All I wanted was a set of ear plugs. I couldn't find the pair I had brought and searched frantically past the pills of Mucinex, my headphones and random stickers and swag in my backpack only to come up short. So as a friend told me they were giving away some at the front of the venue, I made my way through the crowd only to be berated five times with a what looked like a plastic discount card containing a code to some website for something I was supposed to check out at some point, but instead ended up tossing every single one handed to me in the trash on the way back to the outside stage. Maybe it was the fact that I was fighting a cold brought on by the lovely Texas weather of the weekend prior or maybe it was the muggy weather that made me feel back at home and worse, or maybe it was the exhaustion of sleep and lack of food between putting on shows, going to shows, writing reviews (I gave that up halfway through the week) or the fact that everyone was partying around me and I looked like an extra in The Walking Dead. Needless to say, this South by Southwest wasn't a blast like it was last year - and the hoards of sponsors shoving their products in my face wasn't helping this punk rock kid enjoy himself past how rundown his entire body felt. I don't mean to sound like a grinch off the bat here. Because through all the muck, I saw a lot of inspiring things last week. I met a lot of inspiring young artists and talked to a lot of people that have come up from the underground to make the system work for them and make a career out of it. So before I get into my mental frustration, let me try to rundown the positives of the week and the reasons I didn't send Jason an e-mail on Monday saying, "Fuck this, I'm out. The system blows, and I don't want to be a part of it anymore."
During the week, I ended up putting together four shows (one of which I unfortunately couldn't attend due to prior commitments - which included our showcase in that mix), and putting on said shows, I brought in some talent I thought worth "showcasing" and some new acts that really blew me away. Mountains For Clouds really grabbed my attention the most early in the week and was the standout at the Count Your Lucky Stars showcase on Wednesday. Thursday's line-up felt underrated as hell. Mansions and Aficionado played the same venue last year to practically no one, and this year they packed in the biggest crowds of the night. Travis Shettel of Piebald even showed up to perform "Honesty" with Aficionado. Mansions played a couple of new tracks Christopher Browder has been working on for the new album. If Dig Up the Dead was his breakthrough, I expect the next record to be huge hearing these new cuts live. Then there was Look Mexico performing one of their best sets yet. A truly underrated act among the masses of the "defenses of pop-punk" - scholarly on another level past what I think some listeners can even grasp. A Great Big Pile of Leaves played to only about 25 kids. But they were attached to every word, and as the band knocked out a 40 minute set, all 25 kids were chanting for an encore. Like I said before - past all the "hype" going on downtown - that moment was bigger to that small crowd than anything else - that moment, to them, will be held special for a long time.
The show I put together Saturday was really something else though. It was a mixed bag of rock and roll to say the least, running the gambit of razor cuts and brash fury. Silver Snakes hopped on at the last minute and blew me away with their biting edge of alternative rock. The split set from Full of Hell and Code Orange Kids was something else altogether though. I already see Code Orange Kids being the biggest hardcore act of 2012 (the band are preparing to hit the studio to record their full length, discussing final plans last week), but it's their live show that just destroys. There are very few times when the heaviness of a band can transfer from album to show without feeling overly gimmicky and a bit misogynistic and so aggressive it's a bit laughable - but following in the steps of bands like Converge and even contemporaries like Trash Talk and Ceremony - Code Orange Kids are young and they're ready to tear shit up and bring their music to life in front of you, and I saw it at every show I watched them play last week. I let Full of Hell split the set, and they didn't disappoint either. It makes me even more excited to know there's another young band out there attempting something a bit outside of everything many kids will (and starting to RIYL a bit too much) base their new suburban bands around. Also, Jowls was the loudest band I heard all week - their new record is the real deal and I'm glad I got to see it play out in front of me. Seahaven put on a performance that will have me pay closer attention to the four piece in the future. All of this happened in a fucking pizza shop - that's what really blew my mind, that I even pulled off something so small when a 56-foot tall (?) Doritos machine is just five minutes away, and according to some, the best sounding stage of the entire week.
