Long live rock, I need it every night

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Favorite Band (this week) - Peel

Regular readers know I'm oh-so-ghey for Peel. I've written about them many, many times. Is that about to change? The band might be taking a hiatus. Here's a post from their site:
Josh is moving to San Francisco. This means uncertain times for Peel, and we are sad that our friend is moving so far away, but it's also a opportunity for fresh starts, new sounds, and renewal.

What does "uncertain times" mean? Will they go on without Josh, reform as a new band called Squeal, or just hang it up altogether? We'll have to wait and see. They're supposed to release another EP (a follow up to the excellent Auguest Exhaust Pipes) so I'm guessing we haven't seen the last of Peel playing live.

Before Josh heads to California the band is having a big blowout party. And they're doing it Kid 'n Play style: a House Party (1522 E. 12th, Austin, TX). Five bucks gets you in with a cup for the kegs. On top of that you get top notch entertainment: Little Stolen Moments, {{{Sunset}}}, and, of course, Peel.

Starr* Jonze

Potsy reviewed Stellastarr* last year and wasn't impressed, wasn't unimpressed. He was left unmoved. That sums up the way I've always felt about the band. I've heard their stuff on WOXY and listened to a few albums but I just don't pay much attention to the band. Maybe if I had discovered them at a different time in my life I might care about Stellastarr*. I figured they were past their prime and would fade away soon enough. Yet they continue to tour, put out records, be mentioned on blogs, and be played on the radio. Why? I needed to see for myself.

The Parish, while not exactly packed, was filled with Stellastarr* superfans. They knew the words to all the songs and happily bounced along to each tune. To the band's credit they did a great job of mixing their new stuff in with their "classic" songs. The crowd responded equally to both. A sign they aren't past their prime? Perhaps. It could've been my extremely low expectations or the fact I was close to the stage and surrounded by excited fans, but the show was very entertaining. A few tunes were a bit melodramatic but overall it was heavier than anticipated. There was some fuzz and distortion along with lots of searing guitar. I'm certainly not going to complain about that. I could get behind this band if they ditched the pop stuff and focused more on the new wave and punk songs.

This one show hasn't exactly turned me into a Stellastarr* fan. They easily surpassed my low expectations and garnered my respect. I no longer dismiss them as a shitty wuss rock band. However, I won't be lining up tickets for their next show. As I stood there amazed at how much I was enjoying the show I realized it wasn't that good. I started to compare it to other shows I had been to recently and frankly, it didn't rank very high. For example, last week I went to an in-store performance of Tiny Vipers. It was just one woman (a girl really), a microphone, and a guitar. Stellastarr* had more energy but in terms of overall performance and quality of songs, Tiny Vipers' short 5 song set won out. The Tale of the Tape says: Advantage Tiny Vipers. So there you have it. It's all so simple when you break things down.

Best of 2009

So far, and according to Spin (sorry, SPIN) (sorry, SPIN) magazine and NPR. Here's a link to the SPIN list, and here's a round-up of the NPR list.

As you well know we here at DCRC love lists. We love to read them and then say things like, "the absence of [insert band name] on this list really calls the whole thing into question." Potsy and Jumbo Slice love passing off tired and hackneyed catchphrases as their own, so they'll give you something like, "No [band name]? Really?" followed by "I'm Rick James, bitch/where's the beef?" Myself, I like to make lists, then preemptorily accuse readers of stupidity if they dare disagree with me. It's like a cloture vote in the Senate, it cuts off debate. As Steve Buscemi said in Fargo, this is not a debate. I'm not going to debate you, Jerry.

You can read the lists in their entireity on your own, but here's the breakdown:

