[Gainesville, FL] “Gender is over!” said the lead singer’s t-shirt. I have been mildly obsessed with this band for the last couple years. I haven’t heard a song by them I don’t like but my body flushes with joy for “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart.” And then I fell into the story about the lead singer’s transgender journey and I googled for some pictures and fell weepily in worship with the lead singer. I guess I expected hardness and bitterness for all her hard times but her face only communicated vulnerability and hope in the face of our sad mean world. You know, writing this, I realize it could be that my love for this band was borne on a day of serous PMS … except! that glow of hope was evident in the whole tone of the show. There’s some people who wear an aura you can see across a room – so maybe Laura Jane Grace is my punk Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Not to mention, I think they’re described as drawing on Bruce Springsteen and, with my secret passion for heartland rock, me not liking gender-bending punkish heartland rock would be weird. Like the first band, and like her google pictures, Laura Jane Grace was unpretentious and just nice. Male-ish skinny pants, a heavy metal style shirt, and fantastic eyeshadow – I was disappointed her long hair covered her face throughout the whole show – as the torch-holder I assume she is for a bunch of kids, I would have liked less hiding but easy for me to say… The only other band member I remember was the crazy guitarist in the mod-ish bowl cut who wore a huge foolish grin the entire time and literally did a metal kick at one point. I don’t hear them as punk – I suppose there’s some influences – they’re in my ipod as “folk punk” which is strangely becoming an increasingly prevalent genre – but they sounded pretty much straight classic rock or power pop. Musically, they were frankly less impressive than the other two bands – they sounded same-tone and messy – maybe the venue wasn’t working for them. Laura Jane Grace’s talent was apparent though – she switched guitars for practically every song and the room stopped silent for an acoustic version of “The Ocean.” Maybe a singer/songwriter at the root – truly great voice and lyrics – she almost reminded me of The Mountain Goats (the incredibleness of his live show – not recorded). If there’s any punk in there, it’s anthemic, oi!, Irish. For instance, they started one song and Laura Jane Grace warned the audience that the song was really uplifting and it made her uncomfortable – she laughed and said she supposed it was an “atheist spiritual.” I laughed because, no offense Laura Jane Grace, but the whole set had been pretty uplifting. As evident in a completely entranced fist-pumping singing-every-word-to-every-song crowd.
Posted by Dara on 19th July 2015 in Emo
[New Jersey] I was really sad when this band started, emo as all get out. But suddenly I was converted by the small big-nosed guitarist with his black shirt billowing behind him. How could I have missed it?! They were punk pop – totally different. Good energy – sped up Weezer. Their friend from Homeless Gospel Choir (?) came up to do a cover of a Jawbreaker (? – maybe heard of them) song with them: “One. Two. Three. Four. Who’s punk – what’s the score?” Then one of the band’s own songs (“this will make your eyes bleed”) veered way too close to a Deftones sound – I don’t hate The Deftones but I don’t need to hear current bands apeing them. Their youtube videos had a similarly irritating sensibility – lots of cliché symbols of how tormented & hard they are. They were good live, at least to this music-starved girl.
[San Francisco, CA] Even though I’d been driving for weeks and life had been weird for months, I was enthused for this show. I had uncharacteristically bought the ticket more than a month beforehand. I had timed my arrival in Seattle to ensure I was in-city for the big day. All for the headliners, Against Me! … but there were problems – what would Against Me! fans be like? What would the venue be like? What would live music in Seattle be like? Fresh and early for dinner in the area, I scoped out the venue beforehand. Not looking good. A long line of very young and aggressively countercultural kids. I firmed my shoulders, headed across the street for a salad and glass of white wine, and conducted a private critique of the Seattle alt-weekly as compared to Austin’s (The Chronicle won, of course). Dinner done, shirt tucked in, I shouldered my purse and returned to the melee. Fortunately, the crowd had diversified with the arrival of the older & less eager. An exceedingly civilized venue. There were seats in certain areas. The bar sold earplugs. There were seats. There was helpful staff everywhere. There were seats. And all the bands started exactly on time. I think the seats were reserved – like I wanted to sit anyway… This band was a grower rather than a shower. Female singer, female bassist, male drummer, male guitarist. I invented a genre for them: ITM – intelligent thrash metal. Psychy – mathy – lots of musicality, and some songs with Gun Club style rolling drums. The singer was sweet and genuine, thanking Against Me! for mentoring the band, thanking the crowd for coming, thanking her mom for birthing her (jk). The crowd cooed back at her. Sweet and genuine became the theme for the night – not sure if it’s Seattle or the sort of fans Against Me! attracts. And I knew for sure I was going to be all right when Roky Erickson was the dedicated filler music between band 1 and 2.
