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Friday, March 16th, 2007

SxSW XXI II

Interesting bit of trivia – with the exception of the trip back to the hotel last night, I have gotten lost every time I’ve gotten into my car. Not entirely my fault – they’re closing all different streets at different times this year than last. But for someone who sort of thinks they know their way around downtown Austin by now, it’s a bit embarrassing.

Anyway. Yesterday afternoon was spent at the famous Antone’s club (famous to blues fans, anyway) with the Spaceland/LiveDaily party that I was ostensibly co-presenting. Twelve hours on and I’m still not sure what that meant.

Monsters Are Waiting (Los Angeles, CA) @ Antone’s – Though I arrived a little late, the day also started a little late so I still caught most of MAW’s set. I saw them last year at a little club across the street and this larger space, with the fancy lights and all suited them better. Their new wavey rock and Annalee Fery’s twitchy/sexy stage persona works better when there’s a larger audience to witness it. Interestingly, this was the second time in the past 12 hours or so I’d heard someone play the bassline from “I Wanna Be Adored”. But while Minipop only soundchecked with it, Monsters gave it a proper cover. Which I think they also did last year. That’s okay.

MP3: Monsters Are Waiting – “Last Goodbye”
MySpace: Monsters Are Waiting

Dirty On Purpose (Brooklyn, NY) @ Antone’s – Dirty On Purpose have been coming to SxSW as long as I have and it doesn’t seem like Sx unless I catch the boys somewhere somewhen. Their set seemed extra short with a couple new songs mixed in with Hallelujah Sirens selections and while it may have been a little early in the day for some to appreciate their fuzz-pop (or maybe just early for the band to be playing) I enjoyed their set as I always do. I also conducted a quick interview with them afterwards for LiveDaily which I’m going to see about getting the audio for and transcribing.

MP3: Dirty On Purpose – “No Radio”
MySpace: Dirty On Purpose

DATAROCK (Bergen, Norway) @ Antone’s – What you need to know: DATAROCK are Norwegian. They wear matching red track suits and red wraparound sunglasses. They play synth rock that’s as awesome as it is ridiculous, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. I personally went with the former. Entertainment personified.

MP3: DATAROCK – “Fa-Fa-Fa”
MySpace: DATAROCK

Annuals (Raleigh, NC) @ Antone’s – These guys (and girl) have rather quickly busted out from the “blog favourite” ghetto and are building themselves quite the fanbase. Me, I don’t really get it. Their style of pop is ambitious and they’re all obviously accomplished enough musicians to pull it off but it’s all just a little too dense and (melo)dramatic to tickle my fancy. I felt that way about the album and the live show’s done nothing to convince me otherwise. Points for effort, though.

MySpace: Annuals

Blonde Redhead (New York, NY) @ Antone’s – And here’s where things go off the tracks. To this point, things were running around 15 minutes behind. Not ideal, but about what was to be expected. Blonde Redhead, whom I’ve only recently begun listening to with their excellent new record 23, were an exciting choice to headline and I – and the packed club – were excited to see them play. But first they had to soundcheck. For half an hour. They went on and on, testing and re-testing mics, samplers, whatever, before finally starting to play at 5PM. Of course, what we didn’t know at the time (but I suspect they did) was that there was a 5:15 curfew and after four songs and 15 minutes, the band said they were done and left. It’s a good thing that the show was free otherwise things would have gotten ugly – as it was, there was lots of grumbling from the attendees as they were shooed out the door. Even though what the band did play sounded great, it was still a pretty lousy situation. I was not impressed.

MP3: Blonde Redhead – “23”
MySpace: Blonde Redhead

Shearwater (Austin, TX) @ The Central Presbyterian Church – The evening itinerary started at a little church at the north end of downtown where local heroes Shearwater played an amazing set. To hear Jonathan Meiburg’s vocals in a church’s acoustics while pounding out “Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five” on a grand piano was something to behold. Playing material from their soon-to-be revitalized Palo Santo as well as a couple of new songs, the band sounded more powerful than I’d imagined they could and their performance was simply jaw-dropping.

