Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Cool New Festival: Mountain Man Fest

Mountain Man Fest is a brand new DIY festival slated to take place on Saturday, July 24th in upstate New York, right near Skidmore- about a three hour drive from the city.  Some of NYRM’s favorite bands will be on the bill including Islands, Real Estate, Woods, Pill Wonder, Family Portrait, Julian Lynch, Cults, and Eternal Summers.  It’s very exciting and innovative and just exactly the type of thing that makes me rethink this whole “little fish in a big pond” thing that New York City has going on.  Basically, these two guys graduated from college last year and got decent day jobs, but then decided that they wanted to put on a totally epic music festival.  They had big ideas, but no money.  So they decided to talk to a bunch of bands and Underwater Peoples to see if they would agree to play the festival without any upfront agreed-upon pay.  Instead, the bands would sign on to the fest and then they would raise the money through ticket sales and donations on Kickstarter.  They need $65,000 to pull the whole thing off.  An ambitious, exciting, and seemingly pretty good idea.

Unfortunately, they have eight days left and only $6,332 pledged so far.  While their love of music and DIY spirit is admirable, I think there’s a few flaws in the plan.  Mostly, that the fest is only one day long and three hours away from any city.  I would TOTALLY donate more than the ticket price to this cause, but I am extremely broke and I’m not sure I’ll be able to drive three hours to see these bands and then drive three hours home.  I’m leery to give my precious money to something that seems like it may or may not happen.  Still, if it DID happen, I probably would end up going.  And having a great time.

I see the impracticalities in my own donation hesitations, but I so desperately want this to happen.  It’s a really, really cool effort and I hope it inspires more genuine things in its wake.  I’m curious to see what will happen next week if they don’t manage to raise $59,000.  Hopefully, it will still go on.  Hopefully, a few people can swoop in and make it happen.  Either way, it’s very cool food for thought.  Check out the Kickstarter page, including a video explaining everything, right here.

MP3: “Disarming The Car Bomb” – Islands

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Recommended Friday Show: Beach Fossils, Total Slacker, Air Waves, Eternal Summers, Beachniks

This is a ridiculous show.  The entire line-up is full of my favorite up-and-coming bands.  What makes it even crazier is the Real Estate/Family Portrait/Liam the Younger/Big Troubles show happening simultaneously just down the street.  So why does this one get my pick?  Beachniks are unpracticed but cute.  Total Slacker’s Tucker is a rocking guitar player, busting out jazzy solos like he’s single-handedly going to save art rock.  Air Waves are one of my perennial favorites and one of the most genuine songwriters out there.  Beach Fossils keep getting better and better every time I see them, and it seems more and more like they’re going to break out into the national scene.  But most important, Eternal Summers.  They’re from Virginia, so you won’t get a chance to see them as often as all of these other Brooklyn bands (though they are playing on Saturday and Sunday, as well).  I’ve never seen them before and don’t know all that much about them, but I do know that the two tracks below are some of my absolute favorites I’ve heard this year.  Smart, economical songwriting- half catchy half fuzz.  I’m really excited about this band and definitely recommend making it out to at least one of their shows this weekend.

MP3: “Able To” – Eternal Summers

MP3: “Fall Straight Back” – Eternal Summers

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SXSW 2010: Top Ten Favorite Performances

There’s so much going on at sxsw that it’s impossible to see even a sliver of what the week has to offer.  That’s why doing a top ten performances of the week list is sort of silly.  On the other hand, I saw some excellent new bands that I’d like to draw a little extra attention to.  For this list, I focused on bands that I might not have blogged as much about before SXSW.  Did I enjoy Real Estate’s and Japandroid’s sets at the conference?  Yes, very much so.  Was that a surprise?  Not at all, and rehashing my love for those bands isn’t very helpful for you, the reader, looking to find something new for your iTunes.  A few of these bands are already relatively popular, but I’ve blogged about them infrequently enough.  The rest are definitely up-and-comers that are worthy of being on your radar- after 57 bands, these ten stood out.   I won’t write too much about the bands, as I reviewed each of them in my previous posts.  So, without furher ado, my top ten favorite performances of SXSW 2010.


10) Vivian Girls at Ms. Bea’s. This stripped-down performance showed a tenderer side of the Vivian Girls, and threw the emphasis on their pleasantly flat harmonies.  It felt like a very special performance, with all of us sitting on the floor, and I enjoyed every single song.

