Infinite Shuffle

March 13, 2015

2015 SXSW preview

Filed under: SXSW — assman41 @ 3:23 pm

A few years ago, in advance of attending SXSW, I went through the entire 1,200-plus-song torrent and weeded out all the riff-raff before posting a comprehensive list of tracks that piqued my interest.

Not since then have I been so prolific. I did download another year’s torrent, but I can’t even remember how far I made it.

This year, I am once again spending my March in the Midwest, wishing I could be in Austin. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the best bands the festival has to offer.

As he has done for the past several years, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson has compiled a playlist of 100 of the top acts playing at SXSW. The Austin 100 is a great mix of just about everything you’d want to hear or see throughout the week.

That being said, no one is going to agree with NPR’s recommendations 100 percent of the time. In fact, I only “favorited” 40 of the songs — but that doesn’t include songs by Alvvays and Courtney Barnett.

The nice thing about this year’s stream is that once you’ve made it through all 100 songs, you can switch over to Favorites mode and only play the songs you liked.

Below is a list of the acts/songs I picked out. Since the festival is already in full swing and I don’t have a ton of time, I’m just including the brief description that NPR wrote.

Now, go listen to the mix — you can also download it for a few more weeks — and discover some new favorite bands. I know I’m gonna be referring back to this list throughout the year for new bands to listen to.

  • A. Sinclair – “Shiny Things” … A band that knows its way around dense, dramatic rock anthems.
  • Amason – “Älgen” … The Swedish pop quintet sprawls in five directions at once.
  • Charlie Belle – “Get To Know” … Three teenagers play pop with subtlety beyond their years.
  • Chastity Belt – “Time To Go Home” … Smart, unpredictable, feminist indie-rock.
  • Cheerleader – “Perfect Vision” … Bright, shimmery pop-rock, suitable for fist-pumping.
  • Cold Mailman – “Moments” … Synth-y, boy-girl indie-pop that builds and builds.
  • Colony House – “Silhouettes” … A band that knows its way around an alt-rock anthem.
  • Count This Penny – “Shoebox Scene” … Graceful country-pop with gorgeous vocals and Appalachian roots.
  • Donovan Wolfington – “Keef Ripper” … Speedball power-pop with a party-friendly vibe.
  • Fatherson – “I Like Not Knowing” … Scottish-accented rock that builds from a whisper to a storm.
  • Field Mouse – “Everyone But You” … A fizzily agreeable dream-pop charm offensive.
  • Genevieve – “Colors” … Company Of Thieves’ frontwoman sings bouncy anthems of affirmation.
  • Geographer – “I’m Ready” … Openhearted pop-rock, powered by a throbbing synthesizer.
  • Hanne Kolstø – “We Don’t See Ourselves” … Toy-box pop that charms, clatters and soars.
  • Hinds – “Bamboo” … Finds a way to make garage-rock primitivism shimmer.
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … A Midwestern roots-rock band relocates its heart to the desert.
  • Howard – “Falling” … Stormily percussive folk-pop that prioritizes atmospherics over uplift.
  • Joan Shelley – “First Of August” … Weaponized melancholy, with tender beauty that soothes.
  • Jukebox The Ghost – “The Great Unknown” … Piano-fueled pop, readier than ever for stardom.
  • Kaleo – “All The Pretty Girls” … Falsetto-fueled balladry meets Icelandic grandiosity.
  • Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Bubblegum” … An introspective singer sheds his quiet side, lets it rip.
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Mile-wide pop-rock, suitable for radios everywhere.
  • Kristin Diable – “Time Will Wait” … A rollicking bar-band throwback, but with maximum star power.
  • La Luz – “Pink Slime” … Garage-rock that’s both playfully light and cavernously booming.
  • The Last Year – “Mania” … Rockers explore synth-pop with sparkling results.
  • The Lees Of Memory – “We Are Siamese” … Superdrag vets play shoegaze rock with an epic swirl of guitars.
  • Makthaverskan – “Witness” … Garage-rock intensity, with enough drama to fill an arena.
  • Moving Panoramas – “Radar” … Dreamy pop meets shoegaze rock to form what the trio calls “dream gaze.”
  • Quiet Company – “Understand The Problem” … Songs about losing faith are rarely this hummable.
  • San Fermin – “Jackrabbit” … Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s chamber-pop keeps getting bigger and busier.
  • Screaming Females – “Ripe” … Scrappy hard rock with big guitar solos, bigger vocals. … Sidenote: this was actually the very first band I saw live upon arriving at SXSW in 2011.
  • Skylar Spence – “Fiona Coyne” … Ludicrously catchy funk-pop from a guy who used to call himself Saint Pepsi.
  • Spring King – “City” … Exactly as its name implies: rock ‘n’ roll for a sunny day.
  • Sunny Sweeney – “Second Guessing” … Smart, salty country songs about figuring life out while we can.
  • Title Fight – “Liars Love” … A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.
  • Twerps – “Back To You” … Playful, almost primitive at times, and infectiously sweet.
  • White Reaper – “Cool” … Ramones-y pop-punk that wastes few words or chords.
  • Wild Party – “OutRight” … Sleek power-pop that reaches beyond the rafters, all the way to the stars.
  • Young Buffalo – “Sykia” … Insistent, harmony-intensive power-pop with gigantic choruses.
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December 7, 2011

SXSW 2012: An early Christmas present

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 2:44 am

As I was just searching for some tour listings for a couple of bands I’m interested in seeing, I happened upon this beautiful link — the list of all the bands that have so far been officially invited as showcase artists for SXSW 2012.

Oh, happy day.

The festival is still a little more than three months away, but I couldn’t help but get excited as I perused that lengthy list.

