Tag Archives: FM Campers

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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No Strings electronic music/puppet event pushes boundaries

Particle Kid

Orange Rex


I don’t have a lot of experience with the art of puppetry. I believe I was in kindergarten the last time I was in a puppet show. I seem to remember the puppets were made out of pudding boxes. I’m sure when I was a kid I must’ve stuck my hand into a sock on more than one occasion. A lot has changed since then… Or, come to think of it, maybe not. You can make a puppet out of whatever you want, however you want, and long as you’re creative and express yourself, you’ve created art. Very much like music — especially the experimental DIY music I enjoy so much.

That synergy led to an event called No Strings Attached at the Salvage Vanguard Theater on Sunday, March 20, the last day of South By Southwest. It was organized by Bradford Kinney and Katie Rose Pipkin, members of the non-profit arts group Church of the Friendly Ghost. As sore as I was from traipsing around Austin, even knowing I had work the next day, I couldn’t resist.

FM Campers were amazing, just as they were  the first time I saw them a week before. I was sad that I didn’t get to see Bubblegum Octopus, who got sick and had to cancel. I also had to leave before Zorch came on.  I did get so enjoy some strange and exciting music, videography, noise and puppetry. I made a great discovery in the form of a talented multi-media artist Particle Kid, aka J. Micah Nelson.

The show started with Ghost of Electricity (Bradford Kinney) creating electronic atmosphere and songs, accompanied by video projections and puppetry by Katie Rose Pipkin, who made evocative shadow plays using paper cutout characters and objects projected on a screen. As the show went on, the shadow puppets began to integrate with the video projections, which began as abstract art and geometric shapes. The songs and scenarios seemed to be about heartbreak, including a retelling of the Icarus myth.

Next was a show from Glass Half Full Theatre group, which stretched the boundaries of puppetry by using everyday objects on top of a table: paper cutter, typewriter, staplers, staple remover, electric pencil sharpener, Scotch tape, etc. They made the objects fight, the pencils had sex with the pencil sharpener, and there was all sorts of mayhem, accompanied by silly noises. Maybe I got it wrong, but I think it was a “survival of the fittest” story.

FM Campers blew the doors off just as I expected. Their show, accompanied by a puppetry free-for-all and vintage videos of a wildfire threatening a family farm, an ant colony and kaleidoscope shapes, was especially moving and psychedelic. I love how the drummer sits with his back to the audience. Really gets you involved in the music.

House of Wolves, featured Rick Reed and Brent Farris making electronic soundscapes. A film played out next to them, projected onto a screen from behind, while a shapely young woman made silhouette poses, James Bond intro-style.

Particle Kid (J. Micah Nelson) put on a fascinating show in the gallery.  On a screen was an image of a lightbulb. A few ripples revealed that it was in fact reflected in water, which was in a dish on top of some kind of speaker or amplifier. He played keyboards, making vocal loops and building up various chords and harmonies. As he did, fascinating patterns began to form on the water. The piece started out very ambient and grew more and more lively, adding some beats. The water began to grow chaotic and splash out of the dish, and had to be replenished a couple of times. All the while, a woman wearing a bear hat gave a performance featuring an umbrella and little birds hanging from a mobile.

I’ve since looked into this guy and find he’s way more than a musician. He’s also a talented visual artist.

You can hear some of his experimental music here:

You can also find out more at:






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Got No Strings – free & freaky entertainment during SXSW

Don’t feel too bummed out if you don’t have a badge or a wristband for South By Southwest. There are still a lot of shows in Austin this week — many of them free. Check this out. There are also in-stores and unofficial shows all over town. Look around and see what you can find. The official shows aren’t the only shows (plus you can get into some of those if you show up very early and pay at the door. I’ve been to SXSW several times though, and I would pick lesser-known artists and get there at least an hour early, maybe two. If you’re scared of crowds and don’t want to walk a long way from your parking spot, you might want to look for something to do elsewhere.)

Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I plan to go to a free event (not affiliated with SXSW) on Sunday, March 20 that promises to be fun and freaky: “The Church of the Friendly Ghost Presents Got No Strings” — a series of shows featuring experimental underground music and puppetry at the Salvage Vanguard Theater (2803 Manor Rd.). Yes, I do mean puppets. I haven’t been to a puppet show since I was 5. I have a feeling this will be a bit different.

Bands include FM Campers, Zorch, Ghost of Electricity and House of Wolves. More information here: No Strings – a puppet theatre and electronic music symposium

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Y.East 2 was a feast for ears and eyes – SXSW not the only game in town

The middle part of March is South By Southwest time in Austin. There are tons of visitors in town, checking out films and music.  There’s always something happening down there. One of my favorite times of year. On the downside, getting a badge or even a wristband is pretty expensive, and getting into shows without a SXSW badge — especially the popular ones — is tough.

