Music

Music Day 3: WFMU Showcase - The Strong Stuff

Photos: Jennifer Kelly

Music Day 3: WFMU Showcase - The Strong Stuff

Lots of the music at SXSW is about as concentrated as the Coca Cola they sell at the Mohawk… vaguely sweet, see-through watery, and deceptively empty once you discount all the ice. WFMU, one of the oldest and surely the best free-form radio station in the world, doesn’t traffic in that stuff. At their showcase, sponsored with San Francisco’s Aquarius Records, every act on the bill is intense, focused, and compelling. The bands come from lots of genres -- spazz punk, metal, alt-country, blues garage, and experimental jam -- but they have in common a certain purity of focus and full-body commitment. Nobody here is punching the clock.

Gary War

Gary War, for instance, on the inside stage, amps his dream-cave-echoing psychedelia, transforming a wavery, illuminative recorded sound (from the excellent Raytheonport) into something denser and more enveloping. Gary War, whose real name is Greg, played for a while with Ariel Pink and another while with cult psych recluse Bobb Trimble, and his songs have the same glistening sheathe of reverb, the same Beach-Boys-through-a-soapy-funhouse-mirror harmonies.

Prizehog

Outside, more mayhem, as the drummer for Prizehog has stripped down to his underwear, the female keyboard player on her knees twisting some sort of knobbery, and an unholy sheets-of-noise racket streaming out of the amps. Metal-ish, but not really metal, Prizehog allows long, sustained guitar tones to mutate into space echos and buzz, doom-ish chants to build in slow, nightmarish ritual.

XYZ

XYX, from Mexico, is a frenetic, bass-drums duo, fritzed out with angsty, Lightning Bolt-ish aggression, but with the added attraction of Senorita Anhelo, the female bass player, who chants and shouts and ululates like the Latin chapter of OOIOO. Her drummer, Mou, is pretty fantastic, too, all clash and clatter and boxy, sticks-up propulsion. “Anel and Her Problem” is straight-out, shout-punk, but other cuts venture into experimental and improv-type sounds. Great stuff.

Wildildlife

Everybody in Wildildlife has huge hair, the drummer with his waist-length dreads, the Tad-shirted bass player and curly-haired guitarist, both sporting extravagant, biker-man manes. But the thing is, you need hair for this kind of music, hair to toss in slo-mo, large-scale head nods, hair to hang down over your face as you slam down another power chord, hair longer than a girl’s but twice as menacing, as you lay down pound after pound after pound of ear-splitting, mind-melting metal. All those guys standing in line at Stubb’s for Metallica in Guitar Hero shirts should put down their text messaging and hear this.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Kehr was one of the best long-form essay writers people read for clear and sometimes brutally honest indictments of film.

It's perhaps too trite and rash to conclude that the age of good, cogent film criticism is over. They still exist out there, always at print publications such as The New Yorker and at major newspapers like The New York Times. An argument can be made that the late, legendary film critic Roger Ebert became a better writer when he departed from cinema and covered literature, book collecting, or even the simplest pleasures of life. If we look at the film criticism of James Agee from the '40s, or even the short but relevant stint of novelist and short story writer Graham Greene as a film critic, we come to understand that the greatest writing about film went beyond the spectrum of what they saw on the screen.
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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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