Monthly Archives: April 2012

Austin Psych Fest day 2: the ladies won this one

Just as expected, my favorites from yesterday were unexpected. The two shows that really got my attention were from girl bands. Both were at the “small stage” at the Beauty Ballroom.

Prince Rama

Prince Rama down in the crowd. The were very shiny. (Chris Kinney photo)

Prince Rama gets into the audience - which clearly got into them also. (Chris Kinney photo)

The first was a duo called Prince Rama of Brooklyn, NY, two ladies performing a sort of electroclash with a lot of percussion, some programmed, some acoustic. One song started with Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” and turned into a really cool tribal jam. For their last song, they got down into the crowd and danced. The crowd loved them. Enough to beg for an encore. We didn’t get one, alas (I guess if every band did that, the festival would drag on forever).

Chris, my concert buddy for the weekend, compares them to Govinda and Fisherspooner.

The two sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, have an interesting background. They were raised on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida and went to an art school in Boston. They were picked by Animal Collective to perform at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in May 2011. Pitchfork recently gave them a really good review.

Feathers

Feathers singer dances, bewitches the audience - especially the guys. (Chris Kinney photo)

Blue disco ball, smoke machine, black lingerie outfits, Feathers put on a spectacle and the music was awesome. (Chris Kinney photo)

An all-female group from Australia, Feathers also lit up the Beauty Ballroom last night. Lots of percussion, they had a dark, brooding electronic sound, very danceable, and an impressive light show. They were dressed in black and were sexy as hell. I guess you would refer to their stuff as electro clash, but I also thought of witch house. Definitely a darker vibe than Prince Rama.

Here are a couple of their songs on Bandcamp:

Pink Mountaintops

Pink Mountintops, doing one of their folkier numbers. (Charles Wood photo)

The Pink Mountaintops rocking out at Psych Fest 2012. (Chris Kinney photo)

I have enjoyed the light shows so far for all the bands. Most have been computer generated. I really enjoy the old school effects though. We were standing close to this guy, who swirled dye around on plates, with the images projected on screen. Really cool. (Chris Kinney photo).

It wasn’t all about the ladies. I really enjoyed Pink Mountaintops of Canada, which is a spinoff of another favorite band of mine, Black Mountain. The music was at times hard and heavy and at other times rather folky.

Tonight looks to be a big night. I’m looking forward to seeing Tuareg singer Bombino, Thee Oh Sees, The Meat Puppets, and of course the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

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Austin Psych Fest first day: Disappears killed it

Disappears - awesome performance at Psych Fest 2012. (Cellphone camera couldn't cut the mustard so I nabbed this one off the band's Facebook page.)

Just starting to feel human again after a late night at Psych Fest. As usual, the band I enjoyed most wasn’t the one I expected it to be. Best performance and a definite band to watch, is the Chicago-based band Disappears.

I did enjoy the bands we went to see: Dead Meadow were very good and The Black Angels were great as always, I enjoyed a few other bands as well, both at Emo’s East and the Beauty Ballroom. The thing is, none of that really jumped out at me. It was the kind of fare you expect to hear at a festival devoted to psychedelic music – lots of reverb, lots of Velvet Underground influence.

Disappears stood out from the crowd (kind of an amusing statement now that I think of it). They were very together, every member knowing what the others were doing at all times. Different rhythms, vocals higher in the mix. I got a strong postpunk vibe from them. They made me think of bands like Joy Division, Magazine and The Fall.

Chris, my concert buddy, was so impressed he bought three of their CDs. I would have if I hadn’t been a little strapped after buying a few drinks. We played through a couple of the albums after we got back to Chris’s appartment and their latest – Pre Language – is unquestionably the best. The others were good also, but they had a different sound, reminding me a lot of the Stooges.

Here’s one of their best in my opinion:

BTW, I just found out after a bit of searching that their drummer is Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.

Disappears will be playing in Dallas tonight and in Memphis, Tenn. tomorrow night. They are also getting ready for a summer tour of Europe. Check out their website for more. Also visit their store. You can get Pre Language for $12. Worth it I would say. And check out their Facebook page.

