Monthly Archives: March 2012

Latest find – Austin singer-songwriter Shakey Graves (This guy’s gonna be huge)

Shakey Graves – an Austin musician with a big future, mark my words.

Every now and then I make a music discovery that is so good and so unexpected it stops me right in my tracks. Last night I was playing the free downloads from the Eye in the Sky Collective and I suddenly heard a song I never heard before that sounded like it might have been around forever – a sure sign of talent and inspiration. “Built to Roam” by Shakey Graves. Just a perfect, perfect song.

And after a bit of digging I got more shocks: Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is from Austin and has been featured by the Austin Chronicle and on KUT – by other people who were affected the same way by his music. I could have seen him live at South By Southwest if I had known. I will definitely be on the lookout for new chances to see him play.

Furthermore, I listened to his album, Roll the Bones on Bandcamp all the way through, and loved every song. His style is a blend of classic blues, alt country and folk music. Mainly just great songwriting. The picking in some of his songs make me think of blues legends like Bukka White. The songs are available on a “pay what you want” basis. Give it a listen and see if you don’t think it’s worth paying for. We need to keep this man in business. He’s brilliant.

Here is his Tumblr page, which includes dates for upcoming performances. If you’re in the Austin area, you can see him at the Hole in the Wall on Thursday, March 29 and at the White Horse on Saturday, March 31.

Shakey Graves will be performing at the Kohoutek music festival in Claremont CA on April 28 and is looking for other venues in the West – New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, etc. (E-mail him at shakey.graves@gmail.com if you have any ideas.)

“Like” him on Facebook to find out more.

And check out this video I just found, wherein he tells how he got his stage name and plays a really good song:

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Filed under alt-country, blues, country, folk, indie, music, one to watch, Uncategorized

SXSW 2012 final wrap-up

Finally got some free time to finish talking about the rest of my South By Southwest experience… Lots more interesting music on Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17.

Friday, March 18 finds

On Friday I went to the free Eye in the Sky Collective party at Shiner’s Bar at 5th and Congress. I only saw one band there, but it turned out to be pretty impressive. Sorne performed these tribal anthems that really got folks excited. The singer had a high, powerful voice. There were two percussionists in the group. For one song, he got the audience to divide into groups of “Vulcans” vs. “Romulans” and get them to perform a chorus. Sounded pretty cool.

Here’s an example of what they sound like (It’s the song with the Vulcans and Romulans in fact):

By the way, the Eye in the Sky Collective bears looking into. It’s an organization working to establish a new business model that works for both fans and artists. Just off hand, it makes me think of John Pointer’s Patronism. If you give them your e-mail address you can get 28 free tracks. Sounds worth it to me…

After listening to Sorne, I had an inexplicable feeling that I should leave the bar and go wandering outside to see what I could see. (The fact that I had no bars on my cellphone inside Shiner’s may have had something to do with it.) It was a good decision, because I saw the coolest act, playing on the street. Gouda Music – a group featuring Ghanaian xylophone player  Kwame Kponyo Wadada. Apparently there are different lineups, but on this night he was accompanied by a cajon drummer and another guy playing a kind of rasp. They were busking at the corner of 6th and Trinity and had drawn quite a crowd.

Here’s a video I made with my cellphone:

I love surprises like that. It’s part of what I like best about SXSW. There was another world music group on the street Saturday night, playing some kind of Caribbean music, but I didn’t get to stick around and wasn’t able to find out more. If anyone got to see more of them and knows their name, let me know.

Saturday, March 18

We started the day at a free party at The Belmont (305 W. 6th), sponsored by an app called Tabbed Out (you got a better place in line if you had it on your phone – lots of us were downloading it while standing in line. Mine didn’t download all the way, but they let me in nevertheless.)

Best bands I heard there were Bright Light Social Hour and Cuckoo Chaos.

Austin-based Bright Light Social Hour was quite like a throwback to the best music of the ’70s, doing hard rock, funk, and even throwing in some disco. A few times I was reminded of Grand Funk Railroad. Just one of those powerful, balls to the wall rock groups like I grew up with.

