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by Thomas Hauner

5 Apr 2009


The Presets and The Golden Filter represented opposite ends of the disco spectrum in terms of volume, tone, and intensity at this show. Disappointingly, I only caught the very tail end of Golden Filter’s set, but, from what sparse recordings I have been able to get my hands on, their disco is a nod towards the era of roller-queens and hazy, hedonistic, introspection. Which isn’t to say it was too light. Their beats were sugary but prodding, propelling their songs to desirable places.

By contrast The Presets devoted themselves to a dark, grimy, and almost painfully loud electronica. Its completely minor soaked chromatic melodies were macabre and aggressive (that would be the “Apocalypse” part of their recent release Apocalypso), but the crowd seemed to thrive on the redundancy of their structure. Thankfully Kim Moyes’ periodic live drumming added a captivating live dynamic whilst Julian Hamilton, in his levitating white blazer, proved a competent and consistent singer. In fact he was practically a young Rod Stewart on stage, running between his keyboards and center stage to strike theatrical profiles. Their best tracks were their first and last, proving that they’re apt at opening and closing shows—it was the meaty part of the set that was lost on them. “Kicking and Screaming” was a dramatic beginning as was the segue into “My People”. Ending with “This Boy’s In Love”, their best song, they then came full circle with a massive “My People” reprise. 

 

by Randy Haecker

3 Apr 2009


Black Lips

Crowd at Stubb’s during Black Lips’ performance at Friday’s Spin magazine party

Kicks and Steve E. Nix of The Cute Lepers perform at Red 7

Travis Criscola and Kicks of The Cute Lepers

Ebony Bones

Echo & the Bunnymen perform during Friday afternoon’s Spin magazine party at Stubb’s

Flatstock, SXSW’s annual poster art show, is held in the Cesar Chavez Convention Center.  Pictured is artist Lindsey Kuhn.

Glasvegas performed during Friday afternoon’s Spin magazine party at Stubb’s.

Hot Leg, the new band featuring Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, performed at Stubb’s.

British dance sensation Little Boots performed at the Emo’s Annex.

Stage diving at the Red 7 punk showcase featuring The Queers, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Cute Lepers, and more.

Zac Pennington of Parenthetical Girls at Beauty Bar.

Flyer for Devil Dolls Booking punk rock showcase at Red 7.

Johnny Borrell of Razorlight performs at Stubb’s.

Shannon Brown of The Girls performed during the punk showcase at Red 7.

Welcome to SXSW.  Now get in line!

Teenage Bottlerocket brought the punk rock to Red 7

That Petrol Emotion performed their second show in 15 years at the Dog & Duck Pub.

Vivian Girls got gnarly at Aces Lounge.

Wild Beasts performed at the Yorkshire showcase at Lattitude 30.

by Thomas Hauner

27 Mar 2009


After an awkwardly scripted, but hilariously oblivious, introduction by the night’s host Bryan Michael Cox, Peter Bjorn and John took the stage at their “Wonderlust” W Hotel gig. Their physical and musical presence was highly anticipated, not having performed in the US for a year and their fifth album, Living Thing, arriving March 31.

Playing mostly new songs from Living Thing, their sound adhered to the stripped-down minimalist indie pop of past albums—namely the excellent Writer’s Block. But now, in their sparse arrangements, synthetic sounds dominated. Peter Moren hammered away at a keyboard while John Eriksson eschewed a drum throne and kit, instead standing in front of a shelf of sampling pads, drums and cymbals while kicking a bass drum to his right.

Compared to their listless photo op upon entering the venue, the trio was animated and energetic, excited to be performing new music. In a bit of role reversal Björn Yttling played keyboard while Moren slashed away on bass for “I Want You!”

Peter Bjorn and John joined the Catchy-Kids-Chorus-Club with “Nothing To Worry About”. Gorgeous minor-soaked melodies scratched against Eastern flute samples and a heavy beat before Moren’s voice took over. It was the first point in the set at which everyone in the crowd was dancing and seemed to have a clue as to what the Swedes were up to.

On “It Don’t Move Me”, Yttling echoed the same piano sounds he created as producer on Lykke Li’s “I’m Good, I’m Gone”. Also the intro on title track “Living Thing” had hints of Moren’s Swedish rockabilly roots.

A few of the band’s songs were a departure from the irrepressibly catchy, but intriguing, melodies PB and J have accustomed themselves to. At some points they seemed to be veering towards the current post punk trend, one that dishevels their tight sound. Ending with “Object Of My Affection”, however, they played with precisely the type of above punk ethos their music—and facial hair—emanates.

