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Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012
With this year's South by Southwest Music and Media Conference kicking off next week, Sound Affects assembles a list of 10 acts to check out on your visit to Austin, Texas.

The challenge: coming up with a list of 10—not 25, not 100 (really NPR, 100?), but 10—must-see music events at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas this year. For the music lover, the annual South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (taking place March 13th to 18th) presents an Olympic task that involves winnowing over 1000 performing artists down to a manageable shortlist, and then shoehorning one’s must-see happenings into a roughly four-day period.  Do the math: for even the most disciplined music fan, we’re talking a maximum of six evening slots, and maybe a potential half-dozen day party slots (assuming one attends to essentials such as eating, schmoozing, and checking mail).  Throw in a few random touches like running into Lou Barlow playing the convention center food court, and we’re looking at perhaps 50, tops.


Thankfully, SXSW has gone one better, expanding to a fifth night (corresponding with a Pitchfork showcase held on the eve of the festival last year). Having scanned the most recently-available list of announced showcase slots, we present for your consideration, a list of “oh see this” artists.  I had a friend last year who kept things simple—he simply went traveled to wherever his favorite UK band was playing, and ended up going to a lot of parties and gaining broader exposure through a wide range of support acts. Our list strives to provide some degree of balance in the musical diet.  So who’s on yours?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.


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Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011
A legendary German music venue that has hosted a number of major American acts over the last several years turns 20 this month.

When Americans stereotype the German music scene, they think of techno and Berlin nightclubs. There is however, a much more extensive network of national clubs in Germany that hosts international indie bands. One club in the city of Dresden is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month—Beatpol concert hall is known for its ambitious approach, in terms of curating international music within the Dresden area. The venue has hosted hundreds of American indie bands since its opening in 1991. Names like The National, Interpol, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, and Death Cab For Cutie all toured through the 500-person capacity club during their early careers.


Tucked away in the outskirts of Dresden, Beatpol is housed in an old ballroom that the city has used for various forms of entertainment for over a century. “It’s a lone soldier in Dresden. The venue has a soul, and people notice that,” said Johannes Zink, Beatpol’s lighting technician.


Beatpol is a place where people come to experience live music exclusively. According to Beatpol manager Hans-Jürgen Lachotta, “Beatpol is located nowhere near the club/party scene. Whoever comes to Beatpol comes because he or she wants to hear his or her favorite music, or get to know new music”.


The city of Dresden houses most of its youth culture in the “Neustadt”, or the “new” part of the city. The area is on the north side of the city’s main river and is packed with bars and clubs. Beatpol however, is several tram stops away from the Neustadt, back on the other side of the river in an older neighborhood called Cotta. Surprisingly, the location has proved to be a more positive attribute, contributing to the venue’s purpose.


“In my opinion, if Beatpol were located more centrally in the city of Dresden, more people would come to the club—but Beatpol’s mentality is not about profit, but about organizing good shows with great bands”, explained Dresden student and Beatpol frequenter Jan Zscheile. “For this reason, Cotta is a perfect location… the audience consists of mostly concert-goers and music enthusiasts. With only occasional exceptions, there aren’t intoxicated, thoughtless people who just simply ‘go to the show’”.


What makes the venue unique as a whole is its ever-present philosophy of team management. Lachotta, a man who lived through World War II and was a citizen under Soviet Regime until the fall of the Berlin Wall, maintains the venue with positive notions retrieved from Soviet times: Not one staff member is more important than the other; at the end of the night, each concert is a success because of the entire team.


Beatpol’s personal chef Eric Spiegelhauer credits the venue’s success to Lachotta’s work philosophy, “Throughout the years, he’s never sacrificed or given up his strong ethical values. He’s never done the business just for himself, but for the sake of music—for the bands, for the club, for the staff, and for Dresden”.


Spiegelhauer, a hired chef for the touring bands and staff, is another part of what makes the venue so distinct. Before every show, Spiegelhauer prepares a number of traditional and non-traditional German dishes for everyone to enjoy in a family-style dining setting. When Iron and Wine toured through the venue this past summer and the band’s tour manager asked lead singer Samuel Beam what he should try from Spiegelhauer’s cuisine, Beam replied, “All of it. It’s all so good”.


These small, individual details that the Beatpol staff preserves are key to maintaining a long-term audience and a long list of bands that insist on coming back to the venue, even when they’re meant to play larger shows. The high standards are something for American venues to take note of, according to many American bands that pass through Beatpol, such as the Portland band The Thermals:


“You feel like a guest over here. They take putting on shows more seriously here. You show up to a club in the US and just the sound guy shows up, he just woke up, and he’s super bummed out and grumbling. Maybe the promoter comes to the show? But here, even with the lights and sound, they take everything more seriously, like, ‘we’re putting on a concert’. In the US, it’s just another show,” explained Thermals guitarist and singer Hutch Harris.