Next was a group called Kids These Days from Chicago. They are kind of a jazz-hip hop group, quite young. At first I wasn’t feeling it, but finally they got into a groove and I started digging their sound. They did a song kind of mock-fighting with the crowd, “Shut the Fuck Up,” and put their young female keyboard player on lead vocal for a really kickass blues song. They’re young, but I think they could be going places…

Cuckoo Chaos

Next up was Cuckoo Chaos from San Diego. I actually discovered them while playing a mix on the MySpace music player (might have to give MySpace a second look – they found me some seriously good tunes) and was looking forward to them. They do a kind of African-influenced pop-rock in the same vein as Vampire Weekend. I liked their sound and their tunes. The guitar player had a way of producing harmonics from feedback that reminded me a bit of Gang of Four. Definitely a band to check out further.

Not only did we get to hear free music at The Belmont, we had plenty of free alcohol. I could’ve stayed there all day, but we had another party we wanted to get into later. This was quite a party though. It looked like the party your parents were always afraid you were gonna have whenever they went out of town. Lots of drinking and dancing. And I might as well throw in my bathroom story. By late afternoon, the men’s bathroom looked like it had been hit by a very unsanitary tornado. I went in and there was a very drunk guy standing there with a roll of paper towels, going, “woo, woo,” just swinging it around. He comes up to me and goes, “You think I should get that guy?” pointing to someone taking a leak at a urinal. I said, “That would be totally up to you.” So he went up and wrapped paper towels around the guy’s face. The guy turned around and said “what the fuck?” and drunk guy threw the roll of towels onto the wet floor and left. I decided to use the stall so no one could sneak up on me. I sure feel sorry for the janitor…

Sometimes it’s good to let someone drag you into a place you wouldn’t have gone otherwise, and sometimes it’s good to throw your hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care.

To my surprise, one of the biggest highlights of the evening on March 18 was the Thre3Style show, a free event sponsored by Red Bull including major acts Erykah Badu, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Crystal Method. It turned out to be mainly DJ music and a lot of hip hop. Not something I would’ve expected to enjoy. But enjoy it I did. I decided to give in and get down. It was a hugely popular event – at one point, security guards had to keep people who didn’t get in from pushing the fence down. (The only real downside to the event was actually the Red Bull itself – I hate energy drinks and the only alcoholic beverage choices were Red Bull & Deep Eddy vodka or beer. Also not a huge beer drinker.)

I enjoyed Erykah Badu and The Crystal Method. (I’m gonna have to dig out my copy of Vegas.) I also enjoyed the DJ sets more than I would’ve expected, especially a DJ who called himself Big Once, Dan the Automator, who at one point was accompanied by an excellent singer (and I believe actress as well) named Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Badu did an interesting set, accompanied by a host of producers who refer to themselves as the Cannibinoids. The music was a kind of techno-hip hop, with a lot of rich visuals on the LCD screens. Psychedelia was a major theme, and everyone including Badu had names that sounded like names of illegal substances. The highly rebellious theme, along with the trippy visuals, made me think of cyberpunk. Points to Badu for doing something unique, but frankly I enjoyed it better toward the end of the set, when she performed some of her old songs from the ’90s.

In between sets, there was plenty of music to keep people dancing, a beach ball for people to toss around, and at one point, giant eyeballs. It took a while for me to realize there were cameras in them, flashing views of the crowd on the LCD screen. I only managed to graze a ball once, never got a good solid whack on it, but it was fun trying. There was also enough pot smoke in the crowd to nearly give me a contact high. A community joint came through my part of the crowd in fact – I let it pass me by, but still, thanks to whatever generous person it originated with.

We later went down to check out the madhouse that is 6th Street at the height of SXSW. It’s just barely controlled chaos. They close off the street, which fills completely full of people, desperately trying to cram in as much party as possible before everything ends. From the rooftops were laser beams, some of which fanned out and had smoke billowing through them, making interesting patterns. It’s crazy, all those people crammed together, but kind of an impressive sight.

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Filed under funk, indie, indie pop, indie rock, live show, music, one to watch, psych

Induce a soft reboot – artist Micropixie talks about her craft and her mission

You probably think you and those most like you are “normal,” don’t you?

But think about it. If the spark of self-awareness that is you had landed in another body, with different parents, in another culture, you would have very different ideas about what is “normal” and what is “weird.” When you get down to it we are all little astronauts, exploring the universe in the vessels we were given, by no choice of our own. And we’re more alike than we are different.