9) Drink Up Buttercup at The Palm Door. I know that I’ve posted frequently about Drink Up Buttercup’s Beatlesesque/Waitsian operatic psych rock in the past, but it’s been awhile, and these guys have only gotten better with time.  The foursome puts so much energy into their performances; it’s rare to see a band this blissfully entertaining with such smart, excellent music.  Their new album, Born and Thrown On a Hook, is coming out any day now, and it’s high time to reacquaint yourself with this band.

8 ) Twin Sister at Micro-Pixel-Rites. I gave Twin Sister a mediocre review after their show at Webster Hall, but I saw a different side to them at this lovely outdoor bar-b-q/showcase.  Sure, they’ve got just a little bit too much of that 80s pop-synth vibe going on, but the songs are actually quite rich and complicated, with beautiful vocals and a cool stage presence that makes a lot more sense anywhere other than the Studio.  It’s only a matter of weeks before this group gets some really big attention.

7) Hunx & His Punx at Charlie’s. Gay bands in a gay bar.  This entire showcase had such a good, fun, welcoming vibe to it, and Hunx & His Punx were the apotheosis of that “everyone join in so long as you’re game” ethos.  Dressed up as felines (I saw photos from a subsequent show where there seemed to be a businessman theme), his backing band had the scuzzy punk thing down perfectly.  Hunx was a downright charming frontman, with the X factor coming out of his ears.  “You Don’t Like Rock and Roll” is a great single, but they have four or five other, equally infectious tracks at least.  The woman pictured above, also in Shannon and the Clams, can really, really sing.  I can’t remember which band it was, but she sang a song called something like “Being Young Is Tough” and I absolutely loved it.  If anyone has an MP3 of that song they could send me…

6) Fang Island at Club Primos. Hi-fi guitar solos from a gang of recent art school grads?  Yes please. Fang Island is like Ponytail crossed with Free Energy.  Welcome to the lo-fi downswing.  How sweet it is.

5) Turbo Fruits at Lovejoy’s. We’ve been recycling garage rock since the 60s.  There’s not a whole lot of new territory to cover.  So what makes it good, then?  When you get just the right combination of musicians together, a good ‘ole fashioned garage band still never sounded so sweet. Turbo Fruits are just that kind of band.  They’re not covering any new ground, but their songs are very memorable and they play the crap out of their live shows.  As long as they’re this good, there will always be room for another Southern garage band in my heart.

4) Pill Wonder at Micro-Pixel-Rights. Pill Wonder was the only band I saw at SXSW to successfully bridge the gaps between rock, electronic, and lo-fi.  I was a bit shocked at how different they sounded from all of the songs I’d heard from various Underwater Peoples samplers, but the swells in these songs are so good that you can’t stop yourself from grinning.  Definitely an innovative band to watch out for and see live when they come to a town near you.

3) Mountain Man at Klub Krucial. When you first hear about Mountain Man, it sounds unbelievably gimmicky.  Three women singing mostly a cappella folk, with an occasional acoustic guitar thrown in.  There’s a quality to their performance that isn’t captured in that description, though, and probably can’t be captured in any description period.  They’re a very special group of musicians.  If you’re in any way a fan of Alela Diane, Joanna Newsom, or Spencer Krug, you should check this band out immediately.  If you are not in any way a fan of those artists, you should still check this band out immediately.

2) The Morning Benders at Emo’s.   The Morning Benders were certainly one of the most buzzed about bands of the week.  My feeling is that it was entirely deserved.  The poise, patience, and musicianship that has gone into their songwriting is worth the payoff you will receive if you invest even a little time into listening to this group.  The scary thing is, I don’t think they’ve even gotten good yet.

1) Alex Bleeker & The Freaks w/ Mountain Man at Ms. Bea’s. When Alex Bleeker and the rag-tag band he assembled burst into their first song, I really felt like I was transported back to another era, where rock and roll was still young and filled with endless energy.  A time before punk deconstructed the idea of guitar solos and grooving jams on sweet-sounding riffs.  I’d seen Bleeker just the day before and was only mildly impressed, but this particular time, the band burst into an absolutely air born version of “Animal Tracks” that made me feel as if I’d been lifted off the ground to watch the show from mid-air.  This band really sounds like The Band to me, and I think it’s been a long while since indie rock has been interested in emulating that type of music.  I’m hoping that this is a harbinger of things to come; this sound could get very interesting mixed in with certain other elements of sound that are en vogue today.  Or maybe that’s just the same old sound we already have.  Either way, this was a damn good performance put on by Mr. Bleeker, and it’s the one that stood out most for me at SXSW.

