After a pretty disheartening week, it was a happy accident to stumble into Shoppers for the last set of the night by The Chick Magnets. We are regulars at this bar, more sports than live music usually, and this was just the kind of night cap we needed.
The band covered a satisfying and diverse set of songs from Santana’s Evil Ways to Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie. Adam Pell sang lead on most of the songs, although other members of the band took their turns at the mic. Every song was tackled with great energy. The finale was the sozzled appearance of Nancy, who apparently wandered into the bar for the sole purpose of asking to play drums with the band, claiming it was her 50th birthday. The band let Nancy sit at the drum kit and to everyone’s surprise, she knew how to play. She led them in a slow albeit decidedly less than sultry take – what Pell deemed “the stripper version” – of the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women. After the song, Nancy wandered off and the band closed the night with The Letter that was more Joe Crocker than The Box Tops.
[New Orleans, LA] My favorite of the day – polished rocking bluegrass. Guitar, drum, upright bass, and fiddle. They had a distinctly Austin sound to me – maybe The Gourds with more swamp boogie – and then some songs that were straightforward rockabilly. EyesPoetic was reminded of a KUT “Texas Music Matters” show that focused on music at the border of Texas and Louisiana blending sounds from both states – a perfect description of this band.
Posted by Dara on 12th April 2013 in Soul
[New Orleans, LA] Deep powerful voice – total command of the stage. Kind of a Tina Turner vibe. It doesn’t take much to make people in New Orleans dance, but she had the whole crowd going, at 3pm in the hot afternoon. We walked in on “I Will Survive,” and stayed for a cover of Stephen Bishop’s “On and On,” and then a medley of New Orleans classics: “When the Saints” … the Treme theme song (my favorite!). The energy was amazing. EyesPoetic and I both confessed to some teary moments. We couldn’t figure out what the issue was exactly, but it was something about all sorts of people having a great time together or New Orlean’s general air of joy-for-life – regardless, there’s no better cure for hordes of competitive status-obsessed statisticians than hordes of dancing New Orleanians.
Posted by Dara on 12th April 2013 in Jazz
[New Orleans, LA (I'm guessing)]: Upbeat tight brass band. They were really good, had a pleasantly cocky air, and reminded the crowd after each song that tipping is the only things that saves them from the “poor house and the whore house.” I don’t think they were kidding. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it amazes me every time how the instruments that are band geek around the rest of the nation are the instruments of choice for the baddest of boys in New Orleans.
[Lake Charles, LA]: 2 guitars, accordion, drum, and a washboard (that is, a metal vest with ridges hanging from a guy’s neck). They were zydeco with rap and rock stylings. Intent on keeping the crowd hyped. And I guess it worked, because an old white guy near us was doing air-washboard.
Posted by Dara on 16th March 2013 in Americana
[Austin TX] A chance encounter with a favorite Austin band right on East 6th. I felt bad taking them for granted all those years with all these outsiders packing the porch, sidewalk, and street trying to get a glimpse. I did notice during my pre-SXSW research that none of the roots bands held a candle to what is commonplace in Austin. The Carper Family is three ladies who do variations on traditional country. Jen plays guitar, Beth plays fiddle, and Melissa plays upright bass. Although harmonizing is a key characteristic of the band, they take turns singing songs, each of which have their own flavor. While all three band members have their charms, I am a Melissa Carper aficionado. Jen is kind of party girl country, Beth is more traditional porch fare, and Melissa is a sweet tumble of Southern lesbian dreadlocked shy bad-assness all in one. She’s also the only band member who writes her own songs. Rockboy requested her “PBR in the Car” and I requested her “My Christian Girlfriend” – my request was satisfied because they already planned to close with that song. Although it would probably annoy her to hear me say it, Melissa’s songs are amazing because they blend old timey (and upbeat) sounds with radical lyrics. “My Christian Girlfriend” is a lesbian’s lament about the traditional Christian girlfriend she longs for who will bear her baby, via turkey baster of course. Be advised to also check out Melissa’s band Sad Daddy. They were so big a guy with a gold diamond in his ear was shooing people away from the entrance. They might as well have had a red carpet. [checked for accuracy by Rockboy]
[Austin, TX] I’m ashamed to say this was a by-chance band. I’m not sure I need to review him. In all his old age frumpiness, he’s still a demon of garage psych. His backing band was the same one we’d seen him with in Houston. The SXSW gods were with us.
