Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Big Hair, Big Shows, Big Time

Austin. SXSW. Always hours of pounding the pavement looking for some good music. There is always SO GODDAMN MUCH to see, that whatever I tell you about is simply the tip of the iceberg, as you know. But here's my lame attempt anyhoo:

The Pipettes: totally cute. The girl group thing absolutely did not fall flat live, which, frankly, surprised me. Good job ladies!

Greg Ashley & the Medicine Fuck Dream Road Show: One of those crazy "everyone does a little bit of everything" shows, where it gets a little twangy and gets a whole lot trippy, but is always beyond interesting.

Lily Allen: I think she can melt even the most jaded hipster with her drunken giggles... When she appeared onstage, she proclaimed she'd been drinking beer on the bus the entire day so she was kinda drunk, and that if she'd known the evening was presented by NME she wouldn't have done it. Then she giggled, and everything was ok. Her band was tight, horn section even tighter, and her vocals were spot on and even sassy than on record. Between songs she ragged on the NME, put some guy down for his "tiny penis," told everyone how sick of her single "Smile" she was, and did it dancing along anyway. She was quite a charming bitch, I have to say. I'd have drinks with her!

Honeycut: Bay Area supergroup featuring Bart Davenport and Etienne De Rocher playing bass and harmonizing had me dancing more than anyone else the whole week. It's like super electro funk, Bart's serious soul voice careening over the grooves and delivering all sorts of mayhem. Insanely good stuff. The only problem with the show was the SXSW official playing clockwatcher who kept shoving her cell phone into Bart's face so he could see they were a whole 2 minutes over limit (did no one tell her this was rock and roll???) during the massive "Impeach the President," and Honeycut returned the favor with fake ending after fake ending. Massive showmen - see them in your town!

The Mint Chicks: New wave punk nutjobs out of New Zealand, recalling early Devo (in their scary phase) and very early Talking Heads, but way more spazzy than that... just had the "angular" thing down. I think. There was lots of jumping around to be done. Melodically. Infectious, to be sure!

All Smiles: Caught a tiny bit of this pretty guitar jangly stuff from Jim Fairchild (formerly of Grandaddy) and I liked it. Coming on Dangerbird.

Margot & the Nuclear So & So's: Another one of those really, really exuberant shows were there are lots of people on stage having the time of their lives, playing all kinds of crazy instruments (along with some normal ones) and delivering heartfelt and fun indie pop. It was pretty sweltering in this tent, and we were all melting, but with smiles on our faces.

Booker T (sans MGs), Isaac Hayes, William Bell, Eddie Floyd (Stax 50th anniversary shindig):
Evidently I missed the intro with Isaac Hayes as it took 10 minutes to get everyone inside the building, but he came back later. Booker T got the party started, and just when my friend and I thought the evening was going to be all about the instrumentals, William Bell came on and gave us all his "Private Number." Then Eddie Floyd came on and got us all to 'Knock on Wood" while charming the ladies up front, many years his junior. Isaac returned, and the whole bunch of them did "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" with the audience taking care of the whistling part.

Joan As Police Woman: ...and now for something completely different... Joan Wasser of the Dambuilders, who also plays with Antony and the Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright and Tanya Donnely, did her own thing which was in turns soft and frightening or loud and crazed but always... pretty. Her motto is "Beauty is the new punk rock," and I think that suits her very well.

The Photo Atlas: "You'll feel like you're a 16 year old dance punk watching these guys," my friend warned. Well, kinda, but not really. They were too edgy for that. It was definitely groovy, and intense, and I'd almost want to say more like Girls VS Boys than the Faint... except that both of those bands are sexy and these guys were not. It's almost like they were intense and groovy because they had too much caffeine - but still fun!

Amy Winehouse: "Dude, I heard Pete Townsend was going to play with her tonight." "Where'd you hear that?" "Some guy on the phone at some restaurant." "That sounds like a good rumor to spread!" So we did. And he didn't play with her, but he did show up. So did Wayne Coyne. And so did the Dap-Kings, Sharon Jones backing band, but that was because they were doing double time as Winehouse's band as well. As for Amy? She was a tiny woman with gigantic hair only a serious drag queen can truly appreciate, and a booming voice that channels all the torch and sass available in the world in order to dish it right back out at you. "Back to Black" was the standout for me, and "You Know I'm No Good," but really - it was all great. (Good thing I caught her there as she cancelled the Spaceland gig I was going to see last Tuesday...)