San Francisco-based recording artist Micropixie aka MPX aka Single Beige Female has given those concepts a lot of thought. She has a fascinating multi-national background (described in her song “My Beige Foot”) which inspired her musical persona, an extra-terrestrial trying to understand the strange ways of humans. It’s a charming concept, and goes very well with her music, which by the way is excellent – get her new album, The Good the Beige and the Ugly and find out for yourself.

Here’s a cute video with a sample of my favorite song from the new album, “Superhero.”

The MPX Interview

I recently completed an awesome interview with MPX, one I’ve looked forward to since I began this blog. She is a deep thinker as well as a great musician.

You talk about where you were born and the places you’ve lived. I assume that’s autobiographical?
Yes, all my lyrics are derived from real life experiences.

How old were you and where did you live when you started making music?

As a young child (7-8yo) growing up in a North West London suburb, I played a few instruments (violin, recorder, harmonium), took lessons with a Hindustani classical vocal teacher, and was also in the school choir and local orchestra.

However I didn’t focus rigorously on any of these activities for longer than a few years at a time, and eventually dropped them all in my teens (though I remained a big lover of music, ie. spent my pocket money on records and cassettes, was an avid radio listener, made mix-tapes… y’know, the usual teenage music lover’s pastimes, fueled by obsession, restricted by budget). Into my adult years I remained a music obsessive, and realised at one point that I loved the feeling of singing (though only in private!).

Later in my 30s, a year after I arrived in San Francisco, my closest friend in the city, Neo (Jeff Crerie), one day suggested that we make an album. There was absolutely no precursor to this, I mean, it wasn’t like I had shared with him any long-held secret desire to either sing or make music. He said he got the idea because of my apparently musical way of speaking…

Intrigued by the idea, I dove head first into our project to quickly discover that, out of all the many things I had done in my lifetime, this filled me with the most joy (and by “this” I mean, playing with voice, words and sounds).

MPX 'Blue Alien' (courtesy of Lisa Cox)

How did you come up with your “alien” persona and stage name, Micropixie?

The alien theme was always there really: As a kid, an Indian girl growing up in London, I always felt like somebody who was “other”, someone who didn’t quite belong anywhere, and I also felt myself to be somewhat of an oddity in my family.

Then later in my 20s, the first time I went to live in Paris, in an attempt to escape the tedium of yet another soulless corporate workplace, I began to write a comical story set in the office of a large corporation. The characters were based on a few of my colleagues, and I drew myself as the alien that simply couldn’t understand how these so-called humans behaved (they were petty, competitive and cared about silly things!).

Then much later, when I came to San Francisco, I heard about a Green Card category called “Alien with Extraordinary Abilities”. Well, that phrase made me laugh my head off, which in turn inspired me. You see I had recently taken a photo of myself (which later became the cover of “Alice in Stevie Wonderland”) where my face and expression looked quite strange (“Wow, don’t I look like an alien?”, I said to Neo), and decided I would create a conceptual website called Micropixie: Alien with ] EXTRA [ Ordinary Abilities, about an extra-terrestrial being who had a large number of ordinary abilities (that’s what the “extra” referred to).

The name of this fictitious character, Micropixie (aka MPX), was derived from the freelance graphic design business (Micropix) I had created years before from my time in Oxford. Micropixie was never a stage name, because I never imagined I would ever become a musician, let alone a performer…


How was working on The Good, the Beige and the Ugly different from recording Alice in Stevie Wonderland and how do you feel about the end product?

Alice in Stevie Wonderland was my first ever foray into working with audio and electronic music and I must say I consider myself super-fortunate to have had that first music-making experience with Neo. Not only did he patiently teach me whatever I was able to learn about audio production, but he was also very respectful, and thoughtfully considered every single detail any concern I expressed, whether it was lyrical, musical, technical or philosophical.

We were both very serious about our commitment to this project and, barring illness or time away from SF, we met 2-3 times a week over a period of 2.5 years. Pretty soon after commencing, I suddenly got that our project was not just a random collection of songs, but that an elaborate story was unfolding: namely the story of an alien who comes down to Earth with a mission to discover what it means to be human. Thus the idea for my first concept album was born and it became even easier, from that point forward, to write from my own experience using what had been the recurring motif of my life up until then — ie. feeling like an alien — as the central theme.

