Category Archives: SXSW

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 Somafm.com.
  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.

I’m Checking Into The Empress Hotel

Pop music seems to infiltrated by fake-hard rappers and limp voiced acoustic guitar jammers.  If that’s not enough, you have to deal with manufactured mainstream shooters too well known to mention here.  That’s fine.  There’s room in this great big world for everybody.  But when I want to hear some authentic pop music, I don’t have to look no further than Empress Hotel.  They’ll be at SXSW this year and I will use them as my replacement for the 5-hour Energy Drink.

It’s going to be warm soon, so to better help realize how fresh ‘Here Comes the New Challenger’ sounds, I’m going to recommend listening to this at a temperature of at least 70 degrees.  The keys are almost Victorian in sound and the cadence brings me back to the playground where this fat, chunky kid’s claim to fame was a rugby toughness.  Hey kids play and they play hard.  Empress Hotel plays just as hard.

[audio:http://h0key.net/audio/Empress_Hotel-Here_Comes_the_New_Challenger.mp3]