The Black Lips: WOW! These guys were totally out of hand. Kinda like those 60's garage bands that just shouted alot, but were still obviously playing together, yet totally out of their heads. These guys were out of their minds, and balls out rocking. Howling mad. At one point, one of the singers, between lines, turned his head and puked. It happened so fast, we didn't even believe we'd seen it till we noticed just a bit of it drying on his chin. He was completely unfazed. Afterwards, he asked if anyone had any water and that was about it. I hear if a show is going well, he pees himself.

Amy Millan: "So last night, I drank many shots of tequila and stage dived. Just so you know where we are coming from today." The adorable singer from Stars and Broken Social Scene was highlighting her own collection of whiskey soaked tunes, which were just as pretty as anything those other bands have done. "Skinny Boy" alone is worth the price of admission.

Stars of Track & Field: I really do dig these guys live... Crunchy swirly noise intermixed with pretty, soft melodies... "Movies of Antarctica" gets me every time.

(Kevin from SOTAF with the stellar Jeff Klein, being sexy.)

Afterhours: The fact that I still don't have this album is stupid. These insanely rocking Italians are moody beasts, and seeing them live is a "wow" experience every time. The play to stadiums even if the room holds 40 people, they are truly rock and roll, and beautiful at the same time.

Buffalo Tom: I only got to see about 3 songs by these guys as the venue was crazy packed, but those three were good. Bill Janowitz is still Bill Janowitz. And I got to stand next to John Doe the whole time, which was beyond a bonus.

The M's: Friends of Wilco, unite! Chicago indie rockers with a little bit of twang and a little bit of psych to 'em.

You Am I: I saw them 2x in one day. They're from Australia! They don't get to come here that often! They totally rock! I now give people an Australian reference to this band as well - cross the Easybeats with the Saints, and you've got You Am I. And if you don't know any of those bands, then part of your rock'n'roll encyclopedia is missing. You Am I is simply one of the greatest rock bands to ever come out of Oz. Done.

Hoodoo Gurus: One of those 80's/early 90's new wavish guitar bands you forgot about, but you know their songs when you hear them... "I Want You Back," "Bittersweet," "What's My Scene," beautiful pop songs that were done with flair this evening - the crowd made the floor vibrate beneath us and the band was beyond happy to be there.

The Good The Bad & The Queen: Another band I saw twice... I didn't mean too, but I fell in love with Paul Simonon after the first show. This is an album that people either love or hate, it seems. I'm in the love category. For Damon Albarn's sequel to Parklife to rally work, showing the gloomy realities of today, he had to get someone from the Thatcherian era to help out, it seems... And it's a low key dubby affair, more like later Specials to me than either Clash or Blur stuff, but with beautiful hooks courtesy of Damon's voice and Paul's bass. Damon was "in character" the whole way - I'm pretty sure they did the album straight though - but Paul played like a panther prowling the stage with a machine gun. Mesmerizing. And they are both sexy as fuck. Really!

Drag the River: I had no idea that the guy from All was doing boozy country rock.

Cloud Cult: I couldn't really see these guys cuz the venue was tiny, but they rocked and made peculiar funky noises, and there were people painting while they were performing. So it was definitely interesting, from what I could see!

Terry Reid: A friend of mine got me into this British folkie who was a contemporary of the Beach Boys in their druggy years (or as he put it, "I went on the boat with Dennis, and lived!"). He had some truly beautiful borderline easy listening tunes back in the day, and he delivered them with quite a sense of humor and a bit more Van Morrison styling than I was expecting, but it was way cool.

Sharon Jones: I love the funk out of this woman. She really is the female James Brown.

The Beasts of Bourbon: This Australian supergroup (which means they are made up of people no one outside of Oz has ever heard of) is like an accessible Birthday Party to me... or Jesus Lizard... Very much a blues rock barroom band, but growling and mean and hilarious and in your face. I heard that back in Oz, they wowed the likes of Rollins and Iggy Pop with their ability to rock.

...and the Saints: An Australian band that made a dent in the punk rock scene with "(I'm) Stranded" back in '77, Chris Bailey ripped out buzzy guitars and pissy vocals which I never considered actually all that punk - it was just fast at the time so it got lumped in there. But they also did some good pop, and they played a fun fast set at the close of SXSW. It even had Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde jumping around barefoot and throwing devil signs.

And that's all. For now. Of COURSE I'll have more stories to tell you later!