Once the songs were finished, we spent almost 2 months working on the artwork (not just the packaging but the 28pp colour booklet that went inside it) and finally released Alice in Stevie Wonderland in August 2005. It was a dream experience to work with Jeff, and I am still in awe of how well he and I worked together on every single aspect of that record. I believe it was a mutually fulfilling experience where we both learned plenty about ‘music via technology’ and ‘music as conceptual art’.

The Good, the Beige & the Ugly, the sequel to Alice in Stevie Wonderland, telling the story of lil’ MPX as a now fully-grown human female, was mostly created with UK-based producer, Paul Horton (one of the 10 songs, Bullshit Paradigms, was co-written with French musician Pablo Mengin, and another, Nice Dream, is a Radiohead cover; the 9 interludes were written by myself).

It was a lot trickier for Paul and I to work together because we live so far away from each other, and traveling from the States to England five times over the course of 2.5 years was neither easy nor cheap. On each of those trips though, we worked intensely for periods of a week or so at a time.

However, for all the challenges of working with a collaborator who lived on the other side of the planet, it was really quite something to work with this man: his extensive experience in music production meant that he was able to quickly craft radio-friendly tunes from absolutely anything I brought to the table: whether it was a full song, a verse, a chorus, or even fragments of ideas. For example, one song — The Girl From B.E.I.G.E. — was written in a couple of hours as a result of his inspiration to pull words and phrases from a big flowchart I had previously made about the album concept… the guy taught me many new ways to work, as well as more about audio production and music (he would sit and go over music theory with me… I loved it!). Also, his skills as a vocal producer are insane… he figured out my range instantly and knew exactly how best to work with it. And with both of us being British, we connected bigtime on our similar sense of humour; you can probably hear that on songs like No Nonsense.

As to what I feel about it? Well, considering it took 4.5 years from initial conception (“Hmmm, my next album will be an intergalactic feminist spy thriller…”) to holding the glossy CD package in my hands, and also that the project cost me a huge amount of money to make and put out (on my own label, One Little Alien), and because of the personal sacrifices I had to make to get it done… well, in the end, I feel immensely proud of my second sonic ‘baby’.

Who are your musical influences and who are some of the musicians and bands you admire now?

I grew up listening to the radio, and loving many soul, funk and Motown artists (no surprise considering the title of my first release), and I still do. But in the last 15 or so years, my listening patterns have changed. I think I fall in love with albums more than I fall for particular artists if that makes sense.

Many artists have made beautiful albums (some more than one!), and I go through long phases of non-stop listening — 306? 703? 1001 times?! — to whichever is my current favourite… listening on a loop, over and over, absorbing every detail of each one. I’ve always been most attracted to intricate, layered, well-produced music with lots of harmonies and I’m a complete sucker for clever lyrics too.

I don’t know much about genres really, and can’t follow/don’t care about all the many labels that now exist. I don’t really go searching for new music, but every now and then something falls into my lap(top). People I admire are super-strong, inventive female artists like Erykah Badu or Bjork, or old-time soul singers like Bill Withers. More recently I’ve fallen for Andrew Bird and Brian Burton (hmmm, “lead me to ‘B’s…”)

You seem to be a very… what I would call “conscious” person. How would you describe yourself? Feminist, humanist?

Both of those words are good. It’s such a shame though that the word “feminist” has such negative connotations in the mind of many, including women! Even today, a lot of people confuse the word feminist for a woman who is “anti -men.” But patriarchy hurts men as much as women, it puts us all in these gender-defined boxes.

How did you wind up in San Francisco?

Wow, how I ended up in SF… what a crazy long, convoluted story that is… almost unbelievable (“You couldn’t make this shit up…!” as they say). It would take hours to tell you the back and forth of my whole love affair with SF-Oh!, but in the end what made me decide to move here (from Paris) was the making of my first album. I had never worked on anything else that made so much sense to me

I felt my whole life, prior to my working on ASWL (“Alice in Stevie Wonderland”), was about me searching for what I was meant to do. And then creating my website (micropixie.com) was a lot of fun, and working on the album was the most satisfying, exciting thing ever.

