Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt. 2: Party at the Pool Hall

The best part of SXSW is anything unexpected. And Saturday night(traditionally the last night of the festival) was loaded with episodes of the unforeseen giddiness that accompanies new discoveries, kinda like that feeling when you climb the big rope in gym class(without the mess).
 So after a long dinner break, Alex mentions a showcase at a pool hall way off the well worn path of the trail of sponsored- this and sanctioned -that. Most likely a sycophant free event. So we roll up in his Saturn to a place called The Grand..which was in tucked the middle of a strip mall and when we arrived the parking lot was full of  clusters of dirty converted church vans and loiterers that looked like extras from a Judas Priest video. I knew we were in the right place. We were apparently there for the Rubberneck Burger City Rock and Roll Party. The Grand is immense throwback of a billiards hall with grimy white walls, low nicotine stained ceilings and at least 20 tables. To the left behind the pinball machines was a badly lit large area where dual stages were set up on the floor in front of the dart boards. They spared no expense. We liquored up and moseyed over to hear the spaced out fuzz rock of Technicolor Teeth. A band that stretches tight slabs of psych/garage and reverb over twitching punkish ponds of delay and noise. Their website describes them as "sunshine punk". Brilliant. And from Wisconsin. Sans cheese. Put it on a Bumper Sticker.

                                                              Technicolor Teeth

Next up was a snarky little gang of ruffians from NYC called  Dirty Fences . Very NYDolls-ish with the lipstick and pigtails to match. Short, double-entendre laden open hand slaps of scuzz rock, a bit derivative, but felt like music you feel like you need a cold shower and a cigarette after listening to. That's good, right? Loved the guitarist's mustache. Kinda looked like a caterpillar under a heatlamp.

                                                                 Dirty Fences

The vibe at the Grand was ground zero for all of my bullet points of rock. Scuzzy, dirty, bluesy, tight with drums that sass you right back. Shut ins with a tetris like maze of pedal boards and no eye contact. I looked around at the cast of characters in all of their their dimestore boots, chain wallets, glitter and sway, acid washed and pompadoured, cave-mannish, barber shop quartet bearded and patched up black denim ways and felt at home. I felt younger than I looked. Alive from the overdriven force of the Ampeg air, puppet string free, loose and randy.   We stuck around for one more round and I'm thankful for that decision because The JP5 from Nashville turned out to be one of the best bands I've seen in years. I say that  a lot, but I think I mean it this time.

 A three guitar driven blues rock band(pop hooks interwoven) with frontman Joseph Plunkett, whom by means of his voice alone, had to be some sort of Johansen/Costello love child. Two prevalent twin leads with just enough pomp and flash to get more than one of your feet and fists moving, held down with a burly backbeat provided by a mini-ginger skins hitter by the name of Rachel Hortman  I loved what they were laying down and so should you. If I had to pick one band to watch from my four days...I couldn't , but JP5 would be in the top 3..if you're into that sort of bizarre list fetish like me.

   We wanted to make the most out of the evening and Alex and Jamie (total family men with broad musical tastes and backgrounds...and wives at home watching the kids whoo haa!) were in no way ready to call it a night at 11pm. So we headed over to the strange and wonderful Sahara Lounge. As the website sort of proclaims..this venue is like a juke joint that was designed by a permanently drunk voodoo priest who spent time doing an Egyptian pub crawl. It's truly one of a kind and if your ever in ATX, it is a must-seek-out locale. We watched a vastly entertaining band called Goldendawn Arkestra..whose sound I can only describe as bedoin funk. Clad in robes, dropping hot horns and throbbing vibes into the mix  with a rhythm section straight outta stax.. not a booty in the place was stagnant in any way.. I might have been dancing in place too, having totally forgotten  how ill I was and proceeded to prophetilize out plans for my anti hip hop manifesto within earshot of Jamie, much to his chagrin.

                                                            Goldendawn Arkestra

. I wish we could have stayed longer...the vibe was such that I was waiting for a boozed up blind bluesman to take the stage next, could have been that whiskey whispering to me.. but instead it was a four piece that craptastically mashed up the best of reggae beats with the worst of Dave Matthews we hit the up.....SXSWSunday????

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt.1

Day three: The decision was made(post pill and taco cocktail) to plow through this flu with the finest cheap elixirs Austin had to offer...mainly copious gulps of Lone Star beer staggered between water spiked with Emergen-C. My theory was simple: like many a sad cowboy, lovelorn hobo poet or telemarketer...drink to forget. Forget the oft dreamt up scenarios where an imaginary black cloud follows me in destiny's fashion, like a cotton hoodie on a wet day. An oscar winner once said "Gotta keep on livin', L-I-V-I-N." With that slogan in mind, I was dropped off at my first event of the day..The Converse/Thrasher magazine Death Match at the Scoot Inn, starring a line up of beefy, caterwaulin' metal bands.

 The first was the always thrilling, mostly terrifying Savannah band Black Tusk. When the bass player has a neck tattoo of a revolver pointed at his ear and the guitarist and drummer look like the highlights of their lives might be their most recent dumpster dive, then back the fuck up, son. Grimy, blistering blasts of riffs and rhythm escorted to the wind behind high fireball vocals was what the hungover skater crowd was treated just about blew their wheels off the trucks.