Of all the bands there, these are the ones I spotted that I’m particularly looking forward to:

Big Scary (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
Class Actress (Brooklyn NY)
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland OH)
Delay Trees (Helsinki FINLAND)
The Ettes (Nashville TN)
Jonquil (Oxford UK-ENGLAND)
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Waitsfield VT)
VHS or Beta (Brooklyn NY)
We Barbarians (Brooklyn NY)

Choir of Young Believers (Copenhagen DENMARK)
PUJOL (Nashville TN)

Alberta Cross (Los Angeles CA)
Beach Fossils (Brooklyn NY)
The Big Pink (London UK-ENGLAND)
Built to Spill (Boise ID)
Jonny Corndawg (Brooklyn NY)
Cosmo Jarvis (Plymouth UK-ENGLAND)
Cotton Jones (Cumberland MD)
Delta Spirit (Long Beach CA)
Thomas Dolby (Suffolk UK-ENGLAND)
Great Lake Swimmers (Toronto CANADA)
Heartless Bastards (Cincinnati OH)
Hellogoodbye (Long Beach CA)
Horse Feathers (Portland OR)
Sarah Jaffe (Denton TX)
The Magnetic Fields (New York NY)
Anya Marina (Portland OR)
David Mayfield Parade (Nashville TN)
Metric (Toronto CANADA)
Neon Trees (Provo UT)
Ringo Deathstarr (Austin TX)
Scars On 45 (Leeds UK-ENGLAND)
The Seedy Seeds (Cincinnati OH)
Shiny Toy Guns (Shawnee OK)
Stars (Montreal CANADA)
Tammar (Bloomington IN)
Tea Leaf Green (San Francisco CA)
J Roddy Walston And The Business (Baltimore MD)
The War On Drugs (Philadelphia PA)
Wussy (Cincinnati OH)

April 3, 2011

SXSW 2011: Follow-up

Filed under: Austin, Lafayette La., Los Angeles, Nashville, SXSW — assman41 @ 5:24 pm

After the barrage of music I listened to leading up to and during SXSW, I sent my ears on hiatus for a little while afterward. Upon returning home, the only music I listened to for about a week and a half was whatever was on the radio during my commute to and from work.

Now that I’ve had plenty of time to recuperate, I’m back with a vengeance. I downloaded as much stuff as I could find from all the new bands I discovered in Austin and have been lying on my couch listening to it all for the past day or so.

Rather than putting them in any special order, I’ll just discuss the bands in the order that I listened to them.

The Civil Wars

As I noted in a previous post, The Civil Wars are just a man and a woman — John Paul White and Joy Williams — and they’re from East Nashville, Tenn., and Muscle Shoals, Ala., respectively.

They sing beautiful country harmonies over an acoustic guitar and an occasional violin. At times, Williams’ voice kinda reminded me of Alison Krauss.

All of the songs on their debut full-length album, Barton Hollow, are solid, but the title track is definitely the highlight.

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

GIVERS

I kinda regret missing these guys. This was the band that my friends saw while I was soaking up all the free food and beer I could while crashing a private party across the street from said show.

All of my friends said GIVERS was one of the best bands they saw during the week, and they’ve received a lot of positive post-festival reviews — including shout-outs from NPR and Time magazine.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2060909_2060910_2060865,00.html

The quartet, which hails from Lafayette, La., plays very solid, indie-pop with an Afrobeat vibe reminiscent of Vampire Weekend and a little island flair.

GIVERS – Up Up Up

They put out a five-song EP in 2009 and will thankfully be releasing their debut LP next month.

Lord Huron

A perfect opening act for GIVERS would be Lord Huron. They sound a lot like the Fleet Foxes, but with a notable island twist.

Lord Huron – Mighty

The group is from Los Angeles, with roots in Michigan, and has put out a pair of EPs — 2009’s Into the Sun and last autumn’s Mighty. With only seven songs between to the two discs, they’re definitely leaving me wanting more.

I am most assuredly looking forward to their first full-length release, whenever that may be. In the meantime, maybe I’ll go see them when they pass through Chicago in May.

Zookeeper

I’ll be the first one to admit that Zookeeper really isn’t as good as I thought after seeing them live. Maybe it was the fever’s fault, but when I saw them the first night I was in Austin, I found myself transfixed by their music on multiple occasions.

I remember comparing them to acts such as The Band when I saw them live. But after listening to their album, Becoming All Things, that is no longer apt.

Really, I’d just call the Austin group a run-of-the-mill indie folk group.

Zookeeper – Boy & The Street Choir

The Lemurs

Speaking of my first night in Austin, it’s clear that the best band I saw that day was actually The Lemurs.

The hometown crew had the Ghost Room jumping with their surprisingly solid indie rock set.

They also mix in plenty of electronica and called to mind VHS or Beta a bit.

The Lemurs – My Definition

This comparison may be totally inane, but on at least one song, the vocals reminded me of a non-British Simon Le Bon.

I feel like these guys have the potential to breakout nationally.

March 21, 2011

SXSW 2011: The recap

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 6:32 pm

As I sit here on my couch early Monday evening, my fever is totally gone, but my head cold still persists to a certain degree. Also, several days of shouting in order to be heard over the din, coupled with an already sore throat, has left my vocal chords in need of some rest.

Thankfully, I’m by myself for the first time in about 10 days and don’t have to talk to anyone. Instead, I can relax, collect my thoughts and provide a postscript to what was an awesome musical experience.

THE BANDS

To start, I wanted to rank all the bands I saw, but then it quickly became clear that process would be riddled with hemming and hawing and probably take me forever.

Instead, I sorted the groups into three categories — bands I had a working knowledge of beforehand; bands I’d only discovered through the torrents; and bands I had never heard or before actually seeing them.

As it turns out, that last group was the most enjoyable part of the whole festival. Just as I had heard from countless sources, the best aspect of SXSW is walking into an unfamiliar venue and discovering a new favorite band.

It was an experience that repeated itself several times during my few days in town. My favorite discoveries, in no particular order, included Zookeeper, Lord Huron, The Civil Wars, The Lemurs, Sundelles and The Mighty Stef.

To a lesser extent, I also liked O’Death, Speak, Dear Lions and Hi Ho Silver Oh. And while Pulled Apart By Horses put on a fun show, I don’t need to ever hear them again. Same with Inspired Flight.

As for the bands I first heard on the torrent, by far the best was Family of the Year. I’ll definitely be looking into more of their stuff. In-Flight Safety was also solid. I could have done without Cowboy & Indian, Screaming Females and Trampled By Turtles.