  • Commonalities: Animal Collective, Antony and the Johnsons, Bat for Lashes, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Mos Def, Neko Case, Phoenix, Regina Spektor, Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I have the Animal Collective album and true to what people initially told me, it's grown on me with each listen, after a lackluster first impression. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs album is also really solid. Who's Phoenix? Does anyone know anything about them?
  • Outliers: SPIN included the Beatles of blind husband & wife Senegalese bands, Amadou and Mariam. Also the new Jarvis Cocker, which longtime Pulp and Jarvis fans seem to hate, but I like. Also, who the fuck is Sa-Ra Creative Partners? Is that a brand management agency? NPR likes the Decemberists (they would, wouldn't they?), M. Ward (the musical equivalent of untoasted white bread slathered in margarine), and Sonic Youth, which to me sounds pretty good from what I've heard. NPR also included U2, Silversun Pickups and Bob Dylan. Throw in Metallica, Neil Young and Springsteen, and we've got the foundation of a Rolling Stone magazine best of list, don't we?
  • Songs: Only NPR did a best songs list, but here's a few highlights. "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid," The Decemberists--I like this as well, great rock sound from a wimpy band, which makes for an interesting mix. "Zero," Yeah Yeah Yeahs--top tune. "This Tornado Loves You," Neko Case--love Neko but this one puts me to sleep. "The Fear," Lily Allen--she could use an ass-whupping but I must admit she makes good songs. "Daniel," Bat for Lashes--cool voice, I like her (is Bat for Lashes a single person, like Jethro Tull, or Led Zeppelin, or a group of people, like PJ Harvey? I must know).
  • Left Outs: Commentors at Stereogum were largely indignant that SPIN left off Fever Ray (although NPR did not). Who are these guys, are they any good? Also missing, and this does not necessarily consitute a personal endorsement: Sunset Rubdown, NOMO, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Antlers, Akron/Family.
  • Go Away: was it not enough that Bill Callahan wrecked my favorite team? Of course Jon Gruden knew all your fucking plays, you tit, he coached the team the year before, and you didn't change the schemes at all. And now you've got an album out. Well, this is one Raiders fan telling you to FUCK OFF AND DIE.
  • Future of the Left: some commenters lamented the FOTL oversight on the SPIN list, but commenter "john" noted that "...a few people seem to like Future of the Left. I haven't listened to the record but based on their Siren performance, I'm glad they're not on here. Total butt-rock. They should hook up with Daughtry." Not sure I agree but I applaud the zinger.
Anyway, that's my take on things. Love a good list.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Days of Future Passed

The Future of the Left
July 19, 2009

First of all, sorry I'm so late with this one. The Future of the Left are from Wales and like fellow Welsher David Lloyd George, they rely on a guitar-heavy sound complemented with screaming and yelling. And some drums, and bass. Basically your standard power trio, where everyone plays harder and louder because they're losers who couldn't get a fourth to join their band.

These guys are a hair's breadth away from being metal, really. I didn't know FOTL well prior to the show, an only recognized two songs--"Arming Eritrea" and "Small Bones Small Bodies"--both of which are insanely catchy for something that makes your eardrums bleed and leak pus.

The Future of the Left came off as rather jovial guys, which is a stark contrast with their baby-eating sound. For once the stage banter was acceptable and even clever and humorous at times--apparently they had just gotten back from that Siren Festival and weren't impressed with Coney Island. Fair enough--when you come from a holiday wonderland like Cardiff, every other place in the world suffers in comparison. I think the problem was that they were up there with Malitz. Spending time with that guy makes you look at things with poo-colored glasses.

I must again give propers to DC9. The setup is nice and cozy as opposed to hot and cramped. It's fairly easy to get a drink. And for a small place they occasionally get fairly well-known bands, such as the FOTL. I have yet to have a shitty time at DC9.

Supergroup Postscript (or, I Read the News Today, Oh Boy): Did you see this? Did you fucking see this? It's a supergroup, and it features Ed O'Brien and Philip Selway from Radiohead, and Johnny Marr. Was Sammy Hagar unable to break his contract with Chickenfoot? I ran this past my supergroup consultant and he said there should be a "social conscience" waiver, as the proceeds from this go to Oxfam to fight poverty. Dude, I'm sure Cream, Asia, The Raconteurs and all the rest of them felt that to form a supergroup was to make the world a better place. I think not--request for waiver DENIED.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Gossip on Tour

I knew The Gossip were coming to DC (Oct. 7th) but I just heard they'll also be stopping in Austin on Oct. 29th. I've only seen them once and it was eye opening to say the least. I'm not a huge fan of their albums but their live show is great. Beth Ditto knows how to work the crowd. Here she is strutting her stuff on Saturday at Seattle's Capital Hill Block Party.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Favorite Band (this week) - Cass McCombs

From the time I heard "Dreams-Come-True-Girl" and "Lionkiller Got Married" on WOXY, I've been on the Cass McCombs bandwagon. His new album, Catacombs, is a gem and one of the year's best. It even garnered Pitchfork's much desired "Best New Music" distinction. Then again, they've been handing that title out like Skittles lately. Anyway, I love the album and I can't really disagree with the many Oberst and '70s Dylan comparisons.

