Category Archives: music

Chubby Knuckle Choir sizzles at Reunion Grille as (temporary) trio

IMG_20130608_203847_692I saw a really good concert the other night from my favorite local discovery, The Chubby Knuckle Choir. They played in Cedar Park at a place called Reunion Grille. It was a nice, open air venue, with little kids running around. This time it was a trio, with Rory Smith on percussion and vocals, Tres Womack on guitar and vocals and Dave Gould on stand up bass. Singer/percussionist Perry Lowe and singer/stringed instruments of various kinds player Slim Bawb couldn’t make the gig, which was scheduled on short notice.

As always, they were great live, although they were performing in the trio configuration for the first time. It was good music and they kept it fun. This time they were also promoting their self-titled debut CD. Go see them live and get yours there if you get a chance. If you can’t, you can get it at CD Baby.com.

I had a nice visit with the band during the break. Interesting to hear them talk about their musical influences. Rory surprised me with his knowledge of classic rock groups — the same ones I listened to when I was a teenager. Dave Gould surprised me by saying he once saw demented carnivalesque Attic Ted perform, one of the weirdest acts in the Austin area and one of my faves.

The band has been playing a lot of gigs in New Braunfels lately, making an impression on the out-of-state tourist crowd. They’re still playing there a lot this summer, with more of a Texas crowd.

Catch the Chubby Knuckle Choir live if you can. You can hear some of their music and see their upcoming schedule on their Reverbnation page.

Upcoming shows include:

July 19 – Oma Gruene’s Secret Garden in New Braunfels at 2:30 p.m.

July 21 – Gruene Hall in New Braunfels at 5 p.m.

July 27 – Reunion Grille in Cedar Park at 8 p.m.

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Filed under indie, indie rock, live show, music

Wknd to release The Venopian Solitude single June 7

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Just got an awesome update about a unique artist I wrote about a while back: The Venopian Solitude, stage name for a young woman from Malaysia with a great voice and even better tunes and lyrics.

The Wknd, a Malaysian magazine that promotes indie music, held a contest and put out a call for demos and The Venopian Solitude won. She is the first ever recipient of the Wknd Recording Fund. The fund will get her a professionally produced single, which Wknd will market and make available for sale through their website.

Wknd writer Faiz Fadzil commented in my “about” section, “We’ve finished recording her first single. It will be launched on Friday 7th June 2013. We’ll be announcing the Soundcloud links to her tracks on that day as well.”

Congratulations to a very talented and deserving musician. I’m proud to have had a chance to find her early and see her mature as an artist.

Check out my blog post about her from 2010: The Venopian Solitude – unique voice from the global village

Edit:

Here’s the link if you want to check it out http://the-wknd.com/music/new-music/the-venopian-solitude-warkah-narcissus/

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Psych Fest 2013 – another memorable festival

Psych Fest 2013 was a blast as usual. I’ll go into some detail, but, first, some memories that stick out in my mind…

Sore feet and ears ringing like the bells of Ireland, seeing Black Mountain, The Black Angels, Soft Moon, and Dead Skeletons, getting caught in a downpour, getting to see Joel Gion from the Brian Jonestown Massacre and seeing a young a woman walk through the crowd wearing nothing but a belt and some kind of fringe – no one seemed to notice. All in all, a memorable festival that introduced me to some great new bands, and gave me a fresh look at ones I’d seen before.

The Venue – Carson Creek Ranch

For the first time, the event was held at Carson Creek Ranch, near the airport. I think it will likely be held there every year. It was a pain in the ass to get to, but I think I’ll figure it out a lot easier next year.

I give it a thumbs up overall. There were big grassy expanses with a few shade trees you could sit under in between shows, lots of vendors, three stages, including the amphitheater on the bank of the Colorado River. Lots of hippies relaxing next to the water. Too bad for them I also noticed a fair amount of poison ivy growing on the river bank. Biggest hitch with the venue was the parking area. It was fine at first, but when it got wet it turned into a real mess.

