Category Archives: psych

Dandys and Brian Jonestown Massacre – both huge successes in my book

How do you define musical success? Lots of money? Lots of fans? Most dedicated cult following? Major label deal? It just keeps getting trickier and trickier.

A few weeks ago a friend loaned me his copy of Dig!, a documentary about the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Two very talented and trippy groups that had very different career paths – the Dandys got a major label deal and got really popular, especially in Europe; the BJM got more and more dysfunctional over time, with rampant drug use and constant fighting.

It also follows the changing relationship between BJM’s volatile singer Anton Newcombe and the Dandys’ Courtney Taylor, who started out as great friends and ended up as bitter rivals.

I recently saw both bands at Emo’s in Austin. The Brian Jonestown Massacre played at Psych Fest and The Dandy Warhols played later at their own show. I loved both bands, but I think I would’ve appreciated them a lot more if I had seen Dig! beforehand. I didn’t realize how awesome it is that Anton is keeping it together as well as he is right now, or that tambourinist Joel Gion still tours with the band after quitting/getting fired/getting in fights, etc. so many times. (BTW, Joel was my favorite “character” in Dig!, just laughing and clowning and partying through it all, the quintessential stoner.)

So which band succeeded? I would have to say both. The Dandys had more commercial success (Although Capitol has since downsized, dropping them from the label and turning them back into a “true indie” band). Their songs are catchier.

Brian Jonestown Massacre make consistently great music that will stand the test of time. They’re like some of the great psychedelic bands from the ’60s before they got big and lost their edge.

I think the Anton and Courtney love/hate relationship is fascinating. Anton envies Courtney’s success with the Dandys and Courtney loves and envies Anton’s songwriting ability. Here’s hoping they get back to the point where they can hang out and perform together again.

If you’re a fan of either of these bands and haven’t seen Dig!, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Even if you never heard of either band, watch it. Best documentary and in fact best movie I’ve seen in a long time.

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Incan Abraham’s psychedelic world music gives me chills


Songs that make chills run up my spine don’t come along very often. Any band that can make a song like that has my undivided attention. Weeks ago, I heard a song by Incan Abraham called “In Milan” that had that effect on me. And after looking into this band from Los Angeles I found that it was not a fluke.

I like absolutely everything I’ve heard from them. It’s psychedelic pop with a world music influence. I want to say Vampire Weekend on acid or Animal Collective on safari. Hell I don’t know. Just listen to it.

Check out “In Milan” and see what I mean:

Their music is available for free/pay what you want on their Bandcamp page. But you can also order a special hard copy of their latest EP, Ancient Vacation. I did, because I wanted to send a little money their way and have a little collectible. Plus it has an elephant on the cover and I like elephants.

I downloaded everything I could from their Bandcamp page and I enjoy all of it, but Ancient Vacation is the best in my opinion. I like the direction they are headed and think they are going places. I think they would be an awesome pick for next year’s Psych Fest.

Check out Incan Abraham’s website and pay them a visit on Facebook.

I would love to see these guys in Austin one of these days.

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Dandy Warhols rock Emo’s Austin

Last week I finally got a chance to see the Dandy Warhols, one of my all-time favorite bands. Avant garde yet catchy, nice and psychedelic. I saw them at Emo’s in Austin in the company of some good friends.

One of my friends referred to them as the coolest-looking band on the planet, and he could be right. They don’t do a lot of jumping around on stage, they just look really cool. As cool as they sound. I sort of get the impression of lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor as someone who’s been around and seen and done pretty much everything, kinda  sleazy, druggy and wise.

The Dandy Warhols are still on tour. Check here to see if they’re coming to a town near you.

Didn’t manage to get a decent photo with my cellphone, alas, but check out this video of my favorite Dandy Warhols song. They killed on this one.

 

They also had some really kickass songs that I hadn’t heard before, many from their new album, This Machine.

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Psych Fest 2012 Day 3 – final wrap-up

Finally a chance to talk about Sunday, April 29, the biggest day of Psych Fest. This one featured some of the best acts of the festival, including the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There was a lot of diversity. World music, bands in the psych tradition of Velvet Underground (maybe a few too many of those to be honest), bands that reminded me of my favorite postpunk bands from the ’80s. Just a great day of music.

Looking back over the festival,  I would have to say the discovery this year was Disappears, a band that I knew nothing about that blew me away. (Last year’s discovery was Sleepy Sun – still a big fan).

As far as who put on the best performance… I would call that a tie between Bombino and Thee Oh Sees.

Wall of Death

Wall of Death is joined by Christian Bland of the Black Angels. (photo by Chris Kinney)

The first act to grab my attention was a French band called Wall of Death, which played in the Beauty Ballroom. They played at the last Psych Fest, but for some reason they didn’t make an impression on me – maybe I was watching another band at the time? This time they did.