Forty minutes later they finished with a single encore, “Young Folks”. I thought it was a bit 2007, and would have definitely preferred the “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” Moren flaunted at a Mercury Lounge show a year ago.

 

by Thomas Hauner

26 Mar 2009


The Fader’s monthly music series at the American Museum of Natural History, “One Step Beyond”, has declared itself as the place to “see and be seen under the stars” while watching “dynamic visuals” and listening to live music and DJs. At least they got the “under the stars” part right; the museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space is unparalleled in its modern resplendence. 

Aside from the aeronautic-themed atrium nothing else seemed to quite percolate the space. Which isn’t to say Kieren Hebden’s performance (a.k.a. Four Tet) was weak. In fact it was penetrating and dense but light and euphoric, examples of his best traits. But Hebden’s role seemed naturally hindered by the event’s gaudy constraints: Constellations of cocktail tables encouraging static reactions to the energetic music; competing and conflicting videos projected on myriad surfaces; and a crowd whose dichotomy consisted of enthusiastic participants and listless apathetic but aspiring attendees. The latter debilitated the mood most, as there was an awkwardness of conflicting factions.

On the makeshift dance floor (between galactic displays) Hedben sounded patient and balanced. Though he mostly played tracks from his latest Ringer EP, i.e. “Ringer”, “Ribbons”, and “Swimmer”, he also tossed in some older classics, like “Smile Around The Face”. Hebden also flaunted his Tenori-On instrument, decorating the tops of songs with its gimmicky Lite-Brite appeal.

Standing in the dance floor’s nadir (directly under the anchored, and colossal, IMAX orb) the sound was awesome. Though muddled and amorphous in the hall’s surrounding lacunae, on the dance floor the bass throbbed in a visceral pulse while the treble was like its clear conscience. I hadn’t experienced a bass sound so completely consuming since Chicago’s Smart Bar. Paired with the museum’s sci-fi surroundings, it was a pleasant moment to totally lose oneself in.

 

by Jennifer Kelly

23 Mar 2009


Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile

After a long, ultimately fruitless wait for a table at Nuevo Leon, I am again faced with the choice between food and music. Guess which I choose? 

That’s right. Fuck tacos, Kurt Vile is on at Mrs. Bea’s. As I excuse myself I am trying to explain to my dinner companions who I want to see, and they think I’m checking out Kurt Weill, you know, the Threepenny Opera guy, who is, I think, fairly dead by now. No, no, no, this particular Kurt Vile is a sometime participant in War Against Drugs greatness, and also has his own pretty fantastic album, Constant Hitmaker out on the Gulcher label. He is, at the moment, of some interest to at least three big indie labels, so you may be hearing more about the guy later. For now, let us just say that he is a slight, shy fellow, with his hair falling down over his eyes, who somehow manages to evoke the lo-fi purity of New Zealand bands like the Clean as well as larger scale Dylan-into-Springsteen Americana anthemic-ness. He is digging into the slanted epic expansiveness of “Freak Train”, when I arrive, a long jammed-out track with just a hint of California country psych from his upcoming Childish Prodigy. His bass player switches to harmonica for “Freeway”, my favorite of all his songs, his drummer is hitting the toms with the open palm of one hand,  the other shaking a maraca. It is, as the name implies, a breezy, endless highway, wind through the open windows kind of song, full of that relentless optimism that comes with starting over, and Vile’s guitar, a wooden Les Paul, arches through its shimmery textures like a rainbow after a long storm. He switches to a flower-engraved Ensenada 12-string for the next song, whose title I can’t catch, coaxing a shivery, ghostly tone from it that is a little bit blues, a little bit folk. 

caUSE co-MOTION

caUSE co-MOTION

caUSE co-MOTION sets up almost immediately after Vile, and I have to say, their album It’s Time, a collection of singles, left me a little bit cold. It seemed like a fairly pale rehash of a lot of things from 1978 - 1981… the Clash, Fire Engines, English Beat, etc…. and without any really memorable songs. I like the show a whole lot more than the record, though, because they are working their songs so very hard. The bass player, in particular, is all over the place, doing the leaps and kicks and lunges that, like MSG, make everything taste a little sharper. The drummer plays a short-order kit, no bass drum, just snare, cymbal and floor tom, getting the most of out it, though with frantic, marching-band-on-speed snare fills, sticks bouncing straight up to perpendicular with the impact. The singing is laconic, flat and stream-of-conscious, classic first-wave punk to the core, but feeling less like an imitation, more like a personal style in the live context. As in much of late 1970s punk, there’s something vaguely ska-ish about the guitars, which sting and chime in a trebly upper register. And here’s the thing, I thought the songs weren’t that memorable, but I remember a whole bunch of them, “Which Way Is Up” with its left-turn triplet break, the razor-y jangle of “This Just Won’t Last”, the summer-y angst of “This Time Next Year”. This band is better than I thought, and way, way, way better live than on the record.