As Billy Joel himself pointed out, his last time charting with a hit song was 22 years ago and he’s still selling out 30,000 seat venues month after month. He’s a showman on every level, from talking about ignoring his critics (in reference to marrying his new wife) before launching My Life to giving the audience a vote on performing Vienna over Honesty (“I never liked Honesty either,” he quipped.)
It was all pretty straightforward and entirely fantastic. Dipping into every era of his catalog, from 1974’s The Entertainer to 1993’s River of Dreams, there was a stylish energy throughout the set. He knew when to pound out the music (Say Goodbye to Hollywood) and when to move with a more delicate hand (The Longest Time was performed a capella and during Goodnight Saigon, he brought out some local servicemen and women to the stage and then proceeded to shake each of their hands after the song ended.) Vocally, Vienna and An Innocent Man were just gorgeous. And the roaring Scenes From an Italian Restaurant was the best version I had ever heard.
Even the missteps were memorable. The Downeaster Alexa was downright upbeat live, completely missing the solemn tones of defeat that shred your insides on the studio track. Given the intensity of the lyrics, it was a odd contrast. We Didn’t Start the Fire was one of the craziest, muddled trashcan fires of a performance I have ever heard. The vocal mix was all over the place, the melody was swampy and completely lost at points, and the background visuals were a hot mess.
Still, when Billy Joel is rolling, he is ROLLING. The encore blew the roof off of the place (okay, it was more of a tarp over the stage than a roof) with pulsing, breathtaking takes on It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me and You May Be Right. The entire night was an absolute treat from beginning to end.
Billy Joel Setlist
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Instrumental)
Say Goodbye to Hollywood
The Downeaster Alexa
All for Leyna
An Innocent Man
My Life/Ode to Joy
The Longest Time
Keeping the Faith
Sometimes a Fantasy
Don’t Ask Me Why
She’s Always a Woman
We Didn’t Start the Fire
The River of Dreams/Summer in the City
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
You May Be Right
Only the Good Die Young
Bleachers opened enthusiastically for Billy Joel although frontman Jack Antonoff seemed disappointed by the less than enthusiastic crowd’s reaction to his band. They marched on stage to the song Tomorrow (as in “The sun will come out” from Annie) as the sun was setting before launching into their hit Like a River Runs. It had a suitably stadium-anthem air to it reminiscent of U2 circa 1993. What followed a 45-minute set with some pop and melody that frothed the crowd with varying degrees of success. Wrapped in crowd-pleasing sonic bubble wrap, too many of their songs had too-long, chaotic instrumental interludes that seemed forcibly interjected into the performance.
So on the one hand, you have the confectionery singalong I Wanna Get Better and on the other, the timid emo diary lyrics of Wake Me. I suspect (and they must too) that it all translates better in a smaller venue. Still Shadow and Rollercoaster were romps. Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac cover) and the endless You’re Still a Mystery (complete with the unnecessarily extended band introductions/solos) fell flat.
All in all, I thought they did their job. They made me interested in hearing more.
Like a River Runs
Go Your Own Way
You’re Still a Mystery/Band Introductions
I Wanna Get Better
Posted by Dara on 9th July 2015 in Country
[Apple Valley, CA] Three guys and one woman – all AVHS graduates! Billed as southern rock but more classic and modern country. Solid cover band. Best part was immersion in Apple Valley culture, edition 2010s – middle-aged folk in seats the solid core, old folk (one in booty shorts) line dancing up front by the stage, young folk strolling the perimeter looking for mates.
Posted by Andrew on 14th June 2015 in Folk
The Led Farmers are an Irish band playing while the sun was still shining near Marienplatz in Munich. Leaning heavily on Irish folk traditions (read: banjo) the music had a spiritual quality and a devilish enthusiasm that you would expect. Except that there was as much talking as performing, it was a fine set. When the banjo strings really started to fly, it even began to sound like home.