What do you like most about living there?

I feel free here… finally comfortable in my (beige) skin, I think that’s what I like the most.

On your first album, Alice In Stevie Wonderland, I really love the song about the second-hand planet shop, “Earth: A Kit.” Inspired by Eartha Kitt?

Yes, that’s another play on words, but I can’t take the credit for the cleverness of that song. Let me tell you about it:

Neo (Jeff Crerie) recorded “Earth: A Kit” years before with a 73 yo female friend – his landlady at the time – doing the voice. One Sunday morning when I arrived at his place, he was making me breakfast and he had the original version of that song playing. I had heard it many times before, but then something clicked! I said “Oh wow, we should rerecord this for my album, with me doing the voice!”

And as I alluded to earlier, that was when I realised that this was the story of Micropixie’s journey on Earth (based on personal events from my life), and that Earth: A Kit was the first track, before she lands here.

So you didn’t write the lyrics?

On that song no, that one was lyrically 96% Neo… I just added the last four lines at the end of that track, so that we didn’t have a pessimistic ending (“the Manhattan Project, a crisis of New Yorkian proportions” would’ve perhaps stopped MPX in her tracks, pun fully intended…). I suggested ending the song with “induce a soft reboot,” that being a metaphor for my landing mission…

Ah so… I’m surprised, since it fits so well with the rest of your songs. It’s a great image, one that I wish more people could hear. Earth really is special, and fragile.

Yeah, Neo is a very clever man, not to mention a deep thinker.

Maybe I should promote Neo a bit? Has he done anything I might link to?

You should! He now goes by his real name of Jeff Crerie. He lives in LA, and mainly works as a producer. I’m pretty sure you’ll love a lot of what he creates… his own music as well as others at http://utmosis.net

The Radiohead cover (“Nice Dream”) is playing now. Tell me about that. Why did you decide to cover that song?

Oh good question! I always loved that Radiohead album, and I found myself singing along to that song in particular. I would always sing these harmonies, “under the neath”, as it were. And at a performance in November 2009 (Cafe du Nord, SF), I decided I would sing it at that show. It was really nice to sing, in this kinda weird way (ie. I was singing the harmonies I heard in my head, and not the actual melody…).

Later when Paul and I discussed doing a cover for the album, we had many options. I love singing lots of songs that aren’t mine — what singer doesn’t? — so there were plenty of choices. But then that song, with its opening line “they love me like I was their brother”, it resonated so much (and also tied in very well with certain of my own personal visions, that I mention on the album). You see, I have 3 sisters and no brothers (I’m #2 of 4 girls) and I always wanted brothers (maybe all four of us did?). So this Radiohead song fit so well with the desire to have brothers around me… actually I shouldn’t say I don’t have brothers… I guess I do… I have many great male friends who I consider as brothers.

How does your family feel about the musician thing?

They don’t get it! But finally they all accept it! I think they are impressed by the fact that finally I have stuck with something, and that I am super serious and dedicated to it.

Are you supporting yourself on music?

I am selling my music, which is pretty amazing in this day and age, but I am nowhere near close to living off that income. I have a part-time job – 3 year anniversary today! – which I really love because it is so right for me and my life (the first interlude on my new album is a testament to that). And I feel blessed that I got it just when I did. Prior to that for five years I was living off erratic freelance work (a whole host of random jobs) and then finally savings. Ultimately it was too stressful to live like that… besides the savings were always going to wither away, so I realised I had to get a “real job” again – YIKES!

I say YIKES because when I quit the 9 to 5 corporate world back in 2000 (after an epiphany I had at Glastonbury Music Festival), I said I would NEVER EVER go back to that life (how dramatic! But I meant it). Anyway, 3 years ago I feared I’d have no choice. I looked on Craigslist and applied for maybe 5 or 6 jobs, none of which I wanted. And then I saw this position for running a music school for lil’ kids! (“Part-time, work from home, my own hours more or less PERFECT!”) I got really lucky with it because my boss read my enthusiastic cover letter and ended up interviewing only me). My boss is also a musician, writer and artist in his own right and this makes him very supportive of all my creative projects. More importantly, he is OK with me doing the job from anywhere if I have to leave SF. I’ve done my job from the UK, from LA, New York, Mexico… it’s pretty funny, I have become an outsourced Indian in reverse!

