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Thursday, Oct 3, 2013
Genres like metal can be experienced as a cleansing agent, removed of anger, sadness, pleasure, and bereft of space and origin. Momentarily, you are negated, a joyous flipside to nihilism.

It’s June in New York and there’s rain spitting down on everyone stuck outside. But I’m inside at Warsaw, the Polish National Home in Brooklyn, one of a crowd of a thousand whose eardrums are being ripped to shreds. The bandleader is standing up on a crowded stage, using the neck of his guitar as a baton, his whole body pivoting between swells of violent noise that feel like blinding light. I have decided to take my earplugs out.


The band onstage is Swans, and I leave that night physically exhausted, as if I’d done something other than stand stock-still for two-plus hours. I have a hard time explaining to everyone just what was so pleasurable about the experience, that this all-rhythm, no-melody approach actually heightened the show’s sensory assault, and pushed it into territory generally never trod by touring bands: the transcendent.


Tagged as: metal, michael gira, swans
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Thursday, Jul 18, 2013
How a rock opera from the '70s transformed what should have been another calm, neglectful Sunday in my life.

It was early June 2013 when I found myself in London by complete chance, on a long weekend with nothing but time. Waking up to a lazy Sunday after a heavy Saturday (those pub crawls will get to you after the fourth or fifth shot), I figured I should try and see a show at the West End since I had never done it. I had heard good things about Jersey Boys, so I went to Leicester Square around 9 AM. The bookie had just opened the shop and didn’t look very happy to see me.


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Thursday, Sep 6, 2012
Greenbelt Harvest Picnic is the festival for people who don’t like festivals.

Who doesn’t love a music festival? Well, me, actually. I’ve never been the energetic type, the “let’s bounce from one stage to another amid the swirling masses for like three days” type. I wish that I were, of course. You miss a lot of great stuff when you’re lazy. But even if I could get over my basic preference for standing relatively still during a performance, then there’s the whole “swirling masses” thing. Lolapolooza, Bonnaroo, Osheaga, and Coachella all attract me with their offerings but cause me to feel the gurgling jellies of anxiety every time I imagine finding myself in a sea of people, unable to escape, stretch out, find a place to take a breath. I like bars with clearly-marked exits, is what I’m saying.


But I’ve always wanted to change this, and have been looking for the right festival to ease myself into the whole thing. And, then I heard about the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic.


Small (fewer than 10,000 people, by my estimate), sponsored and supported by local non-profits and smallish businesses, and featuring a decidedly stellar lineup fronted by Feist, Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, Gord Downie & the Sadies, Mix Master Mike, and Sarah Harmer, this seemed like a worthy place to test the waters.


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Friday, Jun 8, 2012
Canada's North by Northeast is the ostensible cousin to Austin, Texas' SXSW, and I for one am stoked about attending it this year.

Starting next week in Toronto is the giant clusterbang of North by Northeast, the ostensible cousin to the much more famous and better-attended and generally more-prestigious-in-every-way Austin-based South by Southwest conference.


And I am stoked.


This year between June 11 and 17, we are looking forward to the usual raft of indie films, roundtable and panel discussion sessions, and tons and tons and tons of music in late-night sweaty bars. But, also, this year we can look forward to free open air concerts from the likes of the Flaming Lips, Raekwon and Ghostface, Bad Religion, and Of Montreal, a deeply impressive list of unexpected invites to head the marquee.


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Wednesday, Mar 14, 2012
With the 2012 South by Southwest Music Conference currently underway, Sound Affects lets you know about ten moments you might have missed at last year's event.

This week, industry professionals, artists, and the media gather in Austin, Texas for the 26th annual South by Southwest Music Conference. What started out as a meeting of the minds and a dog-and-pony-show for new and emerging artists has grown to become a popular destination for music fans. Consequently, SXSW increasingly attracts a broad range of entities with ties to the music industry, including participants, partners, platforms, and consumers of music. The convergence of entertainment media has brought the three SXSW conferences—music, film, and interactive technology—closer together. What was once considered anathema to artists (using rock and pop music to sell products, convey an image, or establish a brand) has become so common that the notion of “selling out”, once a label that could imperil an artist’s ability to maintain their integrity, has become quaint. In what has become a virtuous feedback loop, music helps sell movies and products, while movies and products help merchandise music. Music appears anywhere and everywhere, embedded in devices, advertisements, and film and television scores, no longer just existing as standalone works of art. Consequently, SXSW has grown from a glorified trade conference into a pop culture juggernaut.


To fully appreciate the ubiquity of music in our lives, and SXSW’s emergence as a major commercial force beyond its importance as a taste-maker and trendsetter, we take a look at a list of ten memorable performances from last year’s conference. If these moments trigger a sense of familiarity in the embedded SXSW experience, you’re probably the industry insider, hipster, local, or combined hip-local-industry-insider who refers to the conference as “South By”. If you are new to the SXSW experience, view this list as a crash course in what to expect from the conference.


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