Category Archives: Music

SXSW 2011 Wrap Up: I Play the Laptop

The cold is gone and I have the energy to write again.  I’ve been behind but I’m all caught up with this SXSW crap.  Now, very few bands I saw were crap this year but I wanted to give a good overview of what the vibe was to me.  The laptop is now a full fledged instrument.  There are some other crazy things but now I don’t feel so alone with my own computer music buddy.

The musicianship was hard to find but once you did, it was beautiful.  Jonahtan Edwards comes to mind.  But outside of the great talent playing old timey instruments, I witnessed a bunch of bands using one ore more laptops.  Usually, it would be next to the guitar player or lead singer, but on one or two occasions the laptop was another percussive tool for the drummer.  The stigma of using a computer for beats on a live stage is gone, or at least gone for this generation of musicians.

That’s not to say the new generation isn’t lost on playing other instruments.  The other trend was switching gear on the fly.  I saw a guy jump from drum machine to bass guitar only to have the lead singer take over for beats.  I wish I was ambidextrous.  It’s like the members of a band all had their own gear that overlapped and they decided to just lump it together and go with it.  So when it was time for Johnny to be on his guitar, the lead guitar player will jump on his rinky dink synthesizer to provide a humming rhythm.  I guess that’s how bands get formed.

At any rate, I’m more confident than ever in not only listening to music but creating.  There’s so much to fall in love with musically, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from your favorite online store, or SXSW for that matter, unhappy. That’s inspired me to work more not only for discovering new music (I have a ton of CDs to go through now), but it’s also planted a seed of creativity in me that now needs nurturing.

So there’s a couple of things coming up that I’m going to unload all of his knife free joint.  I’m not even close to done for uploading the ginormous amount of video I filmed.  Look for more in depth review of the bands I saw when that pops up.  The new music from the conference will get a closer look as well.  I also have some gear to review and/or purchase, depending on the budget.  And, who knows, maybe I’ll toss up a demo here or there and ask for negative reviews only.  The positive stuff is fluffy crap anyway.

SXSW Day 04: The Home Stretch

The last day.  It was the last day for SXSW Music.  I redeemed myself the previous day and now it was time to finish strong.  Instead of sticking around for the softball bbq the next day, we bolted town to get a head start on the driving.  So it was important to make sure all of the musical bases were covered and end SXSW on a fantastic play at the plate.  Enough baseball analogies, let’s see how my final day ended up:

