Sunday, March 16, 2008

SXSW 2008 Day Four

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 5:24 PM

Saturday I awoke at noon to a dry mouth, a hangover, and general signs of fatigue. Day Parties are just not in the cards when you go three days without eating anything, getting all your caloric intake entirely from whiskey and beer, and walking around Austin for 10 hours straight every day! So, Saturday was less the raging party of Friday night, but it was still great night of great people and great music.

Here on the left is the schedule I wrote up over beer and whiskey at Mugshots. Note that most of what I wrote down I didn't see. That's just how it rolls at SXSW. Take Monotonix. There was not a person I spoke to who wasn't raving about their shows. "YOU HAVE TO SEE MONOTONIX!' was the word I kept hearing over and over again. By the sounds of it, this was THE band that blew everyone's mind at this year's SXSW and if I missed out then I missed out on the biggest shit going down this year. But it was just not meant to be. Fuck schedules, you catch what you can and rolling with good friends and having a good time is a better way to approach SXSW than killing yourself trying to see everything. If that's lame, so be it.

The evening started out with Jandek performing at the Central Presbyterian Church. Now, let me just say this going into this. My appreciation of Jandek up until this point was almost academic. I appreciated the singularity of what he did as an artist and his devotion to his work and owned a couple of his records but never felt an emotional connection to what he did. The thin sounding recordings of the LPs always felt cold and distant as if you were peering in but never involved. This night though changed all those perceptions entirely. The band consisted of drums, lap steel (the always brilliant Susan Alcorn), violin, and cello. Inside the church, with its lush acoustics it sounded massive and warm like nothing I'd have expected from the albums I'd owned. It was very spiritual, patient, and as ethereal as a dream cloud. It was an inspiring and emotionally engaging highlight of SXSW for me. Honestly!

From there I went off to see Deer Tick whose debut on FEOW! records was one of my most played CDs last year. This time Deer Tick was a full band and it was a bit more rocking than what I'd expected and while it lost the intimacy of his acoustic performances his raw and emotive voice still packed a punch. John McCauley was clearly having a great time as he was horribly cheeky the entire evening and even followed the emotionally gut-wrenching "Dirty Dishes" with a full on version of "La Bamba" which was goofy to be sure but a hoot. It's a shame McCauley is so underrated as a musician, writer, and performer; he deserves better. If you missed, his debut last year go back and pick it up and see what I mean.

From there it was back to the Church to see Christina Carter and Sean David McMillan who also benefited from the lovely acoustics. I only wish the vocals were clearer. The PA could deliver the subtleties and emotiveness of her voice but not the words which was a minor complaint as the performance was a still a nuanced, patient, and brilliant. Her guitar playing was as inspiring as ever and Sean's interaction was perfection. Thanks you Signal to Noise; it's a shame I couldn't see the rest of your showcase.

Next was Hearts of Animals over at Bourbon Rocks' patio stage. She ripped through a solid set and drew a good sized crowd that stayed throughout. Yet, I couldn't help but feel it wasn't her most assured performance. She just seemed a bit nervous to me but Chris Gray thought she pegged it as did the Young Mammals and the Tontons who were standing with me. So maybe that sense of her nervousness was some weird transposition from too much booze and walking without enough food. It was great to see her get some well-deserved live exposure and appreciation outside of Houston. Bummer I'll miss her show tonight at the Mink.

From there, is was back to the Mohawk to catch-up with my posse where I ran into asshole moment number one. Here is the set-up at the door. There is a silk rope splitting the door into an exit (left) and an entrance (right). If someone was exiting, returning, or asking a question to the doorman they would approach the left side of the rope and do what they needed to do without interfering with the line on the right. So here was a single line and I'm about 5 people from the front. I see Jana Hunter two people ahead of me which puts me in a happy mood and just get through saying hi when suddenly this old big fat greased-hair motherfucker barges through on the right and there are a bunch of other assholes trying to barge through as well. People are perturbed as the line has fallen into chaos and the doormen can't control the situation. Mind you, the club isn't that packed so there is no reason for these assholes barging-in. The bouncer is yelling at people to get in a single file and I turn to one staffer and say "What you need to do is get these guys under control." and I point to the dudes to my right. I then turn to one guy to my right and say "Dude look this isn't cool." to which he grabs some badge and says with utter arrogance and a sense of privilege, "I'm one of the promoters. I put this on." I was utterly shocked. The troublemakers are the promoters? What the fuck is that all about? I just look at him and all I can muster is a shocked and matter-of-fact "Well that doesn't give you the right to act like a dick." Eventually, I get in and all is well again - assholes be damned.

First up was
Minneapolis' Best Friends Forever who were awesome fun. Now I say that if and only if you think women singing clever twee pop songs are your bag. Me? Hey, if you have a catchy poppy garagey tune that lists off all 43 US presidents with dueling vocals where one sings/talks in a hurried pace over the other vocalists melodic vocals, I'm game. Call me a sucker for musical cuteness but John Sears would understand. By the way, when I say musically cute I mean no derision to the musicians - happy, clever, and charming is just cute is all I'm saying. Plus, they had a dude with a puppet guest on a song! How freaking cute is that? BFF was sweetness and we were totally down with that.