[New Orleans, LA] An in-the-meantime band. They were quintessential Midwest rockers – Cheap Trickian – basically the hard rock you’d hear in a bar. For instance, he had a Kum N Go t-shirt on. Borderline poppy punk, borderline heartland rock – i.e., power pop. It wasn’t your typical SXSW fare but we both enjoyed it. Oy oh! Just looked them up, realized they’re Reatard-affiliated (The Bad Times), we’ve seen them before & loved them, and this is why I have to keep notes. Apologies, Reatard disciples.
[Austin, TX] This band was on my list and I kind of regretted it. They fit my initial impression during SXSW research almost perfectly: “male 90s indie rock with kind of cheesy dated lyrics – they’re kind of good – think they’re on Thurston Moore’s label.” They put on an energetic show but it didn’t make sense – it was like seeing kids in their grandparents’ sweaters.
[San Francisco] An in-the-meantime band. Interesting. 80s flavored indie pop. Couldn’t help but notice the male bassist in a high bun and lipstick. Lots of reverb and echo-voice. Keyboard and tambourine. Some afro pop. They were definitely of The New Sound – with those high clanging guitars and the quiet and loud. I’d like to hear more.
[London] A chance encounter after Royal Thunder. This kind of metal walks a fine line with me but this band stayed right on the sweet edge of the line. Super hard, super precise, and with showmanship. A speed metal version of Black Sabbath? The lead singer was a cross between Rob Zombie and a Viking forest gnome – and he would gently inquire after the crowd between ferocious songs. I was trying to figure out who we were seeing and asked a fool kid who had no idea – a more serious man ran after me to reassure me this was Orange Goblin. Just as much as I want to sit on David Lowery’s beachside porch, I wouldn’t mind going into a cave with these guys.
[Atlanta, GA] Fantastic. Of course, the powerful female vocals excite me. I had summed them up as a Black Sabbath cover band in my SXSW preview notes but that wasn’t really accurate. They are a weird amalgam of prog metal and goth country folk weirdness … but I’m lying … the guys’ beards and guitar precision were just distracting … in that this band didn’t make sense insofar as how they looked. The lead singer hunched over her guitar in a black lace dress screaming and wailing broke my heart the whole set. Their sound is kind of a rollicking prog metal with passionate vocals. I was entranced. And there were some Black Sabbath moments.
[Denmark] The band I’d chosen this venue for. They were roaming around before their set all rocker glamorous. Well, in particular, there was a fellow in striped tight pants, a midriff shirt, and a Blue Van jean jacket … who turned out to not be in the band … just a roadie or something. Embarrassing for him … but effective advertising for the band. The band was much more low-key 70s stoner looking – tank tops, lanky, shaggy hair – a look I enjoy very much. They were straightforward garage punk with lots of 60s flavor. They had some Led-Zeppelin-esque moments. I’m a huge sucker for the genre but they were so perfect I just couldn’t get excited. Rockboy’s favorite band of his one day at SXSW. Upon listening to their recorded stuff, I think the band was a lot more poppy than I realized during the live set –may have seemed harder because they were such a relief of competence after the first two more painful opening bands.
[San Antonio] How could you not like them? 50s doo wop with an indie styling. I heard rockabilly, Rockboy heard tex-mex – and we were probably both right. There was some oompah. They were a band for all ages. The sound at the venue was terrible this day, and we gave the band extra credits for getting past this, but after listening to some youtube stuff, it may have been more of the band than we realized. Again, a band with lots of potential.
[San Antonio] At least ten members – guitars, vibes, fiddle, etc. etc. They were Balmorhea (instrumental rock) but not as engaging, or more benign. They are a high quality, good looking band with a lot of potential. Nowhere to go but up.
[Scotland] I was happy to run across this because I was looking to shake up my tired old same old taste in music. A little thuggish looking hooligan in a sideways cap DJing and captivating the weird crowd – mainstream clubbers, nerdy musicheads… I totally didn’t get it. He’d keep it kind of low, pick things up, the crowd would nod along anticipating the payoff, and then applaud. And this exact pattern went on and on. I liked it – I just didn’t get the subculture. I’m pretty sure it was dubstep. There was variety in what he played, which I liked, but the way he strung it together didn’t totally make sense to me. He played a more rap-sounding loop and three guys by the bar cheered and jumped like it was their own track. I’m pretty sure I didn’t’ deserve to be at this show.