MP3: “Seasickness Pills” – Drink Up Buttercup

MP3: “All Around and Away We Go” – Twin Sister

MP3: “Animal Tracks” – Alex Bleeker & The Freaks

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SXSW: Saturday

I know it’s Monday and that all of these performances happened on Saturday, but I never went to sleep that night, so it’s as if this post isn’t late.  Saturday brought freezing cold weather and drizzly rain to Austin, and it admittedly put a damper on everything.  After a miserable morning, I managed to obtain some extra clothes and rallied, for what was undoubtedly one of the craziest, most fun nights ever.

The day was supposed to start off with me checking out Smith Westerns and Let’s Wrestle at Mess With Texas, but their equipment was rained on and Gwar was taking a really long time to soundcheck, so everything was backed up.  Rather than wait around, I ran up to Red Eyed Fly to see Blair’s set.  (I saw a lot of bands I’d already seen Saturday, but all of them were just as good the second, third, or tenth time around, so I feel justified.  Plus, I was a bit burnt out on taking photos, so apologies if these are a tad sub-par.)  Buy Blair’s album Die Young right now.  Her pop-tinged tunes are going to take her places, and her set I caught at SX was even better than the one I’d seen at Pianos.  I only managed to see three songs, but they sounded very rocking, very tight, and were downright pleasant, which is something you don’t always get a lot of these days amongst all the lo-fi garage.

I went to Mess With Texas again, but still no luck.  I was worried about frostbite, so I escaped to Ms. Bea’s and happened upon a singer-songwriter, Cheyenne Mize.  I accidentally tried to steal one of her cds (I was absolutely mortified; it looked like they were giving them away!), but thought that she had a beautiful voice that went very well with her quiet, sad songs.  She plays with Ben Sollee and Daneil Martin Moore quite often and is on tour with them now.  If you’re a fan of quiet singer/songwriters I would definitely recommend her.  A lovely cold-morning surprise.

Back down to Mess With Texas for a very cold Smith Westerns set.  Jay Reatard’s ex-bassist was there watching, as evidenced by his hair in the photo below.  Smith Westerns are a wonderful young rock band.  The stage was a bit too big for them, but their swagger is reminiscent of bands that I didn’t think there were any of left, and I love that they just ooze sex appeal.  I’m not sure how we arrived at this point, but it’s actually refreshing to hear a band just singing about girls, wearing leather jackets, and tossing their hair back as they play scuzzy solos.  Their sound is simple, but well-honed, and I can’t wait to hear the new songs they played on record.  If Morning Benders are the young virtuosos, then Smith Westerns are their evil twin punks.  And I guess that makes Surfer Blood the brightly colored second cousins who I just don’t like quite as much.

After waiting around slightly too long for Let’s Wrestle, I gave up and headed back to Ms. Bea’s.  Bobby Birdman was just setting up, then proceeded to sing karaoke with a live drummer.  Actually, sometime he was just dancing along to pre-recorded vocals.  The man has a very charming way about him, but there’s so little to the live performance that it’s really rather dull.  I was relieved to see that Vivian Girls were setting up next, specially for a quiet, stripped-down set.  I’ve never felt all that positively about Viv Girls, though never that negatively either, but this was a heart-grabbing performance.  Asking everyone to sit on the floor, they quietly played through a few of their tunes, with an emphasis on vocals.  They sounded raw and stunning.  It gave me a better handle on where they’re coming from songwriting-wise, and was actually one of the most enjoyable sets I saw all week.  I waited around for Tyvek, excited to hear their hard-rocking tunes, but was disappointed.  Just a loud, hard band that was not particularly memorable.

I hadn’t been to Fader Fort at all yet, and wasn’t too stoked about the thought of standing outside at Ms. Bea’s, so I headed down to Fader Fort with my friend.  I saw Dum Dum Girls, Washed Out with Small Black (again), Real Estate, and Sleigh Bells.  Not the best lineup of new music for me to write about on this blog, nor was I in the best position to take photos, but I was having fun.  Fader fort is cool and infuriating at the same time, a good place to relax with mostly good bands, but irritating in the indie-cool vibe they are clearly trying so hard to project.  Dum Dum Girls were exactly the same as they were at Mercury Lounge, but they filled the festival atmosphere and huge stage surprisingly well.  Washed Out is fun to dance to, but still not my cup of tea.  Real Estate were as dreamily relaxed as ever, and looked much more comfortable, if not a bit tired, in front of a large audience than they did at Brooklyn Bowl.  Sleigh Bells, also fun to dance to, sometimes have interesting melodic lines and a nice, heavy guitar sound, but also left me feeling electronically unsatisfied.