Before I get into the downer end of the week - I have to give thanks to Sargent House, and specifically Cathy Pellow for always putting this industry into perspective for the lost soul and fighting punk rock anarchist that lies heavily inside me. The consistency of Sargent House's roster is one thing we as subjective critics can argue, but the showcase on Friday night only proved my sentiments toward the label, and there wasn't a doubt it wouldn't otherwise. While it didn't contain any "secret sets" like last year, Pellow showcased a lot of the label and management's newest talent. Marriages (three parts of Red Sparrows) floored me with their performance of the entire Kitsune record. The album is one thing I can't get enough of lately, but to see it come together live and so flawlessly was entrancing. I was anticipating Indian Handcrafts, but a few live videos I searched across YouTube left me a bit weary. The tone, rawness and tight ship that came out of the two Canadians that night put whatever Death From Above 1979 had to offer last year to *ahem* death and any negative viral video notions I may have loosely had about their live performance in the same coffin. Then there was Chelsea Wolfe. Simply jaw dropping. Something of a cross between the vocal layering of tUnE-yArDs, the elegance of St. Vincent and the vocal eeriness of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Wolfe is a real deal and she pulls all of it off more vibrantly live.
Finally this year, Absolutepunk.net made its presence known at the shit show of a festival. Packed into a 500 person cap of Purevolume House, we had quite a line-up. But alas, our showcase was the most troublesome for me to cope with. Each band put on a terrific set, but the night boasted one of the most heartbreaking moments I've ever seen at South by Southwest. For all the bands that stirred shit up and put on a show or a fight or pitched a new product or whatever their soapbox was for the week (not necessarily at our show, but in general) - I watched as one of our users, setting up for only his third show ever, had the curtain fall on him before his festival moment. Due to technical difficulties and wiring troubles none of us could figure out, Malcom Lacey (Arrange - user: WakeUp) didn't get to perform. Here's a kid, no gimmick, only hyped by the likes of ourselves and Pitchfork, getting a moment and having it taken away due to unforeseen technical issues. For some reason, that hurt me. I think deep down inside, I wanted to see something special that night. I'd seen all the other bands and I knew they were capable of pulling a great show (I mean, that's why we booked them - bangarang, amrite?!), but I wanted to see Lacey get a bigger chance, and I think I wanted to see this special South by Southwest moment of unnoticed talent on a larger scaled stage go noticed. It didn't happen, and it was gut-wrenching. Now, add that moment early in the evening to the crowds of belligerent drunks, half filling the room with disinterest in what music the showcase had to offer and more what the bar had to give them for free past 2 a.m. when 6th Street shut down its services, some attempts of attendees to get into an "exclusive" V.I.P. area that wasn't that big of a deal and the line of people who didn't get to see the show because of it - it was just disheartening. I even got to meet Adrian Villagomez, one half the reason I started working for this site, but it was all cut short by the bullshit of the evening. For some reason it all got to me. All the bullshit of South By Southwest ruined this bigger moment.
My one day and night in the pit of downtown Austin for South by Southwest was miserable. The bands I wanted to see were great - don't get me wrong. I was lucky enough to see Say Anything blaze through themost punk rock set of the entire week, and it made me think about this: for every harsh critic on the web or in print, there's always ten fans there screaming every word to both songs old and new. That's rewarding in seeing. I finally got to see Braid not outside a venue looking through the glass and leaving three songs in. I saw those three songs again, and more, five feet in front of me. I saw the band help out a marriage proposal. To me, that's the special moments of South by Southwest. It's those small moments when you forget you're at a festival the size of Disneyworld, and you feel you're just at a show watching Foundation stir shit up like it was any other night they were holding the crowd's attention from the pit's perspective. One of the best parts of South by Southwest is that I got to spend it with my friends in Former Thieves for the most part between both our hectic schedules. The guys played 9 shows in six days. One day they played three shows. That's insane to me, but it's not an uncommon element for South by Southwest either. The guys' first show was a house and their last was the closing of a bar on Sunday when most of the tourism had cleared itself out. It wasn't their "official South by Southwest" show that was their favorite. It was their last two - a pizza parlor and opening what could be deemed a hip-hop extravaganza featuring Bad Rabbits and Doomtree - both killed it as well.