Friday night – Soft Moon and Warpaint win the night
On Friday night the first band to catch my ear–and my eye was an all-girl group called Warpaint. They were hot and they rocked hard. The drummer in particular blew me away. Their music was dark, tribal and not so much catchy as hypnotic. There was one long, Joy Divisionesque jam that really got me in a trance.

The biggest band of the night for me was Soft Moon. They played intense, dark new wave, industrial-sounding music. I saw them at the power plant at Psych Fest 2011 at the small stage and they impressed me then. This time they were even better. The bassist was mechanical and expressionless, while the singer jumped around like crazy, sometimes shouting into the mike and twiddling knobs to produce a squall of distortion. They gave my earplugs a hell of a workout, but I could have listened to them all night.

The Silver Apples…. One of the shows I never thought I would see. I’ve been a fan of this seminal electronic music act for a long time. His show didn’t have the impact on me that I had been hoping for. I think listening to Silver Apples’ recorded comes across as dark and intriguing. In person, it was brighter. I could make out lyrics better and the hippie poetry made it seem a bit more mainstream psych and not as interesting. I loved how obviously joyful Simeon was though. He’s back in the career he loves and has an audience that appreciates him. The kids really seemed to love him.

Saturday – Black Mountain, Kaleidoscope and one hell of a rain storm

The biggest story on Saturday night was probably the hellacious rainstorm that hit around 10:30 p.m., but Chris Kinney and I saw some good shows before that. We started with a few mediocre bands and had a chance to eat, etc. Then we ran into a big dilemma: Black Mountain vs. Kaleidoscope. Both were killer. Both were playing around the same time — Black Mountain at the main stage, Kaleidoscope at the amphitheater. We did our best to catch some of each show.

Kaleidoscope (UK)  is another seminal psych band I was surprised to find a the festival. The UK band put on a hell of a show, very traditional ’60s psych, just like they made back in the day. The light show on the river and in the trees on the other bank really made it magical.

Black Mountain on the other hand, had an excellent old school ’70s sound, from that period when psych was mutating into hard rock. I really enjoyed their spaced-out jam version of “No Hits.”

We wandered around and saw a few different shows. Man or Astroman was enjoyable, but the Levitation tent was packed and we couldn’t get very close. They were sort of a hard surf punk version of Devo. They wore costumes and had a lot of silly banter. “You think these are costumes. They are not. They are the apparatus that allows us to exist in your atmosphere.”

Part of the reason they were so popular was the weather. It was already starting to rain off and on. Os Mutantes was just about to start playing when serious rain started to fall. Then the bottom fell out.

Chris K and I headed to his car to get an umbrella, then the bottom fell out of the clouds and it rained so hard I couldn’t even see him. The parking area was paved with caliche, a whitish clay-rich dirt that was smooth and hard as concrete until it got wet, but the hard rain turned it into horrible clinging mud that built up on my shoes and made stains in my car I still haven’t gotten out.

Chris K and I got separated and ended up bailing. Chris went back to catch some shows, but the bands were moving their equipment to get out of the wet and I was cowering in my car. We ended up back at his place, scrubbing mud off our shoes. Whether any bands played after that I couldn’t say.

Sunday night – Black Angels, Goat, Dead Skeletons and their awesome surprise guest…

As always seems to be the case, they saved some of the best stuff for Sunday night, so I had to stay up late and be worn out at work the next day. Worth it.

Roky Erickson played again this year and I’m glad. He got treated with the respect he deserves and I think he should be at every Psych Fest. We owe him a huge debt. His performance was pretty similar to the one I saw two years ago at the power plant. He seems to do better with his solo stuff than with the Elevators’ material. I listened for a while, but mainly spent that time with Chris K, wandering around the grounds, checking out other acts at the river and looking at the merch tables.

Indian Jewelry was the first band to float our boats. Their music was a mix of psych and electro-clash, dark and hypnotic. The drummer was a particularly hot chick. Really cool designs in the projections behind the band also. We were enjoying the show, but then Chris K’s spidey sense kicked in and he suggested we go down to the amphitheater stage and see if there was anyone worth hearing. There was indeed.

