Saturday, March 28, 2009

White Denim

Every music scene has one particular band that the locals think should be way bigger than they actually are. For me, that band is Austin's own White Denim. I first stumbled upon this band about two years ago while going to see Tokyo Police Club in concert at Emo's. White Denim was playing as I walked in and I thought they were amazing though I had no idea they were a local act. I've seen them several times since then but last night at Antone's they put on the best show I've seen by them yet. They've gotten much better as a band and the transitions they were making during songs were amazing. They sound like no one else which is rare these days. The bassist was the first thing I noticed about White Denim but last night, lead singer James Petralli really impressed me with his guitar chops. Aside from Spoon, who already have enough accolades as it is, White Denim is the best band in Austin.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winehouse in the Doghouse

According to a news story in Welt Online, Amy Winehouse's label - Island UK - have rejected the 25-year-old singer's new songs and told her to head back to the studio for a makeover because apparently she has replaced her soulful, jazzy sound with reggae. Hey, why change the formula when the original has sold over 11 million albums, right? This is the classic battle of commerce vs. art that makes me absolutely nuts. Don't be fooled into thinking that people who run large record labels do so because they love music. They don't. They care about selling records and that, to me, is the antithesis of art. This is why the majority of major label music is sterile and culturally mind-numbing - because anytime people are willing to trade in creativity for fame and fortune as demanded by soulless suits in a corporate suite, the result is usually horseshit. Island telling Winehouse how to make music is the equivalent of me telling a world renown chef how to cook. I'm not the biggest fan of reggae, but I would much rather the talented Winehouse make the album she wants as opposed to having it watered down in the name of record sales. Actually, I would rather her fart into a microphone for 30 minutes before she ever caves into those hacks at Island.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW 2009 Recap

My SXSW experience started out on WEDNESDAY night as I made my way to the Central Presbyterian Church to see M Ward, Department of Eagles, St Vincent, and Camera Obscura. It was freezing ass cold in there, so I left after Department of Eagles.

On THURSDAY, I was downtown a little after 11am to see Daniel Johnston. After that, I loafed around and then made my way to Scholz Garden, which was quite a hike, to see Evangelicals who put on an absolutely blistering set. A band called Women played before Evangelicals, to my surprise, because I had wanted to see Women and had no idea they were playing a set at Scholz Garden. They were really good. From there, I made my way to Mohawks to see Richard Swift who would have played arenas if this were the seventies.

He's a really underrated guy whose piano-infused pop music was a relief after all the walking I had done...and it was only 8pm. After the last song and a date with a Frito Pie, I moseyed on over to Red 7 to see the psychedelic electronic sensation that is Nite Jewel. The sound in Red 7 wasn't very good, but Nite Jewel was delightful nonetheless. By this time, Jim Beam, Coke, and Red Bulls were creating a riot in my system but I was unfazed. I had to go see Justin Townes Earle at Antones. Before JT went on, however, I caught local sensation Carrie Rodriguez who I had sadly never seen before. She is amazing. Anywho, if anyone is looking for the ghost of Hank Williams - it has risen and his name is Justin Townes Earle. This kid is really that good. I was going to go home after his set, but a friend of mine called and told me to meet him at Volume to see Beach House, who I had wanted to see anyway so I obliged.

Three or four songs into their set, I was cashed. My legs were gone and so was I - right out the door to go home and sleep. While waiting at a stop light, I was startled by a girl who knocked on my window and asked if I could give her and another guy a ride home which I did. They said they were in a band called Idle Hands and that they were here from Minnesota. They didn't have a Minnesota accent or maybe they did. I was delirious at this point. They were extremely polite and overly thankful and all around good kids. I got home and the massive quantities of Red Bull would not let me sleep despite the fact that I was horribly tired. South By Southwest is MADNESS.

FRIDAY was no good. I was irritable and cranky. I saw a friend's band and afterwards attempted to see some shows but it was a no go. I went home for some much needed rest.

SATURDAY, I went to Homeslice(the best pizza parlor in the world) to see Deer Tick but he canceled due to sickness which I'll take a wild guess and say was a case of the cocktail flu which was pretty contagious for some reason in Austin this week. Later, I went to Auditorium Shores to see The Cannabinoids who I had never heard of before, but was nonetheless excited to see because Erykah Badu was playing with them. After over an hour of watching them onstage without playing, I said "fuck this" very grumpily and left. Apparently, she only played two songs anyways so I didn't miss much. Explosions In The Sky played after the Cannabinoids and the line for that show was absolutely INSANE. They are a local band for chrisakes! I went to Mohawks after that to see Angel Deradoorian(of the Dirty Projectors) and her music was really beautiful and dark. She said she was sick too. That dirty cocktail flu must have struck her as well.

I blogged already about AIDS Wolf. They were insane and the best live band I saw at SXSW this year. My last stop of the night was at Back Alley Social to see the one person I had wanted to see most - Invincible.

Even the technical glitches throughout the show couldn't stop this rap phenom. She was great and her set ended another amazing SXSW for me. I'm already looking forward to next year.