It's easy to get lost in this album of mysterious love songs. It's stripped down yet retains an emotional depth while not getting too serious. It has a relaxed vibe and some humor. Clearly, the dude is no hack. Listen to this song and just try to get it out of your head. I dare you.

Cass is currently touring and on Thursday, July 30th he'll play Iota with Jennifer O’Connor and Mike Bones. I highly recommend you attend.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quite exciting, this computer magic!

A week from today(July 28th), This Is Spinal Tap will be released on Blu-ray. The mother of all rockumentaries will include all of this extra goodness on the big format:

  • Over 1 Hour of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
  • Audio Commentary by the Members of Spinal Tap
  • Catching Up With Marty DiBergi Featurette
  • Flower People Press Conference
  • 4 Classic Spinal Tap Music Videos
    • Gimme Some Money
    • (Listed to the) Flower People
    • Hell Hole
    • Big Bottom
  • Spinal Tap Appearance on The Joe Franklin Show
  • Spinal Tap sells cheese and a variety of other exciting products
I am supposed to receive an advance copy so I can tell you all about it, but it has yet to arrive, so for now, you can enjoy the clip below. I love the intro from Wolfman Jack (an early hero of mine). Be sure to stick around thru the 2:30 mark for some psychedelic poker playing.

Ume at Tripp Custom T-Shirts

Despite the Texas heat the Prints for Non-Profit show at Tripp Custom T-Shirts was a great time. I went with my wife and young daughter and unfortunately I had to leave halfway through Ume's set (it was past Mia's bedtime). Fortunately, I found this this video of Ume performing "The Conductor" (a personal favorite of mine):

In between the sets they had old school breaking dancing from B-Boy City. It was unreal. My daughter was completely mesmerized. As I watched these guys I kept thinking, "that seems physically impossible." I couldn't believe some of their moves. To see what I mean check out this B-Boy City highlight video:

Yet another highlight of the show was meeting Richard from Ultra8201 which is easily one of the best music blogs in the country.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scary News from the Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys just announced that they're cancelling a bunch of shows and delaying their record release (The Hot Sauce Committee Part I) because Adam Yauch, aka MCA, has cancer in a gland and lymph node. Fortunately they caught it early and it hasn't spread. He's scheduled to have surgery soon. You can see the video they made for fans here.

I've been a Beastie Boys fan since they first formed and was really looking forward to their set at the Austin City Limits Festival. I was also hoping to score tickets to their Austin City Limits TV taping. I'm not sure if they're still planning on making the trip to Austin or not. I hope so but I really hope that Yauch makes a full and speedy recovery soon.

Siren Music Festical 2009: The Recap

Andrew, our Senior Youth Correspondent, trekked to Coney Island for the ninth annual Siren Music Festival on Saturday. Here's his report:

Siren Fest
July 18, 2009
Coney Island, NY

I stuck with the Main Stage despite Potsy's grumbling about "indie rock roots" at the Stillwell Stage. Getting up close was not an issue, it just took a little nudging of the almost entirely Wayfarer-ed crowd. Frank Black walked by me on the boardwalk, I foolishly (or wisely) did not chase him down for a photograph. In order of my viewing:


This punk duo from Vancouver, BC put on a show that was high on energy but low on good music. My cousin played me some of their record the night before the show and I liked what I heard. Live the next day, I just couldn't get into many of the songs. Occasionally a song would be captivating but too often Japandroids let it die in an abyss of awkwardly placed feedback or drum soloing. Most of the songs were down-stroked guitar and full force drum numbers with vocals slightly out of key as is often the trend with this genre. The crowd seemed fairly responsive despite the lack of interesting song writing and the two dudes in the band seemed the most into playing their set of any group I saw. I think the large bottle of Jagermeister they passed between themselves throughout their roughly 40 min set at some point stopped being a fun accessory to rockin' and started screwing up their singing, which got pretty dreadful towards the end. Compared to other lo fi punk two pieces like No Age or Wavves, Japandroids just did not make it happen for me. Points for energy and interaction with the crowd though.