Bands I look forward to seeing tonight include Pink Mountaintops, Olivia Tremor Control, Telescope and the Black Lips. But who knows? Best show might once again be someone completely off my radar.

Emo’s East

I’ve decided I really like the new Emo’s East location on East Riverside Drive. I will miss the old location on 6th Street. I saw so many great shows there. But this one is big, still homey somehow, and they kept a lot of the art from the old place – like the creepy/weird/trippy painting of the elephant cutting open its third eye and the one of Johnny Cash flipping the bird.

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The Internet: land of opportunity or just a different way for musicians to starve?

Sometimes its good to be challenged, to step back and question if your beliefs still hold water.

I recently read a very thought provoking (but VERY long) article from David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker (I seriously love both bands): Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss? I don’t agree with all of his points, but I can see where he’s coming from.

Like I said, it’s quite long, but it’s worth reading when you have time. You can skip around a bit and still get the gist of it, which is that the freedom and opportunity many of us thought the Internet would give musicians is not panning out, that tech industry giants — Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify, etc. — are simply taking on the role that the music industry giants used to, and controlling the flow of content.

Only they actually appear to care even less about musicians than the cynical record executives did. According to Lowery, the potential for a musician to actually earn a living from what he creates seems to be diminishing, not growing. The new gatekeepers seem to want all content to be dirt cheap or free. Never mind that musicians are human beings who have to eat and pay rent. Lowery makes some good points.

I sometimes think of 2002 as a mini-golden age for rock ‘n’ roll. It was a time of discovery for me. I found so many great bands during that time. In part, it’s because I had recently moved into the orbit of KTSW, the excellent college radio station at Texas State University in San Marcos (formerly Southwest Texas State University).

But I also have a pet theory. I think there was a brief period in the early ’00s when the Internet helped independent artists find their audience and actually helped them. After that, the Internet turned into a drain for content and began hurting them, just like the major label artists.

If you had told me that at the time, I would’ve argued. I totally bought into the whole cyberpunk ethos (see my blog post on the subject). Ideas like: information wants to be free, always yield to the hands-on imperative, the street finds its own uses for things. Those ideas, and the sheer potential of computers and the Internet captivated me.

On some level I still believe those things. I enjoy the freedom of expression the Internet gives us and hamfisted attempts to stop copyright violations such as SOPA put that freedom at serious risk. It’s also not cut-and-dried. If you clamp down too hard on that sort of thing, you will eliminate some very creative works. I’ve blogged on that subject before.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that all that “sharing” I defended so hard for so many years, may indeed have been hurting many of my favorite musicians. As someone who works in journalism, I’m also a content creator, and my industry is also struggling because of the Internet. It would be very hypocritical of me to tell musicians to suck it up, when I am facing many of the same challenges.

That doesn’t mean I think we can or should go back to the old model, but it sometimes seems to me that we’ve raised a generation of people to believe that they should never pay for creative content. It would be nice if people who call themselves music fans would show some appreciation and spend a little money on the musicians they say they love. You can’t really call yourself a music lover if you’re OK with the musicians starving or winding up on the street. If we want artists to keep creating, we should throw a little money their way.

I quit trying to download the Internet years ago and now I pay for music when I can. I’m more likely to buy digital files than CDs, but I do buy them. It’s kind of hard to say after I’ve found some music I love and played it a few dozen times that the artist’s digital album is not worth $10 or $15. I’m pinching pennies too, but I can afford that every once in a while.

There are some signs of hope. As Lowery says in his article, Bandcamp and CD Baby appear to operate with artists in mind. They aren’t huge in the scheme of things, but I believe they are helping. Another interesting development is the rise of entities like Patronism and the Eye and the Sky Collective, which curate good music and create a system for fans who want to support and interact with them to do so.

If we can get musicians and music lovers on the same page maybe we can both get what we want: great music for us and the ability to pay rent and put food on the table for the artists.

I would love to get some comments on this subject, especially from musicians.

