie-rockers’ untimely demise, he decamped from Modesto, CA, to Montana, and has now reemerged with Yours Truly, the Commuter, a solo album of lovely and defiantly solitary digital-campfire tunes, the tenderest of which, “Ghost of My Old Dog,” is this afternoon dedicated to “Zeke.”

Lytle still peers aloofly from under a pulled-low trucker hat, his randomly amassed backing band (old bandmate Butch is back on drums; the newer, Montana-based bassist is introduced as “a really good skateboarder”) shuffling lazily, creakily, sweetly half-assedly through a couple Commuter jams and some vintage Grandaddy tunes: “Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake” with more melodica, “Levitz” and “Chartsengrafs” with less surly propulsion, and most enjoyably “Jed the Humanoid,” Lytle’s ode to an neglected robot who drinks himself to death. He sings it as though it’s autobiography, and retains his shy-to-completely-withdrawn onstage demeanor, but that doesn’t mean he’s not enjoying himself. Notable stage banter: “This microphone smells like Doritos.”

Jason played in the courtyard of a pizza shop, which recently held some sort of “draw Lemmy from Motörhead” coloring contest for area youths, with the entries covering the walls. Very low-key, very appropriate. Look-into-the-smiling-face-of-God post-rockers Explosions in the Sky, alas, are not as well suited to their venue this evening, stuck headlining the absurdly massive Auditorium Shores Stage, a stadium-sized outdoor monstrosity, the boys only visible to most of the thousands and thousands of audience members via Jumbotron, whole families with little kids running around, etc. etc. Good for them, and great that this fete tries to honor Texas bands, but this is decidedly not their scene: slow-building, vocal-less guitar-rock jams don’t go over so hot in a festival setting, particularly when the Jumbotron’s working better than the sound system, and thus three-quarters of your start-quiet-and-slowly-get-loud jams are completely inaudible. Thankfully, there were also actual fireworks.