Fortunately, SXSW is not the only game in town. There are many, many shows and parties going on, a lot of them free. You can still have a hell of a good time and hear some great music without going to any official SXSW show. Last Saturday was a case in point. I went to a little underground music/digital art festival called Y.East 2, held at Cheer Up Charlies, at 1104 E. 6th Street.

It featured numerous electronic music acts and video artists. FM Campers (mentioned before on this blog) invited me to the show via Facebook. It started at 12:30 p.m. and went on till 3 a.m. I didn’t stick it out till the end, but I saw and heard some awesomely weird, cool acts and found a few new favorites. The ones who really stood out for me included:

FM Campers

They have a great electro-psych sound. Along with their singer (Anthony) and synth player/programmer (Shaun), they have a very energetic drummer (Jason) – not just programmed beats. The place was small, but they really packed it. Doing the visuals for their show was Wiley Wiggins, the guy who played the long-haired little freshman kid from Dazed and Confused. Apparently he’s really big in the underground video scene in Austin.

I predict FM Campers are headed for the big time, however hard they might try to stay underground. Their tunes are just too good. Just check out this song:

How I Quit Crack

Along with FM Campers, this is the girl I went to see, based on videos I’ve seen on Youtube. She didn’t disappoint. The singer’s name is Ernestina Forbis (though everyone seemed to call her Tina). It’s hard to describe what she does, but basically… It’s a kind of electronic goth music. Very unique style. Black lights, with makeup and decorations that glow. She usually has some kind of cross on display. Lots of distortion and feedback, plus vocals. She has a great voice, but it’s essentially an instrument. She’s a bit like Cocteau Twins in that respect. Accompanying her on guitar last weekend was  a Chris Cones, a guy from the Bay area who calls himself Skullcaster.

Really, you’d have to be there. Here’s the next best thing (I didn’t record this and it wasn’t from Y.East 2 – my pics didn’t come out either, maybe next time…):


A guy who sang and screamed while playing what I would refer to as chiptunes – what sounded like video game music. Maybe a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Devo? Chris Yatagarasu told me he creates his songs using a program called Famitracker. Very cool.

Captain Sievert

Very good chiptunes music, pushing the boundaries of that emerging genre. His songs were complex and funky.


This guy was playing really cool electronic music using a virtual reality glove he converted to a MIDI controller. Really fun to watch. His sounds reminded me a bit of Ronald Jenkees.

I, Cactus

This guy was a real hoot. He had a Mexican Wrestler-style mask, and had a little plastic mask stuffed in his waistband above his crotch. He did some great cut-and-paste type music, much of it hip hop but not all. He had Queen singing, “We are the losers,” and had DMX rapping “Y’all gonna make me suck my dick.” He had everyone cracking up including me.

I got to meet quite a few musicians in between shows, including Tina from How I Met Crack, Bradford Kinney from Ghost of Electricity and Matthew Armistead of Aurora Plastics Company. They were pretty fun to hang out with. Friendly and funny.

Go East Young Man

The BBQ School Bus, one of many, many outdoor food vendors on East 6th


I have to admit I haven’t ventured into the east side of Austin very often. Other Austinites who never go there will tell you it’s nothing but a lot of crack neighborhoods, but it isn’t the case. I’m sure those can be found, but East 6th Street was like a blast from the past. Young people strolling around or hanging out at stores and eateries. Little yards full of food trailers with picnic tables between them, selling cheap, but tasty food. The area had that bohemian vibe that I was afraid had disappeared when the rich people came along and started putting up high rises. It was like Austin, 20 years ago. I loved it.

I really liked the vibe at Cheer Up Charlies, by the way. Kind of a seedy-looking dive that somebody got hold of and turned into a cool place. From what I’ve read, they consider themselves a “queer bar,” which is distinct from a gay bar in that both gays and straights, hipsters and squares intermingle. They make some unusual cocktails – I had the habanero pineapple margarita. Damn good I must say. They also sell kombucha tea, a fermented beverage that I never tried before (and probably won’t like). I was willing to try it just to say I had, but they ran out of the stuff.

They have a couple of trailers in back selling vegan food. I got a Southwestern vegan dish from Iggi’s Texatarian called a “Hail Seitan” mainly for the humor value, but it turned out to be damn tasty. I never would’ve known it was vegan if you just handed it to me. One of the guys working there turned out to be a fellow Reddit user. Hell of a nice guy. I never met one of those in person before.

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FM Campers – new electro-psych band from Austin

I have to spread the word about this Austin group: FM Campers. I first heard them a few weeks ago on the University of Texas college radio station, KVRX. Beautiful neo-psych sound. An album is in the works and an e.p. called Bear in a Box is up on Bandcamp right now. You can pick your own price and download it, or pony up 10 bucks for the hand-painted sleeve CD-R version.

The entire e.p. is very enjoyable, but I especially like the title song, “Bear in a Box,” which is the song I first heard on KVRX. Stream it here and see if it doesn’t impress:

Also visit the FM Campers website: http://fmcampers.com

And their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fmcampers

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Filed under indie, indie pop, indie rock, music, one to watch, psych