I took a break to chortle down another cold one and go watch the skate punx do their bizness on the ramps Thrasher magazine set up on the site. Sort of a hypnotic bad idea watching a steady line of crash and burns as a buzz meets antibiotic cloud kicks in...I hung around enough to catch a song or two of the mighty Kylesa's set and as the tinnutis set in even through obvious infection, I decided to ramble.

One of my favorite venues in Austin is Beerland. Their no frills, couldn't give two shits about your stupid showcase attitude works. It leads to drawing great bands with the same attitude in to this little hole in the wall for packed chaotic shows, and little space to breath let alone have enough room to bring beer to lips over and over again. I caught the tail end of a set by a band that took me by surprise the crushing shoegaze whirl of Nothing, from..surprise no.2 Philadelphia. Its no doubt that there is a hissing cassette of MBV's Loveless on the back seat floor of frontman Dominic Palermo's car somewhere..this great noise-gaze quartet's sound is akin to the whir of spinning chainsaw that dissolves into mist. They reminded me why I have to dig deeper on the mean streets of home and stop denying that there is a scene, if not several in Philadelphia. I could barely make out a face on the stage and was led around by the glint of the blurry headstocks and blunt force trauma of the drums knocking me back even 8 rows deep in the crowd.

I went around the corner and decided to give it a go in waiting in line to see the Hold Steady at Red 7 and after 25 minutes, realized the pitiful absurdity of my actions...the wait was so slow that a cabal of nerds behind me actually sent one of their buds to order vegan noodles somewhere and they were still comfortably dining when I said fuck this-very much and skedaddled across the street to Empire Control Room. I stumbled across yet another great northeast band, the scrumptious hardcore of Brooklyn's Cerebral Ballzy,  armed with twin leads doing the chords of 80s hardcore proud and fronted by an extremely charismatic sinewy black frontman (with one of the best stage names Ive heard since Stiv Bators),  Honor Titus. If you ever need a band for your hardcore basement wedding reception or DIY bakesale who can cradle a crowd in their hands at four fucking o' clock in the afternoon, contact the management for C. Ballzy. Huge highlight.

With a body in obvious shock, awe and overload yet fighting the fumes of exaustion, I wandered over to the convention center to check out the always extraordinary Flatstock Poster Show which showcased these artists this year. This is one the most incredible arrays of present day concert poster art one could ever see and all for sale. My problem was that I'm such a collector that I was overwhelmed with the possibilities and all of my choices for purchase combined with a bum rush of anxiety canceled each other out and I bailed with nada. I scurried over to the Flatstock stage which was a large room with lounge chairs in front of the stage and was blown right away with this teenage power trio called Residual Kid. They are Austin bred and for sure had to get notes from their moms(or managers) to miss school and do this gig. It was well worth the exposure since badges were heavy and aplenty in the audience. They brought a slightly honed edge to a grunge tinged super tight mix of melodic hard rock/punk. These guys should be on your daughter's bedroom wall's and not those over- gelled assclowns from None Direction. Get with it people.

Coming soon...Part 2 of Day Three..Party at the Pool Hall

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SXSickW Day 2

There are links all over this blog post. Scroll over people, places and bands for more info. Somehow my request for different colored text per link didn't work.

Day 2 started out with a chorizo and egg breakfast taco as it should...every day, everywhere. No juice, no toast, no smoothy, no Mc-whatever..just taco. Unfortunately this AM cuisine is much more prevalent in Texas, than in Pennsylvania. I'd put many hours in tossing and turning in anticipation of this here taco and it did not disappoint. It turned out to be the near highlight of the day. Alex joined me downtown for one of the many showcases I unplanned to attend. Walked into a psych-rock spectacular at Hotel Vegas around noon in perfect time to see Sean Lennon's latest band Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger do a two song soundcheck. As a rock rule( ok, my stupid rule), the sons and daughters of rock legends tend to overflow with suckitude, but these guys were extremely tight and the songs I heard were just below awesome. Four part harmonies and soothing psyche/dream rock was enough for me to want to dig deeper.

I wanted another Lone Star at this point..but a mad rush of clammy thick sickness and some truly bad ass fatigue was creeping in. Alex and I parted ways, as he had his own showcase to attend to. I hung around to watch a bizarre Asian psyche pop band belt out some noise and left, only to wait in line at another day party while being cuckholded by this stealthy illness. I'd been sick for two weeks in varying degrees of mucal output but this was different.It felt like the first half hour of being awake after being chloroformed and taken to the infectious disease waiting room of any two bit clinic. I moseyed in a dream state down to Alex's showcase at the Hi-Hat Public House.

 His excellent band The Early Stages (he swears it has nothing to do with cancer) above, were just about to perform while I was on the phone to my doc in PHILADELPHIA begging him to suggest how to salvage my first fucking vacation in 4 years via drugs, blood transfusion, magic elixirs..whatever. What's Up, Doc? His suggestion was that I go to the hospital and get an xray to rule out pneumonia. Hows that for R and R? Hows that for mapping out a wandering journey of  musical discovery in four jam packed days.