I intended to wait around for Fader’s special Saturday night guest, but after Twitter rumors seemed to indicate that no one not already on the schedule was going to show up, I high-tailed it over to local dive bar, Club Primos.  I walked into a very heavy set from a metal band, and waited for recent Best New Music recipients Fang Island.  I’d meant to post about them after hearing them on I Guess I’m Floating, but I procrastinated on it and now I’m kicking myself.  Especially because their live show is so fun.  Huge, intricate guitar solos and fast tempos paired with a few great hooks and memorable lyrics makes this RISD band stand out from the crowd.  Did non-lo-fi make a comeback at this SXSW?  That’s definitely not a useful framework for looking at music, but if we’re going to talk that way, yes, yes it did.

We stuck around and hung out for a bit and watched another metal band.  Club Primos was great- a refreshing break from all the beaten-path SXSW venues.  It was only $2 for a tallboy of PBR, and you got the impression that the confused looking locals slumped at the end of the bar were irritated that they had jacked up the prices just for SXSW.  I felt a bit bad for invading their bar, but it looked like both SXSWers and locals were having a good, amused time together for the most part.

Then, we were whisked away further into East Austin in my friend’s friend car to a house party.  Apparently, this is a house that puts on shows once every two months or so, but does as much as they can during SXSW.  We were there to see Eastern Sea, who turned out to be one of the great surprises of the whole week.  Lots of guitars, and brass, and keyboard, playing in this magical little East Austin house, they were full of good-band-who-hasn’t-broken-yet energy with surprisingly tight arrangements.  The band floats along with a familiar, home is where the heart is energy, that’s supported by down-to-Earth vocals.  They don’t sound like Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes, but they have that same sort of “we’re from the middle of the country and this is the kind of music we’re playing whether or not it’s popular” vibe to them that I really like.  They sound like they fall in love a lot.  Hopefully they’ll tour to NYC soon.

Ending SXSW at a house party watching a great local band was probably the best night a girl could ask for.  I saw 57 different bands in Austin, some of them more than once, many of them very, very good. I have a lot more photos and videos to share, though I’m not quite sure how I’ll do that yet.  I’ll probably put up more content from SXSW for the rest of the week, hopefully in a way that best lets you discover some new music.  In the meantime, more photos and MP3s below.

Blair:

Cheyenne Mize:

Smith Westerns (and Stephen Pope’s hair):

Bobby Birdman:

Vivian Girls:

Tyvek:

Dum Dum Girls:

Small Black/Washed Out:

Real Estate:

Sleigh Bells:

Fang Island:

Eastern Sea:

MP3: “Daisy” – Fang Island

MP3: “Hearts” – Blair

MP3: “Where Do You Run To” – Vivian Girls

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SXSW 2010: Friday

I keep trying to find a moral in SXSW.  The point is to be in a band, and the rest of us are just plebeian followers.  Go home and practice your instrument until you can do it yourself.  Go home and practice your writing until you become a better critic.  Go home and give up because there’s already so very many other people trying to do what you’re trying to do.  When it comes down to it, though, I think the fact that SXSW drives home above all is that good music is good.  When you’re seeing a band that can transcend the ridiculousness of this week, that’s when everything makes sense.

Mountain Man was the first band of my day at the Gorilla vs. Bear party.  Using just voices and an acoustic guitar, they are so different from everything else going on today.  Perhaps not all that different from music in years past, but they sound like a nerdy-cool indie a cappella group.  But more special.  And despite my dislike of a cappella, that’s a really good thing.  Bitters played after Mountain Man, and I was thoroughly disappointed.  I was expecting unique indie lo-fi (is that already oxymoron?) but instead heard a lame bar band with heavy but derivative riffs.  Maybe I need to hear them again, but I was underwhelmed.

