The second night of South by Southwest kicked off with highly anticipated shows from Beth Orton, Willie Nelson, Boston's Wheat, and a solo performance by Social Distortion's Mike Ness.A showcase of Irish bands featured Blink, who scored a hit with the song "Cello" several years ago; Beach, who recently beat out 1,800 other bands to be named Europe's Premier Unsigned Band; and most notably, cane141, who performed a beautiful array of songs that fit into an aesthetic similar to that of Belle and Sebastian. From the bottom of the globe, Melbourne, Australia, came The Icecream Hands and Even. Both bands shared an affinity for classic 60's guitar styles with The Icecream Hands travelling in a harmony-rich Big Star-esque direction and Even following more in the wake of The Who. DJs and electronic music were represented by a range of artists including Amsterdam's Arling & Cameron, Japan's Fantastic Plastic Machine, Detroit legend Juan Atkins, and the Lo Fidelity Allstars who curiously
shared a bill with The Old 97's and Built To Spill. The Lo Fi's put on a memorable live display of their unique combination of turntables, bass, drums, samples, keyboards, and programming despite having recently lost two members.Apart from the more than 100 bands that performed at opening night showcases at SXSW, Thursday marked the official kickoff of the business end of the conference. Former Austin resident and recent Grammy winner Lucinda Williams took a laidback approach to the task of presenting the keynote address to this year's conference-goers. More like a concert than a speech, Williams entertained the audience with a handful of songs that fit into her overall theme of artistic perserverance and her poignant critique of the "Wal-Mart approach of corporate America." The remainder of the daylight hours were filled with music industry panel discussions and demo tape listening sessions. New this year was the focus on the recent effects of the Universal-Polygram merger,
as well as the much debated effects of music on the Internet, in particular MP3 files, on the future of the music industry.Stay tuned for further reports from this year's SXSW Music Conference.