Dead Skeletons of Iceland turned out to be the big discovery of Psych Fest 2013 for both of us. Just as they were about to perform, a 747 roared overhead. Perfect timing. They had a lot of members. Seven, I think. They were extremely together and made me think of a heavier version of Spiritualized.

We were soon faced with another dilemma. The Black Angels were performing and I wanted to catch some of their show even though we were enjoying Dead Skeletons. We made our way to the main stage and heard some of the Black Angels and indeed they were good. For some reason though, Chris K’s spidey sense kicked in once again and we decided to go check out Dead Skeletons one more time.

They were in the middle of an awesome extended jam and Chris suddenly noticed the guest musician: tambourinist Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. He was with BJM at Psych Fest last year, but this is the first time I had a close look at him. He’s older than the fun-loving stoner you see in the documentary Dig, but there’s no mistaking the nonchalant manner and smirk. Seeing him made the festival for me. You gotta love how he got to be a star by playing the tambourine.

We saw another very intriguing group at the amphitheater stage called Goat. They were a Swedish band with a sound that incorporated many influences: prog, funk, psych, and Afropop. Vocals reminded me of Japanese pop. The members wore masks and tribal-looking costumes.

We finished with the Growlers, an old school garage/psych group that we had seen two years ago at the power plant. They had an entertaining show, with stage props that included rainbow penises, space aliens and cactuses. As the show went on, the music delved more into acid rock territory and some demented circus music. Very entertaining.

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Psyched out before Psych Fest – Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, Jaggery put on awesome show at the Swan Dive

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I am about to start the last day of Austin Psych Fest 2013 and I have a lot to say about that, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the show I saw on April 20 at the Swan Dive by Boston bands Jaggery and Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys — one of the most psychedelic shows I’ve seen in a long time.

It was an amazing show. My only regret is that there were not more people there to see it.

I enjoyed the hell out of both bands, but the highlight for me was Walter Sickert. He was wearing a kind of feather head dress, big sunglasses, dreadlocks, and a wedding dress. Kind of like a demented Dr. John. He joked several times about being on acid.  As the night wore on, I came to the conclusion that it was somewhere between plausible and likely that he really WAS on acid. “Stop fucking with me. I’m on a lot of acid! My home town is blowing up while we’re on the road. Fucking terrorists! But it happens…”

Most surprising thing was how good the music was. Stylistically, it was mostly acoustic, reminding me a bit of the Asylum Street Spankers. It featured a drummer, melodian/accordion, bass violin and viola (played by the musician from Jaggery). There were dark cabaret influences, but at times, they rocked as hard as Jimi Hendrix. At one point the singer from Jaggery joined Walter in a song that included an excerpt from the song, “Love and Marriage.”

One song really got hold of me and brought chills — and end of the world song called “28 Seeds.” Here it is:


It was even better live.

“Devil’s in the Details was another great one”:


One of my friends exclaimed, “I’m in their fan club after that.” I felt the same way. I will definitely be purchasing some of their music online. I got a big kick of of their closing song — the Ghostbusters theme. “I went back in time to the ’80s to write this song,” Walter said. There were a few lyrics I didn’t remember from the movie. “If a ghost tries to fuck you in the eye, who ya gonna call?”

Very unique group. Visit their website and Bandcamp page. Buy some of their music and see them if you ever get a chance.

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Jaggery (appropriately named after Indian brown sugar) features Mali, a wonderful singer and pianist with incredible power and range (she kind of reminds me of a less scary Diamanda Galas), harp, viola and string bass.

Their music was powerful and dramatic. reminiscent of acts like Rasputina and the Dresden Dolls.

Some of it is incredibly beautiful.

One song which seemed to be about witchcraft, got kind of screamy (hence the nod to Galas), but it I found it really moving and chill-inducing. Mali joked that it probably scared the country bumpkins in Victoria when they gave a free show earlier. She took back the part about bumpkins, but she was probably right. I grew up in that area and kinda was a bumpkin at one time. It’s good for folks around there to experience something strange and different once in a while.

Check out Jaggery’s website and Bandcamp page. Buy some of their tunes if you feel so inclined and definitely catch them live if you can.

