Occupy Wall Street has become an infectious thing as it has left New York City and traveled to other bigger cities in the United States. Austin is no exception as protestors are stationed both at City Hall and the Capitol, both located downtown just blocks from each other. There is no shortage of people in attendance either. It's a tough time for our generation, like the counter revolution of the '60s, enough people have had enough. No matter how you feel about the subject of protest (I myself see it as a noble cause, but always believe you can do more damage on the inside - it's just how you manipulate and conceal intentions by outsmarting the elders), this is a time where no one is really sure of sufficient way of changing what they are aware is wrong. At our darkest moments of clout, we at least put ourselves out there in some sort of process to move forward. I'm not saying waking up on the steps of a building is going to turn a leaf the next day for an already fucked up system, but once the media grabs a hold of it - people will notice. I wonder how different the counter revolution of the '50s-'60s-'70s would have been with social media for that matter. Do we educate ourselves by talking with these people, or are we just following random posts through a network - whether it's big media or social - I think when emotions tie-in, either side can seem like bullshit propaganda and ruin any sort of positive progress.
The first time I met and talked with Kevin Devine, I had read up on a lot of what he had to say in previous interviews and read lyric after lyric. Aside from what I deemed his songs on life, death and love - he also seemed to have something to say about the political agenda. Of course when I confronted Devine with a question about a conscious agenda, he immediately laughed it off. After talking with Devine tonight and over the last few years, I can see why - there's no agenda in observation. That's what Devine does best as a songwriter, he's able to pen his observations in some of the best songwriting that I think still goes unappreciated by some - but not by many. Devine's approach is in the way he talks to you or a group of people. It's in his laughs and jokes on stage and in his lyrics of finding a certain peace and understanding. Devine's been on the road for seven weeks, and as someone who continues to never let up, I think his travel plays a big part.
I know I'm repeating myself, but Devine has this complete polarizing effect that radiates in his live show - whether it's how he can quiet the crowd with just him and his guitar, or how he lets it all out with a talented band behind him - it just connects in a way that a singer-songwriter should with an audience, a fan or even someone just there for a show. I'm not sure if I noticed it until the other night, or it's always been there and it finally hit me after seeing Devine so many times, but the guy just seems natural on stage. I see so many artists a month and over the course of the year that just seem nervous: "What's the response going to be?" or "I hope we sound good," and "I can't hear myself in the monitor," and so on. Devine has a confidence in his set that resonates the most. It's in how he presents each song as an act with witty monologue in between. Again, he seems like a man with so many questions, but always up for at least discussing answers whether he's right or wrong.
The support for the night displayed both of Devine's live shows - his acoustic urgency and full band swagger. It was my first time seeing The Rocketboys in over a year or so, and it's like they never had the 10 months of writing between them at all. As of now, the band is writing as a trio and they're writing separately instead of together with their new material and hope to have something put together for next year. Even with a fill-in drummer and guitar player, their sound still filled the inside room of Emo's and exhausted the band's lush sound. The guys don't intend on slowing down, but their not looking to be a quick flash in the pan either. We'll all have to stay tuned to see what happens in 2012 for them, but I have high hopes. I caught most of An Horse's set before talking a bit with Devine and some friends. For a duo, their sound carries with duel vocals and furry. Live, the band sound even more lush than on Walls studio sound as Kate Cooper wails out in the songs' choruses. A pretty solid act for this leg of the tour.
It's certainly hard times lately. I myself haven't had the best couple of months behind me, but it's about keeping your head up in it all. For whatever reason, between the people camping blocks away at City Hall or the fact that I have less than nine dollars in my bank account for a couple of days or stress about all the work I have to put out this week and get finished up - it all just went away watching Devine's set.
"Ballgame" was a soothing end to the night, but not before the anguish of "Brother's Blood." I'm not even sure why I keep coming back to see Devine play, why I get excited to just talk with him about politics or music or (for what I didn't bring up) how bad the Jets are doing - but maybe it's because every time we talk, or I hear a new song or read another interview - he always has something insightful to say. There are people (friends in this industry even) that talk with confidence and there are some that talk in an uneasy nature and both seem like they're trying to follow themselves instead of what the conversation has to offer them. Every time Devine has something to say, it's a careful confidence. We're always growing toward a "better," and the only way to stay relevant and genuine is to straddle that line made up of such confidence but a humble undertone. He's a rare personality in a community of sharks, scholars, business and the all encompassed fear that seems to plague my thoughts on a daily basis talking with artists large and small. For that, I will continue to keep in touch with a spirit like Devine, and I hope he continues to do well because of the mentality I see in him.
Longevity. Some have it, and others don't. For Thrice, they certainly have proven the word with their career and progressive releases throughout the years. Along with bands like Thursday and Poison the Well and Saves the Day, these groups of musicians started a decade (or more) ago and moved forward gracefully conjuring up new soundscapes and testing fans along the way. Unfortunately at times - losing some.
