It has been quite a weekend. I worked four straight shifts in a row, with about 4 hours each night worth of sleep between them. So, after an exhausting weekend, I of course went down the street to one of my favorite bars in Austin to grab some drinks with friends. Tonight, as I was swigging back a rocks glass of scotch, we were watching a local singer-songwriter play her heart out. Whether it was the exhaustion of work or the tip in the drink, it was wonderful. Her words cut and were simplistic and savage in their stab.
All I gathered from a name was Cass. As she played for "tips and booze, in no particular order," I was enthralled. A lot of thoughts ran through my head: Have I felt this way about something in a while? Was it the booze? Was it her voice, and the distinct, yet referenced sound and pitch it carried? Maybe it was her swagger and the way she carried the songs through indescribable passion, or was it just her executed flow?
You have to wonder when outside factors begin to present themselves in the decision side of art. When did "tips and booze" not cut the lifestyle? I'm not speaking in terms of touring bands and young upstarts, but as far back as someone making an art of your minstrel song to your "fair lady" or respectfully desired "wench."
Furthermore, when did I begin losing touch with discovery, and began looking at music with more anticipation and outlandish expectation? Should I - not only a critic, but as a generally passionate absorber of the musical spectrum - set my expectations low and let them ride out with absolute experience and absorption of the material - whether short-term and on the spot like tonight, or seeing an unexpected opening band, or what if it's a favorite band you've been following for a long time and can't wait for their material and it seemingly takes you just a few more listens than their last few releases?
We get so caught up in preconceived notions of not only what we think music should sound like, that we tend to forget why we fell in love with music to begin with it - its constant relentlessness in keeping us on our toes, of moving us or even, to an extent, being an outside force on our actions and involuntary and voluntary emotions of heat of the moment bursts of life.
I've had the humbled opportunity to hear two of my greatly anticipated albums of 2011 in the last two weeks. They're on repeat most of these days. They've lived up to my exceptions, but what are my expectations from your subjective ones?
Sometimes we get so caught up in all this squallier of anticipation, we tend to forget the innocence of connecting with music on a level that can only be measured through personal grandeur and movement: how loud you raise the volume, if you roll your eyes back at certain points in a song or album, or loose yourself in a paralyzing state of both mind and body.
I find that the recognition of ones involuntary actions towards music to be our greatest and most rewarding subjectivity and one that cannot be measured by some asshole critic like myself.
So, last week Native rolled into town with PJ Bond and that's where the discussions started. As a) an Austin resident and b) someone who has frequented many shows and regular venues of this great city, I'm already getting the South by Southwest buzz. Sorry, I get to be the guy who gets to know, but I will keep my mouth shut to the public about the upcoming day and night showcases I've heard about so far.
Just in the last week, my excitement is beginning to swell, and possibly going to my head. So I sit hear. Just breathe. I keep calm. There has been much discussion amongst my good friends about what South by Southwest will bring to the table this year, but one thing we all agreed upon is the next wave of bands. In 2011, 2001 is on its way to happening again. It's something, if you read anything I write about (read: we get it, you hate most of Rise Records' line-up), I've been standing on a digital soapbox for some time now telling you all that it's been ten years. Like most frequent cycles, especially in that of music, we've come full circle. Hearing about the number of bands coming and not coming to this year's week long event of music, networks and free booze - where we're going, we don't need no stinkin' badges.
There are a lot of showcases I'm excited about for a reason other than the great acts. I'm excited to see how many kids will pile into some of these smaller venues as opposed to the big rooms. I'm curious to see if some of these kids are looking for more substance in the art than is piled across their faces and hair styles. There are certain bands gaining momentum out of house shows and clubs and into larger venues - headline tours are foreseen in the near future. These bands are growing alongside other bands. They're touring together. Most importantly - they're feeding off each other.
Thankfully for an enthusiast as myself, I need something to keep me guessing, to keep me excited. There are numerous times in my field where I've said, "Yeah, that was good," but really meant, "Meh, it wasn't bad, but it didn't strike a match under my senses." Maybe because it either sounded similar, or there was a lack skill or passion holding it back from inspiring a cartoon light bulb above my head. Last year, there were many light bulbs. This year looks poised to create even more. I hear these bands talk about one another. They talk about other bands' skills. They talk about their anticipation of hearing each bands' upcoming albums, and not as colleges and friends sharing a bill, but fans of their respective music. It happened with labels and rosters like Dischord and BYO and Level Plane. Sure, those labels don't have the turnaround they once did, but think about how many bands they ended up influencing. A lot of those labels are these new labels. A lot of those bands are these new bands.
Much like my banter on intellectual property, ideas need to fight and feed off each other to progress. Jazz musicians ripped each other off and made it the point. They were breeding new ideas from tired old ones. Big question: How long will this new generation boil, and how long til it settles into another round of conformity?
For now, things look promising. Today I received the new Former Thieves album, The Language That We Speak, in my inbox. I haven't put it down all day. It has sidetracked me from writing reviews I was working on earlier in the afternoon. It's made me think about the first time I heard something heavy and thought-provoking like Botch or Norma Jean or Fear Before the March of Flames. It's an album that grabs the listener, and in a way, sets a bar among many hardcore bands right now.
La Dispute, Touche Amore and Defeater are up to bat later this year. Match that to new releases from Thursday and Glassjaw, more brewing from the Midwest and Long Island scene (Tidal Arms and Lights Resolve especially), and there are pockets of musicians everywhere feeding off each other. Though there is usually much complaining of your favorite bands hitting it big, I'm so tired of the muck, that I hope Former Thieves' single, whichever they choose, is the top play on Headbanger's Ball - if MTV even still shows that...
After one month, 2011 has proven itself to be a brute force of a year. I'm 24, but I feel like I'm 16 again. I hope all those that are now 16, they finally realize what real punk music is.