Most of the bands I was really looking forward to did not disappoint. The Boxer Rebellion and Kopecky Family Band both put on great shows. Seeing Wye Oak in person has officially made me a convert. And while I didn’t pay very close attention to their sets, Deer Tick and The Dodos both have great sounds and will require more listening from me in the future.

I was forced to watch them from the street, but Cold War Kids still put on a great show. And Great Lake Swimmers sounded as good as always, despite missing a band member who was stuck in traffic.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit sounded solid from what I could tell, but they didn’t really knock my socks off enough for me to track down their catalog. Same with John Vanderslice.

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead were rather disappointing. Maybe I’ll seek out their older stuff, which is supposed to be better — and actually have vocals.

THE LOGISTICS

If I ever make the trek to SXSW again — and I certainly hope to — there probably isn’t a lot I’d change, but there are definitely a few things I might tweak.

  • I don’t know if I’d want to drive all the way there again, but if I did, I’d want to do it in a car the next time. Loading stuff in a truck was certainly easy, but it became a chore to move everything into the cab every time we stopped off for some food or something. And there was always the fear that it would rain, so we had to put most of our stuff in garbage bags.
    Also, as occurred with us, we left Austin with more passengers than we arrived with. While stuffing three people in the cab of my truck wasn’t the worst thing in the world, having a car would have been a lot more comfortable. And it would’ve been a lot easier to lock stuff in the trunk.
  • Lodging worked out really well for us as we stayed with one of Sean’s Peace Corps friends at her parents’ house not too far from downtown. I am very grateful to Laura and her family for letting us crash there for the better part of a week.
    Unfortunately, she’ll likely be out of the country for the next year or two. I’ve got a friend in town, but I don’t know if he’d want us there for that long a period. So we’d probably have to shell out for a proper hotel or something, which would increase our expenses considerably.
  • Parking was never really an issue. The three days we got to downtown early in the day, we just headed east of the highway and found spots in the residential area between 8th and 10th streets. It was occasionally a bit of a hike, but it sure beat searching/paying for parking.
  • As far as food and drink, we managed to get a lot of cheap and free stuff at the shows. Other than that, I hardly remember having too many meals downtown, so we must have done a decent job of saving money on that. I will note that I ate a lot more tacos than I ever thought I would. In the future, I’d probably try to diversify my diet a little more, maybe splurge on some food off the beaten path.
  • Speaking of the beaten path, one thing we did a really good job of was exploring different parts of the city — at least the downtown portion — without much use of a vehicle. We hit up the campus area for brunch at the start of one day, and we closed out the same day hanging out in the more family oriented South Congress area.
    Meanwhile, we seemed to cover the entire downtown well, making it to venues all over the place. In fact, I never repeated a site during the four days that I watched concerts.
  • Of course, all of that walking and endless amounts of awesomeness made for a great deal of exhaustion. So the one thing I might change the most is making sure I get plenty of sleep each night and maybe work a few more breaks into my daily schedule.
    Just as I had read multiple times while planning for this trip, take a nap any time you get a chance. If I had actually done that, maybe I would’ve stayed in town as long as I had originally set out to.

March 19, 2011

SXSW 2011: Day 3

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 2:59 am

As I noted in my last post, Thursday was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with a constant stream of awesome bands and free food and drinks. (Sidenote: Of the $20ish I spent all day, only $7 was specifically for drinks; all the rest went toward tips for all those free drinks).

Anyways, knowing that would be impossible to duplicate, I didn’t even really try. Instead, I ended up sitting off to the side of several shows Friday, only really paying attention to the bands from the periphery.

Our first stop, after finding a parking spot, was the Pitchfork #OFFLINE festival over at the East Side Drive-In. We arrived in time to watch the last few songs by Cloud Nothings. The Cleveland group, which started as one teenager in a bedroom of his parents’ home, has really developed a fleshed-out sound that channels all the best elements of indie rock and twee pop.

By the time we headed toward downtown, my boxer shorts felt like a rainforest, and it was clear I would be in for some discomfort. That was confirmed at our next stop, the BrooklynVegan, Partisan Records & KF Records Free Day Party. It took place at two venues that are linked by a patio, which created space for three stages. Unfortunately, things became so tightly packed and congested, that it was almost inhumane.

I ended up sitting on the ground in a back corner of the patio and caught the tail end of a set by Jason Isbell & The 400 Watt. They churn out some solid rock/alt-country. I don’t know what kind of stage presence they have, since I never actually put forth the effort to see them on stage.

After a relatively lengthy wait, Deer Tick hit the patio stage. By that point, I found the rest of my crew. They had somehow commandeered a sofa that had been randomly placed in the middle of the crowd. There was also an empty chair nearby that I took control of and listened to the first few songs before the balmy conditions forced me to seek shelter indoors.

I should note, that even though I only listened to a few of their songs, Deer Tick are clearly a very solid indie-rock band, one that should definitely be added to every music lover’s library.

Having made my way through the circuitous path back on to the street, I headed back into Swan Dive to catch Wye Oak with a friend from college. The conditions were about as bad as they were on the patio — it wasn’t as tightly packed, but there was no air conditioning or fans in sight.

Even the two musicians kept complaining about the heat. But that didn’t stop them from pounding out several quiet-loud-quiet indie alt-rock that seemed tailor-made for the heydays of such acts as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.

As much as I was really digging that show, I was very glad when it ended, so I could head next door to cool, dark confines of Barbarella’s inside stage. Will, the college friend, and I just chilled out back by the bar while The Dodos did their thing on stage.

Like I said, I wasn’t really paying close attention, but from what I noticed, they were turning out a lot of quality indie-rock tunes. I definitely need to go back and re-listen to their catalog.

By the time that show ended, all the members of my crew had re-assembled, and we made the painful decision to trek about 25-30 blocks southwest to SoCo (South Congress) to catch some friends of Laura — our host — who played in a band called Speak.

They sounded pretty good, with strong rock sensibilities. But, at that point, I was way more focused on my tasty tacos al pastor and frozen margaritas.

