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SXSW music festival had its moments

Ears may have stopped ringing, but memories are lingering from the recently completed South by Southwest music fest. Here are some highlights.

Jeff Beck (La Zona Rosa): Easily the biggest name at this year's festival, the British guitar legend had them spilling into the street and growing ever restless as word came down that nobody short of the pope was getting into the packed venue.

The man who ranks with guitar gods Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton opened with numbers from his electronica-inspired new album, "Who Else!," and segued into a cover of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," before thrilling the crowd with material from his classic "Blow by Blow" album. Beck, 54 and ageless, showed the kids in the crowd where Eddie Van Halen learned his licks as his mastery and grace spewed a fluid symphony of feedback, hammer-ons, swoops and wails.

Mike Ness/Rev. Horton Heat (Continental Club): After the fire marshal demanded a mandatory exodus to slim the heaving crowd, the Social Distortion frontman and the good Reverend made a formidable posse as they channeled the spirit of Hank Williams by way of punk rock crunch and hellbilly twang.

Ness, who can wear a button-down long-sleeve shirt and still have visible tattoos, debuted material from his upcoming solo album, "Cheating at Solitaire." The country- western angle wasn't that far of a leap for the Merle Haggard of punk rock, considering Social D's history of hard-drinkin', hard fightin', been-done-wrong songs. Frequent sound problems drew jeers, but what the heck? In the end, it was the musical equivalent of a barroom brawl and there's nothing slick about that.

L7 (503 Coffee Bar): After slaying a packed house at Stubb's the night before, the gloriously grubby gals of L7 turned up at a mom-and-pop coffee shop for a loose meet 'n' greet that centered on the premiere of their Krist Novoselic-directed documentary. While the former Nirvana bass man was nowhere to be found, the lovely Donita, Dee, Suzi and Gail announced the formation of their own Wax Tadpole Records and kept the small crowd in stitches with their sharp wit during an informal Q&A session. Afterward, the girls mingled with their fans (including Exene Cervenka), signed autographs, asked where to get a killer breakfast burrito and basically hung out like rock stars should, but don't. More power to 'em.

Other highlights: The Sons of Hercules turning in another rip-and-destroy performance as the band most deserving of a record deal so they can quit their day jobs; former Guns 'N Roses bassist Duff McKagan jamming with the Supersuckers during a set that was part Motorhead, part Molly Hatchet; and the Street Walkin' Cheetahs playing a punked-up set of garage band tunes that gave new meaning to Iggy Pop's "Raw Power."

Wednesday, Mar 24,1999

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