It's not that my South by Southwest experience was completely miserable. I only had to sit through a handful of awful bands (mostly all Wednesday afternoon leading up to fun.), it's just that the business end of the deal ruined the enjoyable aspect of the annual festival this year around. I took notice of it more. I took notice of the crowds that stood in line for free booze and food instead of the line-ups on the bills. I'm not even talking about a lot of the official showcases that went on, I'm referring more to how overrun the majority of free shows have become. There are more venues and more companies and more sponsorships and more of "COME SEE ME!" for all the wrong reasons. Maybe all this hate and anger is just steaming off the little punk rock kid inside me that won't die. If I sound bitter, it's because I wish a bit of the deadwood, the party, the ad-space that the festival has become would die off a little bit and that it would just be a bunch of shows to check out or being able to see a band you love in an intimate setting for free and not standing in line while half the room is just there for all the free shit and "to just be there" - and this is coming from someone who has no problem getting into much of anything during the festival without a badge.
Maybe this year, because I was more involved with the production of South by Southwest, I began to see the festival from a whole other light. The fact is I couldn't believe the small amount of crowds for some showcases and the long lines that lasted blocks around the corner for others. It just doesn't make sense to me. The business end of it all doesn't make sense to me. At the end of the day, I'm no authority and I'm no one special. I'm just a guy who writes for a website to offer some insight and to unload his thoughts and confusions and to stir discussion. That apparently is not an occupation at South by Southwest or this industry. So instead, I just want to be dead with my friends. Until next year, goodnight and good fucking luck.
I know I've been a bit absent since my "Day Two" entry of South by Southwest, but the final two days of the week were the most exciting, the most rewarding, the most confusing and the most frustratingly exhausting days of the week and the year thus far. I keep blanking out the past few days thinking about how I'm going to unload a lot of what's on my mind, my future in this industry and how a lot of people have given me hope or shown me that there are sharks in every tank of this business.
I think that's the biggest term I had a problem coping with as I was having lunch Sunday afternoon - trying to separate the term "business" from all of this, while figuring out how to make a living off of whatever this is as well and intact some sort of integrity into it all. Finishing that Xerxes review last night was one outlet and stepping back into the interviewing game tonight was another. Standing in a room filled with kids who were eating up something that I couldn't grasp for the life of me made me feel a disconnect - a disconnect I felt on and off throughout the week. It may not be as simple as "getting older," and I hope it's as positive as "getting wiser" as well.
I'm going to get some sleep. Get up tomorrow and sit down with my headphones intact and just unload on TextEdit. What you get on Thursday morning (late Wednesday night) will be my best at explaining why I may give this all up soon or be inspired to keep fighting the good fight - whatever that may be past what I think it is in my head after this week.
South by Southwest was a blast for the most part - I just don't have business cards nor do I care about "hype" bands. Maybe that makes me the outsider - or maybe I just wanted a bit more hate moshing during Darkest Hour - that's all I'm saying.
Yesterday I woke up either feeling worse, or feeling like my body was ready to purge itself of the awfulness that's been sitting on my chest for days now. Either way, I took the morning to rest, downed some more Tussin and headed out about mid-afternoon to catch Narrows at the Slip + Lovitt Records showcase. The showcase itself was better than I expected. A few openers I had never heard, and was very blown away by. Edie Sedgwick was a soulful blues act that was dirty, yet tight. Their lead singer could boast quite a few notes and held the small crowds attention early afternoon. Redgrave was a two piece that mixed blues rock and sludge and boasted more soulful female vocals. It was a nice combination of True Widow's tempo and Kylesa's grime. Very impressive. Regents put on a fantastic set. It was angry, it was heavy, it was spastic and during the last song, the drummer loaded up his kit into the back of a truck and went around the block while the rest of the band jammed from the stage. Only at South by Southwest, amirite?!
I've been waiting to see Narrows just about all week. For a small crowd, during the day and on a sound system that the band ripped apart - it was worth every fucking minute to be a little late to set up the show I was doing. Dave Verellen likes to fuck with the crowd, and it definitely adds to the atmosphere of the show. It's playful and keeps things alive. The tones were sick and the band was as tight as the record. Can't wait to see the guys again tomorrow.
Last night I felt like I put on the underrated showcase. A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Look Mexico, Mansions, Aficionado, Young Statues - all bands that are tightly knit, writing music worthwhile in their respective genres of pop, punk and plain great songwriting. Aficionado's new songs sounded incredible, as did Mansions new one about $80 (I think that was the hook line? haha). Look Mexico absolutely killed the show that night. If you don't know about this band, you better start caring now, or you fucked up.