  At least I got to hang around and hear three songs from my good friend's band before I took his car home, had to pull over while my body overheated(not the car), got lost, got found again and stumbled into Alex's home like a central Texas pre- zombie on the cusp of turning. How fun it was to have to tell his extremely wonderful wife Cam that I needed to go get an Xray...while she had a handful of little ones under five with needs of their own to worry about. She should have just dipped a pacifier in bourbon and shoved it in my mouth and sent me to bed...but instead she drove me to urgent care with a car full of barefoot kids and seconds to spare because while spaced out I believe I told her I would get a cab on the way there or back...and never did. Doc did the Xray..lungs were clear(no cancer, no pneumonia, no fluid..just air..fucking air.

 He then tells me absolutely nothing at all valuable to my situation by assuming it was either a cold, allergies or the flu. Three scenarios I already knew thank you/fuck you very much here's 200 dollars enjoy the rest of your vacation.  After 10 hrs of sleep, a mountain of pills, a few medical puffs and snorts and breakfast Taco #2 ( a fine migas taco from  El Chilito) was time for the busiest day of all four..TBC

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSickW Part One

I'm sitting in an enclosed screened in porch at the home of my dear friends the Bajoris family. It's a watercolor overcast grey morning in Austin, and the patchy wind doesn't seem to be bothering the bickering birds in the busy green branches above me. I'm wondering how to encapsulate this long sought after return to SXSW, without the usual overspray of complaints one would have( esp. moi) when they were beat up by a cold fist of sickness for the entirety of a vacation.

A vacation for me is here. SXSW is disneyworld for the music fan, an oasis of sound in an otherwise desert disguised-as-a-combo of suburban silence and the shit city beats of sirens in my Philadelphia nights. I haven't had a vacation in four years and this is where I wanted to come. I knew how SXSW had grown quite a corporate tumor since I was last here in 2010, which would make the math of seeing as many bands as humanly possible much more difficult because of the lines filled with badge flashing interns of interns of headphone hawkers and scheisters of streaming services. The most divine path of discovery was now, in my opinion, no path at all.

For those who don't know, SXSW is part music industry-con...with real live panels of industry experts and music biz veterans who sit on deuses in big convention rooms and schpiel their two cents on where the future of the industry lies..and part big hot mess of music spread across downtown Austin in a smorgasbord of showcases, parties and ad hoc gigs made up of thousands of bands and performers from all over the world who travel to Tx. for a variety of reasons. The reasons used to include exposure to new fans and industry types via showcases held by various record labels, but most of that era is gone. The showcases have been taken over by companies like Dickies, Spotify, and Doritos who end up flying in a handful of gigantic big name bands and call it a party where nobody who hasn't paid nearly 800-1000 dollars for a badge or is a member of the press can get in. Even with a badge, the lines are super long and a big fat waste of time. Who needs to see Coldplay, Ludacris, Keith Urban or the fucking Toadies anyway.

The real fun is going to the day parties usually held by small indie labels, several reputable blogs, and local Austin clubs who could not give less of a fuck about SXSW. They are free, awesomely hard to find(unless you have a friend who is a local or yourself are very net savvy) and always have diverse lineups of bands on dual stages. There are plenty of free parties, BBQs and picnics that drag on into the early morning hrs. as well. In my four visits to SXSW, I've never paid for a badge. It's pointless for a music fan familiar with the area. I spent all of my money on beer and tacos and medical attention.It would have been nice to see Soundgarden do Superunknown in its entirety, but I ended up watching it stream live from my sickbed(more on that later....

I got into town Wed. night on a delayed flight but my long time buds Alex and Jamie picked me up and we went right into town, starting off the night at the famous Threadgills (where ms. Joplin honed her craft before heading west)with two Lone Stars and a shot. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for the shiny faux rock of a band called Vallejo.(no link needed) There were immediate red flags..They were coiffed in too-perfect hats...their band is named after a band member(think Bon Jovi, Giuffria,Pink Floyd) and the lead singer had a guitar slung behind his back like Bryan Adams in that video, failing to use it unless a bland bluesy solo was called was frat rock with a southern twist...the front man vamped during the FIRST SONG calling for everyone to toss back some shots. I wanted to toss mine back up. We bolted while the evening was still young and the moontowers were still lit. ....the next club was called El Mercado, where we stumbled upon a very cool unit(after more Lone Star(goes great with antibiotics) called the Startographers. Very heavy reverb and delay on both guitars, singer like a cross between Stan Ridgeway and Tom Verlaine during the decipherable parts... Loopy hearty shoegaze and the obligatory hot ingenue on bass..loved every minute of it, especially the dis on Austin crowds from behind the mic posing as a road weary well traveled band from Wisconsin...turns out their home base is Austin. I could taste a theme cooking up faster than a breakfast taco....the rest of the night was going in a circle to the left(kinda like NASCAR), me publicly urinating on a large shrub, and failing to find the mindblowing party my friend Alex had "heard" about.  More to come.... ................