  1. Needless to say after a week of partying and getting sick between all of the interactive and music showcases, I was pooped.  It’s a good thing the first stop was in the Austin Convention Center.  I was early for the first must see so I popped over to other stage and checked out music/video masher DJ Yoda.  I have to say this genre of mixing video with music at the same time is starting to blow.  It makes DJs more dynamic and provides another layer of skill to show off to the peeps.
  2. Toro Y Moi was going to feel my presence on St. Patrick’s Day but Montezuma said NO.  So, with the power of the badge, I found myself at the afternoon day stage in the convention center and witnessed a hot set.  It’s funky, it’s electronic, it’s ambient, it’s mega tasty.  This summer will be the summer of Toro Y Moi for me and I will raise a lemon rimmed pint of my favorite wheat style beer in salute every time Toro Y Moi comes on.
  3. I have on my list of notes two weird things, “Aussie Death Metal” and “Impress Records Weak Peeps.”  I’m guessing that they both stunk and I was out and about for badge fringes, or drink, food, and schwag.  On to the next tent!
  4. Kitten sounds familiar, right?   If you’re as old as me then you will remember the all-girl nu-metal band that popped up around the last 1990s.  Welp, there was no reunion to be had as this Kitten had a different coat.  Led by some lady that kept bouncing the tambourine off of her boobs, the male backing band that completed this Kitten gave us ample room to punk out and jump around.  The energized the crowd in the afternoon, all thanks to this pint-sized tank of a singer.
  5. The Dolphin City Records tent party had this band from San Diego called Dynamite Walls.  They were alright.   Nothing really jumped out at me and the band didn’t have enough crowd to get anyone excited about their sound.
  6. With the day party stuff done, it was time to line up the night-time shows.  I had huge excitement for one band so I lined up at least an hour before the show.  The badge gave me first shot in and the since the doors weren’t open yet, I was sure to get in.  So I plopped across the street into some green energy demo rest area and proceeded to listen to an Austin band named The Flesh Lights. Some hard-driving rock punking out in the street at Beerland passed the time perfectly and this little surprise held my attention enough to where I had to look them up afterwards.
  7. Now it was time to go into Esylium for The Ghost a Saber Tooth Tiger.  Sean Lennon formed a band with his model girlfriend and the sample song I heard was pretty cool.  The live show sucked.  They talked too much in between songs and they thought they were alot funnier than they actually were.  The old style instruments they played were pretty cool though so at least I came way with some decent musicianship.
  8. There were a couple of bands I wanted to see at the Austin Music Awards and I had to book all the way across downtown to check them out.  The real treat for me was to check out the last couple of songs by the Bright Light Social Hour.  The jammed out my ears so hard, they bled happily.  I’ll have to see these guys the next time they are in town.
  9. I had my psychedelic itch scratched yesterday, but I went full on with an Austin based band that reunited for the first time in forever for the award show.  The Bubble Puppy isn’t really known but after hearing a couple of their songs on YouTube I figured it would be a treat to see.  Boy was I right, the jam style they had made them seem more like The Allman Brothers Band than something like a Pink Floyd with their dueling guitar jams.  It was nice to get a peak into the history of Austin with this great sounding band.
  10. Speaking of Austin history, some guy named Rocky Erickson took the stage with the Meat Puppets and the locals went nuts.  For me, the two songs the Meat Puppets played were pure magic but Rocky’s set was a little uninspired.  That’s fine, a little bit of Meat Puppets is all I need.
  11. Next up was country time and I doubled over to Momo’s to see Terrie Clark.  My girlfriend loved this lady so it was treat for her to see Terrie up close and personal.  I, on the other hand, was just along for the ride.  She’s a pretty good guitar picker and she put on a good set.  I was more enthralled with the Porchstep electronic boot thumping device.  It was a piece of wood with a mic jack to capture a foot stomp when kicked.  I never knew that existed.
  12. I ended my SXSW experience at Emo’s Annex and got there early enough to see Fang Island first.  The building joy from this band filled the stage and poured out to the audience with each minute of ecstatic jamming.  The crowd, as well as myself, was into this fully and everyone left the set with a smile on their face.
  13. Lastly, it was the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group.  He was out supporting a compilation with his band but SXSW made for a very special appearance by Cedric Bixler-Zavala.  For those of you who don’t know, put those guys together and you get The Mars Volta.  My SXSW experience was complete with the jamming and off tempo thumping of this collective.  Ho man, when they ask 1o years from know where music skewed off into fantastic directions I will point to these guys.

That was it.  My feet were tired and I beat up my body so much that I am just now getting over my SXSars sickness.  I’ll be uploading the videos I took for a good deal of these artists so look for that.  Thank you SXSW, for filling up my music discovery and rediscovery needs for another year.  It’s my music honeymoon.

SXSW Day 03: Is That Recoupin’ Or Is That Recoupin’?

Ho man was Day 2 such a brutal end for me for SXSW Music. I was going to catch a couple of more acts but my body said no. Stomach virus and sickness stuck in my dreams overnight and I hoped none of those would come true for Day 3. Let me tell you, even with a ginger stomach, I recovered like a rock star. I made up for the loss big time and got a real day’s worth of music in. All I had to change was my choice in spicy foods. Here’s the list:

  1. I checked out the Sacred Animals at the Aussie BBQ to begin the day. I remember them being electro-rock like and enjoying it very much. There’s a theme of rock bands with laptops for me this year.
  2. To switch things up I went upstairs and was lucky enough to catch The Seedy Seeds (after some black metal band I will just not mention). This power trio switched instruments alot and seems to be the only band that has a banjo with techno music beat backing. Very upbeat and tasty indeed.
  3. Every year I pop down to the D’Addario party to get a hamburger and a fresh set of acoustic guitar strings. Welp I got my medium weight strings and checked out the very rocking Novocaines. I talked about these guys before but I can’t put in words the energy they have on stage. This is what rock and roll needs to be.
  4. Round and round we go to the next party and it was the Berklee Music joint. I wasn’t too excited about Emily Albert and the backing band there. Last year I napped here and this year I kinda wished I did. That said, they seem to jam off each other pretty well.
  5. Seriously Latitude 30 and the British Embassy has got to be my favorite day party of SXSW. I always seem to end up there. For Day 3 I double backed and spotted some ambient musings by Dam Mantle. The build up was great for his style of music and is something I’ll be popping on the headphones at work.
  6. Next up was another set of Unicorn Kid. Redemption was the song as I watched this real kid bounce on his gear pumping out video game techno. I felt like I nabbed a 1UP while noshing on this second helping of The Kid.
  7. It was party tent time next and I checked out a one Laura Jansen. She reminded me of a Dutch (out of LA) version of Joni Mitchell. She kept the beat up well enough to get me from sitting position to standing.
  8. After a brief break, Headhunters was the place to be to start out the evening. Headhunters gets the award for worst bathroom break of the year while Mondo Drag gets my psychedelic band of the year. These Iowa boys kept on driving and driving on their vintage gear in such a cramped place. I’m going to tune out with these guys real soon again.
  9. Empress Hotel offered a nice break in the action with their poppy New Orleans sounds. Again, electric dance layered every other instrument for this band. The only difference is that Empress Hotel seemed just a little more heartfelt. My lady liked Empress Hotel mucho mucho mucho.
  10. The hit of the night for me was a blast from the past, and the first one at that. Jonathan Edwards, the guy who brought us the 60s hit ‘Sunshine,’ is actually putting out an album after about 20 years. To celebrate, he had his trusted bass man Stewart Shullman, a poached mandolin player by the name of Taylor Armandame, and a great banjo player named Charlie Rose. This was a pickers paradise as folk and bluegrass collided in a great palette cleanser for me. You can tell the difference between a new musician and an old one when the new one uses a pedal to tune and an old one uses his ear. The whole conference this year was electric and Jonathan Edwards brought a musicianship I missed until then. Fantastic.
  11. Speaking of electric, The Chain Gang of 1974 was up next and karma was at play. The lead singer was way too into himself and I believe they took things just a little to seriously. That and they just were never happy with the sound. They kept wanting to up the vocals and guitars on the board, even through a few songs. Of course, some breakers flipped and the power went out. Apparently the studio sound is a sight to hear but live wise they sucked.
  12. I was doing my best to avoid hip hop this year but I just couldn’t I got in early to see the next guy and because of that I had a mini treat called Araab Muzik. This pint sized dude sat in front of some sort of grid pad drum machine and banged away at like a zombie. Entranced in his beat mashing, Araab Muzik conjured up some weird sounding shapes. I finally got into it by the end and actually missed him when they cut his set short.
  13. A-Trak was part of the Invisible Scratch Pickles collective and I was lucky enough to see a good 15 minutes of his set last night. He is a pro and it was about time I saw some professional turntablism. I very much prefer the needle pricking as opposed to the hip hop type songs he put out.
  14. Lastly, a giant of the 80s woke up and finished out the night. In a mix between Kraftwerk and Devo, Men Without Hats forged a quirky, weird revolt in the 80s. After listening to more than just the ‘Safety Dance,’ I can say the I feel like I missed something with these guys and I need to regroup. Much like they did for SXSW.

More regrouping after the recouping for me. The last day finished out perfectly and even after fighting off some symptoms, I managed to wrap up the whole conference strong. Stay tuned for my last day review.

SXSW Day 02: Montezuma

So Day 02 of my SXSW Music experience was an around the world roller coaster, so to say.  The first night rocked my socks of and I was ready to get my velcro shoes back on the dirt to check out what the day had for me.  It was also St. Patrick’s Day so I decked out in my luck green shirt, my lucky green beads, and my lucky green tie.  I could’ve used a little more luck as my night ended on such a terrible brown note.  But, minor explosions aside, I had a great time.  Let’s run down the list:

  1. Pollack is the name of the first band I saw and I can’t recall anything that stuck out in my head about this band.  Maybe when I go over the videos I gathered, I can remember but right now nothing seems to pop.
  2. Next up was Marianne Dissard.   She was part of the French Rocks party tent and she had her French hanging all the way out.  The sultry lady sung in deep French language and had a morose, romantic tone about her.  Whatever it was she was singing about it sounded like it was sad love.
  3. Emmylou Harris took the Radio Day Stage and I had a chance to hear two songs from her touring set.  She’s a country legend and the way she picked on the guitar left no question as to why.  The sound was apt for the afternoon Austin sun.
  4. I doubled back to the French Rocks tent and checked out Revolver.  They were the best of the three acts I saw at the French Rocks tent as I seem to remember they were a little more rock and hardcore than the rest of my listened to set.
  5. After that it was back to Latitude 30 for some more British Embassy music.  Matrimony and was playing and I want to say that his looks were way better than his sound.  The dread locks hanging over the eyes blocked the Boy George eyes he was hiding.  The music was more like piano with just a small hint of accompaniment.  Nothing really special here.
  6. The Lost Brothers took the stage next and pepped up the crowd a bit.  I like this band but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the previous dude or just their good natured playing.
  7. Flatstock, the poster convention, takes place at the same time as SXSW to help attract musicians to concert artists.  This year they put on acts in front of the place to help attract others there.  I dropped by there to check out the Sea of Bees.  My Indie quota should be filled by this group.  The harmony of the lead singer lady and her violin player shone through best for me.
  8. The shuttle saved some foot time for the Auditorium Shores to check out The Strokes.  They were top on my list to see this year and the ginormous venue didn’t shake any of the excitement off for me.  They all played a very tight set and convinced me double wise to check out their new album.
  9. This is where things turn weird.  I had a couple of tacos from Damn Good Tacos and after walking back to the hotel and heading out, I realized that they were doing a damn good number on my intestines.  Montezuma’s revenge hit and hit hard.  But not after I checked out Unicorn Kid at the Phoenix.  The small Scottish boy plays what I call video game techno music.  I could see myself saving a princess in some red and pink level while listening to Unicorn Kid’s crunchy music.  Or maybe I was hallucinating.

That was it for the night for me.  I ducked into a karaoke bar of all places to clean myself out before deciding that I needed to head to the hotel and call it a night.  I missed a couple of more acts but more importantly I didn’t die.  That said, the line up for Day 02 was respectable and I’m glad I got to rock out to The Strokes.

SXSW Day 01: Back From The Dead

I know, I know. The SXSW 2011 Music trip was dead here last week. Due to some very unfortunate happenings, I wasn’t able to record exactly what I did. So I’m back now and all caught up, but still fighting a cold. This years music portion of SXSW was a total blast, even though rumors overhyped the whole event. Day 1 was no slouch so let me run down real quick who I saw:

  1. First up was Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers. I caught the last song of this set at the Austin Convention Center and was able to check out the weird, accordion like instrument Shlipa played. For the short time I saw them, the killed.
  2. I tooled over to Latitude 30 after that to see some British Embassy music. First up was The Last Republic and they were alright. I don’t recall anything that stuck out in my head about them so that’s either good or bad. I don’t know
  3. Next up was Gallops and I have to say that the drummer was the man. He made the guitarist tune his guitar by hearing and ordered the roadie to use the left stage monitor as his drum monitor because of the electric fire smelling failure of some equipment. Things went wrong left and right and this guy kept it together and helped the band put on a good show.
  4. I was at some tent next for the Canadian BBQ and witness the clean-cut rap that is More or Les. He rapped alot about old school stuff and food. Good thing the BBQ was tasty because he made me mega hungry. His back up beats guy also did a nice beat set using Tenacious D samples.
  5. I don’t really remember who played at the New Zealand music tent but it obviously wasn’t good enough for me to remember.
  6. For the start of the evening sessions, Hundreds put on a great electronic chill pop set. It was a guy and girl from Berlin and they wove together voice, electronic, and piano arrangements. The cool thing was we saw Rusty Hodge’s wife there. Rusty is the man behind my favorite online radio site
  7. Next up was Austin’s own Eagle Claw. I needed metal and I got my daily requirement. These guys banged and grinded enough to keep me satisfied. It was a very tight set.
  8. Over at the Speakeasy, I witnessed the blues duo of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Benois King. Smokin’ Joe was a big fat guy with a billy goat white goatee. He needed a fan to blow his long hair and cool off his hot guitar licks. Meanwhile, Benois was you cool, laid black blues guy shuffling in some dark sunglasses. They are the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of blues.
  9. I cut through 6th street and made a quick pit stop to see The Vandelles. Surf pop or shoegaze came to mind when this 4 piece band went on stage. Yet again, however, I was mesmerized by the drummer. She was about as intense as the Gallops guy.
  10. The Gemini Club was next and these Chicago boys mixed rock and techno very well. There was load of equipment on stage and in a theme the prevailed the whole conference, they switch instruments on fly. You should check these guys out.
  11. To close out the night, it was none other than Duran Duran. I’m not much of an 80s guy but Duran Duran put on a great show, aside from a pretty long band intro at the end of the show. Every year I get to see some big legend and Duran Duran is no excuse.

So that was Day 1. I took some pics and videotaped one song of just about all of the bands I saw. When I get done summarizing, I will put them up on YouTube and talk a little more in depth for the bands. Until then, look for Day 2, which should show up alot sooner than Day 1.