But is it enough for SF? Expensive place to live isn’t it?

It’s not enough, no. I also supplement my income with freelance work (sound editing, video editing, graphic design, naming). None of those gigs are regular, but they pay well so I jump on them when they come in.

Sounds like you’re a very busy bee.

Yeah really insanely busy… I do think it’s not healthy to be this busy.

SF is a pretty expensive city to live in, but I am – and always have been – Ms. Frugal (as a child of immigrants, being careful with money is in my genes!). After basics are taken care of (rent, food, bills, etc), what’s left goes to a) my music (actually all my art, but music production is my costliest expense), and b) flights to see my family in the UK or to advance my music and other sonic projects.

The release of this album (my “second baby”, I call it!) became such a priority in my life these last 4-5 years, and I ended up sacrificing a lot for it financially and personally… but I listen to the end result and I am very proud, I do think it’s worth it. Now that it’s “out”, there is still a lot to do (PR, etc) but a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders! It’s been 88% ready for over 2 years. I finished it with Neo in the end: hired him and his studio in LA, and got the sonic part completed in 3 days last May.

Then after that, the packaging, the design, artwork, etc, that also took a long time and was not cheap… I wanted to make a beautiful object again. I’m really happy that true Micropixie fans are buying this Limited Edition  CD and telling me they appreciate not just the music but also the artwork.

What kind of marketing have you had most success with?

Ugh, marketing and promoting my music is my least favourite thing to do but it’s necessary as an indie artist. I enjoy it only if I can make something fun, eg. those “small teaser” videos on Youtube. So I spend a lot of time creating stuff like that, but have no idea what “success” I have had with them in terms of generating sales. I use Facebook a lot to promote my work … it’s quick and easy for engaging personally with individuals, but it also does my head in (have we now become a generation of “likers” with no deep interest in anything?). That said, I often hear from people outside of social networks… I get lovely emails from random people all over the world who tell me they found my music, have never heard anything like it before, etc. I wish I knew how they found it, but it’s not always possible to follow up in detail with everybody who writes to me.

What’s next? More songs? Third album?

Yes, Neo and I started a new song in September. Musically it’s unlike anything I’ve done before. The subject matter is perhaps a bit risqué for traditional types, but I wanted to continue to confound patriarchal bullshit paradigms! I would LOVE to make a third album – of course it would be continuing the adventures of MPX – and I have plenty of ideas. But all depends on my funds and/or finding another perfect collaborator. Outside of music, I’m also very involved in a theatre production called Yoni Ki Baat (inspired by The Vagina Monologues, but they are all original pieces, written and performed by my South Asian Sisters). And I’m working concurrently on a few MPX videos… Lastly there is this podcast idea that I have been working on for about 2 years now, which I simply cannot wait to complete. I keep chuckling at the title.

MPX performing at SFIAAFF's opening party, March 2012 (photo by Peter Jensen)

……………

Micropixie’s latest album, The Good, the Beige and the Ugly, and her debut album, Alice in Stevie Wonderland, can be found on CDBaby.com, Check out her Facebook page and her website. And do spend some time on the website – it has a lot of secrets, including a place where you can click on a bunch of dots with song fragments and make a sort of impromptu ambient song.

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Latest unofficial SXSW finds: Treasure Mammal and Total Unicorn at Wardenclyffe Gallery

Treasure Mammal, bonding with their audience.

I never know quite what I will find when I go to shows with really under-the-radar bands. I just know that if I watch enough of them, I will eventually find some that really jump out at me, that I wouldn’t have discovered any other way. That happened again last night as I checked out the Wardenclyffe Gallery for the first time. The venue/practice space is an old house, at 1101 Springdale. They had stages set up in the house and out in the yard. Outside, the house is decorated with cool graffiti art. Like the last music party I went to, this had a nice relaxed Austin vibe. Back to the old bohemian feeling I always loved about the place.

Treasure Mammal

Treasure Mammal, from Phoenix literally “grabbed” my attention – they will make you get involved in their shows whether you want to or not, but pretty soon you will want to. They made me wear a cowboy hat for a while and tried to get me to dance a bit even though I have no moves. The group is very hard to describe. One of the members told me they were “dance, noise, performance art.”