The evening closed with Matt and Kim
who kept up the happy vibe. To be sure it was a perfect way to close out my time at SXSW with pure happiness encapsulated in simple pop songs. Matt and Kim have to be the most nicest happy band ever. Every break between songs was just this gushing thrill of playing there. They even acknowledged the door issues and kindly apologized. At one point after a song ended, I turned to my friend and said "Oh man, I so hope he says something sweet, sincere, and happy!" To which, of course, he would say something unbelievably sweet, sincere and happy then proceed to rip into another keyboard and drum rave-up that would have the crowd up and jumping like fools. There is something improbably wrong about stage diving and crowd surfing to Matt and Kim yet somehow there is something horribly appropriate at the same time. I actually felt a tinge of sadness when they closed with Silver Tiles as it announced the end to a great weekend of music and friends. Sigh. All good things must come to an end.

Love and kisses to SXSW, the musicians, all my awesome friends, and Austin, TX
It all went by too fast.
I can't wait until 2009.

Jandek


Deer Tick

Christina Carter and Sean David McMillan

Hearts Of Animals

Best Friends Forever

Matt And Kim


Our SXSW 2008 Blogs:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (special poorly written raging hangover edition)
Day 4 (hungover but less so edition)

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

SXSW 2008 - Day Three

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 11:38 AM

It's 1:30PM, I haven't showered yet, I have a raging hangover, and I feel like I've just run a marathon on booze. I think Liam Finn tapped the zeitgeist of the evening when he pointed out the only two things he needed to be aware of during his set "Here is my beer and here is my whiskey!" Indeed!

But let me back up to how the day all started back at the Party of Tomorrow which actually is now the party of yesterday. Jay of Woozy Helmet put on this nice little house party of Houston and Austin bands. I arrived in time for The Mathletes who performed a solid set all the while wondering if the police standing outside the door would shut them down. David Israel followed with a set of country tinged indie rock that played lovely in the small space. Hearts of Animals was up next with a stripped down set which left me stoked for Saturday's set at Bourbon Rocks. But, even though I'd miss the Young Mammals, Sharks and Sailors, Bring Back The Guns, and Woozy Helmet, it was time to move on so from there it was off to downtown.

First thing was first - fuel! So, meeting up with some friends I proceeded to chill with a Jameson on the rocks and a Blue Moon at Mugshots which, despite it's ugly facade, is actually a pretty reasonably priced bar. So fuel being resolved, I bid avvoir to my friends and raced for a marathon random-band evening in which I just hit clubs with little forethought. First up was It Lives who caught my ear with huge fuzzed out guitar wah and thick bass that was reminiscent of Spacemen 3. Only caught 2 songs but a very cool live set. From there, I headed over to Elysium and saw Sodopp from Japan who were insanely good. The bassist was incredible - playing massive melodic runs without a pick and with a huge fat sound. Great live show except for Jethro to my left who kept shouting "I want to have your baby!" then turning to his friend and saying "They can't understand what I'm saying that's funny. Huh Huh Huh." Man, dude take your ignorant shit out to pasture; you are horribly tedious, distracting, and annoying. Whatevs Sodopp were great band that ripped it and I picked up a CD on my way out.

Next I stumbled into Lincoln Nebraska's Eagle Seagull who were on their last song. Very nice melodic stuff and reminded me how every place has these little small bands each doing their own wonderful thing. Next ran into AM, who had set up their amps and a drum kit on th street and played a set of very sloppy scrappy punk. Were they the greatest punk band ever? No, but did they put on a fun set? Yes, that's all that mattered and, by setting up like they did, they likely had more people seeing them than many small bands off 6th street. From there off to Emos here I saw Does it Offend You, Yeah who were very poppy and British but it was too crowded to be able to enjoy much of anything. From there it was of to a scheduled stop to see Liam Finn. Given my digging his father's bands I was curious to hear what he had to offer. The band consisted of Finn and a woman playing a zither. The first song was pretty good and then when Liam moved to the drum kit the song went into overdrive and got insanely heavy. Clearly there was some sampling going on but I was too far to see how they were working it. Nice set, the lad has some promise indeed. After Mr. Finn it was off to see The Back Hollies who delivered the 60's psych in spades. The drummer was a beast and the guitars were a whirly brew of effects. I had missed them last Sunday at Rudz and was thrilled to have caught them this time around. From there I went to Karma's to hook back up with my posse and see Aux Raus but unfortunately missed the dick swinging melee that my friends raved about. No worries, they had free Heineken all night which was OK by me. I abhor Heineken but for free? Hell yeah.

So uhhhh...well it kind of went downhill from there into a drunken stumbling evening of which I'll spare you the details beyond the fact that I had a blast and leave it at that. Anyhow, I need to find me a place to shave and shower now.