[Vancouver] This was the band I’d come to see and I watched them mill around by the side of the stage while waiting through the band before them. I could tell this girl was a mean primapunk from the second I saw her – even her band members seemed to be avoiding her. Punk-white-blonde hair, skinny jeans, impossibly high wedge heels – she was the rock version of Lady Gaga. And, of course, once they took the stage, she hassled the sound guy forever, and, of course, her fierceness is exactly what works for her as the lead singer of a mostly female thrash band. I loved this band. She stood all tiny and in command, and her white translucent hands and arms, finally freed of the knitted black sweater, flew and wavered in front of her as she screamed at us. After the second song, she apologized to the audience for her throat problems – the tactics of an insecure high-strung person – setting up the reason for any possible failure before the failure happens. She managed to carry on, and well. They were kind of riot girrl but with complicated proggy guitar (male), strong bass (a goth Joan Jett), and drums (more of a dark clothing with pearls type girl). None of them outshone the princess, although the bassist was intriguing. Best of all, she ended the set by running off the stage in tears –artists will have their moments.
[Philadelphia] I’d been watching reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (first-run for me), and so this band, being from Philadelphia, kept reminding me of the show what with their dirty urban look. The female lead, dirty bleach blonde, had an ironic Mickey Mouse t-shirt on. They were hard enough that they drove away a good half of the crowd. Mostly, they reminded me of the 90s. Noise rock with an atonal but melodious undertone – flat unwavering vocals – a midlevel whine dominating every song. I’m too of the 90s to describe its sound – it’s just an overall feeling for me and they had it. The Vaselines… Yo La Tengo… what have you. It was nice to hear something different but I wouldn’t listen to them.
[Manchester, England] Their music isn’t immediately striking but I loved this band. They’re the band I keep remembering out of the 30 I saw, and it doesn’t make sense because I don’t listen to music like this. They’re a boy and a girl, whitey white, blonde-y blonde. The guy wore a white shirt and black suit. The girl wore a tight black outfit, Robert-Palmer-girl style. They look like a rich couple who were dining and spontaneously broke into electronica. Or like step siblings who sleep together, like a scene from a Brett Easton Ellis novel or Cruel Intentions. The performance was cool calm and collected, as was the music. The guy was on an electronic drum pad and other electronic paraphernalia. The girl primarily sang but sometimes played electric guitar, Robert-Palmer-girl style. Their look matched their sound – clean, driving, pure vocals. She’s gorgeous, but her real appeal was the genuine quality to her voice, performance, and lyrics. She made you feel like she’s a perfect restrained person who is letting you into her personal world – like the feeling you get when you make a shy person smile or tell you their secrets. Cool and entrancing and true – I don’t think I would have been as impressed if I’d only heard them, but their show was excellent.
Posted by Dara on 15th March 2013 in Rap
[Atlanta, GA] Two or three boys – I was on the side and couldn’t quite see. The first song was basically variations of “bitch I am god.” The second song was about how they’re teenage Jesuses. Their sound wasn’t bad, but the lyrics were really annoying.
Posted by Dara on 15th March 2013 in Rap
[Bronx] Three shorties (if ‘shorties’ means short women who rap, like I imagine it does) with hot pants, long hair, and tons of attitude. Two were from the Bronx and the more mild-mannered one from Houston seemed like she was filling in as a backup. They worked the mostly male crowd and had them whispering about the merits of the group before the music even started. It was stoned bootie rap – long deep bass – Tigra & Bunny voices. They would rap dirty mean lyrics, the song would end, and then they’d collapse into girly giggles. It was a put on – they were tough. Some of their stuff had a Latina tinge – they may have been Puerto Rican. In some songs, they’d repeated the same word hypnotically, reminded me of Southern rap. They were fantastic.
[Oakland, CA] BetterThanSomething recommended him as a great perverted show – and he came through. He wore a dirty ragged rabbit mask, a ratty wig, torn mangled clothes, and a torn mangled body. The clothes came off by the end of the show to reveal torn mangled underwear. He mouthed his microphone, and then stuffed it in his underwear. Jumped in the crowd, pushed people. The music and his performance style is similar to Hunx & His Punx: wooing the audience in a fey way and engaging in shocking behavior while all the time singing ridiculously innocent doo wop style songs. As a young girl, I would have gloried in it. As a less young girl, I felt kind of sad that we watch artists self-destruct to appease whatever part of our selves wants to self-destruct. He was backed by a cleaner cut Ramones-esque trio of guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Don’t see this band for the spectacle, see them because they are a very good punk n roll, lite garage punk, dirty doo wop band.
[Chicago] The pretty blonde lead singer has that deep voice that somehow squeaks at the same time – reminded me of all those British soulsters that are so popular right now. She carried herself like a proper superstar too, which I mean as a compliment. The backing music (all sorts of people and instruments) was kind of tropical and had elements of ska sometimes. Rich, unusual, high quality. The whole band is also unusually attractive, not that that’s what’s important Listening to their online stuff – there’s a lot more dub than I realized – good band!
