Posts Tagged ‘Venice Is Sinking’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

SxSW 2009 A/V – Venice Is Sinking

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangVenice Is Sinking
Athens, Georgia, USA

The American orchestral dream-pop quintet will release their cinematic sophomore album Azar on March 31 via One Percent Press
Show review
– Interview at Aquarium Drunkard.

Photos: Venice Is Sinking @ Ace’s Lounge – March 18, 2009
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Okay”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Pulaski Heights”
MySpace: Venice Is Sinking

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

SxSW 2009 Night One

Ume, Ladyhawk, Laura Marling and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFestival schedules fall behind, it’s inevitable, but to do so with the very first act of the very first night is not a good sign. Austin trio Ume were set to take the stage at Maggie Mae’s at 7:30PM, a fact crucial to my attempts to cram as much as possible into the night, but when show time rolled around everyone was still standing outside on the sidewalk in line as the staff tried to figure out how to direct traffic to the venue’s three stages. Something that had apparently not occurred to them in the previous 360 days between the last time they did this and yesterday. Not impressive. By the time we got in to the room and Ume took the stage, they were about 20 minutes behind – not a huge amount, but enough to force me to bail on Crocodile, who were going on at 8.

All notion of disappointment evaporated the moment they started playing, however, as Ume simply killed it and set the bar for the rest of the night – hell, the rest of the festival – appropriately high. Singer-guitarist Lauren Larson looked like a wee slip of a girl, but was a ferocious frontwoman. She wasn’t all aggro and in your face – she was actually quite sweet and friendly between songs – but during the songs, her mission was to melt your face with her guitarwork. Equal parts stoner-heavy, grunge-sloppy and pop-melodic, watching her play while whipping around the stage like a dervish was awe-inspiring. And the fact that this was done in the context of excellent and compact songs. Absolutely superb stuff that sent me down 6th St abuzz.

As mentioned, I had to miss Crocodile’s set but I did hear them from the Wave Rooftop down on the street. Sounded good. But I had to get to Stubb’s, where Ladyhawke was set to play one of her only shows at the fest – whereas most acts play enough that you can pick and choose performances to fit your schedule, she managed to make hers one you planned your day around. This doesn’t mean I expected a spectacular performance, I just wanted to see her play and hear the songs which have been embedded in my skull for the past few weeks and that’s pretty much what she delivered. Fronting a four-piece band, she delivered a shortish set of the best tunes from her debut, played mostly verbatim from the record, and I was content. The thousand-plus people gathered to see here seemed content too.

It was then way back to the other end of 6th St to see Venice Is Sinking at Ace’s Lounge, a venue that takes the prize for oddest room I’ve ever seen a show in. The stage setup had the band on a 10-foot high stage situated in a corner of the room with the bar surrounding it on two sides like a moat. And there was a balcony around the upstairs. In a word, bizarre, and probably not the best place if you’re a band that likes to get up close and personal with your fans. For Venice Is Sinking, however, it almost seemed appropriate given their beautiful and delicate orchestrally-inclined pop – you almost want to put it on a pedestal, out of reach, lest someone accidentally brush against it and break it. Seeing them live was somewhat revelatory in that the long instrumental and ambient passages that envelop their records were done away with, leaving just the gleaming pop centres for all to see and even though I knew the songs and knew they were great, having them knocked off one after another (with a couple covers thrown in for good measure) was an eye-opener.

Latitude 30 around the corner was again the de facto British Music Embassy and I got there in time to see Laura Marling perform. The 2008 Mercury Prize-nominee was appropriately playing to a packed house but was doing so solo, quite a different dynamic from the full-band configuration that I’d seen her with last year. She actually said that Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons was supposed to be accompanying her but travel snafus had nixed that. So instead it was just Laura, charming and nervous, playing a brief set of songs old and new. She definitely sounds better with the band – both from the richer arrangements and the confidence they obviously provide her with – but her sheer talent was more than enough to make it a worthy performance.

And again, it was from one end of 6th St to the other to see Sky Larkin make their Austin debut at the rather dark and grungy Red 7 patio. I actually don’t know when the last time I’d seen a band have so much sheer fun playing, blasting through one fuzzy pop nugget after another and drummer Nestor Matthews, in particular, very much earning his Incredible Hulk t-shirt with the way he destroyed his drum kit and the faces made while doing it. And don’t let Katie Harkin’s casual guitar style deceive, she’s a tremendously good player – in fact, many of the accolades laid on Ume earlier in the post can apply to Sky Larkin, if adjusted somewhat for the pop and brit-rock idioms. A rollicking good set.

And though I didn’t know it at the time, the last one for the night. I hoofed it back to Buffalo Billiards intending to see Ida Maria, but when the host of the evening came out to announce the next act, it wasn’t her – no word of explanation – so I joined the slightly confused but certainly exhausted masses out the door. I hope she’s still playing her scheduled shows later in the week, but I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat thankful for the early end of day. It had been a long one, yes it had. One down, three to go.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Dusk Till Dawn

Six acts to watch at SxSW 2009

Photo via ladyhawkemusic.comLadyhawkeHello from sunny – and goodness, is it sunny – Austin, Texas, where I will be spending the next five days or so inundating you with dispatches from SxSW Music that you probably care nothing about. I’m okay with that. The blow-by-blow will start tomorrow, but for today I’ll do the preview thing, listing off a half-dozen of the new or new-to-me acts that I’m most looking forward to seeing over the next four days and nights.