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Digititalis – just what the doctor ordered for chilled out listening-while-working music

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Yesterday as I struggled to find some music to listen to that would help me get through my busy work day, I kept thinking about Robyn Hitchcock’s crazy story on Storefront Hitchcock where he’s in a lobby (and a hotel on top of it as well) with a hangover and asks the person at the desk if they can turn the Muzak down. “We can’t,” they tell him. “Why not?””Because it’s pleasing.”

Generally if I’m going to play music while I’m working, I need something mellow. Too mellow and it will just bore me and piss me off. Like Hitchcock says, there’s such a thing as “annoyingly comfortable.”

Finally I hit on something that was just what the doctor ordered: a SomaFM channel called Digitalis. It was playing music that I would place in the shoegaze category – chillwave, dream pop, glitch, etc. According to the website, the music is “Digitally-affected analog rock; laptop rock; screengaze: these are some of the names that people give this new style of indie rock that’s all about the shift of the recording studio into the laptop.”

It was just right. Not so attention grabbing that I got distracted, but not boring. I streamed it through my cellphone via Shoutcast and was able to move around the office and get a lot of work done.

In the process, I discovered several acts that I would like to hear more from:

Soley – reminds me a little of Bjork, and Lacrymosa.

Inu – really glitchy sounding stuff, melancholy vocals…

Ms John Soda – a really good indie band from Germany that I’m surprised I missed. Kind of Looper meets Ivy?

Styrofoam – really glitchy, kinda funky, a bit of  a New Order vibe…

And while I’m at it, let me recommend SomaFM as a whole. They’ve got a lot of interesting channels worth checking out. Played Groove Salad for a while and liked it.

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Filed under indie, music, shoegaze, trip hop, Uncategorized

Flamenco Symphony – more than just dinner music

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Flamenco Symphony don’t play the kind of music I expected to hear in a Mexican restaurant, but I’m so glad I did. Flamenco guitarist David Massey and classically-trained violinist Christopher Kranyak were performing at Morelia restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 1 as I ate and visited with family. They weren’t overpowering, but I couldn’t help notice the skill and beauty of their music. They got a steady round of applause in the restaurant, even from people seated far away from them.

I was surprised at some of the covers they pulled off in their flamenco style. The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”(made famous in Pulp Fiction) and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” to name a few (They’ve also written some original songs – that always earns my respect).

They left before I could tip them, so I figure the least i can do is give them a mention on this blog. So many times you hear groups like this and they fade into the background, or they’re just a mild annoyance as you try to carry on conversations. Not so Flamenco Symphony. Their music was beautiful, novel and memorable.

Lots of music and several videos on their website, as well as a schedule. They play regularly around Austin. Check them out if you can.

This is one of their original compositions, The Lost Tango:

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January 3, 2013 · 9:11 am

Doomsday – at least it’s fun to sing about

doomsdayHere we go again. A bunch of people are freaking out over another doomsday. I guess I shouldn’t make too much fun. Way back in the ’80s when I was a Baptist I got hyped up because some radio preacher or other had me convinced the end was nigh.

I remember how let down I was when I didn’t get raptured at the stroke of midnight at the church New Year’s Eve party. Luckily I never actually told anyone what I was thinking, so my embarrassment was minimal.

Since then I’ve lost count of the “doomsdays” that have come and gone. The Y2K scare was a big one, but there have been others. Since there are plenty of real and serious problems in the world, and since nothing lasts forever, I imagine the day will come – though I have a feeling we’ll go out with more of a whimper than a bang – but in the meantime I’ve got too much short term trouble to deal with to freak out over what New Agers or Mayans or TV preachers say.

One thing about it though… The idea of doomsday is a hell of an inspiration for musicians. Some of my favorite songs are end of the world songs. I don’t know if we’re supposed to disappear at midnight or if whatever it is takes place sometime during the day, but if you’re still here and our technology still works, check out some of these songs:

Daniel Knox – Armageddonsong


Jill Tracy – Doomsday Serenade

Michael Schenker Group – Cry for the Nations

The Handsome Family – When that Helicopter Comes

The Legendary Pink Dots – This Could Be the End

Chris Cornell – Preaching the End of the World

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