After that show, we meandered about for a bit before returning to Guero’s Taco Bar to see the final act, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

I never knew they were from Austin. I also never really had any idea what their sound was like, and I’m still not really sure. For the most part, I just heard a lot of heavy rock instrumentals and solos, but very little vocals. It’s definitely not the type of things I’d care to listen to on a regular basis.

It was around this point that Sean and I decided we were going to pack up and leave a day early. There really isn’t anything on Saturday’s bills that we were dying to see, and we’ve already experienced so much awesomeness that we didn’t want to taint it was a lackluster final day.

So, we’ll be on the road the next couple of days, but I hope to file a final recap once I return to The Bend.

FRIDAY’S RANKINGS:

  • Wye Oak
  • Deer Tick
  • The Dodos
  • Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
  • Speak
  • And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

March 18, 2011

SXSW 2011: Day 2

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 11:30 am

When I last posted here, about 36 hours ago, I was dreading what was in store for me Thursday. I was already incredibly tired the night before and knew I was gonna have to get going earlier than before.

As it turns out, my second full day of SXSW was a never-ending stream of awesome. Now I’m worried about a letdown today, because there’s no way Thursday can be topped.

It started with us scurrying downtown to get to the Canada House party in time to see Great Lake Swimmers perform. We showed up at the second floor of Paradise Cafe during the middle of the Swimmers’ set. While Sean watched from the front, I glided to the back of the room where there was a nice breeze and some rustling about going on near a table full of food.

Unbeknownst to us, they were setting up a free taco/nacho bar. The food was quality and just a sign of things to come. We sat out on the balcony for a little while, enjoying our bounty, a free drink and the cool Austin breeze.

Then we headed in to catch a few songs by another Canadian band called In-Flight Safety. I had given them one star after hearing them on the torrent and was looking forward to their set. Unfortunately, it was cut short by a broken guitar string that took too long to fix.

But I was able to surmise that they are a pretty solid indie-rock group.

After that, we decided to check out a joint up 5th Street called Antone’s that Sean had noted the night before. We saw that The Boxer Rebellion was on the bill but weren’t sure if it was worth it. Then the bouncer noted it was an open bar, and we were sold.

We proceeded to stay there for the next two or three hours, drinking up a storm and listening to three solid bands.

When we arrived, The Mighty Stef was onstage. At first, I thought they just sounded like another rock band with maybe a country twang. But, as their show progressed, the really started to grow on me. And by the time the were sampling U2’s “I Will Follow” in their finale, I was hooked on these Irish lads.

Next up was Pulled Apart By Horses. It was the type of stuff that I would’ve skipped on the torrent within 10 seconds, but I was forced to stick it out. It’s not that the group from Leeds was bad, I’m just not a big fan of hardcore punk.

While I didn’t care much about the music, the show was entertaining. At one point, a guitarist draped his axe over a bandmate and played it from behind him. Later, the lead singer knelt down and vomited off the front of the stage.

After that interesting act came the “featured” band, The Boxer Rebellion. They put on an amazing set, loaded with tight, indie rock songs that had the ever-growing crowd jamming along.

By the time that show was over, we’d been drinking in the dark cavern for a while and were rudely awakened by the sunlight upon exiting. After coming to our senses, we decided to head to the Lustre Pearl in the southeast corner of downtown for a few shows.

When we arrived, there was a longish line and I was in dire need of a bathroom. So I went in search of a secluded alley somewhere and instead found a gap in a fence where I was able to sneak into a private party.

Long story short, I ended up feasting on some amazing empanadas and tasty beer for a couple of hours, while the rest of my crew slowly made its way into the show and saw what was apparently a really good set by The Givers.

I stand by my decision, as I ended up meeting a bunch of interesting people, including Rex, who’s been living in Austin since 1993 and has SXSW down to an art form.

Once their show was over, I rejoined the rest of my group and we headed back into the den of downtown, eventually deciding to focus on Lanai, which was featuring a band we interested in.

We didn’t have RSVPs, but after a few minutes, they gave us badges and we were on our merry way. It was a rooftop venue and the vibe was awesome. There was a constant breeze that kept the mood serene, and they even served up some halfway decent complimentary barbecue.

We arrived on the roof just in time to see Hi Ho Silver Oh finish its set with a cover of a Tom Petty song that was solid. Next up was The Sundelles, which turned into another nice, unexpected discovery.

Early in their set, the indie rock-pop group kinda gave off something of a ’50s pop vibe, but eventually they settled into something for reminiscent of Guided By Voices. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more from them.

After that, we were inundated with the trance-like sounds of Inspired Flight, an airy-fairy, electro-sampling outfit from San Diego that channeled The Avalanches and Thievery Corporation. They weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but seeing them in that particular venue made it easier to digest.

Then came the band we were there for, Family of the Year. The five-piece band — which included a sexy Jedi-looking girl on keyboards — churned out infectious indie-pop that had the small crowd enthralled for the entire set.

At that point, I figured that was a perfect capper to an all-around awesome day. As it turned out, I wouldn’t be heading home for another few hours.

We traipsed around downtown trying to locate a splinter member of our group who had apparently located another open bar. Unfortunately, by the time we met up with her, said bar had kicked everyone out.

So then we meandered back toward the Lustre Pearl to figure out what to do next. The Cold War Kids were playing the closing set there and I was content to stand in the street outside the venue and watch from there.

I was joined by Heather, the latest addition to our crew. Our feet were killing us and we weren’t eager to move for a while. Everyone else went to some other joint that ended up having a CD release party that supposedly wasn’t bad.

In the end, Cold War Kids put on a great show and played several songs I recognized, except that they didn’t play the one I really wanted to hear, “Audience”, off last year’s Behave Yourself EP.

Anyways, I know today’s post wasn’t the most flowing prose, but a lot happened yesterday, and I was just trying to get it all down in the most succinct manner.

As for our plans today, we’re gonna head to the diner where our host, Laura, is waiting tables this afternoon, then we’ll try to catch some shows over at Barbarella. From there, it’s anyone’s guess.