I admit to feeling a twinge of guilt when I listen to New Zealander Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, but any reservations I have about enjoying something so utterly and unabashedly ’80s retro evaporate right about the moment the chorus kicks in. My initial experience with “Paris Is Burning,” for example, went something like “oh my god I hope she’s paying Gary Numan royalt– OMG ENDORPHIN RUSH”, and that buzz recurs all throughout the record. You must understand, I grew up in the ’80s and as much as I might want to deny it for cred’s sake, that shit is absolutely baked into my DNA. Hell, I even loved the Matthew Broderick movie that’s Brown’s creative namesake. The synths, the guitars, the glossy sonics, the massive pop hooks, all of it triggers something very deep and primal and it will not be denied. On her 2008 self-titled debut, Brown manages to shed the really dubious aspects of the 1980s production aesthetic and just keep the good stuff. Or maybe she doesn’t and I’m in too deep to realize it. But you know what? I don’t care.

Ladyhawke’s official showcase goes tonight at Stubb’s at 10PM. Brown has been diagnosed with Aspberger’s Syndrome and apparently is still getting used to live performance but she doesn’t have to make eye contact – just play “Back Of The Van”. I’m really looking forward to this set. Like, totally.

The Telegraph has a feature on Ladyhawke.

MP3: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
MySpace: Ladyhawke

Though they’re decidedly overused as reference points, in the case of London’s Fanfarlo, the Arcade Fire really are an apt reference point. Just imagine if they were more folkish, less angsty and their frontman sounded like a more lilting David Byrne rather than the tightly-wound, live wire variety. I suspect that this isn’t the most compelling description of the band and for that I apologize, but their latest album Reservoir is really a grand and sweeping record with the aforementioned characteristics and is definitely worth your time. Their official showcase is on Friday at 9PM at the Central Presbyterian Church, but if you can’t make that they’re playing a number of unofficial shows throughout the week.

Channel M had the band in their studios for a five-song video session.

MP3: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “I’m A Pilot”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Fire Escape”
MySpace: Fanfarlo

Leeds’ Sky Larkin should be familiar to anyone who reads this site, so introductions should be unnecessary. Sufficed to say that I’m glad to finally have a chance to see them live at midnight Wednesday evening on Red 7’s patio, even if they are going to be in Toronto in a couple weeks at the Opera House opening for Los Campesinos! on April 1.

This Is Fake DIY reports that the band’s next single, “Antibodies”, will be released on cassette tape. Oh, Sky Larkin.

MP3: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Sky Larkin

I don’t even know when/where/how I stumbled across Austin’s Ume but I’m so very glad I did. Loud and abrasive but with a gooey pop center, they sound to me like Belly covering Nirvana – remember, even though I grew up in the ’80s, I came of age in the ’90s and a combination like that is irresistible. If they can rip it up live the way they do in their video, this is going to as good as I’m hoping. They play at 7:30 tonight at Maggie Mae’s.

Houston Calling and Transmission have features on the band.

MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”
Video: Ume – “The Conductor”
MySpace: Ume

Crocodile are from Oklahoma and sound nothing like the Flaming Lips. Just to be clear. What they do sound like is chirpy, female-fronted guitar pop with just the right dollop of synth in the mix. No angle on this one – just catchy, straight-ahead good tunes. Not to be confused with Crocodiles, who will also be in Austin this week, albeit in an unofficial (no SxSW showcase) capacity. Crocodile (singular) are on at 8 tonight on the rooftop of Wave.

MP3: Crocodile – “August Is Over”
MySpace: Crocodile

I’d been hoping for a chance to see Athens, Georgia’s Venice Is Sinking since first hearing their debut Sorry About The Flowers back in 2006, but figured it was unlikely they’d ever find cause or opportunity to tour this far north. Happily, the release of the follow-up Azar, out March 31, has garnered the band a SxSW showcase – tonight at 10PM at Ace’s Lounge – where I’ll finally get to savour their lush orch-gaze in person. Yes, I said orch-gaze. Shut up.

MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Okay”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
MySpace: Venice Is Sinking

And that’s just a tiny, tiny sample of the stuff I have on my radar this week. Obviously I won’t see nearly all of it but it’s good to have options. If you’re curious, check out my sched at and if there’s something I simply must see that’s not on there, lemme know. And I just realized that five of the six aforementioned picks are playing tonight. Go Wednesday!

And some related bits from acts showcasing at SxSW this week.

Austin’s Voxtrot are back, just a little. They’ve offered up a new track to download. Work continues on album number two.

MP3: Voxtrot – “Trepanation Party”

Filter talks to Elvis Perkins.

Soundproof interviews Gentleman Reg.

Decider talks to Asobi Seksu.

Decider also chats with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Exclaim reports that Echo & The Bunnymen will be releasing a live, orchestrally-enhanced version of Ocean Rain recorded last November in Liverpool, on or around May 1. Needless to say, I’m excited to be seeing them – finally – this week, if in somewhat less auspicious settings than the Liverpool Echo Arena. Which isn’t to say a gay Texan cowboy bar won’t have its own unique charm.

Camera Obscura has released a video for the first single from My Maudlin Career, out April 21, and I daresay this is easily the band’s best album yet. They play Hot Freaks at the Mohawk on Saturday afternoon at 5PM.

Video: Camera Obscura – “French Navy”

Wireless Bollinger interviews The Decemberists, MPR has a session. The Hazards Of Love is out next week.

And a non-SxSW note – to everyone who actually bit on that Stone Roses reunion rumour… silly silly silly silly silly. Everyone knows they’re in Austin to play Stubb’s on Friday night with Metallica. And The Beatles.