Sorry to keep this short, Chris and I are going to head to Shirts For a Cure before it gets wild. See you at either that, Sargent House or our showcase tonight! I caved and bought some pills last night, so plenty of water today and here's to getting through it.
Sorry for the late response. I've been Robo-tripping a cold for the past two days and this morning I've felt the worse, and by that, I think my body is finally purging itself of the bulk of compression that's been sitting on my lungs for the past 24 hours. That said, I'm probably going to stay in this morning (going to try and suck it up and catch Narrows before heading to the show I'm putting on tonight.) Besides feeling like complete shit yesterday, the day wasn't a total bust - for the most part.
I woke up to go pick Eda and her friends up at the airport and after dropping them off I headed to the West side of town to catch fun. play a short performance. Now, what I'm about to say is going to be cruel, but it has to be said - so please just bare with me. fun.'s set was acoustic, and absolutely incredible. As far as vocalists go - not only in pop music, but in the contemporary in general, Nate Ruess is pretty untouchable. You can bitch all you want about the slight use of computers on the new record, but he certainly proves himself live. The band is tight as ever. Jack Antonoff can even solo pretty slick on that acoustic. To see such a great performance, boy did I have to sit through some horrible stuff. The opening band, I didn't catch their name, but the one who won the opening slot was pretty good. Loved the rhythms and vocal melodies. As a band who "got a shot at the big time" they were better than what followed. Even as I was well over light-headed from the quarter of bottle of Tussin I had before heading to the showcase, the next three acts either bored me with washed out electronic antics or unmoving songwriting. I attended the whole show with Cameron (cameronisonfire) and I think he said it best, "It's like mainstream pop is trying to grasp the indie sound." It's weak, and not even an overdosge of "purp" could make it sound better.
The night was a way better story. I was helping Keith Latinen put on his Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase. Like Topshelf the night before, there was a ton of "community" (don't forget, it returns tonight) felt across the room. Whether it was the local support of bands like football, etc. or the newest signings from Texas - Innards and Two Knights - about 200 kids both inside and watching from the open window outside - you could feel the intensity that again, away from all the "official," there was something a group of people felt more special about. It doesn't just go for this show, but any show held outside the "official" perimeters of South by Southwest - from warehouses to coffee shops. South by Southwest isn't about where your badge or wristband can get you, it's simply about where you are in the moment. I know most of the bands and have seen just about everyone on last night's roster, but I do want to point out how Mountains For Clouds blew me away. First time seeing them and hearing them and it was one of the best performances of the week so far.
There's one disconnect I wanted to point out about last night that sort of irked me. I was really stoked to have Chris Simpson's new band Zookeeper play (Mineral, The Gloria Record), as well as Bob Nanna and Lauren LoPiccoo close out the night. I have respect for all these guys for what bands they were in and what bands came after. Besides us older guys and the rest of the bands, both acts had some of the smallest crowds of the night. Maybe I've reached the age where there is a disconnect now from generation to generation, but it just sort of bummed me out. So maybe this is just me being an elitist or someone stuck in the past, but don't forget where your favorite bands took their influence from and I would encourage to catch these special performances when you can.
I'm going to rest up and head out to see Narrows in a few hours. Hopefully I'll be better tomorrow. Shirts For a Cure, Sargent House and the site showcase - tomorrow is packed and I can't wait!
Yesterday I jumped on the chance to do our weekly Wednesday Spotlight. I wanted to feature Narrows - my most anticipated artist of this year's South by Southwest festival. I'm unbelievably stoked to see these guys, so much so that I'm going to go well out of my way in an attempt see them twice this week. Besides the shows I'm putting on, I've basically built my schedule around them. After spending my first few hours of actual South by Southwest at a house show with Former Thieves, the sudden anxiety of bullshit sort of rushed over me again, a feeling I sort of repressed in the good times being had the past 24 hours. That sudden rush was an epiphany in a positive light. See, I was at a house, a good few miles South of the main festival, and people were there to see not only the opening locals but the touring bands as well. To them, the insanity of downtown meant so little to them, and it was this more intimate moment that really meant more to such a finite minority. And it's these nuances of South by Southwest that give me an untouchable, unspoken, subconscious hope.