Psychedelic Horseshit

Psychedelic Horseshit

Psychedelic Horseshit is the kind of band that, even if I knew nothing else about them, I would go see just for the name. In this case, though, there’s a lot more to love than the band name, especially if you like that grimy, diesel-fueled punk rock that sounds like the Fall recorded in someone’s shower stall—with the water on. Some of the band members are wearing hand-markered T-shirts that read “Wavves Suxx”, a double consonant eddig at the one-man garage phenom receiving inexplicable love from the blog world. (Wavves is playing later at the same party, but I’ve heard so many people trash him by that point, that I leave beforehand.) “I Fucking Hate the Beach” says the singer, maybe a song title, maybe a statement of purpose, but in any case, the beginning of the kind of mayhem where amps and cymbal stands fall like dominoes and everybody keeps going. Another song is said to be called “We’re Pink Floyd Bitch”, is played from a guitar held together with hope and duct tape, from which sudden flares of wah emerge from something between a drone and a rant. Then they play my favorite, “Rather Dull” just as chaotic and fine as on the record, and maybe a little better sound, and it’s over.

Blank Dogs

Blank Dogs

Blank Dogs is another band I mean to see before I go home, just missed him a couple of days ago at Beerland, but bought On Two Sides at the table anyway. It’s super fun, echo-distorted, keyboard-heavy, post-punk, more synthetic and along the lines of Joy Division or Echo and the Bunnyman than say, the Fall or Gang of Four. It’s getting pretty packed by now, and I have to slither a little to get close enough for a photo. Mr. Blank Dog is reverbed to the max, his voice echoing like a horror movie soundtrack. He plays a few songs, ending with a really great version of “Leaving the Light On”, and then something technical goes wrong and the set is cut short.

The Ohsees

The Ohsees

That means it’s time for the Ohsees, John Dwyer’s current band (old ones include Pink and Brown, Hospitals and the Coachwhips) out of San Francisco, who totally kill, absolutely the best band of the night. Ohsees started out as kind of a lo-fi blues-folk taping project, much mellower than Coachwhips (almost everything is somewhat mellower than Coachwhips, but this was really toned down). It has evidently evolved into something much more garage-y and hard-rocking. Dwyer is typically, maniacally charming, switching between at least three well-worn guitars, biting down hard on the mic, jumping and twitching and yowling a punk rock blues, trading cracks in reverb-echoed god-voice with Todd P. and generally tearing the shit out of his tunes. For the last song, he invites Kyle from the Fresh and Onlys (also Ty Segall’s drummer on Wednesday) up and sets a two-man drum train, for a monster-chugging, amp-damaged, blues-rock frenzy… fantastic stuff. 

Eat Skull plays next, if anything even better than on Wednesday, the sound sharper so that you can actually hear the words. The singer, Rob Enbom (like Dwyer , ex- of Hospitals), has twisted his ankle, and so performs the whole set sitting on the floor, but it doesn’t seem to slow things down much. In fact the fuzz has cleared a little, and I am getting, for the first time, a little whiff of the Sex Pistols out of this band. Another great set, and by this time, the whole backyard, plus the empty lot next door, plus the parking lot behind the stage, are full of kids, some sitting on top of their cars, some hanging out of trees, some climbing onto the railings around the stage, to hear the music. It’s like a punk rock Woodstock, without the mud, but plenty of broken glass to step over, watch your step.

Woods

Woods

Woods has, by this time, set up on the concrete below the stage. They play a set of mostly fairly ethereal psychedelic pop, with high eerie harmonies and dense New Zealand lo-fi guitars. Then right at the end, they all switch instruments, and the sound turns totally punk. 

Crystal Stilts comes next, a band whose full-length Alight of Night I’ve enjoyed a lot, but I’ve heard, over and over, that they are not very good live, and they are truly not. A muddy wash laps over their slacked-out, early 1980s sound, a drone so dense that you can hardly tell the songs apart. I move closer to the stage and further away, trying to find a spot where I can hear, but it’s all just a mess. Getting colder all the time, too, and I’ve dressed for mid-1980s sunshine. Wavves is coming on next, and after that, No Age, but it’s too crowded to see much anymore, and I wander off, thinking vaguely of checking what’s at Beerland. Once I get there, though, exhaustion and overload takes over, and I hail a cab home. Hate to end on a down note, but there it is, my final band at SXSW 2009.

 

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