Blake Babies Mellow At SXSW

Band, re-formed after 10 years, sounds like last year's semi-acoustic LP by singer/bassist Juliana Hatfield.

The sound of the early-’90s alt-rockers — singer/bassist Juliana Hatfield, singer/guitarist John Strohm and drummer Freda Love-Smith (née Boner) — who disbanded in 1991 but recently reformed and released God Bless the Blake Babies this month, has changed quite a bit since their heyday.

There was a time when they sounded comparable to their contemporaries Galaxie 500, the Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr. But at South by Southwest, in their Rounder Records showcase at Momo’s on Saturday, they sounded as if they’d fit better on an adult contemporary radio playlist — not unlike Hatfield’s semi-acoustic solo album of last year, Beautiful Creature.
Their set leaned heavily on songs from the new album. Hatfield introduced “Until I Almost Died” as the song about the time she almost jumped out a window, and she insisted that she didn’t want to play “Take Your Time,” because the lyrics were too honest. They also played “Baby Gets High,” “Disappear” and “Nothing Ever Happens” — the first Blake Babies song written by Smith.

Hatfield was on rhythm guitar, because Daniel Johnston (a young man from Alabama, not the notable Austin singer/songwriter), has been playing bass with the Blake Babies on their limited tour with the Starlight Mints. This end of the tour was marked by this performance, which was marred by a capacity problem in the club.

Fire marshals inspected Momo’s just before the Blake Babies’ set and declared the capacity crowd was a fire hazard. They insisted that the club move half of the audience outside on the porch or close down for the night. After about a half-hour delay, and after half of the annoyed audience was moved outside, the band was finally allowed to start its set before a half-empty club with a line down the block.

Hatfield apologized to the audience and explained that she could sympathize, because she had been unable to get in to see Creeper Lagoon at Buffalo Billiards earlier that evening herself. The band played an extra-long set to make up for the inconvenience. Eventually, everyone drifted back inside and got to see at least a little of this decade-in-the-making reunion.