[San Diego] The doorman acted like it pained him to look at my ID, let alone look at me. The bar staff ignored me for ten minutes, even though the place was practically empty. The band was delayed because the sound was screwed up and water was leaking on them. Even if their faces had that this-venue-is-going-to-ruin-our-SXSW-set look on their faces, they remained polite. And once they started, it was as if they had ran on stage to a clapping audience of 1000. (It was an audience of about 10, and most of them were looking into their beers instead of at the band.) They’re a guy on bass, a guy on guitar singing, and a girl on drums. The guy on guitar flails around ‘schizophrenically’ – it’s a little silly but you’ve gotta to do what you’ve gotta to do. They’re loud bluesy rock. I liked them, as people really, and think they’re a cute little band with a lot of heart. Jackalope had good bands slotted for the entire day which I vetoed because of their shitty attitudes – take that Jackalope.
Posted by Dara on 14th March 2013 in Thrash
[Arizona] This was supposed to be The Show. An intimate member of the Jay Reatard family. I’m not as familiar with this band, but Jay & Alicja were involved in it. Ryan Wong/Rousseau was in Jay’s early bands (which are very good), leads this band, and is involved somehow with Digital Leather (an excellent Jay-produced band). He seems to be a powerhouse who hasn’t gotten as much recognition as Jay did. First, ‘my doorman’ turned me away, all SXSW like – the transition from happy free time to mean badge time had already begun. Sure, I could see the band, because they were playing on the porch (which is not even a stage) but I’d have to stand outside the gate on the sidewalk. Luckily I didn’t look all sad dog because the sidewalk and street ended up being packed. They were 4-5 guys (it was difficult to see, being that I was on the sidewalk) on guitars and drums. They started with reverb, like half of the bands did today. They were really hard. Ryan Wong (think an even angrier Johnny Knoxville) spent some time slapping the microphone stand, slamming the microphone into a column, sucking on the microphone. I wasn’t overcome with joy but some songs had something more, more construction, and then I was really happy. I think there is definitely a distinction in his and Jay’s sound – they’re both loud and noisy but I think Wong may verge more into the thrash/noodly whereas Jay more into garage/punk. Overall, it sounds like Ryan Wong has a diverse set of sounds and I have faith they are all worth the time investment. Praise be Jay Reatard and all of his disciples/muses.
[England] Officially speaking, I hate this genre – pop punk – cheerful encouraging vocals over hard music. This band was very Cruiserweight – I would have a non-Austin reference except I just don’t listen to these bands. I was there to visit with PatientPassion and CAPITALS, and I trusted their musical judgment. They didn’t fail! This band won me over. Male bassist and drummer fronted by a female singing and on guitar. The males were happy go lucky sorts – one in a rockabilly shirt and the other all smiles and curly hair. She troubled me (a la John Cage). She had a severe blonde bob, very dark makeup on her eyebrows and eyes, and an outfit that was a strange mix of girly/punky and severe business suit. She widened her eyeballs until there were whites above the pupils and stared at the crowd intensely (and cheerfully) when she just didn’t need to – but it worked – maybe she was hypnotizing us. In my imaginings she was a fierce young one who has grown up and created a powerful band. I really fell, though, when they suddenly segued into prog metal – almost of the Dream Theatre variety – it was super exciting! It turned into a jam session. They’re an interesting band and a class act for sure. Oh, and the best part was that the band tried to interact with LuckiestKidEver when she was on her dad’s shoulders with big pink earmuffs, she cried, and the band made note of the fact that she was the second kid they’d made cry at the end of the show. LuckiestKidEver remained mortified but CAPITALS was pleased by the whole situation.
Posted by Dara on 14th March 2013 in Goth
[Lafayette, IN] At least here, the doorman remains the same… and one of the bartenders too… and the “Please Don’t Do Coke In Our Bathroom” sign. Unblah! This band was fantastic. The lead singer was dressed 80s nerd with the curly pompadour and pointy white shoes – he gyrated and he had his smoke machine. I am a massive sucker for synthy dark music so this all would have been enough for me, but this band was more than that. For one, the lead singer was also an astounding guitar player – and how many astounding guitar players choose to form a band like this? I wish they all would. They were kind of a more rocking Joy Division, a more synthy Bauhaus – but there was also something rich in their music – the band head nodded throughout, as if they were shoegazers. And I liked that the shortest band member was sandwiched between the two tallest band members and was practically reaching up to his high keyboard. This band’s sound is too reminiscent of 80s goth to be described as breaking new ground but what a welcome relief from all the new sound nonsense.
[Toronto] I just wanted to visit my beloved, which is decimated – all the wall paintings in the small room are gone, the benches in the big room are torn out, and the bartenders are bland. Blah. This band has no definable sound. Lots of noise, male and female vocals. Mostly heavy. I didn’t like them.