Frightened Rabbit

In a reversal of my record/live experience with Japandroids, Frightened Rabbit impressed me. I listened to almost all of their last album on my friend's iPod during the bus ride from DC to NY and was struggling to find a second track that was "kind of O.K." On stage however this band did a great job. Songs that bored the hell out of me on the record came across vital and well planned. The singer was a Ewan McGregor look alike with a pretty strong Scottish accent that only rarely got annoying. Their set drew heavily on The Midnight Organ Fight, the band's full length. The drummer pulled off some pretty impressive stuff, all the while with a demonic look on his face. While this band did not knock me on my ass or anything, they were a pleasure to watch and certainly an improvement from Japandroids (a trend that continues). Check these guys out if you are in the mood for a Braveheart version of Band of Horses.

The Raveonettes

It's funny that I said I didn't care about the Raveonettes in my preview post, because it turns out they are a really good band. Maybe funny isn't the right word...ironic? Bone-headed? Anyways having never listened to them before, it was quite an experience getting my first taste of them in a live setting. The Velvet Underground plus Nico was the first thing that came to mind as they started their reverb soaked set. Like the Velvet Underground, most tunes consisted of three chords with a short solo in the middle. Their drummer, who played all of two drums while standing, had about as much variation in his rhythm as a the dinner menu in Little Miss Sunshine (It's always the fucking chicken). I give them credit for getting so many solid pop songs out of two guitars playing less than five chords, a human metronome, and a lethargic and porn-stached bassist. As far playing the same drum beat and chord progression for most the set goes, I would normally say "that's bad" or something to that effect, but the Raveonettes made it work so for that I shall say "don't mess with what works." Front woman Sharin Foo was quite a looker and I was only slightly peeved when I looked for a ring and saw one. Points for awesome music, minus points for not being single, Sharin.

Built to Spill

Some people were talking about things in the preview post comments. Things like "Don't even bother with Built to Spill" or "Built to Spill is a yawn." To those people I would now like to pause and say "Fuck you, sir/madam, for you are incorrect." Built to Spill killed it! Finally a band whose records I love and whose live performance was just as good. Interaction with the crowd was minimal as was movement of the musicians, but come on, these dudes aren't spring chickens anymore. They kicked off the night with "Liar", the first bars of which got a great response from the crowd. It was nice being around people somewhat close to my age who not only new who the band was but who appeared to love them as much as I did. "Strange" was a pretty big deal when they played it, the guitar solos and shredding got epic, but in a good, indie rock way, not like hair metal or anything. People had been screaming for "Carry the Zero" from the get go, so I was pumped when they played it as their last song; it's one of my personal faves. The only disappointing part of the set were two young women standing near me in the crowd. Instead of saying they were sloppily drunk, I will say the had bubbly personalities. What I really should have said: "Hi there. That's a great little dance you and your friend are doing, and I think you should keep doing it. But do you think you could scratch the step where you guys ram your elbows into my lower back over and over?" Everyone near me cheered when they got pushed into the real mosh pit.

All in all, a worthwhile trip to one of the freakiest beaches in America.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Favorite Band (this week) - Ume

I picked Ume for a few reasons. First, I'm finally going to see them live. It's long overdue. Tomorrow they're headlining the Prints for Non-Profit show at Tripp Custom T-Shirts here in Austin. Second, I wanted to disprove Jimbromski's theory that bands with heavy, bearded dudes and a hot woman are bound to fail. Okay, maybe it's not so much a theory as it was his prediction for Georgie James (a correct prediction I might add).

Of course, the real reason I chose Ume as My Favorite Band (this week) is the music. Last year I bought their Sunshower EP and I've been on the bandwagon ever since. The songs range from subtle and melodic to full on sonic assaults. What I like best is that it's straight rock with lots of heavy, thunderous guitar. See for yourself:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Show Preview: Kite Party

If you're like us you visit the same music venues over and over: Black Cat, 9:30 Club, Rock and Roll Hotel, Velvet Lounge, etc. Sure, they're all great but it's time to mix things up a bit.