They were mostly just fun, and very funny. Young guys and girls dressed in spandex unitards, a few other accessories like hats and a wizard mask. The music consisted of singing over blippy nerdcore-sounding noises. They danced their crazy dances and grabbed members of the crowd and got them to join in. The songs were quite funny – two that stand out are “Bromance” and “On the Computer.” The tongue-in-cheek humor reminds me a lot of King Missile (who had two great albums and are way bigger than just “Detachable Penis” I’ll have you know). Definitely a group you should check out if you can, especially live. They are playing at 5 p.m. today at Domy Books at 913 E. Cesar Chavez. I was told they have a new album coming out in April.

Check them out on Bandcamp

And on Facebook.

And here’s a video to let you know how silly/fun their shows are:

Total Unicorn

I vaguely remember seeing Austin’s Total Unicorn last year at Cheer Up Charlie’s, but for some reason they didn’t really jump out at me. This time they did. Three performers, wearing unicorn costumes – one doing the electronic sound board, another controlling the extremely vibrant visual art, and another dancing up a storm (later the dancer took off her costume and turned out to be quite cute – and with very impressive moves). To me what really stood out was the computer animation.

Check out their Facebook.

Here’s a sample of what they do:

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SXSM – a monstrously good time

FM Campers at the Monstrosity

I got to the SXSMonstrosity party last night in time to catch two bands: Austin’s FM Campers and Men in Burka of Denver, Colorado. Too bad I had to work or I would’ve caught a lot more. The party went from noon to 9 p.m. and had a ton of bands.

FM Campers put on their usual good show – very energetic – and gave away copies of their new EP. They will be playing again at 5 p.m. today at the Wardenclyffe Gallery, 1101 Springdale Road.

Men in Burka put on a great show with a backdrop of psychedelic projections. The group consists of three guys using laptops and other equipment, playing dance music with a Middle Eastern twist, strong beats and sampled vocals. One of the members, Kamran Khan, is from another group called Modern Witch. The music went over very well with the ladies, who begged for an encore and then got out and danced up a storm. They have several more shows during SXSW. See this list on their Facebook page.

The party was in the back yard of a really ugly building that apparently has a nice loft apartment inside. It felt like the bohemian Austin I used to know. They had free beer, coffee from Rutamaya, and free pizza rolls. Really nice, relaxed atmosphere.

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Catch FM Campers at SXSMonstrosity 2012, March 14

FM Campers, one of my favorite Austin bands, will be performing at the SXSMonstrosity 2012 Showcase tomorrow, at 6:30 p.m. Catch them if you can. They are a three-piece band that plays electronic music, with vocals and a live drummer. They will be putting out a new EP and according to their post on Facebook, the band members will be WIFI hotspots. So you can log onto them as you listen. There are a bunch of other bands I never heard of (except Knifight – I like what I’ve heard. They sound a lot like an ’80s synth pop band), but it promises to be an interesting evening.

Oh yeah, there’s also free beer.

Here’s a sample of FM Campers if you haven’t heard them yet:

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SXSW 2012 bands I’ve seen that you should too

Once again I’m finding that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to see good shows at South By Southwest. Just RSVP for a bunch of free parties (you don’t even have to be sure you can make it, just do as many as you can find), get there early, and have a good attitude.

Be prepared not to care if the line is long and you don’t get in. Just go hear some other bands in some other place. If you miss something good, you might find something else even better. I made some great discoveries over the weekend, artists I think everyone should see. We’re still in the early part of the festival and you can catch several of them. If you’re in Austin for SXSW, see if you can still catch them.

Here are my recommendations based on what I’ve seen so far:

Peelander Z

I saw them Sunday night, March 11 at the Beauty Ballroom on East Riverside. I haven’t stopped smiling since. A friend told me to expect a hell of a show, but beyond that he couldn’t really get across just what they were like. And for good reason. They are well-nigh indescribable. I understand the band is from Japan, based in New York, but to hear them tell it, they are from another planet altogether. I could almost believe it. They wore funny costumes, a bit like overgrown Power Rangers.

