Saturday, March 17, 2007

SXSW - Day 6 - We Gathered in Spring

Last day of SXSW, but still a good one. Hungover as hell from the previous day, I couldn't get out of bed until about 9:30. This ended up being much more of a mellow day, and had my travel companion not sabotaged my chance to see The Apples in Stereo, it would have been much sweeter. Oh well, it's not my fault that he thinks that Rob Schneider has a whinier voice than Billy Corgan. He must have never heard Billy Corgan's voice (man, that would be a sweet life).

Shows listed in order of increasing awesomeness, and they all begin with the letter "M" (because that's how we planned it).

I think the name of this band referred to the fact that they're the indie rock version of a hair band. Kind of interesting, to say the least, but the singer had a total Robert Plant thing going on. The highlight of the set was when he was telling us how their tour manager had "bruised his ass in such a manner that he can no longer sit down." We were then asked that if we saw said manager, that we should give him a "pat on the button." Very smarmy.

They sounded good despite the fact that it was an outdoor stage, which was cool. I like their brand of music, it's very mellow, but at the same time it's not. Their singer can actually sing (so he can avoid any comparisons to Billy Corgan, thank god). Check them out if you have a chance.

Playing a shortened set (and I don't know why, it was their showcase), Midlake was visibly distraught. I don't think everything on stage was going right for them, but somehow they managed to sound very tight. Even when Danny Masterson (of Hyde from That 70's Show fame) was in the crowd trying to get a chant of "Midlake, Midlake" going during one of the most mellow songs in existence, the singer just shushed him and continued. Very cool.

Borrowing a chapter from the book of Tool, Mew played with a somewhat dimly lit stage and crazy visuals in the background. It fits very well with their brand of shoegaze music. This was easily the best of their two and a half sets I saw during the week, mainly because they finally had all their sound working. If you're looking for a track to check out, I suggest "Special". Definitely the highlight of the set, and definitely their best song.

I should be posting a SXSW wrap-up with my own brand of wit and vitriol in the next couple of days. Keep your eyes peeled and your refresh buttons pushed.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

SXSW - Day 5 - My Baby Had To Go

Started drinking way too early today. Ugh, what was I thinking? Oh right, I was thinking "man, I like drinking."

Shows listed in "increasing awesomeness" order, yet again.

I wish I hadn't been so drunk and jonesing for a cigarette by the time they came on, because I probably would have liked the show a lot (from what I did hear). At least I got to wander around and found the Architecture in Helsinki guys. I got to ask them important questions, which I'll elaborate on in a bit.

The Besnard Lakes
It was really windy when they came on, and they were about 45 minutes late; doesn't really make for the best atmosphere for a show. I was able to enjoy it thanks to lubrication from "Lone Star Beer," but I feel like it could have been better. The show definitely convinced me to pay more attention to their record, however, so I'm looking forward to getting a chance to just sit down and listen.

120 Days
I had never even heard of this band. I don't know why or how. They were an amazing version of some kind of electronic ultra insanity, and I loved it. I tried talking to the bass player afterward, and he was a jackass, so I'll probably be stealing their record instead of buying it, but we'll have to see what happens.

They were also late in coming on, probably due to the fact that The Besnard Lakes started 45 minutes late and pushed everyone forward. (Mew and TBL were playing at the same venue, but their sets were something like 6 and a half hours apart.) I wanted to catch St. Vincent later on, so I only got to hear their first three songs (and I was really drunk at this point). It could have been better if I weren't such a failure, but I am seeing them again tomorrow, so it should be cool.

Architecture in Helsinki
Alright, AIH has this one song where the girl in the band sings "baby, give it to me" over and over. This is the greatest song anyone has ever written. I have scoured their records for it, with no luck, after I had heard it for the first time when they opened up for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah back in the fall. I found the band hanging out outside the venue whilst Calla was on, and I got to talk to them, and found out that it will be on the new record. I told them what I had done looking for it, and they thought it was hilarious, so that was pretty cool. Great show, but I was so full of joy and beer by the time they came on that I don't really remember too much of it distinctly.

St. Vincent
Finally got to see her with an entire backing band, which included the bass player from Midlake. The main reason why the set was so cool was that it was entirely different from her normal solo set. The version of "Paris is Burning" that they played sounded a lot closer to the one on her EP, and it was nice to see her have a chance to just completely rock out to the utmost. Normally, that's a tough thing to do when it's just a solitary person and a guitar. I got a chance to chat with the bassist from Midlake afterward, who told me that Annie (the St. Vincent girl) is trying to get a band together that she can take on the road, so this is a crazy development. I couldn't get to her to let her know that I had a chance to catch her showcase, but I'll be seeing her again in about a month when she opens for John Vanderslice. That should be a really cool show.