After quite a long year for the members of Thrice, each experiencing family tragedies back home that forced the band to cancel quite a few dates, the band are back out on a headliner backed by Kevin Devine and his Goddamn Band and upstarts Bad Veins and The Dig.
The show last night proved to be one of the best bills of the summer thus far.
The Dig opened the night in sonic landscapes filled with "oh's" and "ah's" and hitting beats and harmonies showcasing songs off their debut full length Electric Toys. The band is certainly a fresh look at some upstate rock in the vein of the new millennium "the" bands. But instead of being drugged out and flat, there's a loving flow to The Dig's music. This is a highly recommended new artist.
Bad Veins took the stage to audience curiosity as frontman Benjamin Davis' mic set-up included a telephone more suited for your grandmother's house and a large ADAT tape machine running background. All in all, the band's set was quite solid for two guys belting out some great numbers. Maybe not my thing, but definitely worth giving an ear to.
Kevin Devine took the stage next with his Goddamn Band. As always, the musician was spot on. There's not enough kind words I can say about Devine without sounding like a) a superfan or b) a suck up, but the man has worked his ass off not only as a touring artist, but has come to write some of his best work to date, including his new song "She Stayed as Steam." It's always a delight to see "Carnival" and "Brother's Blood" played live. Teppei Teranishi even came out to help out on that final one.
The crowd finally filled out just before Thrice took the stage, and as they opened the set with "All the World is Mad" and "The Weight," fist pumped to every word and a punk rock sing-a-long abounded in the sweltering Texas heat. The set was pretty even with tracks from Beggars ("Doublespeak," "In Exile"), Vheissu ("The Earth Will Shake" "Red Sky"), The Artist and the Ambulance ("Silhouette" "The Artist and the Ambulance") and even The Alchemy Index EP's. It was the night's closer of The Illusion of Safety's "To Awake and Avenge the Dead" that threw the crowd in a frenzy, and as a friend took Dustin Kensrue's guitar, he took to the crowd with a mic for the last words and a unison of fans and uproar of "TO. AWAKE. AND. AVENGE THE DEAD!" closing the set. As an encore, the band came back to close out the night with "Beggars," possibly one of the best songs the band has written to date.
I was able to finally sit down with Dustin and Ed Breckenridge to talk about The Illusion of Safety for the book I'm working on, and there's definitely one thing that makes sense of the band's catalog now: it's always been about trying to cram in all of the band's influences both as a whole and individually. For Thrice, it has always worked whether you liked it, left it, or have - to this day - stuck by it. With so many bands producing so much of the same cookie cutter garbage and succeeding, it's nice to see when hard work and creative thought win out in the end.
I remember the first time I heard tracks off On a Wire. I hated it. Then my friend played me tracks from Four Minute Mile and Something to Write Home About. I was swayed. Then Guilt Show came out. I was in love. Then I grew up. Now On a Wire is my favorite album by the band. So much so, that when talking to vocalist/guitarist Matt Pryor last night about seeing if he remembered my song request in our interview at the start of the tour, he said the rest of the band didn't learn it, and wondered why I liked all the band's "darker" stuff.
Our taste changes in time I guess. The fact is, I enjoy the up's and down's of The Get Up Kids catalog, so my anticipation for the same sort of set for their last show was building.
Opening the night was Mansions, a newcomer who is poised to turn a few heads. It's a bit dirty, very honest and all around enjoyable. I can see this band as having a buzz in the next few months, and it would be well worth people's time to check them out.
Kevin Devine was the direct support, and didn't disappoint as always. I remember reading somewhere on this site that someone said Kevin Devine was a mediocre songwriter. Sounds like someone has never seen his live show or spoken with him or heard how much better he has progressed throughout his career. I fully support this man and his music. Sure, I may not like EVERY song in his earlier catalog, but Brother's Blood will certainly end up in a lot of end of the year lists for good measure. He also was very glad to answer our questions, and appreciates the support from the site.
Bring on The Get Up Kids. Opening with "Holiday" - duh - and blazing through an even catalog of songs, including "No Love," "Walking on a Wire," "Woodson," "Mass Pike," and a Jim Suptic sing-a-long of "Campfire Kansas." The set list would have made Adrian proud and glow like a Christmas three - set on fire. The band's new jam "Keith Case" is a progressive number for the band, and makes me excited to hear (and own the hopeful vinyl versions) of the new material. It's miles away from the debut, and just a stride forward from their later pieces. The encore began with The Cure's "Close to Me" and then a dedication to the band's merch man - "Beer For Breakfast." Along with three oldies, but great-ies, the band closed the tour off well - except for two Kansas City shows.
