Photo by Mike O’Brien, courtesy of Rykodisc
A range of musicians came together to pay tribute to influential Big Star frontman Alex Chilton early Sunday morning at Austin’s Antone’s. Chilton had been scheduled to play the show with Big Star as part of SXSW, but suddenly died of a heart attack Wednesday, March 17. It was a strangely fitting sendoff for the eccentric songwriter: Chilton had as big an influence as anyone on the generation of indie rock and power pop musicians that have turned SXSW into an annual destination.
The remaining members of Big Star—group co-founder Jody Stephens (drums) and 1993 additions Jon Auer (guitar) and Ken Stringfellow (bass)—soldiered on with a variety of guests. The musicians opened the night as a trio with “Back of a Car” and brought out Meat Puppets guitarist Curt Kirkwood for “In the Street” and “I am the Cosmos.” Later in the night, original Big Star bassist Andy Hummel, who left the band in the 1970s and was in Austin to speak on a SXSW panel, joined his former band for “Way Out West.” In addition, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, M. Ward, Chuck Prophet, Sondre Lerche, Amy Speace, Susan Cowsill, the Watson Twins and John Doe all appeared throughout the 18-song set.
Big Star’s future plans are unknown. Please click here for one of the final features on Big Star written during Chilton’s lifetime.