The Good, the Bad and the Queen
As of this exact moment, seeing this act was the highlight of the entire week. Damon Albarn is basically the coolest cat in all of music history, so it was no surprise that this show basically ruled the entire world. It's unlikely I'll ever see him perform again, so this was definitely a treat, even though most of the jerks there did not know what they were in for. In case you were wondering: yes, Damon Albarn sounds exactly like he does on his records. Exactly.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

SXSW - Day 4 - Waiting for the 7:18

Ahh, what a day! My feet are absolutely killing me. I did learn one important thing about being British today, however. Apparently, the only words you are allowed to say are "sodding", "fucking", and "cunt", or their variations. I learned this from my British friends who stood next to me during the Bloc Party concert, in between them getting beers and asking me where to score coke in Austin.

Anyway, you're probably wondering how this works. Well, I'm a pretty good translator, so I'll help you out.

British English: Sodding cunt!
American English: Can you please direct me to the bathroom?

British English: Cunt, fucking sod of a cunt fucker!
American English: Hello sir, do you have two tens for a twenty?

British English: Sod off, you fucking cunt!
American English: Allow me to introduce myself.

British English: Do you know where we can score some coke?
American English: I am a complete moron.

Now that you know how to speak like a Briton, you can go to the far corners of the UK and still feel comfortable speaking with people.

On to the bands, again ordered by their increasing awesomeness:

Twilight Sad
Seems like something I would listen to, but their sound was just horrible. They played in a tiny place called the Red Scoot Inn, and they had no PA; essentially, their sound was that of a band practice. Loud, noisy, and basically intolerable.

I have heard of this band many a time, and I think I will pick up some tracks by them. The singer has a very nice voice; I was impressed.

The Dears
They would appear higher on this list if it weren't for the bands that come afterward. They were absolutely amazing and somewhat comical. For instance, the singer is a black man, as is the singer for Bloc Party. Shortly before finishing their set, the singer told the crowd to stick around for Bloc Party, so that "[you] can see why you should stop asking me to sign [your] Bloc Party CD." Brilliant!

The Cinematics
I have heard one of their records once, and that was on the drive to Austin. That didn't detract from the fact that they were absolutely stunning. I will be seeing them again in Des Moines in a couple weeks.

Again at the Red Scoot Inn, but this band was outside, meaning they had a PA and a decent sound, but still too crazy. Since everyone in the band had in-ear monitors, they turned the monitor speakers around to face the audience, which is not the greatest thing in the world if you're standing right in front of them. The singer looked extremely worried, but apparently that's his thing. I'm seeing them again in a few days, so hopefully they will sound a little better.

St. Vincent
I love her brand of songwriting so much, and haven't been able to get her music out of my head since I saw her open for Midlake a couple of months ago. She was playing a short set at the SESAC day stage, so she only got to play about 4 or 5 songs. I talked to her afterward, complimenting her performance and finding out that her record is coming out in June! I'm really excited for that. I'll be seeing her again tomorrow.

Bloc Party
Absolutely the highlight of the evening, hands down. I've been into this band for about 2 years now, so this show was a long time coming. I can't believe how energetic their show was. The lead guitarist is basically a madman, and I'm not quite sure how someone like that exists. The only downside was that Kele fucked up the lyrics to the opening song, "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)", which is my favorite song in the world. It didn't detract much from an otherwise stellar show that ended with Kele climbing the speakers to incite the audience to go nuts.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

SXSW - Day 3 - Everything's Just Wonderful

Today was a good "first day" of the whole music festival extravaganza. We were still feeling our way through the festival, not really sure how everything worked, and we didn't know how early we had to be at any of the venues. Thus, this lead to us being outside the day party at the Mohawk about an hour before they were even letting people in, and two hours before they even started playing music.

The weather was overcast the whole day, and it was raining for most of it. We spent the day at the Mohawk (as mentioned), and they had an indoor and an outdoor stage. Luckily, there was a tent protecting us from rain and $2 imitation Corona beer to keep me sane.

After the day party at the Mohawk, we got some dinner (street pizza) and then headed over to the Elysium to catch The Hourly Radio. After that, we headed to the amphitheater that is Stubb's to catch British pop star Lily Allen.

Here's a breakdown of who I saw today (that I actually liked) listed in increasing order of sweet, amazing awesomeness:

Peter and the Wolf
Interesting guy, very friendly. I enjoyed his set, and his usage of crazy instruments. He only played for about 20 minutes, but it was worth it. I got to talk to him afterwards and sent him regards from his cronies back in Iowa. He seemed pleased and was in a good mood. Nice guy.