Weird Al is part ringmaster, part freakshow, and he puts on an outstanding concert. From the joyous opening of Tacky which he performed marching through the bowels of the Wilbur Theater in his tackiest suit (with a stop outside to chat with some cheerleaders, well, his cheerleaders) the show was a non-stop party.
It’s really an amazing thing to witness, especially since it has to be a carefully crafted event given the number of costume changes and video segments incorporated into the 90-minute set. Yet the show comes off as spontaneous and inventive. And he looks likes he’s having as much fun as the audience. That’s not easy to do night after night.
From the soaring pop anthem Perform This Way (dressed as Ursula’s lower half) to the classic rock parody Smells Like Nirvana (dressed like Kurt Cobain), the show was mostly end to end hits. A medley of some of his best songs (Canadian Idiot was particularly great) included mid-medley costume and set changes. And when they brought out candles and seats for the musicians in a half circle – like an episode of MTV Unplugged – Weird Al performed an absolutely jaw-dropping loungey-version of Eat It. The new stuff held up well among the the older songs. Back to back performances of Word Crimes, from the new album Mandatory Fun, and Amish Paradise, brought the house to a deafening roar. And even though he said he was finished, he wasn’t finished. He closed with a familiar coda, the jokingly written (well, “jokingly” even for Weird Al’s repertoire) We All Have Cell Phones leading into The Saga Begins dressed in full Jedi gear and flanked by stormtroopers and yes, Darth Vader.
“Weird Al” Yankovic Setlist
Lame Claim to Fame
Now That’s What I Call Polka!
Perform This Way
Dare to Be Stupid
First World Problems
Smells Like Nirvana
Party in the CIA / It’s All About the Pentiums / Handy / Bedrock Anthem / Another One Rides the Bus / Ode to a Superhero / Gump / Inactive / eBay / Canadian Idiot
Wanna B Ur Lovr
Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
White & Nerdy
We All Have Cell Phones / The Saga Begins
Posted by Dara on 20th March 2015 in Punk
[Cleveland] So the old guy who had been staggering/swaggering around was actually a performer. And the one I was going to stick to my seat for, while I waited for friends to sludge through the rain and save me. His singing was a little rough because of age, drink, or both. The crowd’s level of interest motivated me to ask the kid next to me who he was – Cheetah Chrome! (of Dead Boys fame). We’d tried to see him the year before and got stuck with a local yahoo instead. The show wasn’t amazing but still felt like my annual SX miracle, and a fine way to close things out. He ended with the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” which made everybody really happy.
Posted by Dara on 20th March 2015 in Glam
[Austin] The chair I was there to see – I mean, the band I was there to see. They put on a really good show last year and stood out among a long set of sound-same punk bands. The lead singer was extravagantly wasted glam punk – he’s possibly cleaned up but still put on a show – literally hanging from rafters.
[Austin] I guess I’d given up by this point – there was a band on my list playing here from Austin whom I’d already seen but I was there early and planned to stick around – it wasn’t too crowded, the crowd was pleasantly middle-aged, and I found a seat. It was raining outside. I just wanted to sit in one place and so I did. This was the band before the band I wanted to see. They were terrible – the woman was weird for the sake of being weird – only bare miniscules of musicality – art punk. She was beautiful, though, and in my bitchiness, I imagined the drummer had to stay in this weird duo because he was in love with her. She also had the best guitar strap I’d ever seen in my life – made up of big ornate tin plates. She’s probably the creative force behind the band but it’s maybe more of a case of more enthusiasm than talent. An obnoxious very drunk frat-looking guy who had been moshing by himself throughout the set yelled at the end “Keep it up – keep it up!” He meant to be nice but it came out really condescending. The woman gasped & winced – I did too but then chuckled because it was kind of true.