THURSDAY’S RANKINGS:

  • Family of the Year
  • The Boxer Rebellion
  • Sundelles
  • The Mighty Stef
  • Cold War Kids
  • In-Flight Safety
  • Great Lake Swimmers
  • Hi Ho Silver Oh
  • Pulled Apart By Horses
  • Inspired Flight

March 17, 2011

SXSW 2011: Day 1

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 1:30 am

I’m writing this around 12:30 a.m. Thursday after wimping out and heading back to my home base early. I’ve been awake since about 9:30 and apparently am supposed to wake up that early again today, so I’m exhausted.

As for my health, I’m still nowhere near 100 percent, but I didn’t feel like I was gonna die at any point, so that’s an improvement.

Thankfully, I was able to see several good, new bands and even checked off one of my personal main attractions.

We started the day parking quite a ways east of the highway, just off of 8th Street, then hiking to The Paste Party at the Stage on Sixth. We got in immediately and greeted by the sounds of the male-female folk duo The Civil Wars.

The pair, who met in Nashville, gave off a very familiar and passionate tone. John Paul White, who is a spitting image of Johnny Depp, strummed along on his acoustic guitar, while he and Joy Williams crooned as if they were singing to each other without an audience even there.

I don't know if you can tell, but that dude in The Civil Wars looks just like Johnny Depp.

After skipping the next act and pausing for some free refreshments, we caught the first few songs by Trampled By Turtles. A couple of members of our crew were super-excited to see this bluegrass band. As it turned out, we all agreed they were a dud and nothing really special.

At that point, we headed around the corner to Red Eyed Fly to see what was going on there. We missed We Barbarians and The Spinto Band. We strolled back to the patio and caught the last portion of the John Vanderslice set.

Now, he’s not a bad artist by any means, and I didn’t mind listening to him, but as for excitement value, he tied with Trampled By Turtles for worst show of the day.

A little later, O’Death hit the stage. Some fellow members of the audience to approached our group earlier referred to this group as hardcore bluegrass or bluegrass punk.

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s close enough, and they were relatively solid. Also, the lead singer was rather awkward with his between-songs banter, which was amusing to watch.

The dude to the right, with the big guitar, is the awkward lead singer of O'Death.

At that point, me and a member of our crew, Audrey, headed back to the Paste Party to catch a show I was really looking forward to. Meanwhile, everyone else stayed behind to watch The Dodos. Apparently, they were awesome, and I still hope to see them at some point.

After waiting in line a few minutes, we headed in and decided to actually watch the show before our featured performer. We were handsomely rewarded for our open-mindedness.

The group, Lord Huron, was pretty awesome and definitely one of my favorite discoveries in the first two days.

For the other members of our group, I described their sound as island folk, and Laura added the line, “that occasionally shot into outer space.”

Just looking at the guys, they looked like they could have been apart of just about any genre. The only connection to an island sound was the bassist, who is black and head massive dreadlocks.

Basically, they played really solid folk rock, but the percussionist, who was wearing a washboard on his chest, had several instruments at his disposal to add an island flair — including maracas and an electronic steel drum.

Lord Huron's percussionist (in green) is wearing a washboard on his chest.

After their penultimate song, I headed over to the smaller, outdoor stage to get a good spot for Kopecky Family Band. As I had imagined and heard from others, they put on an amazing live set.

Having first heard them on recordings, their live sound didn’t quite live up to that, but you could tell they had the potential to be great.

I also cut them some slack, because of the six members in the band, I think they were only able to fit four of them on the dinky stage at a time and often just had three. It was interesting watching them contort their bodies to get around each other and their instruments. I bet on a real stage they would be amazing.

Also, most of the member play several instruments, the most impressive of which was the lead male vocalist, who played guitar and tooted on the slide trombone a few times. You could tell he was winded, having to blow on the trombone, then immediately sing a line, then stand back and gasp for air.

This was probably my favorite show of the night.

The lone female in Kopecky Family Band is rather fetching.

Then we proceeded to lounge around for about an hour in the grass off the back patio, and eventually got our hands on some free nachos, courtesy of Qdoba.

Shortly thereafter, we headed a couple of blocks down to El Sol y La Luna to eat some more Mexican grub and listen to a band whose members are all friends of Laura, our crew’s obligatory townie.

The band was named What On Earth. I didn’t bold that one, because they’re a little out there and aren’t playing the type of stuff you’re gonna find on iTunes. They’ve amassed a whole treasure trove of interesting instruments from across the globe and combine them to make music that is sometimes awesome and sometimes odd.

The band's name says it all -- What On Earth.

After hanging out there for a couple of hours, we tried to track down a show worth paying money for, which was easier said than done.

Walking about eight blocks west, we couldn’t find anything worthwhile. On our way back, we ducked into One 2 One Bar and caught the tail end of a set by Dear Lions. I was already starting to fade at that point, but from the few songs I heard, they seemed like a solid little indie folk band — not a bad group to end my night on.

We left there and headed closer to downtown, trying to find something worthy of our  cash. By the time we got to Barbarella, the one band I was interested in was already halfway through its set, so that’s when Laura and I split away from the group and headed back to bed.

Weak, I know. But we may have an early day tomorrow. There was talk of showing up as early as noon to catch Great Lake Swimmers. But they’re also playing a later set elsewhere, which is what I’d prefer to attend.

I guess we’ll see. We really don’t have a plan of attack at this point anymore.

WEDNESDAY’S RANKINGS:

  • Kopecky Family Band
  • Lord Huron
  • The Civil Wars
  • O’Death
  • Dear Lions
  • John Vanderslice
  • Trampled By Turtles

March 16, 2011

SXSW 2011: Opening ceremonies

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 12:01 pm

Just like in the Olympics, the first day of my SXSW experience was mostly ceremonial. The music portion doesn’t start until today, but there were still plenty of bands to be heard Tuesday night. Again, kinda like the Olympiad, how some obscure sport always gives out a medal the same day the Opening Ceremonies take place.

Before I delve into the musical experience, I feel like I should give a little background to explain my state of mind.

PREFACE

When Sean and I departed from South Bend on Sunday, the only city’s forecast that I looked up beforehand was Austin’s. Highs in the 80s, lows in the 60s.