Stars of Track and Field
Even though they had trouble getting their keyboards to work (and I still don't know why), this scarf-wearing three-piece definitely rocked. I hadn't even heard of them before seeing them, and the booze probably helped me enjoy them. Definitely check them out if you get a chance.

Architecture in Helsinki
I got to see this all-around fun-lovin' band at the outdoor stage at the Mohawk, just after it had stopped raining. I love their approach to their live show, as it completely outdoes anything they've ever recorded. I'll be seeing them again later in the week, and I'm really looking forward to it.

The Hourly Radio
Saw them twice today, first at the Mohawk with a shortened set (due to time constraints, and because Stars of Track and Field took a year and a half setting up their keyboards), and in the evening at the Elysium for a full set. The Elysium was some kind of goth bar (i.e., lame), and the clientele totally made me think that THR did not belong. They didn't let it faze them at all, and blasted through an amazing set, including one new (unrecorded) song. I got to talk to them for a little bit after the show, and tried again to convince them to make their way up into the midwest. They claim to be on their way there eventually, and I would love to see them near my home base.

Lily Allen
This was the highlight of the night for me, since I had just gotten a hold of her debut record about 2 weeks ago and haven't been able to stop listening to it yet. I really enjoy her style of pop songs. She's basically Imogen Heap, but with testicles. She was smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer on stage, so basically she was Beth Gibbons, but with no manners. Essentially, she's basically everyone except Lily Allen, isn't she?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SXSW - Day 2 - Who'll Stop the Rain?

After a 6 hour drive, we arrived in Austin right in the middle of a torrential downpour. Essentially, this kind of put a damper on arriving in the music capital of the world, but hey, I can deal with it.

We parked and walked to go eat, getting soaked in the process. Hey, I'm thinking I can deal with it. It's not that bad.

The plan was to drive an hour and a half to arrive in San Antonio to go see The Presets at a joint called the White Rabbit. After braving the storm and getting to San Antonio safely, we find the venue; and it's in a really crappy neighborhood. It looks like the type of place that metal bands with crappy names like "Mushroomhead" would play.

I look at the marquee, and, uh, I saw "Mushroomhead" played there on March 9th.

After walking around the building a couple of times, we can't find a way in. Everything's locked up, but we can hear music going on inside. We decide to get a couple of drinks at a sports bar across the street where they only play Kid Rock songs. Sufficiently annoyed, we walk back across the street and see a couple of other people waiting around the venue, and we ask them if they have any info. They don't, but at least they're there to see The Presets.

One of the guys decides to go across the street to a different bar (not the Kid Rock Saloon) and inquires. He comes back with the news that the show is cancelled, and a quick call to my brother confirms this information. The show was cancelled due to "severe weather warnings." Christ, it was raining, but it wasn't like it was Har Megiddo type rain. Leave it to a place that usually has beautiful weather to cancel something due to a heavy rain. Jerks.

What a way to start the week, eh? It doesn't look like we're going to be able to fit The Presets into our SXSW schedule either, so this was a huge blow to the fun we were expecting to have last night. We wandered around 6th street once we were back in Austin until we got bored and just got drunk in a hotel (not even our own) bar.

Today is supposed to be sweet. With any luck, the entire SXSW festival will be cancelled; I can only hope.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

SXSW - Day 1 - Drivin' South

Nothing quite to report yet, as we've spent the whole day driving. I got to see the uninteresting landscape of Kansas and the blood red dirt of Oklahoma.

We're spending the night just outside of Oklahoma City, then finishing the drive down to Austin tomorrow. We'll be in San Antonio tomorrow night for The Presets. Rockin'.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

SXSW 2007

Sorry it's been quite a while since I've posted, but I'm back.

I'm here to announce that I will be attending the ultra-hip, ultra-cool, and ultra-nonsmoking event, South by Southwest music festival this week. I plan to blog from the road, updating you with all my wacky adventures, which will hopefully have sexy results.

If you couldn't get a badge (because you can't fork over the dough), don't worry. My utlra-sweet descriptions will make you feel like you're right in the middle of downtown Austin (where I'll be).

To get you salivating, I'll post my nightly lineup of acts I'll get to see:

Tuesday - The Presets
Wednesday - The Hourly Radio and Lilly Allen or Calla and Voxtrot
Thursday - The Dears and Bloc Party
Friday - The Good, the Bad and the Queen
Saturday - Mew and Midlake

As if that weren't enough, I'll be going to about 200 daytime parties, where I'll see the following bands:

Cold War Kids
St. Vincent
Architecture in Helsinki
Loney, Dear

Ahh, how sweet it is! Stay tuned for updates throuhgout the week, and to find out exactly how much cooler I am than you.

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