I then headed over to Lovejoy’s again (they have the coolest bartenders) for the I Guess I’m Floating party.  Le Loup steadily grew on me throughout their grooving set, providing evolving beats and guitar that culminated in pretty fun tunes to dance along to.  Brooklyn’s own Beach Fossils played a ramshackley fun set.  They get better every time I see them.  They’re not quite where they need to be yet, though, and I think this band’s challenge will lie in figuring out how to become more polished without losing their musical delinquent underground feel.  I’ve heard lots of good buzz about Javelin and had some expectations for them, and I came away from their set feeling confused.  I actually really like some of their songs, very pretty melodies and pop hooks you an sing your teeth into.  The performance?  Really meh at best.  And how could it be more?  Singing along to a drum machine just isn’t very interesting.  Why do you think Lady Gaga wears all those costumes?

At this point I proceeded over to Ms. Bea’s and caught the tale end of Tearist’s set.  Some weird, weird heavy rock that didn’t stick with me too much, but a brash and bold lead singer.  I was intrigued by the next band, Gun Outfit, whom I’d never heard of before.  I can’t really say how they were because their sound was terrible (vocals were completely inaudible) but I think they might either be really boring or really charming.  Definitely want to hear them play again.  Then Pearl Harbor, the band I had been waiting for, took to the stage.  There’s a lot of factors that bands need to succeed.  They need to have the sound, the songwriting talent, that x factor, and the look.  Pearl Harbor has the look down, 110%, and maybe the X factor, too.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band with a better look, in fact.  Dressed in turquoises, blues, and acid-wash denim, the band of blondes from California delivered dreamy tunes with jangling guitar riffs.  The sound was still fairly screwed up (which, little did I know, was about to become a prevalent theme for the night), but I think they need a little more experience performing before they’ll be able to fully capitalize on that great look of theirs.  Still, two out of three isn’t bad, as they say, though one would hope that the music itself should count most of all.

Back to the IGIF party for some serious synth-dance time with Small Black and Washed Out.  I still don’t understand the hype, but I’d definitely want them to play if I were hosting a party.  I had high, high hopes for Toro Y Moi as I like his album quite a bit, but his sounds and performance both fell flat as he hid behind his laptop cranking out a few tunes.

Back to Ms. Bea’s.  It was the Woodsist showcase, and I walked up as Happy Birthday were playing their set.  I figured out what it is about them that bothers me.  I don’t like that they’re signed to Sub Pop.  They have some really great songs.  “Girls FM” is cool and quirky and I like it a lot.  But because this small band is already on such a big label, their nonchalance comes across as attitude or overcompensation.  Maybe this is just in my head, but I feel as if this is a band that could benefit from another year of being road warriors and really honing their craft on their own.  Hopefully they still will, but they’re just not there yet.  The Beets played a short and sweet set after them.  It was strange seeing them in Texas; they’re definitely one of those New York bands that are very much rooted in the hometown scene.  I’m not sure the Austin crowd got it, but I thought they were fun as always.

I saw Alex Bleeker and the Freaks for my second time in two days.  Despite insane feedback problems, this show was special.  Bleeker’s songs transport me back to The Band or Led Zeppelin, when rock was rock and men were men.  Mountain Men provided vocals and the lineup was different even than yesterday, which made it feel like an occasion where real music was being played by real musicians.  I can’t wait to see Bleeker achieve just as much success with his own project as his other band.

Woods rounded out my evening, overcoming insanely horrible sound problems.  There were easily hundreds of people there to see one of our favorite Brooklyn super groups, and I think the sound guy just couldn’t handle it.  Todd P. tweeted that he eventually threw up and curled into the fetal position.  The feedback issues really were too bad, but Woods played on and did a solid job with their outdoorsy noodly jams.  The new songs sounded great, as well.  I wanted to stay for Nodzzz, but there was a cab with our name on it across the street, so we hopped in and made it home early.  Just early enough to post these photos, and a few MP3s below.

Mountain Man:

Bitters:

Le Loup:

Beach Fossils:

Javelin:

Tearist:

Gun Outfit:

Pearl Harbor:

Small Black/Washed Out:

Toro Y Moi:

Happy Birthday:

The Beets:

Alex Bleeker and The Freaks:

Woods:

MP3: “Dog Song” – Mountain Man

MP3: “Why Should I Live if I Won’t Fit” – The Beets

MP3: “These Days” – Alex Bleeker & The Freaks

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SXSW 2010: Thursday

Yesterday was a complete SXSW day.  Downtown at noon and not home again until 3AM.  Since it was such a late night I didn’t get a chance to blog before I started falling asleep sitting up at my computer, so this post will be a bit abbreviated for the time being (gotta get back downtown for more music).  I’ll fill it in later.