There's a new-ish venue on 14th Street called the DC Mini Gallery. Friday's show has a bunch of indie, punk, and hardcore bands worth checking out. The one band that really caught my attention was Kite Party. They hail from Philadelphia and their sound has been compared to Fugazi and The Replacements. I don't really buy those comparisons though. Rhythmically they have a post-punk 90's flair but songs such as "Indiana Pete" off their Wish Mountain EP don't have a retro feel. They remind me more of The Walkmen or White Rabbits than Fugazi. Of course, all that is neither here nor there. The point is the songs are quite good.

Friday's show is only $7 bucks and in these tough economic times you can't afford not to go. I mean, 6 bands for $7? That's a musical meal deal. They're basically copying the McDonald's Dollar Menu here. Other bands on the bill include: Tigers Jaw, Troll Tax, Police & Thieves and two bands with very Google-challenged names, Control and Give.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rules of Rock: Supergroup Formation

We here at DC Rock Club have decided to try and codify and document our vast knowledge of rock. Now that most of us--with the exception of Potsy, who was diagnosed as impotent by his pediatrician at age 6--have kids, we feel the pressing need to give back to the world, to leave it a better place than it was when we came up.

Pursuant to that noble goal, here are a few scientific, empirically-proven rules and corollaries regarding supergroups and the formation of same:

  1. DC Rock Club's First Rule of Supergroup Formation. Supergroups are invariably less than the sum of their parts. Who among us wouldn't think to themselves, wow, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin? Paul Rodgers from Bad Company? Tony Franklin, the barefoot placekicker from the Philadelphia Eagles? And Chris Slade, formerly of Uriah motherfuckin' Heep? Sign me up, dude! And yet...The Firm had, like, two good songs. How could this be? It could be because of Corollary 1--a rock group is like a sports team. It needs role players. Not everyone can be a superstar. This is also why those Hollywood movies with an assload of A-listers always fall short. Everyone wants to be the leading man.
  2. DC Rock Club's Second Rule of Supergroup Formation. If you form or join a supergroup, then your current group is thereby pushed into the realm of hackdom. This rule was actually provided me by my friend MB (which may or may not stand for Montgomery Burns), who noted that Will Ferrell lookalike and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith had joined Chickenfoot, with Sammy Hagar, and pointed out that, to pick an example, Phil Selway from Radiohead wouldn't just up and join a supergroup next week (ok mates, I'll be off to join Chickenfoot for a few months, then). Not only is Chickenfoot hacky, but Smith's participation has given the RHCP that final push into the abyss as well. And it's not just dorky bro-rock types, either. Jack White joined with notable pussy Brendan Benson to form The Raconteurs. Not uncoincidentally, around the same time White started to resemble a stout 45-year old woman who shops at Chico's. It's fucking too much. And now he's in Dead Weather? This is how it went down with the Maya--they had the Classic era where they built all their temples and pyramids, and then they immediately entered the Post Classic era once they started conquering neighboring city-states, in effect forming a Mesoamerican supergroup. A few centuries later they were popping their smallpox cysts in the mirror and thinking, where did it all go wrong? You formed a supergroup, that's where it went wrong.
  3. DC Rock Club's Third Rule of Supergroup Formation. Don't allow music sluts to join your band. This is an intermediate step towards forming a supergroup. Music sluts include but are not limited to the following people--Johnny Marr, Dave Navarro, Jeff Beck, G.E. Smith, any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Jane's Addiction, Chris Cornell, Sammy Hagar, either of the Deal sisters, and David Crosby. Just tell them to keep walkin', man.
  4. DC Rock Club's Fourth Rule of Supergroup Formation. Instead of forming a supergroup, just form a regular group, but call yourselves "Supergroup." It's a bad-ass name and it works.
This is not to say supergroups haven't produced some good stuff. In fact, here's my top 10 supergroup songs of all time:

  1. "Anyone For Tennis," Cream. The ones who started all this nonsense. Other Rock Club members accuse me of being gay for loving this gentle hippy song.
  2. "Get The Message," Electronic. Collaboration between New Order's Bernard Summer and Johnny Marr. Quickly forgotten, but like a bad piece of meat, this one stays with you.
  3. "Radioactive," The Firm. I like how it sound like Paul Rodgers is holding his nose when he sings 'cause I'm uh-radioactive...
  4. "Heat of the Moment," Asia.
  5. "High Enough," Damn Yankees. Epic. I believe Ted Nugent is wearing a form of eight-ball jacket in the video, and Oakley wraparounds. Someone should hunt him for sport.
  6. "Feel Like Makin' Love," Bad Company. Who doesn't?
  7. "Such Great Heights," The Postal Service. This song is about forming a supergroup, and writing one good song, and then breaking up the supergroup.
  8. "Say Hello 2 Heaven," Temple of the Dog. Were it not for this song, they would have henceforth been known as Temple of the Dong.
  9. "Our House," Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
  10. "Can't Find My Way Home," Blind Faith. Topless woman on the album cover.