[LA] I stay the same age, they get older (a personal problem for sure)… and this generation is the skinniest tiniest generation yet, including the boys – I think I stepped on one hipster by mistake… and the smell of pot wafted in the air by the time Austin was in view and the smell of American Spirits was wafting at Scoot Inn. I was kind of wondering why I’d starred this band. They were good but they weren’t remarkable. Kind of a psychier The Donnas. 60s rehash. And then The Song came on. I never notice/love a song after only two listens but I did their song and so they got a star, and they deserve it. I did really really like the looks of this band. First off, three females. There was a goth Zooey Deschanel with hipster neon sunglasses. The lead singer was a punky Drew Barrymore – she gave kind of an ironic intro to the band – then there were sound issues and they had to restart – she gave the exact same ironic intro but unironically – it was funny, unintentionally. The male drummer was a hot guy who’s probably a hot mess – with his wavy faux hawk and tattooed neck. And the third girl looked so hot and flushed in her sweater I thought she was going to pass out. “Think of You” is the song you must listen to.
[New York (at least now)] Some had their Gillian Welch, others had their Wilco, but Laura was my alt-country artist and possibly the first country that I ever even listened to, unless you count The Eagles (ask a West Coaster what kind of music they like: “Everything but country.” – it wasn’t my fault). I was a closet listener to her Not the Tremblin’ Kind album. Lyrics that painted a story. Sweet wavery voice. She was this whole other world, to me. I busted ass to make it to this show and went straight to the bathroom to unsweat myself and this tidy woman brushed past me – I suspected it was her but she was already past me before I could reach out and touch her. She’s almost a dead ringer for Joan Cusack but more delicate/classy. Porcelain skin. The more interesting thing about her is that despite the sweet little voice, skinniness, and porcelain-ness, she comes across as cynical, smart, and tough. Live, she sounded exactly as she does recorded. She was backed by a guy on lap steel and a guy on an electric bass. The music is easy – kind of traditional – nice. I found out today she was broke and backed by John Peel. He told her to keep writing those narratives – she asked what narratives (or so she told us today) – and he said about those country women – and then she sang a song about Kitty Wells (whom I don’t know – sorry Austin friends). She may live in New York now but she doesn’t talk like a New Yorker and doesn’t have the soul of a New Yorker.
Posted by Dara on 22nd February 2013 in Punk
[Houston, TX] My first two weeks in Houston, we got a lot of recommendations from people on what/where/who a newcomer ought to do/be/see in Houston. This band was mentioned by several people, although I wasn’t sure if there were actually two bands: The Hates and The Hades. Time passed – I forgot. Then they won an award as one of Houston’s best bands through some contest put on by Cactus Music, Houston’s very fine local music store. They may have won this award because of their popular song “Houston,” but they are nonetheless a well-established band (back into the 70s). First off, the lead singer is adorable. Still very punk (brilliant mohawk, cheesy skeleton leather jacket). But all friendly and lively – loves life and people – just the sort of punk I admire most. The other band members seem to have shifted over time. So Christian Arnheiter, the lead singer, just finished a biography of his life and was promoting it before their set. He’d cut up little slips of paper with numbers, encouraged the crowd to take them, and then drew numbers to determine who won a copy of his book. Adorable, like I said. They’re upbeat 70s/80s punk – short songs, lots of ‘Oi!s.’ Some Misfits. Lots of groove really. Super proficient and very tight. The absolute best part, though, was the look of complete pleasure that swamped Christian’s face every time the music struck up. Very good and very loveable band.
[Los Angeles, CA] She was late – which I will never get over being annoyed with, even if it’s something musicians have to do be proper musicians. More annoying, she spent 20 minutes haggling with the sound guy in a pretty decrepit venue with an audience of 15. Primadonna. To confirm this impression, once she had started, she would call out smokers in the audience and stare at them until they obeyed her and put the cigarette out. I understand that after years of being a rocker you’d want to preserve your lungs but her method of making a smoke-free environment happen was distracting and annoying. The sound guy (we were all interacting – it’s a small place) was really enthusiastic about her – telling me Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) requested her presence on a tour. I was doubtful, given the crowd and the club, but he was right. She was an extremely talented guitarist with a good voice. A professional, no doubt annoyed that she’s playing clubs like this now. She definitely had something of a Fleetwood Mac sound, some Heart, and a lot of Sheryl Crow. Despite all of her talent, she was kind of boring. There was just nothing new about her. It’s not fair that proficiency isn’t enough but that’s the nature of art.