Tonight's Topshelf Records showcase was pretty eye opening in the best way. Besides Topshelf being one of my favorite labels (the showcase also featured acts from Run For Cover, No Sleep and Count Your Luck Stars - community!), it was about all the feelings I had in last year's final write-up that suddenly came rushing back. It's the excitement on both the bands' faces and the attendees' body language. It was the stage dives, the open pits and crowded inside stage. People felt close to the music - they felt like they belonged to something, and probably more importantly, something they deemed as special to them. It was great to see so many people I regularly hold conversations with over social platforms, text and e-mail. Those conversations face to face in a personal moment felt more refreshing than those we have held over a public forum.
At the end of next week I'll probably draw up some rant about how "punk rock is still alive" and everything is going to be just fine in the face of continual mediocrity and the like. Really that rant will just reinforce some sort of status over me that I hold no more than any one of you going out to the smallest of house shows to see your friends' bands open for their favorite touring bands, or maybe even making it into that big official showcase somehow to see a band you've been yearning to catch for some time now. This week isn't about us as journalists, publicists, managers, industry snobs, elitists and trend hoppers alike (they all say he's a righteous dude…) - this festival should be about getting excited for music in the cramped four days. But let us also remember to carry those feelings of excitement and discovery into the rest of the year. Why just give gifts on Christmas? Why only care about a person on their birthday? Cut the egos, put away the business cards and let's all just party, pump our fists, jump in excitement and hell, maybe even stage dive if the venue will let you. Fuck the agendas of this industry, let's enjoy some tunes, talk it over with our closest friends behind the scenes and on stage, and keep close to whatever your tastes in the art may be for the next four days.
If anyone read my last entry, it may have been hard to follow - then again - most everything I write usually only makes sense to me. While I'm way more excited for the week of South by Southwest than I would lead myself or any of you readers to believe, I suffer enough from anxiety on a personal level, it always tends to bleed into my work. Those "great" points I make aren't methodical, they're generally neurotic and paranoid to the point of trying not to over-think the subject at hand. To me, there is no right or wrong defined in music (no matter how drunk and belligerent some conversations have gotten between me and others), just a means to gather more and more information in hopes of coming close enough to a conclusion without ever actually getting there, and therefore leading any topic to a never-ending open discussion. (See what I mean by over-thinking things?)
Tonight I came home to two things - one positive and one negative. I opened my inbox with a response from Converge vocalist and Deathwish Inc.'s Jacob Bannon. It read: "Thanks for that. I feel that you touched on something that a lot of critics/writers miss that aspect of what's been going on in the last decade or so in "heavy" music..." His response really left me staring at my screen for a few minutes. I said something that's been missed? I've said nothing that I believe a lot of people are thinking, that's my job as a critic, right? To sift through the bullshit? Where is the the term "bullshit" defined in an area of subjectivity like music? With no clear definition, the battle between what is authentic and what is processed to turn a buck continues I guess.
Then I read Patrick Stump's melancholy, heartfelt and truthful editorial. Coming from someone who has never been a Fall Out Boy fan, this column covers every aspect as to why music fans are their own worst enemy and on the same level of elitism they see publications to be and so on. A friend the other day was telling me a kid was removed from Anthony Green's solo show because he kept heckling Green to play more Saosin tracks after Green explained to him that "Seven Years" was just something special for the tour. Apparently the same fan berated obscenities toward Green like a small child who stops the world when he or she doesn't get his or her way. Over what? Trying to stretch a nostalgic moment longer for personal enjoyment instead of accepting the moment as something special? Have we become so attached to the past that we can't embrace beauty in the future? How many people listened to Soul Punk expecting more Fall Out Boy instead of opening themselves up to a new chapter for which it was? We all break in shoes, buy new cars and eventually throw away or even sell or thrift our favorite tattered t-shirts that once held special moments. (Maybe these aren't the best examples, but it's one in the morning, I'm trying to make some sort of sense.)