That meant I would not be packing any pants or hoodies — so as to save precious space in my duffel bag.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think about what the weather would be like during the trek to Austin. Driving to Central Illinois in roughly 40-degree weather was fine, as I was in the truck the whole time. But driving from Illinois to Tulsa on Monday was a bitch. We almost immediately ran into rain and snow and didn’t really come out of it until some where in western Missouri.

To compound the annoyance, I awoke Monday morning with a head cold that, over the course of the drive, steadily grew into a wicked fever.

Now, I don’t if me wearing shorts had anything to do with this, but it might have exacerbated the issue.

Waking up in Tulsa on Tuesday, my fever had dissipated considerably, unfortunately, by the time we arrived in downtown Austin about 8.5 hours later, it had returned with a vengeance.

For the next five hours or so, I struggled through a couple of awesome shows while experiencing an increasing state of delirium. I’ve never been that loopy in my life and could hardly string together a coherent thought.

The worst part was when we left our final venue of the night and began moseying around downtown. While it was in the 60s, my body was convulsing with the chills. It was kinda freaky.

A little later, the other members of our crew, which had increased to four people at that point, picked up some Korean barbecue. Unfortunately, I had no appetite whatsoever.

If for no other reason, I want my health to improve enough to stomach a slew of Korean BBQ tacos.

As I type this entry at noonish Wednesday, my fever is under control for now, but will surely get worse as the day progresses. However, I refuse to let my condition get in the way of experiencing SXSW to its fullest.

Now, back to the music.

TUESDAY

We found a parking spot at about 7:15 and headed straight for Club de Ville for the Ice Cream Man Party. We arrived in the middle of the Screaming Females set. As I noted in an earlier post, they sound exactly as you would assume from their name. It’s a couple of dudes and a female lead singer who basically just howled at the top of her lungs.

I gave them 1 star originally while listening to the torrent, but seeing them live, I would delete them completely.

The best part of that show was the free ice cream and $1 Sparks I consumed.

After that show ended, we were all prepared to leave but figured we’d stick around for at least the first song of the next band — Futurebirds. We ended up staying for about six songs. These guys were our first awesome discovery of the festival.

The group was made up of five dudes — a drummer, bassist and three guitarists. They mostly looked like regular guys, except for the one who was rocking a ZZ Top-style beard.

The way I would describe their sound was as if Kurt Cobain was fronting an alt-country/folk band — basically, alt-country with an edge.

My camera work is horrible, but you might be able to make out a reddish speck to the far right. That's the bill of a cap, underneath which lies a massive beard.

After leaving there, we headed to the PureVolume House to catch We Barbarians. Unfortunately, we had yet to pick up a badge, and the line to do so was enormous. So, we quickly departed and headed elsewhere. I checked the Sched.org mobile site — which, by the way, sucked greatly last night and hopefully improves — and noted the Frog Music Listening Party at The Ghost Room.

By the time we got there, we had just missed the two acts I was interested in — Dan Dyer and Sahara Smith.

The first act we saw was Cowboy & Indian. I remember hearing them on the torrents, and there’s a reason I didn’t keep the track. They’re very raw, acoustic folk, unfortunately, it was too raw and just not that good.

The next band quickly made up for that. Zookeeper was an incredibly solid alt-country folk group that channeled The Band.

By that point in the evening, we had been joined by one of Sean’s friends from Peace Corps, and for at least two songs, the three of us sat at our table, completely transfixed by the music. It was like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine’s boyfriend stopped everything when “Desperado” came on the radio.

That band would’ve definitely been in the top two of the night, but then the next act blew them away.

The Lemurs are an Austin-based group that churns out simply awesome indie rock. The whole crowd, which had swollen considerably to see a local act, was rocking along with every note.

So, the final tally for Tuesday was five bands. The only two I’d heard beforehand were the two worst. The other three can be chalked up as SXSW discoveries.

Today, we’re still not sure what we’re gonna end up doing, but we’ll probably start the day in a couple of hours somewhere on Sixth or Seventh streets.

TUESDAY’S RANKINGS:

  • Zookeeper
  • Futurebirds
  • The Lemurs
  • Cowboy & Indian
  • Screaming Females

March 15, 2011

SXSW 2011: The gameplan

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 12:01 am

At this point, I’ve listened to all the music I’m going to listen to and read all the background info I feel the need to. Now, it’s time to make some tough decisions and plot out where I’m actually going to go each day.

From everything I’ve read and heard, one of the best things about SXSW is all the unexpected treasures people encounter — stuff that they never would’ve planned for.

But at the same time, it’s important to have some sort of framework for each day so you actually get to see most of the bands you really want to see.

After pouring over the schedule and plotting out the venues on a map, I think I’ve got a pretty good lay of the land for the next few days. I only really focused on the daytime shows. If we decide to pay for any of the shows at night, that’ll be done more on a whim.

I even color-coded the venues that I hope to hit hard each day, which should come in handy for parking purposes.

TUESDAY

My friend, Sean, and I will be waking up in Tulsa, hitting the road and arriving at some point tonight, hopefully in time to get some free treats at the Ice Cream Man Party at at Club de Ville.

From there, we’ll head over to the PureVolume House for the “Syndicate Conflict of Interest Party” with a lineup that includes We Barbarians, Grouplove, The Lonely Forest and The Sounds.

WEDNESDAY (Blue markers)

This is the true start of the festival, with a ton of solid lineups scattered all over downtown. I’ll be focusing most of my attention the cluster of bars around 7th and Red River.

  • Red Eyed Fly … “Brooklyn vs. The Bay”
    Notable acts: We Barbarians, Dodos, John Vanderslice, Sea of Bees
  • Red 7 … “Force Field PR & Terrorbird Media 4th Annual SXSW Day Party”
    Notable acts: Cloud Nothings, Violens, Screaming Females, Generationals, Lower Dens
  • Emo’s Annex … “IODA Opening Day Bash”
    Notable acts: Withered Hand, Geographer
  • Beauty Bar … “eMusic at SXSW”
    Notable acts: Hurray for the Riff Raff, JEFF the Brotherhood, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Mohawk … “Austinist/The Windish Agency/Laneway Festival/Eat Your Own Ears present Austin or Bust!”
    Notable acts: Cloud Nothings, Royal Bangs, Foster the People
  • The Stage on Sixth (formerly Radio Room) … “2011 Paste Party in Austin”
    Notable acts: TV Torso, Jeremy Messersmith, Kopecky Family Band, Ezra Furman & The Harpoons,  Eisley
  • PureVolume House … “RCRD LBL After Hours”
    Notable act: Moby

THURSDAY (Red)

This is the one day that we’ll get away from downtown and hang out south of the river at Yard Dog and Home Slice Pizza.