[Nashville] A SXSW violation – I’ve seen this band many times before – but they’re great and I didn’t feel like taking chances. And they were terrible. I kept hoping they were starting off quiet only to shock the crowd with their swamp rock. I kept wondering if I mixed them up with the Jungle Rockers, because I always do. They never picked up and they are the band I liked before. Their first song was classic rock – their second was harmless rockabilly – the rest is a sad haze. Nashville must have got to them – just like it got to Those Darlins. The two members who got got were slicked out in sunglasses and fancy shirts and weird hairdos – the other two had long messy hair and looked bitter. I would too. And the crowd they were playing for was exactly what they deserved – Austin’s professional class. Ironically, an hour later I passed a guy with a t-shirt that said “Motha Fuckin Turbo Fruits” – no longer, my friend.
[Oklahoma] Kind of straightforward rock n’ roll although maybe it sounded that way because I was too tired to put my earplugs in. 70s punk sometimes – Velvet Underground – a little new wave. The guys has the squeaky voice like the guy from Hunx & His Punx or maybe Marc Bolan – I couldn’t get past his completely filthy hair – the oil glistened from as far back as I was in the audience. The whole band was defined by their hair. There was the girl on guitar with the big bush of curly hair (adorable) with a tiger shirt and patterned leggings – the lead guy made a sarcastic comment & she chuckled & then shut her face down when she remembered she was breaking band attitude code. The other girl on guitar had a whole mess of shaved head, long strands, tiny bangs – it worked. There were two other guys too. So the band spent a lot of time swinging their magnificient hair around when they’d hit a jam – there were a lot of these moments and despite their overall goodness, they started to sound the same. And I will not capitalize their damn name.
[Maplewood, NJ] CameraSmoothie got me an all-access badge – it was very exciting. Mostly because I finally got to see him in action with the steadicam. All-access people, like moi, got to stand on the side of the stage behind the velvet rope where there were couches and bowls of free snacks. The water bottles were also free. One girl spent the entire show working the door man to let her go be with her friends in the VIP area – I think they even staged a friend’s asthma attack. But the best part was the pack of people pushed up against the edge of the VIP area trying to see the stage, one of the regular people finally told a girl, “You know you can come out, right?”” and she bust out of the VIP area with relief. So SZA had an amazing personality and amazing huge puffy hair – the crowd was rapped around her every curl. She felt NY in her jersey. Backed by two awkward girls also in sports jerseys on guitar and keyboard, and a guy who was behind the speaker for me. Soul rock with touches of dubstep – I was kind of mystified by her – unusual. When I left, there were legions of fans in the alley watching through the gate. And, now that I look her up and see she’s a fan of the Wu, I wonder if her name isn’t a nod to RZA.
[Memphis] The band I was there to see. My newest Goner Records band, the label particularly famed for amazing artists like Lost Sounds, Jay Reatard, Alijca Trout, & Ty Segall. This disheveled bunch made me really happy. They were decidedly unhipster – actual social dropouts. The lead singer had a hand-made “Memphis Creep” t-shirt on and duct tape for a guitar strap. An older guy dragging around a suitcase with a towel strapped turned out to be the drummer. The guy with the Ramones haircut was visibly uncomfortable being on stage. There was absolutely zero audience engagement. Despite all that, or rather because of all that, they rocked. They had the Goner sound – nihilistic post-punk. Maybe distinguished themselves among the Goner bands for having lots of lyrics (nearly anarcho punk) and complicated guitar work. More shout-singing than singing. “Hey, hey, degrade the day” – god, this scene soothes me, and Memphis must be really fucked up. Note to self: “How rare are men who think radically and are still productive in life?”
[Tokyo] The band I was there to see. I loved the band. The guy next to me loved the band. The girl behind us loved the band. Everybody loved this band. Prog metal – math rock. They sounded like Rush at first but were more Can or Genesis. Three noodlers and a drum – some keyboard for some songs. They bombasted us sometimes but they didn’t feel the need to all the time – sometimes the drummer had his moment – sometimes they took a break for a quiet thoughtful moment. There were some seconds of funky Red Hot Chili Peppers – a few Afro pop moments – then hard and spacey – but no real departures. It was all a journey – you saw some different scenes but you were always in the same great car. And this all made me think, if I could tell a new band anything, I’d tell them to pace themselves – 100% bombast is BORING. And so male. I also loved that they would face each other in a circle when they’d hit a real jam – just like Tia Carreara used to do. (A girl walked by in a scrunchie – what?) They broke my mid-day SXSW slump and it was ironically a Japanese band and the difference of 6th street (diverse) that brought me around to feeling affection for Austin for the first time since arriving.