As for the future of Beatpol, Lachotta remains hopeful, “There have been music highlights on and off in Dresden, but they come and go. I’m proud that we have a place for people in Dresden, where they can come just for the music. Perhaps every band won’t be the taste of every audience member, but at least people can always expect high quality. We repeat good work and insist on high expectations. It’s an ideal location and venue. I hope the future will be long and bright”.


***


Jennifer Brown volunteers at and works as the American Translator for Beatpol. Her insight and access to this venue allowed her present the German (or perhaps European) take on the touring and venue system for bands.


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Monday, Oct 3, 2011
Avant-garde, spoken-word band Enablers start their 42-show tour through Europe. PopMatters caught up with them in Dresden and they talked about the European music scene and what it's like to be part of such a distinct genre.

The American four-part “spoken-word” act Enablers toured through Dresden last night. Marking the group’s second stop on a 42-show European tour, the Dresden show followed a concert in Leipzig and a five-day rehearsal in Berlin (the band members are sprinkled throughout the US and don’t have too much time to practice together regularly). The band’s performance was titillating and thought-provoking, building off of strong instrumentation and beautiful cadence and flow within Pete Simonelli’s vocals. I hung out with the guys before the show and talked about all-things music.


You guys are known as a pretty under-the-radar “cool” band in Germany. Fans of yours seem to be pretty loyal, from what I gather. Do you sense this loyalty when you tour through Europe?


Yes, definitely. A lot of our fans become our friends. We do all of our own booking—Kevin does all of the booking—so we manage to meet people that way. The Internet also makes it so much easier.


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Tuesday, Apr 12, 2011
Among all the fervent eulogizing of the late LCD Soundsystem, a backlash has kicked up some funereal dirt. So, where to lay the band to rest -- with the hippest of the hip, or the bright-but-empty space with most of the other Madison Square Garden clientele?

What else to say about the early demise of LCD Soundsystem? The blogosphere already let the digital tears roll with eulogies ranging from the fantastically extensive to the cut-and-dry to, yes, remarks from the naysayers. For those who couldn’t make either the week-long victory lap at Terminal 5 or the final blow out at Madison Square Garden on April 2, setlists and reviews and videos abound. The show at MSG was as explosive and far-reaching as promised, a sea of black and white (and occasional spots of color from those who either didn’t get the memo or were too embarrassed to indulge in some fan-boy dress code respect) and palpable energy, even when James Murphy scrounged deeply into his pockets to pull out b-sides rarely or never heard live (“Freak Out/Starry Eyes”, anyone?).


But LCD Soundsystem was always tremendous live, so none of that should be any surprise. What is actually astonishing—not surprising, but really something to stand back and look at without the sense of irony that surrounds so much of our dialogue about indie music—is how this outpouring of love for the band reveals just how much LCD Soundsystem came to mean to so many people over a relatively short amount of time. It’s no real mystery how James Murphy pulled it off: he’s a damn good songwriter and a seemingly tireless workhorse, to boot. Still, how many bands in 2011 could call it quits and hear such an immense gasp of real sadness from every corner of the globe? We’re talking genuine emotion on the Internet, folks—and on a massive scale. Chew on that one for a second.


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Friday, Apr 1, 2011
Having long destroyed the notion that they are a mere "actor band", 30 Seconds to Mars top off its year by headlining the Bamboozle festival, all while guitarist Tomo Milicevic reveals his powers of astral projection and a love for Ayn Rand . . .

30 Seconds to Mars has literally pulled off the impossible: its has transcended the dreaded status of being known as “an actor band”.


While the band was initially seen as nothing more than an alt-rock outlet for Requiem for a Dream actor Jared Leto, the group slowly began to amass fans, initially on the strength of its 2006 single “The Kill” (from its sophomore album A Beautiful lie), and very much solidifying its mainstream acceptance with 2009’s “Kings and Queens” (a song which bares a very heavy U2 influence), the accompanying music video for which was nominated for Video of the Year at the following year’s MTV VMAs.  Now, the band is capping off a successful year of touring behind This Is War by being one of the headliners at this year’s Bamboozle Festival, going on from April 29th—May 1st in East Rutherford, New Jersey.


Before that takes place, however, 30 Seconds to Mars’ guitarist Tomo Milicevic sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions via e-mail (Milicevic, born in Serajevo, has been playing with the band since A Beautiful Lie).  Here, he reveals Leto’s advice about push-ups, forgets to answer a few questions, and lets us know that one his hidden talents is astral projection . . .


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