You could see the crowds of 6th Street in the distance from the window of Jim James' solo gig, but that was as close as the Mardi Gras atmosphere of SXSW encroached to this special show on the festival's final night. Inside the music hall of St. David's Episcopal Church, it was calm as a chamber music recital as the My Morning Jacket frontman performed gorgeous acoustic versions of his band's most spiritual songs. He put aside his guitar and placed a small keyboard on his lap for the gentle "What a Wonderful Man" from Z, hitting high soulful notes that matched the God-like surroundings. Later he was joined by MMJ guitarist Carl Broemel for a stunning version of "Gideon." The audience, which had been sitting quietly as church mice for the entire show, exploded into a standing ovation when it was over.
Over at Waterloo Park, the Breeders kicked off their set with the droney, pounding "Overglazed" and "Bang On" from their forthcoming album Mountain Battles. The crowd stayed quietly reverent as the Deal sisters debuted some of the more low-key tracks from their first album in seven years (and its most upbeat track, "Walk It Off"), but perked up for their cover of the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (off their debut Pod) and Amps tunes like surfy "Tip City" and "Pacer" and went nuts when Kim Deal — who never stopped grinning — strummed her guitar with her thumb for Last Splash's "No Aloha" and grabbed an acoustic guitar with an electric pick-up for "Cannonball," bending over to squall into a microphone equipped with a fuzzy filter.
Earlier in the afternoon, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's She & Him played their fourth-ever show in the garden of the French Legation Museum. Deschanel, in a white tank top and high-waisted sear-sucker skirt with a bow on the front, looked a bit shy though angelic at the start of the show, but grew more comfortable as the rapt crowd warmed to their country-tinged tracks. By the time they reached "Sweet Darlin' " near the end of the set, Deschanel — who was alternately tapping a tambourine and playing a keyboard — was singing with confidence, smiling and joining Ward on the keyboard for a piano duet. â€œWe met when we recorded a song for a film soundtrack," Deschanel told us after the show. "I sent him a whole lot of my demos — I write on piano and guitar. We got along well and had great creative chemistry. I had a really good time today. I love to sing."
Later that night, the masses migrated to Perez Hilton's 5Gum Presents Perez Hilton's One Night in Austin bash at the Palm Door to check out Swedish singer Robyn (of "Show Me Love" fame), who is making her grand return to the U.S. in May with a self-titled LP she first released in 2005. After breaking out a few verses of "Buffalo Stance," "Push It" and "Sexual Eruption" (a.k.a. Snoop's "Sensual Seduction," on which she appears on the remix) the singer, in a cape-like black outfit that accentuated her platinum blond 'do, showed off why she could never be marketed as a straight-ahead pop star with her attitude-heavy "Konichiwa Bitches." Backed by two drummers (one of whom doubled as a guitarist and bassist) and a man on the synths, Robyn busted out some shoulder-shaking dance moves to punctuate her chirpy, edgy vocals. Her incredible energy turned the usually mournful "Be Mine" from a lament to a celebration before she even got to fan favorite "With Every Heartbeat."
Stay tuned for more reports from SXSW's last night.