Posted by Dara on 19th March 2015 in Emo
[New Orleans] The band before the band I was there to see. Complicated rollicking emo – sometimes more power pop – sometimes quiet/loud. I hate this genre too much to be a fair judge. They were definitely competent. Anyway, they’re really young – the crowd who seemed to know them was also really young. The lead singer engaged in way too much fake nonchalance when marketing the band although he stood in front of me for the next band and was appropriately admiring – and his girl friend, who had been calm and cool during his set, and had really fantastic jewelry, was a messy puppy of giggles and adoration once he joined her in the crowd.
[Minneapolis] I was irresistibly drawn off the sidewalk by this band’s overwhelmingly terrible noise – simplistic speed metal with screamo vocals and regular sonic crashes (as demonstrated by the well-timed head thrashes). The steam punk outfits were an odd choice for their crowd – as was the white dust billowing from their clothes – apparently the residue from their apocalyptic lives. They worked really hard to project a super macho image so I spent my time picking apart how they were totally not super macho. For instance, the lead singer regularly sipped from his water bottle to keep screamo-ing. Plus it’s really difficult to maintain macho cred when you tell the audience you’re from Minneapolis. The one guy on guitar was such a little rosy-cheeked angel, he could hardly contain his smiles and blushes. They put him up on a box to macho him up. Don’t even get me started on their extensively choreagraphed performance – simultaneous head thrashes, leg kicks, etc. So I wondered two things – 1) do black guys get criticized more heavily for this kind of posturing more than white guys? 2) is it really the most needy sensitive guys who gravitate towards this music?
[Oakland] My desire to see this band was only exacerbated by the venue’s unwillingness to open even five minutes before the band was set to play. The door man smiled cheerfully and pretended like we’d never met when he finally let me in at exactly 1:00pm – I was, apparently, the only person obsessed with seeing this band. It was literally me, the doorman, and the bartender. So I sat as far back in the room as I could because it was already looking like the kind of show where you don’t want the band to notice a nice quiet girl like yourself. There was a blonde man strutting around in leopard tights that didn’t leave his penis to your imagination. There was a guy in sunglasses and an Adidas suit, who I thought was The Manager until he got on keyboards. And then a dorky curly haired guy on guitar and drums. I loved them 1st because they maintained a great attitude despite the lack of audience. I loved them 2nd because the energy stayed amazing throughout. The lead singer is a fanatical preacher of the booty message. Generally really stupid lyrics, often borderline offensive. I had them logged as booty rap – they started off more old school soul funk. Adidas was doing autotune and I realized for the first time that autotune isn’t even something new – all of sudden I had this vague memory of a classic soul song with autotune (a friend suggested it’s Marvin Gaye). By this time, the sound and dramatics had dragged a few people in off the street – they were all called out individually and forced to dance – even though it was a little early in the day for dancing. And finally they did some booty rap – with a 90s sound. To me, the most amusing thing about bands like this at SXSW is that they manage to crack smiles out of the too-cool-for-school masses. I finally had to leave because I could see I was at risk of being personally humped by the lead singer in a desperate attempt to switch my dancing-on-the-inside to dancing-on-the-outside.
[Seattle] This band was really good – three pretty boys on keyboard, guitar, and bass. Mostly straight 80s synth pop but sometimes more modern electro rock – sometimes a little noodly – I kept hearing George Michael (but not his hits).
[Wisconsin] I starred this band because they had a Godspeed You sound & they came through – even going so far as to borrow another page from the Canadian by being a collective of some 500 members – I exaggerate … but there were around 20 people on stage – the soundman was prancing around like he’d just accomplished the stage set-up of a lifetime because, well, he had. They were menacing and melancholy – of course there were cacophonies. Despite the shocking number of instruments, the music never sounded overdone or shambling – very tasteful. Unfortunately, they chose to depart from this winning cominbation and include things like group handclaps and K’naan style rapping (coincidentally, I just figured out K’naan is also Canadian) and a soul number. It’s the rare band that can pull off not having an identity and this band is toeing the line. Oh and the best part was when all the worker guys started running to and fro – it was a hipster emergency – the sky had leaked and the speakers were at risk!