The day started off at a lovely little bar called Lovejoy’s.  Enjoying a really delicious free microbrew, this Pop Montreal showcase got my day off to the perfect start.  I came for Turbo Fruits, and they were every bit as good as I’d hoped they would be.  Scuzzy garage blues, they seemed like the perfect Southern rock and roll gentlemen.  I stayed to watch Plants & Animals, then headed over to Beauty Bar for the Bay Area Takeover.  I stumbled upon Man/Miracle, then headed inside to watch Ty Segall, whose set wasn’t as rocking as I’d hoped.  Then I stayed for Sandwitches, who have been getting all sorts of hype, and found them to be incredibly boring.

Then, I walked Northeast and made it to Mico-Pixel-Rites, a wonderful BBQ show held by three women bloggers.  I sat in the grass and sun, and watched a steady stream of top-notch bands.  Twin Sister was on first, and sounded beautiful and eerie, far better than when I saw them at Webster Hall.  They’re really quite good, and the vibe at the party brought it out very well.  Family Portrait did a great job of combining their psych-synth with good ‘ole indie rock.  Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, who this time were just the members of Real Estate on different instruments, kept the mood sunny with vintage sounding guitar jams.  Coasting seemed a bit abrasive at first, guitar, drums, and annoyingly off-key vocals, but grew on me as their set progressed.  They’ve got a great attitude around them, and some pretty fun lyrics.  Pill Wonder was the highlight/surprise of my day.  After hearing their songs on all the various compilations floating around, I was expecting really cerebral noise for some reason, but oh man those boys can jam!  Pill Wonder probably does one of the best jobs of any band I’ve ever seen combining electronics and real instruments.  Pop crescendoes into triumphant melodies, backed by appropriate psychedelic noodling- I can’t wait to start listening to this band more.

Back downtown to the Pop Tarts Suck Toasted party, where I caught the end of Million Young’s set.  Unimpressive electro-dance.  Then, Dinosaur Feathers took to the stage, and despite some serious sound problems, their stunning, warm vocals shone through as always.  I ended the night by running up to Ms. Bea’s for what turned out to be an hours-long dance party.  I caught the tail end of Morning Benders, into Magic Kids who were just about as pleasant but a little dull as the last time I saw them at Market Hotel.  Tanlines started a great dance party, which Lemonade promptly deflated.  Not impressed by them at all.  The night ended (at least for me) with a dancey set by Delorean, an excellent Spanish band who exceeded my expectations.  There you have it.  Nineteen bands in twenty-four hours (didn’t even get to writing about two of them).  Pictures and MP3s below.

Turbo Fruits:

Plants & Animals:

Man/Miracle:

Ty Segall:

Sandwitches:

Twin Sister:

Family Portrait:

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks:

Coasting:

Pill Wonder:

Million Young:

Dinosaur Feathers:

Morning Benders:

Magic Kids (with Alan Palomo of Neon Indian watching):

Tanlines:

Lemonade:

Delorean:

MP3: “Wishing Whale” – Pill Wonder

MP3: “Killer Statements” – Family Portrait

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SXSW 2010: Wednesday

Maximization.  It’s very easy to let SXSW become about maximization.  Half of your energy is spent figuring out where to go and when in order to see as many bands as possible while schmoozing the people you want to schmooze.  This really is a crummy way to see music.  My goal for the day was to see as many bands as possible that I’d never seen before.  While all I really wanted to do was hang out at Ms. Bea’s and go to the “secret” midnight Vivian Girl’s performance, I stuck it out at a frustrating Iamsound label showcase at a venue that really shouldn’t have been a venue.  But not before I spent my day seeing some excellent new bands.

The day couldn’t have started off better.  After a quick bus trip downtown from where we’re staying in South Austin, my friend and I headed to Emo’s to plant ourselves there for the beginning of their day party.  With free Magic Hats in hand, we enjoyed Yellow Fever, The Rural Alberta, Advantage, The Morning Benders, and Japandroids in quick succession.  Yellow Fever was as good as the last time I saw them at Market Hotel: spare, spastically melodic, dark vocal harmonies.  I think it would be good if they added a few members to round out their sound, though last time I saw them they were plus one drummer.  Rural Alberta Advantage’s drummer was excellent, and helped me piece together exactly what’s exciting on a lot of their album.  His quick tempo changes and hard-hitting elevate what would otherwise be just ok songs to another level.