But there are plenty of other shows worthy of attendance, if you happen to find yourself near one of these venues.

  • Flamingo Cantina … “JanSport presents Under the Radar SXSW 2011 Party”
    Notable acts: Violens, The Dodos, Yuck, The Dears
  • Red River Garage … “MTV Garage”
    Notable acts: Friendly Fires, Matt & Kim
  • East Side Drive-In … “Pitchfork presents #OFFLINE”
    Notable acts: Dodos, Times New Viking, J Mascis, Smith Westerns, Lower Dens, Dum Dum Girls
  • French Legation Museum … “Other Music & Dig for Fire present the 2011 Lawn Party at SXSW”
    Notable acts: Edwyn Collins, Ted Leo, Low, Sharon Van Etten
  • Rusty Spurs … “Texas Tornado”
    Notable acts: David Berkeley, Robbers on High Street, Brooke Fraser, Voxhaul Broadcast, Augustana
  • Mellow Johnny’s … “KEXP Live @ SXSW”
    Notable acts: O.M.D., The Black Angels, The Joy Formidable
  • Lustre Pearl … “Dickies @ SXSW”
    Notable acts: We Barbarians, The Naked and Famous, The Head and the Heart, Givers
  • The Stage on Sixth (formerly Radio Room) … “2011 Paste Party in Austin”
    Notable acts: Sarah Jaffe, Nicole Atkins, Rural Alberta Advantage, John Vanderslice, David Wax Museum, The Submarines, J Mascis
  • PureVolume House … “PureVolume After Hours”
    Notable acts: The Limousines, The Dears, The Bravery

FRIDAY (Green)

We’ll be heading back downtown to start the weekend. The best shows aren’t as tightly clustered as they were on Wednesday, so we may be forced to pick one venue and stick it out. Thankfully, there are several very good shows to choose from.

  • Swan Dive & Barbarella … “BrooklynVegan, Partisan Records & KF Records Free Day Party”
    Notable acts: John Grant featuring Midlake, Wye Oak, J Mascis, David Wax Museum, Dolorean, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Deer Tick featuring Jonny Corndawg, Old 97’s, Middle Brother, Vetiver, The Dodos
  • Flamingo Cantina … “Shure presents Under the Radar SXSW Party 2011”
    Notable acts: Surfer Blood, Telekinesis, Menomena, Okkervil River
  • East Side Drive-In … “Pitchfork presents #OFFLINE”
    Notable acts: Class Actress, Cloud Nothings, Diamond Rings, Yuck, Edwyn Collins
  • Home Slice Pizza … “Music By the Slice”
    Notable acts: Kopecky Family Band, Sea of Bees, Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, The Rural Alberta Advantage
  • Mohawk … “March Into Softness 2011”
    Notable acts: Ted Leo (solo), Wye Oak, Sharon Van Etten
  • Mellow Johnny’s … “KEXP Live @ SXSW”
    Notable acts: Violens, John Vanderslice
  • Cedar Street Courtyard … “Filter Magazine Culture Collide”
    Notable acts: Phantogram, Surfer Blood
  • Waterloo Cycles … “SXSWaterloo”
    Notable act: mylittlepony
  • Red House Pizzeria … “Music for listeners at the Red House Pizzeria”
    Notable acts: Jonquil, Bombay Bicycle Club
  • The Belmont … “West Rocks”
    Notable acts: The Traveling Band, The Rocketboys

SATURDAY (Purple)

At this point in the festival, we hopefully will have seen a majority of the bands we set out to see, so the final day could be something of a toss-up. There are, of course, a slew of great shows, so it’s not really clear which ones we’ll aim for.

  • East Side Drive-In … “FYF Fest and Fun Fun Fun Fest present Mess With Texas”
    Notable acts: Dead Milkmen, !!!, Surfer Blood, The Dodos, Ted Leo (solo), Thee Oh Sees, Deer Tick, Screaming Females, We Barbarians
  • Ghost Room … “New Granada Day Party”
    Notable acts: Her Space Holiday, Sarah Jaffe, Oh No Oh My, Dignan
  • Palm Door … “Bamm.tv “No Badge, No Prob” Fan Appreciation Party”
    Notable acts: Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Great Lake Swimmers
  • Hotel San Jose … “South By San Jose”
    Notable acts: Sahara Smith, Jason Collett, Robert Francis, The Low Anthem
  • Cedar Street Courtyard … “Filter Magazine Culture Collide”
    Notable act: Scars on 45
  • Home Slice Pizza … “Music By the Slice”
    Notable acts: The Twilight Sad, Times New Viking, Wye Oak
  • 1506 Eva Street … “3rd Annual Brooklyn Country Cookout”
    Notable act: The Orbans
  • Lustre Pearl … “Dickies @ SXSW”
    Notable acts: Tapes ‘n Tapes, Okkervil River
  • Latitude 30 … “Liverpool Sound City”
    Notable act: The Answering Machine
  • PureVolume House … “PureVolume House Party”
    Notable acts: Augustana, Voxhaul Broadcast
  • Fado Irish Pub … “Noise/Racket, Sitcom Serf present ‘Beasts of the Chase’”
    Notable acts: ARMS, Adam Arcuragi & The Lupine Chorale Society

SUNDAY

Say our goodbyes and head back to the monotony of everyday life — while already planning ahead to SXSW 2012.

March 13, 2011

SXSW 2011: The second torrent

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Just when I thought it might never come, the purveyor of the SXSW torrent site finally uploaded the second batch of songs early last week. As per usual, this one was about half the size of the first — 361 songs — so it was a lot easier to get through.