MP3: Shearwater – “Red Sea Black Sea”
MySpace: Shearwater

Joan As Police Woman (Brooklyn, NY) @ The Ale House – I wasn’t really familiar with JAPW before last night but went to her showcase based on the enthusiasm of some people whom I trust. Playing solo and alternating between guitar and keyboard, Joan Wasser struck me as someone you could classify as a singer-songwriter, but not much beyond that. You couldn’t call her folk, or blues, or even rock or pop – what she was was dark, acerbic, witty and a bit weird. But also quite enjoyable.

MP3: Joan As Police Woman – “The Ride”
MySpace: Joan As Police Woman

Cloud Cult (Minneapolis, MN) @ Emo’s Jr – This was another showcase attended based largely on the positive opinions of others. Objectively, they reminded me of Annuals in the complexity and ambitiousness of their pop music, but subjectively, I enjoyed their stuff much more. It’s less frantic and more elegiac-sounding, thanks in no small part to the cello and violin players’ contributions. I wasn’t blown away but it was a solid performance and positive first impression. They also get points for having the most original band merch – during their set, they had two members painting canvases onstage, and at the end they announced they would sell them via silent auction at the merch table. I don’t know how many takers they got, but the pieces were actually pretty nice. Certainly more unique than a t-shirt.

MySpace: Cloud Cult

The Dears (Montreal, QC) @ Stubb’s – I actually had no intention of seeing The Dears, but my plan of standing in line at Stubb’s for an hour was undone by the fact that there was no lineup. I walked right in, to the front and into the photo pit in under three minutes. Hey. But if there was ever a place The Dears were suited for, it’s a big festival stage with an audience ready and primed for some hyper-emotional and dramatic Brit-influenced rock. A good primer for the headliner, and Murray Lightburn had the quote of the day when he said, “Stick around for the next band and maybe you won’t have to ask me to autograph your Bloc Party CDs”. Golden.

MySpace: The Dears

Bloc Party (London, England) @ Stubb’s – Okay, sign me up for the Bloc Party fan club. I mentioned last week how much I was enjoying their new album A Weekend In The City but now that I’ve seen them live, I’m sold. Energetic, anthemic, charismatic and unbelievably tight, Bloc Party put on one hell of a show at Stubb’s that even if I had had to wait in line for an hour plus, it’d have been worth it. I can’t recall the last time I saw a band that simply owned such a large stage and still managed to make it feel intimite, though in a thoroughly rocking way? it may have been recently – I actually can’t recall. How many bands can say they got me to dance by myself in a field in Texas with 3000 strangers? Just one. A completely atypical SxSW experience in its stadium rock-osity but still sure to be one of the highlights of this week.

MySpace: Bloc Party

Hot Freaks today! If you come by the Mohawk or DeVille, find me and say hi. I’ll be the one with my feet in the epsom salts.

By : Frank Yang at 10:34 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Thierry says:

    I’m not surprised by your reaction to Bloc Party – I enjoyed their first record fine, but was not blown away by them – until I saw them thoroughly steal the show at Broken Social Scene’s Olympic Island thing last summer. This is a band that was made to play for large crowds, and they seem to relish (and more than rise up to) the challenge of a large audience of unconverted.

    Sorry to hear about the Blonde Redhead crap, as I remember this being one of the shows you were really looking forward to…

  2. NP says:

    wow, $2000 for 15 minutes work isn’t a bad racket at all to be in!

  3. Carrie says:

    Lucky you. I’ve been dying to see Bloc Party for ages, and something either always comes up or they cancel and I end up having to shoot Panic! at the Disco. I can’t WAIT to see them in a few weeks.

  4. danieljosef says:

    Wow, I’m glad you enjoyed BP so much. I’ve been a believer since seeing them play the Opera House a few years back, they killed and had the entire audience dancing. Their rhythm section is quite amazing also, especially the drummer. Kele is incredibly charming and a perfect frontman.

  5. Chutler says:

    Joan Wasser (JAPW) has been on the scene since the early 90’s, was a close friend of Jeff Buckley’s, and a member of Those Bastard Souls.