Morning Benders left me with full body shivers.  If SXSW is a series of short sets with bands not totally giving their all, a sampling of bands without ever getting the whole thing, Morning Benders stood out starkly amongst their peers.  Even after just four songs, it felt like they had played a full show to their own audience.  These kids are incredibly musical, and have such patience in their songwriting that’s incredibly striking for people their age.  In this case, the hype is 100% deserved.  I can only imagine how far their songs can go if they keep at it as they grow older.  Japandroids, not making me feel like an unaccomplished grandma, as they are a bit older than the Morning Benders, were a bit different than I’d imagined them to be.  Any reader of this blog knows how much I love Post-Nothing. Their weighty, angsty, but youthful lyrics seemed somehow mismatched with the guitarist’s jumping-bean stage demeanor.  It’s like they drank a whole lot of Jolt right before going on and couldn’t take a breather even for a second.  It was great energy, but something about it didn’t mesh with what I love about their album.  Their guitar sound were also less distinct than I’d thought they would be.  It’s a heavy noise, but the different effects and tones weren’t articulated in a live setting.

Then, over to the BreakThru Radio showcase to say hello to my friends and catch Drink Up Buttercup’s set.  It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of theirs for some time now, and they only get better every time I see them.  It’s clear that they have a lot more performing experience now.  There’s still that same erratic, over-the-top energy, but it’s channeled into creating a grander, tighter sound.  Expect big things from their upcoming album.  There’s absolutely no reason why this band isn’t selling out Bowery Ballroom.

Northward, to Charlie’s!  I walk into what must be Austin’s biggest gay bar just in time to hear Shannon and the Clams.  Also, in Hunx’s Punx, Shannon plays fast-walking bass and has a huge, clear voice that she puts to good use in songs that borrow quite a lot from 1950s doo-wop girl groups.  Good garage stuff.  Happy Birthday, whom I’d just seen and didn’t like at Mercury Lounge, went next.  Again, they did not thrill me.  I love “Girls FM.”  Their songs are so happy, buoyant, they float along with so many different layers and textures.  Live, I just get a mish-mosh of guitars and uninterested vibes from the band themselves.  They have some good vocal harmonies, though.  Also, there was a different bassist this time around, so perhaps they’re still working things out.  Hunx and His Punx rounded out my stay at Charlie’s with a good garage set, highlighted by a few very good singles.  “You Don’t Like Rock and Roll” is just a great song no matter how you slice it, and “The Curse of Being Young” was new to me and had an equally good pop hook to it.  I really enjoyed this Gorilla vs. Bear/Harlem showcase, and it was nice to see the Harlem dudes presiding over a welcoming party held in a wonderfully queer-friendly space with some very queer-friendly bands.

The night shows are hard after a good long day.  I wanted to go see all my favorite Brooklyn bands up at Ms. Bea’s and the Impose party, but I forced myself to check out bands I was less familiar with at Iamsound’s label showcase.  It was terribly run with tremendous sound problems, and I only managed to stick it out for half the bands I wanted to see.  I walked in on Voices Voices, whose wall of sound I didn’t even bother to take photos of.  We Are the World came armed in post-apocalyptic costumes with pre-choreographed modern dances.  It was more performance art than music, but the performance art wasn’t good enough to stand on its own and unfortunately neither was the music.  Suckers took a torturously long time to set up, especially since they were a band I’d seen before, but eventually redeemed themselves with a particularly rousing version of “Gets Your Body Moving.”  Again, another excruciating set-up for Fool’s Gold, but their afro-pop beats were worth the wait.  I could have listened to them play “Nadine” all night long, but sadly they only played for twenty-minutes.  It was time to get out of there and attempt to flag down a cab home.  Now I’m right up to the present, and it’s time to post a whole bunch of photos and then hit the hay- or the air mattress as the case may be.  Tomorrow, bands I want to see, regardless of how many times I’ve seen them before.

Yellow Fever:

The Rural Alberta Advantage:

The Morning Benders:

Japandroids:

Drink Up Buttercup:

Shannon and the Clams:

Happy Birthday:

Hunx and His Punx:

We Are the World:

Suckers:

Fool’s Gold:

MP3: “Art Czars” – Japandroids

MP3: “Excuses” – Morning Benders

MP3: “Nadine” – Fool’s Gold

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