They are at once hard-rocking and funny as hell. They mostly played a kind of punk rock – and it did indeed rock, but the music was only part of it. The main point was the performance, just loads and loads of silliness that completely swept up the crowd. Highlights included the premier of the video, “Star Bowling,” metal dog dishes and drum sticks passed into the crowd for extra racket, the bass player dressed in a big red alien suit jumping rope in the middle of the crowd, and human bowling. Songs were about such topics as “Get Glasses,” “Medium Rare” (How do you like your steak?) and “Mad Tiger.” At the end of the show they got members of Electric Eel Shock up on the stage jamming with them.

I would put these guys in the category of “Do not miss.” Catch their show if at all possible. They have several shows coming up, including Wednesday, March 14 at Elysium; Thursday, March 15 at Kebabalicious; Friday, March 16 at The Liberty; and Peelander-Fest on Saturday, March 17 at the Grackle. You can find a list of those here on Do512. Several free shows, several need RSVPs.

Just a very small taste:

Electric Eel Shock

This heavy metal band from Japan kicked a major amount of ass. They could really play their instruments and had a ton of charisma, especially the singer/guitar player. They were the second opening band for Peelander Z on Sunday March 11 at the Beauty Ballroom, but I would’ve been happy to see them as the headlining band. The singer is great at getting the crowd involved. The bass player displayed some great theatrics, playing atop the amp stack and at one point playing while hanging upside-down from the balcony. And last but not least, they had a hell of a drummer, who would’ve had my attention even if he had worn more clothes than the sock over his penis.

Beware if you can’t deal with seeing an almost-naked drummer…

Hailey Tuck


Wonderful local singer I discovered at a showcase of folk and world music called The Amazing Obis Bros. Medicine Show the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex Theater Backyard (next door to Salvage Vanguard Theatre on Manor Road).

Hailey is a torch singer, a throwback to another, much classier era. She performed jazz songs and standards accompanied by a guy on electric piano and another on trumpet/trombone. She has a hell of a voice and is really cute. She could be one of the next big names to come out of Austin. If you like Adele or Amy Winehouse, you’ll love this girl. She will be performing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14 at Waterloo Ice House at 38th St. and Lamar Blvd. I think it’s free and I don’t think you have to RSVP.

Whiskey Shivers

This is a local band from Austin. I saw them at the Swan Dive on Red River. Kickass hillbilly music. More country than country, like something straight out of Appalachia. They got so into it, they went into the crowd and did an acoustic set as the next band set up.

Check out the “Shows” tab on their website, WhiskeyShivers.com. Their official SXSW show is March 16, 1 a.m. at Maggie Mae’s, but they have a lot of other shows and parties scheduled. You can see ’em sans badge pretty easily.

Wild Child

An Austin band that plays what I would call folk-rock. Some traditional “folk” instruments like fiddle and ukelele, but with a trap set and electric keyboards. Some of the songs were quite catchy. I’m gonna keep an eye and ear out for these guys.

They will be playing Tuesday, March 13, 8 p.m. at Beale Street Tavern. That’s an official SXSW show, so you’ll need a badge or a wristband. Not sure of the time, but you can also catch them on Friday, March 16 at 5 p.m. at a Free Showcase which runs all day Friday, March 16 and all day Saturday, March 17 at Shiner’s Saloon.

That’s a free showcase, but you need to RSVP. And btw, it looks like there are a lot of other good bands in the. I’d like to see the TonTons, a band I’ve blogged about before – they’ll be playing Saturday at 4 p.m. You can get a schedule for that showcase here.

Ghost Knife

An Austin band featuring guitarist/lead singer Mike Wiebe of Riverboat Gamblers (also a member of the High Tension Wires and a standup comedian). It took me a while to warm up to them as they warmed up for Peelander Z at the Beauty Ballroom on Sunday night, but a few songs in I really started getting into them. They reminded me of some ’80s hardcore punk band I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe some of the Minutemen at their most radio-friendly, maybe a bit of early hardcore Devo? Anyway, they had a lot of charm and rocked hard. I’m not finding any more Ghost Knife shows scheduled in the next few days, but there is a nice list of shows Mike Wiebe will be involved in on this blog. (Including a free show with Riverboat Gamblers on March 16 and a free day show with High Tension Wires at The Grackle – again with Peelander Z).

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Filed under country, folk, jazz, live show, metal, music, punk, Uncategorized