Posted by Dara on 18th March 2015 in Punk
[Memphis] My attempts to see this band during SXSW last year were thwarted five different times – and it was finally happening. I liked them for their sound before realizing they were on Goner Records but I’m pretty sure they’re the band that made me realize that Goner Records and I should get married. I already knew Goner Records were responsible for Lost Sounds, Jay Reatard, some of Alijca Trout’s bands, Digital Leather, No Bunny, Ty Segall, etc etc etc!! But hearing this band made me realize I love everything Goner Records release – they reliably release nihilistic garage punk / post-punk bands who often dabble in perversion. Although this band had the Goner sound down perfectly – tight dark post-punk – I really disliked the lead singer. He was a muscle bound agro guy (think Henry Rollins) who shouted instead of sang. Still glad I saw them and still not dissuaded from my dream of some day attending Goner Fest. The last thing my little friend said to me was “This is punk” with a grimace – I nodded happily – and when I left for a second, he had split. It was for the best. Then I found my busstop & some kid, clearly a local, responded sarcastically to my question about where the bus goes with “Ummm, there’s an app – it’s called Cap Metro.” Maybe it was an ignorant question … but geez. And there was the kid earlier in the day who sneered about his line being only for wristbands and badges. And it was about this time I decided I hated the whole Eastside, maybe SXSW, and possibly Austin on the whole as well – maybe I’ve gotten country soft – maybe the Eastside isn’t part of my Austin – maybe I was conflating SXSW attitude with Austin attitude. Maybe I was just tired. Or maybe hipster = punk-ass assholes.
[Los Angeles] Classic psych rock. They were good but weren’t even trying to make something new under the sun. For instance: “Sometimes when you trip, you fall – looking through the crystal ball.” Corny.
[Austin] This was just the beginning of my flagrant violation of all of my own SXSW rules – and maybe the first sign that this will be my last SXSW. Not only is this band from Austin but I’d seen them before. I loved them so hard at a previous SXSW and kept trying to see them but they were always on tour in far-off places – they were kind of controversial among my friends who had seen them (like too polished – too good – too pretty and clean clean). They are still exactly all that and I loved them exactly as much as I had before. The space was a lot tighter and less rock star than where I’d seen them before – and they’re pretty scruffy up close (or nowadays). They have the biggest cleanest Pine-Sol sound I have possibly ever heard live – the definition of anthem Southern prog disco rock. The audience and the band became one in a fury of hand-clapping and sweat.
Posted by Dara on 18th March 2015 in House
[Milan, Italy] I knew I had at least some Crookers remixes and was kind of excited for this show. It was one guy (guess it used to be two) and was way too reminiscent of DJ Bam Bam, an artist who sounds excitedly like his name (repetitive pounding house) and regularly tempts me to delete him forever from my music files.
[Houston] I was lured from Beerland to Elysium by the thick wafts of smoke streaming out Elyisum’s front door. The mist was so thick, you were essentially stumbling around in complete darkness, with eerie backlit silhouettes of people along the edges. Ominous ambient music coming from the stage and people walking around the crowd using tiny flashlights to blind people. Then the music started in earnest – old school industrial clang – and rectangular strobe lights started going off. There was nowhere safe to look. Then the mist started pulsing with light – I felt seizures coming on and had to vacate. Horrow show – appalling – never do it again. And this initiated my brief friendship with a guy from the border who has “like 5 bands” – “yeah we gig pretty regularly… well not for a few years” – he followed me around for a bit and then had the effrontery to DITCH ME without explanation.
[Kansas City] Three guys and a girl. Seemed Australian. A punker Talking Heads mixed with 70s punk. I was positive I’d heard their “stay gold” song before but now not sure – maybe because it reminded me of ‘stay golden pony boy.’ In a side note, the doorman for Beerman, possible the only constant on Red River over the last decade, now has a pregnant girl friend (I’m assuming the last part) to man his post with him – it was excellent.