It's certainly been two months of nostalgia for me. With Sunny Day Real Estate, The Jesus Lizard and The Get Up Kids - and seeing some of my favorites still kicking it (These Arms Are Snakes, Thrice, Brand New) - it makes going into the next decade even more mind boggling. Devine, his drummer Mike Fadem and I were discussing longevity after the show last night. Who will still have an impact in the next 10 to 20 years. Will we feel the same about all these great new albums, or will they fade into the used bin? I hope my generation has great bands like tonight in the future. I try not to be a negative person, so I hate to think I'll have to report on crap in the future. Don't make me hate my job.
[photo note: I took black and white and gritty. I wanted this nostalgic feel I guess. Probably just looks like crap. Oh well.]
Kevin Devine is hands down the best interview I have ever done in my short career thus far. He was well spoken, had a lot to say and when all was said and done, I think it's definitely one of the best articles I have written.
Devine is in fact not a large scale household name, but has quite a cult following across the United States. His music is real, simple and heartfelt. He's told me Elliott Smith is one of his favorite artists, and I think that the late Smith would be proud.
Devine now suffers the dreaded leak, and two months at that. His blog yesterday is one that looks at every angle of the problem-- its pros and cons-- and an honest, but saddening take on what has occurred. In essence, we feel bad for Devine, but for those who want to give, we can't for two months. Sympathy and outreach without an end.
Sunday, a new model was introduced (that I know of being the first time) to the distribution model. Saddle Creek, and I guess the band in agreement, released Cursive's new album, Mama, I'm Swollen, for digital download for $1. The idea of the model is that the price would go up everyday by a dollar until the album's official shelf date on March 10. The idea, get it early, get it cheap, financially support the band in some way.
By the looks of the front page, it seems people were taking advantage of the deal. Cursive fan or not, people were simply buying based on the low end price. Now for those of you wondering about the album's share, imagine the swagger of Happy Hollow meets the bleak story line of The Ugly Organ. It's another great record by a great band.
By using this model, there are set-backs. By releasing the album at a deal early, the label has to be aware that it will hit torrents and file hosting sites quickly, because hey, why pay for what we can sneak out the back door for free? Though to combat the leaks, I think people will embrace the deal they're getting and give some kind of monetary value back to the band and label. Finance through gratitude I guess.
But labels and bands still have to make money. Artists like Devine and Cursive understand that the distribution model has changed for either better or worse. While artists understand the Web allows them more chances to get heard, it also opens a sliding hand to take money out their back pocket. Sure, we can download early, and pay late, but there will occur some sort of dent in the meantime.
A reverse way for the Saddle Creek model is to fully charge for the record early. I'd be willing to pay $10-$15 for the new Manchester Orchestra record. Hell, I'll give a $20-$30 for the new Glassjaw, and you can send me a shitty CD copy this time next year. (If I'm paying $30, I expect a damn vinyl though.)
I think it comes down to what we are willing to pay as opposed to what we have to pay. This is the downfall to being a fan in a flooded market, and brings up the idea of saturation. It seems that the supply has outweighed the fiscal demand. But if we bank our money into those deserving creative artists, then maybe we can evaporate much of the muck-- only hoping that the mass market isn't consuming said muck and instead those creative artists
With that being said, I ask that you financially support those artists like Devine and Cursive so that they may continue to create solid music. We're all human, and we all want to be entertained-- but even the dollar menu isn't free-- I mean, it's a freaking dollar!
Though this was worthy of posting. This is a Myspace bulletin he posted. Kevin is one of the most genuine musicians I have ever talked to, and human being at that.
"November 5, 2008
2:43AM Brooklyn Time
What an overwhelming moment! There's a lot to digest, a lot of energy to process, a lot of emotion and intellect churning; it's a strange and thrilling time to be alive. I'm someone who wants to observe and absorb and not speak needlessly and prematurely.
There's plenty of static and opinion out there already; why further flood the field?
Earlier tonight, however, my friend Tom McRae said something that made me think and helped me frame my own early response and I wanted to share it and (hopefully) add to it here - briefly.
Tonight is about the power of symbolism, and people's genuine and shared desire for something better, and bearing witness to history. What comes next is what comes next, and the stirring rush in the air doesn't invalidate the understandable reservations and dissatisfactions many of us (radicals? idealists? realists? Debbie Downers?) have felt and articulated not just throughout this election but throughout all social processes everywhere that don't bring about a more peaceable and egalitarian humanistic justice, GLOBALLY.
That being said - tonight is about acknowledgment and cautious optimism. Tonight is about poetry; tomorrow, prose. So for now, let the verses flow. New York's first and only African-American mayor, the oft-embattled David Dinkins (of all people) said something tonight that rang a clear tone through me: "Tonight, we all drink from the same water fountain.
Tonight is about feeling, and yes, a dash of hope.
For a night - enjoy and celebrate. The work, as always, is yet to come.