Preview: Siren Music Festival 2009

Andrew, our Senior Youth Correspondent, is heading to Coney Island for the ninth annual Siren Music Festival on Saturday. It's a free, all-ages, all-day event sponsored by The Village Voice. Through the years the festival has featured bands such as Guided By Voices, Sleater-Kinney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, and M.I.A. And now...Andrew's preview:

Siren Fest
July 18, 2009
Coney Island, NY

Here's the line up. I'm guessing the organizers put the bands in some kind of descending "importance" or "popularity" order:


In order of my priority: Built to Spill, A Place to Bury Strangers, Frightened Rabbit, Future of the Left, Japandroids, Monotonix. I have no interest in ravens or the Raveonettes.

Unfortunately, they split the bands between two stages. I'll be too busy with beers and oysters (apparently they're big at Siren) to be dashing between stages, so I will inevitably cast my lot with the Built to Spill stage (aka Main Stage) which is WIN for also hosting Frightened Rabbit and Japandroids but is FAIL since I will most likely miss A Place to Bury Strangers and Future of the Left, two groups I'm keen to see. I'm not the biggest fan of festivals (stampedes, dust storms, etc) but we'll see how many acts I can manage to catch. In the meantime, let me know if there are any bands I should take special care to see or, possibly more useful advice, avoid at all costs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Get in my Belly

Happy Birthday Tanya Donelly. Born in Newport, Rhode Island on this date in 1966, later founder of Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly.

It is no secret that in the 1990s, I was a sucker for the alternative female indie rockers. Still am, I guess. The only band that I saw at the old 9:30 club (when it was downtown at 930 F Street) that I can remember by name is Belly.

Here is Tanya playing Slow Dog - Andy Warhol on keyboards.

The current line up of The Breeders (sans Donelly) will be playing the Black Cat August 21st, btw.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Favorite Band (this week) - Jay Reatard

Jay Reatard's new album, Watch Me Fall, doesn't come out until August 18th but it has already leaked online. This probably isn't the worst thing in the world since it has only ramped up the buzz. I don't have the album but based on the few tracks I have heard, it's one of the year's best. I could listen to "It Ain’t Gonna Save Me" on repeat for hours and "Wounded" ain't too shabby either. For more on Jay check our review of his Black Cat show.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wilco (The Review)*

w/ Conor Oberst and The Mystic River Band
July 8, 2009 at Wolftrap

by Senior Youth Correspondent, Andrew
Photos by BabyStew

This show was a pretty big deal. Wilco, one of the biggest names in recent rock music, headlines a sold out show at the 7,000 seat Wolftrap, a venue that rarely hosts acts that are of interest to the serious connoisseur of modern music and a venue that probably sells out once every couple of years. It was a beautiful July evening, Wilco had just released their sixth studio album Wilco (The Album) and Jeff Tweedy is 41. Oh, and in case that didn't impress you, Conor Oberst opened, and with a full backing band, jackass.

Here's the first thing I learned: Conor Oberst is very different live with his band than on his one record. I say one record because quite frankly I never went in for all the Bright Eyes malarkey, what with all the puppy face emo hair cut photos and hype that he was the next Bob Dylan before he was eighteen or whatever. That said, I thought Cape Canaveral was a solid album. His set last night was about half songs from that album and half songs that were either new or very alternate versions of older songs of his. Basically, if you saw the show last night without hearing his record you would think he was a straight up alt country rocker while in reality his record displays a much softer, intricate set of songs. I mean Conor was down there screaming and yelling about heartbreak and life on the road, elements that were refreshing after hearing nothing but self pitying whines from his Bright Eyes stuff. His band was tight and seemed just as into it as Conor was. In fact, one of the two other guitarists on stage sang two or three songs in the set. I thought Conor Oberst was still fairly young but it turns out he is 29. Funnily enough, a friend I ran into said she looked at the stage and thought she saw a twelve year old girl. Ouch. Thanks to her iPhone we found out he is 5'6. Despite his vertical challenges Conor Oberst and The Mystic River Band put on a very entertaining show and warmed the crowd up nicely for Wilco. My personal favorite was the spacey version of the song "Cape Canaveral" that got a great response from the folks in the cheap seats.