[Austin to LA] The crowd was sparse but they rallied… at first at least. Two girls – on a drum and guitar. Different, right? The guitarist had the legs of a runner and was packed into little shorts and a retro-cut top. The refined-looking drummer sported mom jeans and a blouse-y tank. They were noise pop with some garage seconds – a little bit Delta 5 or The Slits – some harmonizing. Smart lyrics. The music wasn’t rocking or pretty but they were interesting. And then the drum broke – it just broke – and it was funny. The crowd (albeit small) was liking them and called for a ‘Drum Tech!’ – and one appeared. The lead singer was a sport and started taking questions from the audience after I asked where they were from – people raised their hands, etc, etc. The show went on. But the drummer had lost her pace. For the next three songs, she yelled out a complaint before we even had a chance to applaud “I can’t hear my voice” “blah blah blah.” And she threw off the mood every time. Her last complaint was “I can’t do this anymore” and she literally threw her little sticks down and stalked off – oh no. I have NEVER seen behavior like this at a SXSW show. They sounded good and I’m sorry she was having troubles on her end but her immature attitude lost this band a potentially great gig.
[Los Angeles] The band I was there to see – it’s possible I was biased by the name – Death Valley, so close in locale and spirit to my hometown. They were unexpectedly wacky – authentic 80s new wave – healthy dose of B52’s. I probably would have been really disappointed I hoofed it over to the Eastside for them except that the band members were so disparate and interesting. Two girls vied as leader of the band. One in a The Cult hat and a bulky dark outfit, a look that unfortunately was proliferated across SXSW. She sang in a high squeaky voice and didn’t break character when speaking – I was not a fan. Main band member #2 was no-way-no-how prepared for SXSW – wearing her average jeans and a weird thick t-shirt – despite all that, she managed to transmit cool by her complete lack of care, her bush of curls and her uncomfortably glowing green eyes. Hip or not, the girl had it – she sang a few songs & played tambourines – she’s not in their YouTube videos so may be a new member. And, according to my judgy-divining, she is a scientist by day. The drummer also had it – riveting with her pale skin, long blonde hair with roots, blood red lips, trashy white t-shirt, and gum chewing nonchalance. There was also a high-maintenance guy on bass and the creepy older guy who pretends he is sensitive and awkward on guitar. I was eh about them until their 3rd song to the last, which was headed by intense-eyes and was dark and passionate and very good. This is the direction they should take – if they would like to retain me as a fan.
[Philadelphia] This band was good. And attractive – spikey blonde female in the center, emo boy to the right, and two other guys. I should have liked them more than I did. They were drone psych but with a lot of 90s influences in the vocals and discordance – Mudhoney, Nirvana. They were more noodly and dreamy than their thrashing made out. I felt really conflicted about this band – it’s possible they were a great band made bad by my attitude.
[Tulsa] Healthy boys from Tulsa doing dramatic atmospheric indie folk. There was a trumpet, fiddle, drum, 2 guitars. Bandelier seemed to be an all right band, but then it was time to return to the Mohawk and waltz in superiorly, having beat the line. Now there were three lines. I tried the shortest one first and the guy at the end rolled his eyes so hard his head nearly rolled off when he told me this was the line for ‘badges and wristbands.’ And the second shortest line ended up being the first part of the third line – which totaled one long ass line. No lines for me – so Mohawk and Container Bar were impenetrable throughout all of my 3 days at SXSW – I didn’t want to see the Mohawk bands all that much anyway but my dreams of seeing King Tuff at Container Bar were busted… Two young moderately-hipster boys: “Rather than the glasses, I think it’s the uncheckered shirts that are key.”
[Tulsa] The line for the Mohawk was ridiculous. I reasoned the people waiting were fools and the line would totally recede once Mohawk opened. While roaming and looking for travel-sized hairspray, I wandered into what seemed to be the only show happening that early (I had beat my own record for earliness, at SXSW and in general). It was a Tulsa, Oklahoma promotional fest – koozies, bumperstickers, sunglasses, and musicians all aimed at convincing SXSW-goers that Tulsa is the place to be. Alaska and Madi were two dressy underage (X-ed hands) females wailing country pop and backed by guys on 3 guitars, a drumset, a banjo and a violin. They were slick, over-produced, over-voiced – I kept thinking they reminded me of those people who win TV competitions for singing. Then an official representative for Tulsa approached me to see how my Tulsa experience was going and proudly told me the women were winners on The Voice. He should have kept that to himself.