Their brand of psychedelia had an edge at times, but was also very melodic. The first song featured a cello player. The second song featured a guest appearance from Christian Bland of The Black Angels. Folks who stayed at Emo’s missed out on that one. Chris, my concert buddy, remembered them well from last year and made a point to see them this time and notes that they were much tighter this time around. They appear to be pretty good friends with Bland — they opened for the Black Angels on their world tour.

Check them out on MySpace.

Also, here’s a video somebody made. I’m in that crowd somewhere…

Blue Angel Lounge

Blue Angel Lounge performs atmospheric pop with a postpunk/goth edge. (photo by Chris Kinney)

This was another band at the “small stage” at the Beauty Ballroom. They had an almost goth sound to my ears. They reminded me of bands like Joy Division and the Chameleons. At first they almost came across as monotonous, then the layers and complexity began to build and it became hypnotic and powerful. I was surprised at how young they looked.

Here’s one of their songs to give you an idea what they sound like:

And check them out on Facebook.

Bombino

Bombino introduces Austin to Tuareg rebel music. (photo by Chris Kinney)

This was the highlight of the night for me. I had heard of this band before, but didn’t really know what to expect. The band is led by singer-songwriter/guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar, a Tuareg. He was accompanied by another guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.

The Tuaregs are a desert-dwelling people who have been violently oppressed by the governments of Mali and Niger. Moctar in fact used to be a rebel fighter. At some point he decided he could do more to help his people by putting down his weapons and picking up a guitar.

It was almost surreal, after watching so many Western rock bands to see Moctar and his band in their traditional robes, their drummer wearing the face covering Tuareg men commonly wear.

For anyone wondering why an act like Bombino played at a festival for psychedelic music, it was very appropriate. Brian Jones – the original leader of the Rolling Stones who took the band in psychedelic directions, and who later recorded a group of Moroccan musicians for a very psychedelic album, Brian Jones Presents the Master Musicians of Joujouka. In fact Bombino at times reminded me of that group.

The band is tight as hell and Moctar is a hell of a guitarist. I was surprised at just how good. I was also surprised at how they rocked out – and how well-received they were. The music made me think of various things: Ethiopian jazz, Ali Farka Toure, Gnawa music, Algerian music. I understand Moctar is a great admirer of Jimi Hendrix and you can see that in his guitar performance, but in a way he also reminded me of Bob Marley – in part because like Marley, he’s creating something like rock, but with a very serious purpose, supporting his people in the face of oppression.

There was an amazing crowd, both during the show and at the merchandise table, where Moctar and his band members greeted people personally. I bought a CD of his album, Agadez. You can purchase downloads and order the CD at their Bandcamp site.

It would’ve been awesome to see this show also…

And here’s an excerpt from a documentary about the band. Pretty good performance and some explanation about what Bombino is all about…

Federale

Federale makes soundtracks for imaginary Spaghetti Westerns. (photo by Chris Kinney)

Federale of Portland were a great surprise. Yet another great band playing at the Beauty Ballroom. They made what I guess you would call Spaghetti Western soundtrack music. Turns out some of the founding members were at one time part of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their music is mostly instrumental, with a trumpet player, and a girl doing wordless vocals. I had to pick up their 2009 CD, Devil in a Boot, which includes a short story about a boy named Jack who has his family stolen from him and later on gets revenge on the evil railroad baron. Check out their website.

One of my favorite songs off Devil in a Boot:

Thee Oh Sees

Very impressive show on the big stage at Emo’s, very high energy. Thee Oh Sees were a kind of pop punk, very tight. At times I thought of Cheap Trick, at times I thought of rockabilly, but mostly it was just a great rock ‘n’ roll show. This was one of those shows where I had to quit thinking about what they reminded me of and just put the notepad away and enjoy.

Check out their website. Looks like they’re on tour in Europe right now.

Also check out this cool video:

New Fumes

A one-man band at the Beauty Ballroom. Very experimental. The guy wore a goat mask and played guitar and electronics, accompanied by very strange videos – including little movies featuring a character that lip-synced as he sang. I have no idea how he did that. The bass was at times so loud it vibrated my whole body. Very impressive. Kind of in the same vein as some of the shows I’ve seen at the Salvage Vanguard Theater.

The show was sparsely attended because he was pitted against the Meat Puppets – a band I enjoyed but heard enough of after a few songs. It’s a shame more people didn’t see this guy, because he was everything psych should be.

Check out his MySpace to hear some of his music.

Check out this video.

How psychedelic was that?

Brian Jonestown Massacre

What can I say? They were awesome. They were obviously the big draw of the festival and they really rocked out. Better than I expected. Too bad I had to work the next day and didn’t catch the whole show. I wanted to, but I had basically hit my wall at that point. I decided to leave it to the young folks who can still do all-nighters on a regular basis without being wiped out for the rest of the week.

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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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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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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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