The rest of this review might really piss off some Wilco fans. But if you read Slice's post about Spoon, it's pretty clear that harassing hard core Wilco fans is a big part of what goes on here. Wilco fans will not be angered necessarily by my review, but by my lack of knowledge about Wilco. I'll be honest about my background: saw them at 930 last year (not impressed), know and like the song Jesus Etc., have an Uncle Tupelo record somewhere. That's it. But this way at least you don't have to read me gush about how amazing they were. Think of it as a critical analysis. Yeah.

Wilco opened with Wilco (The Song), which is actually a very neat tune except for maybe the part where they kept singing "Wilco, Wilco." I found that a bit precious. Shit got epic pretty soon after, with battling guitar feedback solos and finale-esque drums and bass during the third song. That's one of my gripes with Wilco. A little noisy feedback and directionless shredding is fine, but it seemed that more often that not a song would devolve into wails before it really had gone anywhere at all. No one can deny Wilco are seasoned performers. The attention to detail and professionalism in their set was clear from square one. They played Jesus Etc., it was awesome. Tweedy alternated between acoustic and electric guitar and was just sarcastic enough with the audience to keep it entertaining. Guitarist Nels Cline was amazing to watch and displayed his fastidious skills just as he had when I saw him last year. The crowd was going nuts from the beginning. Wilco has something of a cult following in that everyone had a similar look--plaid shirts, flip flops, etc--and that Wilco appeals to such a broad range of ages--they've been classified as "dad rock" as well as "college radio." Although nothing could ever come close to a Hold Steady concert, there was a certain bro element that was fairly pervasive at this show. There were groups of dudes (everywhere) sporting baseball caps, flips, frat shirts, you know, the usual man club garb. In fact, I was seated next to a singing bro, and in front of me I could see hordes of guys jumping, pounding each other on the back, and generally enjoying each other's company. Not my scene, but it's hard to blame Wilco for that one.

The thing is I am not a Wilco fan so while I can say they are good, it is unlikely I would ever give them an A+. The crowd however was going nuts the whole time, so my opinion is, at least in the context of the show, probably a minority one. I was only half serious about harassing Wilco fans. While I would take Spoon over Wilco any day of the week, they are undoubtedly a quality act and fun to watch. I left before the encore, so feel free to add and discuss below.

* yeah, we know the Wilco parenthetical thing has been overdone but it's the best we could come up with

Born on the 4th of July

Explosions in the Sky
w/ The Octopus Project
July 4th 2009
Stubb's in Austin, TX

Is there a better band to see on July 4th than Explosions in the Sky? And don't give me some weak ass answer like John Cougar Mellencamp. He loves America, I'll give you that, but Explosions are named after fireworks and played their very first show on the fourth. Judges rule: Mellencamp can suck it.

Explosions celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band with a huge show at Stubb's. In case you aren't familiar with them here's a little info:

--> instrumental band known for their soaring anthemic rock. Frequently described as "Totally fucking EPIC!!!1!"
--> their music lends itself to soundtracks. In fact they wrote most of the music for the Friday Night Lights movie. They're also the theme music for my personal sex tapes home movies.

Saturday night was hot even by Austin standards. I was geared up for a night of powerful instrumental indie-music not stifling heat and a drenched shirt. Yet I carried on...heroically. It was the 4th of July and it was my American duty to drink Lone Star and listen to great music. Ass sweat be damned.

Opening for Explosions were fellow Austinites The Octopus Project. They were one of the highlights of last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. This performance was not unlike their Fest set: fun, quirky, rocking at times but with plenty of experimental elements. They displayed impressive musicianship as each member took turns playing various instruments. My favorite part of The Octopus Project is their use of the Theremin. It makes it sound like ghosts are howling along with the band. It's creepy cool.

