Tag Archives: south by southwest

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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Filed under dream pop, music, one to watch, psych, shoegaze, Uncategorized

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

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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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

Mistaken Eternity – Donovan inspires a new generation with soundtrack project

Just ran across a really cool video set to a song by Donovan called “Mistaken Eternity.” The video is sort of an Alice in Wonderland-meets-doppelganger story. Very trippy. Ally Rae James made it with her friend Molly Peters (the actress) for a competition. Donovan made a series of songs for something called Ritual Groove – a Soundtrack for a Movie Not Yet Made. The winners get a trip to Hollywood and meet filmmakers, as well as Donovan himself.

Here’s the entry. See for yourself:

I think the Ally’s video is amazing, especially considering she’s only 19! I also think she’s got an excellent chance of winning one of the top spots and a trip to Hollywood. Even if that doesn’t happen, I see a lot of potential. She ought to find a career doing something creative in my opinion. She’s also a musician, by the way. I first ran across her on TheSixtyOne where she posted a bunch of playful songs, her singing and accompanying herself on ukulele. I got a kick out of “Psychedelic Elephant” and her cover of Lil Jon’s raunchy “Get Low.” Her song, “Dear Mr. Leitch” was an early tipoff to her fondness for Donovan (Leitch is his last name). I’ll set aside my grudge against T61 for a while and link to her page there, since I don’t know where else you can find her stuff. Maybe LastFM?

I was born too late to see Donovan during his heyday, but I did get to see him play in a church at South By Southwest a few years back and enjoyed the hell out of it. He performed all the hits I knew of, plus some I hadn’t heard yet. He came across as a really sweet guy. Good musician too. Still relevant? Apparently so, if he can inspire someone Ally’s age (born in 1991!) to such creative heights.

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Filed under one to watch, psych, Uncategorized, video