The greatest thing about SXSW is that sometimes you run into bands that you have never heard of before and they absolutely blow your mind. I went to Mohawks tonight to see Angel Deradoorian - who is amazing enough as it is - and accidentally caught a band called AIDS Wolf. The lead singer is basically Karen O. on steroids and the drummer is a beast. She did her whole set in the crowd while being bounced around like a pinball by the hyperactive crowd. If this band comes to your town, by all means, go see them! This is the best live band, by far, that I have seen at SXSW.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Daniel Johnston

"I hate mainstream. Its mediocrity and caculability make me sick. A man like Daniel Johnston records just for himself. It's this almost primitive integrity which makes his work so unique and authentic. It reminds me of aspects that made me love art in the first place."
-David Bowie

Thursday, I went to the Paste/Brooklyn Vegan showcase at the Radio Room for SXSW to see Daniel Johnston. He was backed by a Brooklyn band I had never heard of before called The Hymns. I thought they did a good job of backing him up. The place was packed. I was behind the sound guy who, thinking he certainly had a sympathetic audience, smirked and said, "who the fuck is this guy?" I let it go because I can't imagine anyone who is unfamiliar with Daniel Johnston thinking anything else. A young girl next to me, however, didn't let it go and proceeded to give him an earful regarding the importance of the trembling man on stage. Johnston's performance is a painful thing to watch and yet it moves me beyond anything I can explain. Art is not always a breezy meadow with rainbows and unicorns. For me, personally, the best music is that which is channeling something ugly and deep from within. I know that sounds really artsy and pretentious, but it's just what I like and I get that Daniel Johnston is not for everyone. Here's one such review for the Thursday show:

"We really split the difference on Daniel Johnston. Andre found it a bit weird to trot a great songwriter onto the stage who could barely sing or play guitar. In fact, he rarely even played guitar, instead acting as a kind of frontman for Brooklyn rockers the Hymns. On one side, the show was a cruel charity case, a grotesque “Look at what the mentally ill guy can do, isn’t it special?” kind of deal. Andre was made physically sick by the whole thing, clearly preferring to just listen to his songs at home. He didn’t want to watch Johnston up there, hands shaking, voice trembling, trying for his dear life to make it from one song to the next."
-Craig Eley of

I've heard musicians who can play their instruments with the greatest of skills and it sometimes bores me to tears. On the other hand, I have heard "musicians" who are the sloppiest of players and it absolutely blows me away. Sometimes it's about emotion and the road you've traveled in life. Daniel Johnston is on all types of medications for his mental problems which is why his performances can be a bit off-putting for some. I clearly understand that. It's just that I see so many overly-hyped, manufactured, desperately image-conscious bands that sound like everything else in this world that it makes me extremely glad that Daniel Johnston - who's music is far more heart-felt than most - is still with us making people uncomfortable. Thank fucking god for the Daniel Johnstons of the world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Justin Townes Earle

The last thing an offspring of a famous musician, who is trying to carve his own path musically, wants to hear is comparisons to their mother or father, yet every time I mention Justin Townes Earle to people, I can't help but utter - "he's Steve Earle's kid." With all due respect, however, I'd have to say that I enjoy the younger Earle's music more than his father's and, once you hear Justin's music, it's crystal clear that he's his own man and that the buzz currently surrounding him has more to do with the 25-year old's talent than his pedigree. His newest album Midnight At The Movies will be released on March 25 through Bloodshot Records and I'm looking forward to seeing this rising young star at South By Southwest.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fever Ray

When Pitchforkmedia selected The Knife's Silent Shout as the best album of 2006, I gave it a few listens but honestly couldn't figure out what all the hype was about. It just wasn't my cup of tea. However, one half of the sibling duo that makes up The Knife - Karin Dreijer Andersson - will be releasing her self-titled solo debut album under the name Fever Ray on March 23 in the US and I would have to say that, upon listening to it tonight, I highly recommend it...if you're into dark, electronic music.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Waltz With Bashir

"Waltz With Bashir" is an animated foreign language documentary film by and about the film's director, Ari Folman. In the summer of 1982, Israeli forces invaded Beirut, Lebanon, in an attempt to oust the Palestinian Liberation Organization(PLO) which had gained power there, along with the Syrians, and were continually launching rocket attacks against Israel. Once the PLO was stripped of its power in Lebanon, the plan, as mapped out by then Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon, was to establish Bashir Gemayel, who was the leader of the Christian Phalange party and an ally of Israel, as President of Lebanon. However, the plan fell apart when Gemayel was assassinated. Despite the fact that PLO guerrillas had fled the area after Israel stepped up its attacks, the Christian Phalangist militia, without interference from the Israeli army, entered the Sabra and Shatile refugee camps and massacred an estimated 3,000 Palestinian civilians, including women and children, as payback for the death of their leader, Bashir Gemayel.

Director Ari Folman was a 19-year old Israeli soldier during the siege of Beirut in 1982 and the movie begins with his confusion over the fact that he cant remember anything about this particular time in his life even though he knows he was there. Throughout the film, Folman locates soldiers who served side by side with him during this time and undergoes therapy as well to gather clues of his lost memory. The film ends with the realization that, though Folman did not participate in the massacre, he also did nothing to stop it. As his young, troubled face crowds the screen while the tragedy unfolds before him, the animation ends and the actual footage of the casualties becomes a powerful reminder that war is not the "guts and glory" action flick that Hollywood, at times, makes it out to be.