  6. joel hunt says:

    it wasn’t blonde redhead’s fault. the show was running 45 minutes late, not 15. the stage manager was nowhere to be found all day long, and the crew that was there was argumentative, combative, and generally terrible to be around. it’s amazing that they even got to play at all, considering what a fucking mess antone’s gave the band to work with.

  7. Hugo says:

    Hey i was wondering if you had any pics of Monsters are waiting or better yet video of it

    Hugo
    Huanes@sbcglobal.net

  8. bo says:

    I’ll second Hugo’s request.

  9. Frank says:

    pics from everyone I saw are forthcoming. Give me a week or so.

  10. get the facts straight says:

    Just so you know Blonde Redhead is the reason they only played 3 songs. They SOUNDCHECKED earlier in the day, the singer was a total diva and screamed at the soundguys the entire time. So when the second somewhat unnecessary "soundcheck" was just them being asses and being disagreeable.

  11. get the facts straight says:

    Joel must be part of the band’s entourage because both antone’s crew AND the party producers I talked to bitched majorly about the diva that is blonde redhead…

  12. joel hunt says:

    i was at the soundcheck, i work for their label. kazu did not scream at anyone, nor did anyone else in the band, nor did their sound man, nor did their tour manager, nor did i.

    seems like you shouldn’t be talking about getting the facts straight when you weren’t even there, you claim to hear this second-hand. i was there, the band was on time and agreeable, unlike antone’s staff.

  13. you see I-m not the one promoting them says:

    Of course you would say that – you work for their label. I have nothing to gain or lose by telling you what I heard. You do.

  14. not in the music business says:

    I don’t work in the music biz and I have nothing against BR. What I’m offering is information I heard from multiple sources (I was at Antone’s later in the night as well which is when I heard the Antone’s side of the story as oppose to producer folk who told me the same thing at the daytime show at Antone’s). I guess people can make up their own mind who is biased and who is not, who is right or who is wrong, but those who plan to book them in the future should keep it in mind.

  15. c-ya says:

    finally – as you can see they soundchecked twice. if not divas then at the very least, high maintenance.

  16. joel hunt says:

    yeah sure, you’re not "biased" by taking the so-called "antone’s side of the story," whereas i’m biased by actually relating what i saw and heard as someone who was there. if it wasn’t obvious to you, the annuals only played four songs during the party as well, so the time management (or lack thereof) wasn’t just due to blonde redhead but, again, to poor or non-existent stage management. and no, i don’t have anything to lose by saying as such. and promoters who book br probably are savvy enough to know what they need to know about the band without help from anonymous weenies posting hearsay on blogs.

  17. weenie fights back says:

    what a little *ss you are – calling somebody a weenie just because they aren’t slobbering all over your band, and has a different version of events than yours.

    you are just an effin snob joel hunt.

    why would you consider me biased? I have no affilitation to any of the above and I’m not taking anyone’s side. however you are the only one who has a different story than the others. Yep, I’d say YOU are the biased one.

    Anyway, maybe BR could have played more songs if that first one wasn’t that long droney one note over and over with wailed vocals over the top. no wonder the applause for that one was slight.

  18. Greg says:

    Frank.
    I have been reading your blog for a while. It’s painful.
    Are you a disgruntled "web monkey"? You sure write like one.
    Amateur.
    I’m glad that you and so many others have your little forums to
    stand on, whether you really know anything of your subjects
    or not. Your concert reviews are petulant, and they reek of you feeling like
    you should be on that big stage in your own mind. Or at least
    invited in to the dressing rooms of those artists that you like to slam.
    The ones that you are so much better than.
    I know several of the artists personally that you have your little reviews on.
    Most of your facts are incorrect, and you seem like a little angry guy.

  19. no shit says:

    the annuals were awesome. no grumbling over their performance at all. what’s your deal – don’t like intricate melodic songs by people with acutal musical skills (not just programming a machine???

  20. no shit says:

    I just gotta say it again. you liked datarock and not the annuals?

    you prefer bleeps blips and electronic machine noises programmed by a user far in advance to wonderfuls songs created by multiple instruments played by people with mad talent?

    yer high chromosome boy.