THE MATHLETES
DAVID ISRAEL
HEARTS OF ANIMALS

IT LIVES
SODOPP
EAGLE SEAGULL
DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH
AM
LIAM FINN
THE BLACK HOLLIES



Our SXSW 2008 Blogs:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (special poorly written raging hangover edition)
Day 4 (hungover but less so edition)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

SXSW 2008 - Day Two

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 7:10 AM

“My Iguana is in heat. He’s biting so make sure to have your shoes on.” explains Lori. Great, I looking at crashing on Lori’s floor over the weekend, and I have visions of me crashed on my sleeping bag and the beast either dry humping me or eating my face off. Well, this is Lori Varga (aka Lori Surfer) – who has done films for the Butthole Surfers – I‘m kind of asking for it aren’t I? Despite the prospect of menacing large reptiles, Friday at SXSW was a pretty good day.

The morning consisted of the usual check-in insanity to which you can add trying to find a parking lot and being stuck in traffic before you even got to the convention center – tedious to be sure. The one amusing thing at check-in was some dude with a video crew following him; the cameraman and the boom mic dude are getting everything. This meant an amusing diversion for us. “Dude, don’t miss that shot! He’s STANDING IN LINE!!” Dude, get that shot. He’s asking for directions! Holy shit! Get that, he’s filling out a form!” The thing is, that’s exactly what they were doing – filming every second of this young dude checking-in. What the fuck?! Who the fuck is so vain as to think that they need to video themselves filling out a goddamn form? I lay blame squarely on YouTube!

After the registration, it was off for a round of dutiful flyering. Let me save you some trouble if you play SXSW off 6th street (especially west of Capitol): save your self the money and time. It doesn’t make for a hill of beans. People aren’t going to go out of their way if you aren’t a big name act. If you get booked at a showcase at a venue that’s off the beaten path – nobody is showing up. Sorry. Book yourself on a day party for people to see you and enjoy the showcase for enjoyable and glorified rehearsal that it will be.

That was pretty much the case at The Tap at Six last night. The Houston Press had sponsored a Houston showcase off the beaten path. Unknown Houston bands in the middle of nowhere? Hey, remember that song “In the Ghetto?” Yeah, exactly. Nice idea guys but in practice it did nothing for the bands. A better thing to have done would have been to have those bands mixed in with other showcases. Hearts of Animals is playing Bourbon Rocks on Saturday on 6th street with Cheveau, Monotonix, and the Slits. What a waste it would have been to have had her play at the Houston Press stage. You tell me, which showcase would you rather play if you want to expose yourself to a new audience? Right, exactly. Sorry Houston Press. I appreciate the thought and effort so don't take this too harshly but, in practice, it doesn’t work if it's not on 6th street or at least Red River.

That being said the Houston Press showcase did have some sets that did deserve better attendance. The Young Mammals played a sloppy set but it was still solid fun. The Ton Tons also played a strong set. The guitar and vocals are exceptional and as one guy said “This band understands dynamics. When the heavy hits, it’s heavy.” Yeah that’s a good assessment mister.

After the Ton Tons we headed off to the Mohawk. Parts and Labor, Citay, Jens Lekman, and Black Mountain were playing and, given the posse I was with that night, I figured Black Mountain would be right up their alley. Unfortunately, the place was packed beyond use. I got in with my badge but my posse got tired of waiting inline and headed home. That was OK, I caught a bit of Bon Iver who put on a great show but as they were sitting you couldn’t see them above the heads in the crowd. Nice patient folksy melodic with some great harmonies that would have to great crescendo on songs that hit a lovely emotional nerve. Yet, the crowd was a bit much and, as I’d heard the other bands, I figured I’d bail and see what else was up and hopefully see something I’d never heard before.

On the way out I ran into Joe Mathlete who told me Speedy Motorcycle was not extending its run as they’d hoped - bummer. But the good news is Joe’s coming back to Houston soon. Joe and I headed down to Emo’s IV and caught the first song of Indian Jewelry which was insanely good. The stage being raised at shoulder level made for an exceptional show. I was right up to the stage the sound waves from the drums had this chest pounding THUD THUD THUD that grabbed you and pulled you in. Great show and a good crowd too.

From there we headed to Fuck Buttons from Bristol, UK at the Red Eyed Fly. Fuck Buttons are face each other across a table and proceed to play a motley assortment of effects, toys, and electronics. The primarily worked off of layering sounds into a hypnotic pulse of vocals, beats and electronics that made you wonder where the poppers were. Great set! A blast!

The highlight of the evening was Barcelona, Spain’s El Guincho which was one dude with a Roland sampler he’d play with his left hand and a drumstick in his right hand playing percussion. “Give me more bass!” He’d command the soundman, “No more bass! I want to feel it! No! No! Mooooore Bass!” That fucker had it right. Once he got the sound he wanted, the thump of the floor tom would simply drive the audience nuts. The percussion was a fast bouncy beat far removed from the more familiar club beats of Fuck Buttons. These were poppy happy “get your ass up and dance” beats. In short, he was a one person Carnival except we weren’t parading down a street but hopping up and down in a club. Yes, even I, the non-dancer, found myself bouncing up and down! That is quite an accomplishment.

THE YOUNG MAMMALS



THE TON TONS


INDIAN JEWELRY
FUCK BUTTONS

EL GUINCHO



Our SXSW 2008 Blogs:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (special poorly written raging hangover edition)
Day 4 (hungover but less so edition)

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