After a quick changeover Explosions in the Sky addressed the audience and thanked everyone for their support over the last decade. The 90 minute set validated their reputation as a superior live band. The show had a great rock dynamic - emotionally resonant tunes with build-ups/payoffs, heaps of elaborate guitar work, and a powerful rhythm section. There was plenty to like. However, as beautiful as their style of post-rock music can be, it blended together after a while. Admittedly I wasn't familiar with most songs and wasn't smoking lots of weed like the people around me. Maybe that's why I enjoyed the show slightly less than everyone else. I'm not exactly sure. Maybe I'm just being picky. I probably would've felt differently had they played the Star Spangled Banner Jimi-style. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Day After

Jay Reatard @ Black Cat - July 5th, 2009 - $12

When the fireworks have fallen, the beer is warm and stale, the potato salad has turned, and the weekend is finally over, what else can you do but get back out there and keep on keepin' on?

We ventured to the Black Cat's backstage Monday night to get a look at Jay Reatard and his hairbandied extravaganza. The man has a fountain of hair that just seemed to spurt out of the top of his melon in a massive stream covering 360 degrees of his head. His band mate guitarist had equally impressive hair, both reminiscent (as Jimbromski said) of Hurley from LOST.

Neither Jimbromski nor I were terribly familiar with Mr. Reatard's catalog, but we knew he played fast and that things could get physical (not in the Barry White nor Olivia Newton John sort, mind you). The backstage was packed for this set and despite my giraffe neck, I never did see the drummer in the back. Indeed, a mosh pit formed, and at one point play was halted due to excessive hair-pulling.

Punk with a touch of pop. Most of the songs were pseudo metal, mostly punk, and occasionally sugary for a radio-friendly sound. Here's just a tiny snippet:

T.V. Smith, of 1970s punk band The Adverts, opened for Jay Reatard and returned to the stage for the only song I truly recognized: Gary Gilmore's Eyes. If you don't know anything about Gary Gilmore, or this song, it's actually quite fascinating. Gilmore murders two in Utah in July of 1976. Convicted and sentenced to die, he chooses to be shot versus being hanged. Asked if he had any last words, he says, "Let's do it." According to wikipedia, within hours of his execution, and complying with his request, two people received Gary Gilmore's transplanted corneas. There begins the connection to The Adverts' song. We probably erred by not checking out TV Smith, who I mistakenly referred to as "TV Set" at one point in the evening.

A few more details. We were pleased to see Mark Kapiloff (aka Everywhere Man, That Guy, Wandering Mark) en route to the club. It had been a while. Glad he is still a man about town. Also seen that night was Ahmad, the blind avid concert goer, who continues to out-rock us.

Lastly, behind Jimbromski's head you'll see Jay Reatard interacting with his fans. I think he looks a little like a young Meatloaf.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Hippie Fest Returns: beware of hippie fest

I'm not sure why, but the Albright Entertainment Group is bringing back the hippies. I heard them advertising on the radio earlier in the week. You may recall that the first Hippie Fest played Wolf Trap last summer. Here's a glimpse of what you missed (albeit not at WT):

As I heard the advert for Hippie Fest 2009, I was surprised that they would bother, remembering the WaPo article that lambasted the show. Just have a look at the first two sentences:
Rock-and-roll cavalcades rarely add up to the sum of their parts. But it would be hard to come up shorter than the Hippie-fest 2008 bill did on Wednesday at Wolf Trap.
This time around, they play the Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore on July 23rd. So here we are, just shy of the 40th anniversaries of the moon landing and of Woodstock, and this is what they drag out. Hippie Fest - continuing to give hippies a bad name.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Favorite Band (This Week) - Spoon

This one isn't exactly a shocker. Anyone worth their salt is a Spoon fan. They've released a series of impressive albums and continue to win new fans with each release. In my opinion they're the best band out there. You may disagree, and well, that's what makes you a jackass. Sorry but someone had to tell you. It just happened I was the one to do it, jackass.

Earlier this week Spoon released a new three song EP entitled Got Nuffin. Take a listen to the title track:

The band is working on their follow up to 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It should be ready at the end of the year or in early 2010. For those of you in Austin, you can catch Spoon's 3-night stay at Stubb's on July 9th-11th. I'm still debating how many nights I'll attend. Who am I kidding? I'll probably go to all three.