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Getting psyched for Psych Fest 2012

I’ve been so busy lately that I just now had time to check out the lineup for this year’s Psych Fest. There are some killer bands on the bill this year. I really enjoyed last year’s festival, which was held at the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant. This year, the festival will be at Emo’s East and the nearby Beauty Ballroom on Riverside Drive.

I’m going to miss that weird industrial aesthetic, and the fact that you could go from the “big” stage to the “small” one to check out different bands without leaving the building. We’re going to have to walk a little more this time. There are advantages to having two separate venues, however. There was a certain amount of interference between bands last time.

Some of the bands I’m psyched about include: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Pink Mountaintops, Telescopes, Dead Meadow, Olivia Tremor Control, and of course, the Black Angels. And as always, I look forward to checking out some bands that I don’t know anything about that could turn out to be new favorites. I discovered some great ones last year.

Here’s a link to the official site. There might still be time to get tickets. And in any case, here is Al Lover’s Psych Fest Mixtape. Tons of great music.

And check out my posts about last year’s festival here and here,

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Happy 420 Day: legalize it or not, musicians are probably still going to advertise it

Still a couple hours left to 420 Day, the unofficial day in March when all pot smokers make an effort to light up on the same day. I’m not one of those – the one and only time I tried the stuff I did too much at once and got sick as a dog. Never again.

At the same time, I’ve had a lot of friends who do smoke and being a music lover I can’t help but notice that Weed is a rather huge influence on many of my favorite artists. I also happen to think the War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster, giving us nothing but powerful gangsters, corrupt officials and highly militarized police. And in Mexico a lot of chopped off heads.

Time to face facts and legalize it. All drugs really, but especially marijuana, even though I’ll never take another puff. This article in Forbes sums up my thoughts on the matter pretty well: Let’s Be Blunt: It’s Time to End the Drug War. Will we ever have leaders with enough honesty and courage to actually do what obviously needs to be done? Not optimistic, but one can always hope.

In the meantime, might as well appreciate some of the great songs we never would’ve had without marijuana. At some point, I’ll go whole hog and list a ton of songs about drugs, pro and con. There are so many.

First on the list has got to be Winning the War on Drugs by my recently disbanded favorite live act, the Asylum Street Spankers of Austin. They captured the cynicism of that particular war pretty well.

Followed by the very obvious and to-the-point Legalize it by the late Peter Tosh.

Plus a few more favorites…

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Sundress – great young dream pop band from Denton, Texas

I was playing through some mp3s from the South by Southwest 2012 and stumbled across yet another great band that I missed out on: Sundress. The Denton, Texas-based group is one to watch. They are right in that psychedelic/dream pop/shoegaze sweet spot that I find so irresistible. “Derelict” is a great song and the video is also quite impressive. Someone in the Youtube comments compared it to a DMX trip. I wouldn’t know, but it certainly is trippy.

Check it out:

Sundress has a new 6-song EP out on Bandcamp.

(You can download “Derelict” for free.)

Also check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bicycling in the country, great way to spend Easter Sunday

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Nothing like a bit of nature to help you get your head together. I spent a couple of hours bicycling in the countryside outside Elgin, Texas and except for the sore muscles and sore tail, it was a very pleasant way to spend Easter Sunday.

Not that it was all that “natural.” I saw transmission power lines and a gravel pit, was passed by the occasional car or truck and could just hear traffic whizzing by on U.S. 290. Got chased by a few dogs. But I saw some gorgeous wildflowers and could hear the birds, including a woodpecker tapping away. And best of all, I could hear myself think.

I’m still out of shape – living in the Sausage Capital of Texas for two years hasn’t helped my waistline – but I’m working on it. I love riding, though I am not and never have been “competitive.” I still enjoy it, exhausted as I may be. Riding downhill almost makes struggling uphill worth it. Dat breeze.

I didn’t find a good song for Easter this year (Here’s what I posted in 2010, in 2011, and here’s a Good Friday song by Fairouz you must hear if you never have), so I’ll leave you with this:

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