When artists come to SXSW they can expect a pretty gnarly timetable, whereby you're dragging your equipment from one side of the city to the other, and enduring the spectrum of possible audiences in whatever makeshift venue you're booked in. So it's easy to get a little tired. Before his set last night, Jake Bugg admitted to Clash it had been a long day - his first set yesterday was at 10am, and this, his last, saw him walk on stage at midnight. That's pretty hard going, especially for a lad that isn't old enough to drink in this country.
However, like a true professional, Bugg wasn't about to let his troubles get the better of him. In fact, perhaps they inspired tonight's aggressive edge - though 'Trouble Town' is critical of his hometown Clifton, Jake's searing rendition is powered by a palpable pang of homesickness. It would have been heartening, therefore, for Jake to see his every word being echoed by the almost all-American crowd. This guy is making waves here - his reputation is spreading - and with a sound that's clearly indebted to a Southern influence with echoes of prime amphetamine-era Johnny Cash, his time in Texas is definitely going to be worth his while.
Set highlight 'Ballad Of Mr Jones' saw Jake Bugg transform in front of our eyes from pensive singer/songwriter to axe-shredding monster. It burned with the visceral intensity of a sneering Dylan mixed with the apocalyptic fire of Hendrix - especially reminiscent of Jimi's cover of Bob's 'All Along The Watchtower'. It was like Bugg's dark side starting to peek through, and we liked it. Jake has a string of shows lined up in Austin for this week, and the rising star should be caught at all costs before the rest of the country cottons on.
Words by Simon Harper