In fact, I took advantage of a day off on Friday and was able to tear through the songs in about a day and a half.

As I did with the first batch, I rated all the songs I liked and jotted down some notes about each band. Even though there were half as many songs, I had a disproportionately smaller amount of two- and three-star songs. But that might have something to do with the speed with which I breezed through the playlist.

The only band earning three stars was Dawes, a Los Angeles-based band that I will feature in a post later this month.

There were about a dozen repeat artists, and even a few repeat songs, which were immediately deleted.

As for the overall breakdown, I kept 79 songs, or 21.9 percent, which is less than the first batch, but not too far off.

THREE STARS (Gold)

1 of 79 (1.3 percent) … 1 of 361 (0.3)

Dawes … indie-folk band channeling CSN&Y, The Band, Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers

TWO STARS (Silver)

8 of 79 (10.1) … 8 of 361 (2.2)

Army Navy … just a good indie rock band; they had a song in the first batch too

Friska Viljor … very catchy indie with strings and an accent of some sort

Hey Rosetta! … sounds a lot like The Frames with some other indie-folk influences

Lower Than Atlantis … Scottish indie-rock ballad

Tapes n Tapes … indie rock with a little folk flavor

These United States … indie rock in the vein of The Strokes

Violens … sounds a lot like The Shins, with an occasional accordion thrown in for good measure

Walk the Moon … catchy indie-rock/pop that gets the toe tappin’

ONE STAR (Bronze)

12 of 79 (15.2) … 12 of 361 (3.3)

AgesandAges … like a poppy choir singing along to Crazy Horse; and a Jack White vocal solo

Beta Wolf … sounds like a speed metal band trying to play indie rock

Boy & Bear … indie rock with nicely layered vocals and instruments

Dead Stars … indie/shoegaze that belonged on college radio in the early ’90s

Dizzy Eyes … reminds me of The Lemonheads or some other mid-’90s indie-alt band

The Hounds Below … British-sounding indie-folk with loud-quiet yearning vocals

The Moondoggies … solid indie/alt-country that’s probably radio-worthy

Parts & Labor … indie rock with a post-punk feel

The Rumour Said Fire … indie-folk/pop with male-female harmonies and a tambourine

Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned … indie-folk with a tinge of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Vanaprasta … like a folkier version of Kings of Leon

Xylos … reminds me of Christine Anu or some powerful “world music” singer

ZERO STARS (Honorable mention)

58 of 79 (73.4) … 59 of 361 (16.3)

Allie Moss … singer-songwriter with some Feist and Regina Spektor going on

AM & Shawn Lee … electro airy-fairyness with some shoegazing qualities

Amber Digby & Midnight Flyer … like Natalie Maines channeling Patsy Cline

American Fangs … straight-up rock, bordering on derivative, but probably solid live

Bhi Bhiman … like Antony & The Johnsons singing country-folk

The Black Cloud Collective … pretty average rock with a heavy side

The Black Lips … sound like a male version of Those Darlins

BRAHMS … for some reason, it reminds me of Real Life, the Aussie band from the ’80s

Broncho … nostalgic surfer rock that is lo-fi as hell

Caleb Coy … just a guy and his acoustic guitar

Cloud Control … mix of male-female harmonies, fuzzy guitars; several things going on here

Colleen Green … lo-fi indie-pop with a potentially rocking guitar

Computer Magic … name says it all; sounds like a lo-fi computer-pop band with potential

COOLRUNNINGS … indie-rock with some shoegaze, electro and distortion mixed in

The Damnwells … just some solid, light alt-country

Dan Bern … a total Bob Dylan wannabe

Dan Brodie and the Grieving Widows … decently solid blues-rock

Dan Dyer … reminded me of a toned-down version of Maroon 5

Dan Wilson … solid folk/alt-country singer-songwriter

The Delta Mirror … electro, shoegaze chamber-pop

Dexter Freebish … bouncy electro-pop

Dolorean … melodious alt-country with a little something extra

Echo … electro-pop in Asian/English

Fergus & Geronimo … indie-rock with a garage feel

The Fling … slow, bluesy indie-rock

Funeral Party … indie-rock with attitude and female (?) vocals

Guards … indie-rock/pop with a nostalgic feel

Hell & Lula … reminiscent of The Sounds and Spinnerette

The Honeymoon Thrillers … upbeat rock with a little pop feel

Hungry Kids of Hungary … bouncy indie-pop

Hunx & His Punx … very nostalgic lo-fi pop similar to The Magic Numbers

Kim Taylor … just a girl and her piano

King Charles … something of a novelty sound; hard to describe

Kyle Andrews … catchy indie-pop with a few reminders of Filter and VHS or Beta

Lacuna Incorporated … very chill indie-folk

Lecherous Gaze … like old-school punk, but still accessible

Lesands … indie-pop/rock with a catchy drumbeat

The Liptonians … indie-pop with some shoegaze aspects

Little Red … catchy indie electro-pop

Matthew and the Atlas … alt-country with soul

Melissa Ferrick … alt-country girl power

Nikki Lang … solid pop that was made for VH1

Popup … sounds like Scottish alt-country, if that’s even possible

Pretty Black Chains … bluesy rock with an edge

The R.G. Morrison … shoegaze with strings

RAMESH … shoegazing indie-folk balladeers

Richard Barone … indie chamber-pop with synths

Ryan Michaels Band … alt-country with a lot of strings

Saint Motel … indie-rock/pop with a swingin’ vibe

Satellite … reminiscent of old Coldplay (“Yellow”) and maybe The Fray and its ilk

Slam Donahue … bouncy indie-pop; a mix of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Polyphonic Spree

Taddy Porter … slow, groovin’ rock with a bluesy feel

The Tender Box … indie rock — accent on the rock — with a tinge of electro

Tracy Bonham … ’90s singer that sounds like Tori Amos or Ani DiFranco, but easier to digest

Tristen … female singer-songwriter with a more prominent backing band than most

Ume … sounds like a toned-down riot grrl group

Vulture Whale … pretty solid indie-rock

Ximena Sarinana … poppy female singer-songwriter similar to Sara Bereilles, et all

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