Stump's point on growing up is one many of us as music consumers tend to overlook. Some artists start their career mathematically trying to construct perfect architectures (we can't all be Godspeed guys, c'mon), but like Fall Out Boy, Thursday, Thrice and countless other bands we oh-so sit high on the throne in our musical tastes and judgements - they were young kids with nothing to lose attempting something that at the moment meant nothing more to anyone else but them. At that same time, we were young trying to figure it out as well. What I as a writer have yet to solve in this equation is where we lost that connection as our tastes evolved our favorite bands grew as well. Was it that we drifted apart like we do in our personal life with friends when our ideals and nuances take separate paths? Is it that simple? Or do we live in such a fast paced world that we don't have time to sit down and fully hear what someone is trying to explain they learned in trying to improve themselves? Are we that closed-minded in what we're comfortable in understanding?
As I sift through these showcases both official and unofficial during South by Southwest, there is a lot of "Who the fuck is this?" circling my head. There's also, "Wait, these guys still make music?" boggling around in there too. I don't know about anyone else reading this, but music, my favorite bands, they're like friends to me. They were there when I needed them most. Sometimes when we talk, we're not always on the same page. Sometimes growing up means finding a common existence of acceptance among conflicting ideals and beliefs and creation. It's about meeting new people who do share a common ground as well. People apologizing about not liking the new fun. album (or any new edition to a favorite band's catalog for that matter) is unnecessary. Their career is more ruined every time someone yells out a Format song at a show. The subjectivity in music is more positive than we lead ourselves to believe or act out. The negative aspect dips into opening our mouths in critiquing the present based on the past. That's why it's the past, it's over. The moment was there, we shared it and nostalgia is meant to be something special, not a bar we deathly have to hold onto. When I sat down to write the Narrows review, I didn't want to tell you how much I missed These Arms Are Snakes or how it sounds like Botch in some aspects - I wanted to tell you what Painted means presently.
Like one of the best scenes in Spaceballs, let's live in the now-now. 2012 is happening now. Let's talk about how Every Time I Die's Ex-Lives is one of the best records of 2012 in terms of guitar play and satirical commentary and talk less about how it compares to the band's other releases. I had a conversation with a good friend a couple of weeks ago about how anxious I am to live up to my final statement about last year's South by Southwest, how I hope I can live up to that in some way on a personal level. He just smiled at me and said it'll come once I get through the week and not to worry about living up to anything for anyone beyond myself. So on that note, fuck the past, continue to move forward and if at any point conversations among friends, attempts to grasp a record or competing viewpoints don't work out for whatever reason - move on and maybe some understanding will come in time.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll fully grasp everyone's love of Fall Out Boy. Hear this, I have the utmost respect for Patrick Stump from here on out, and I wish him only the best of luck in his future endeavors - whether I get what he's trying to do or not, at least I know his heart and mind are in the right place - and as the asshole critic I am, that's all I ever ask of anyone doing anything.
This year's South by Southwest is already two weeks out (a week and a half if you count when it actually starts with the "interactive" portion). This is a big year for many reasons. First and foremost, this site has a showcase this year. Jason will be announcing our line-up tomorrow, but it certainly feels special to be a part of this larger festival of who's-who and "who the fuck is this band?!" said in both the positive and negative tense throughout the week by many a critic and causal drunk alike. While I'm content with our line-up (we as staff fought it out, hugged it out, came to an agreement and we're stoked on the line-up which includes...errr, you'll see tomorrow.) From someone who has only been a part of the festival for two years now, I can tell you it's a shit show. There's a group of people who think they're something, and they're nothing but assholes. There's a group of people that just want to go and get sloshed for free and watch some music cause it's spring break, or they called in sick from work, or they have the day off, etc. Half of those people end up being assholes too - but just the ones that have a bit too much to drink or think they know what the next big thing is cause they're in this "in." Then there's a group of people from across all genres both local and touring that just want to play their music - their special creation - for the sake of playing it to a group of people and having that opportunity.
There are a few 8 Mile moments for some.
The music portion of the festival is like literally taking an entire industry of fuckheads, rock stars and more than grateful souls to play the smallest of venues and shoving them into one small area of the United States. It's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome if Mad Max were a DIY punk band or great local blues act, and the exclusivity and pompous behavior of some were Tina Turner. Luckily, there's hope among it all, and last year certainly proved it: new friends, labels, community, a new generation, etc. This year will be no different either. It's the friends staying with me and those I'll see during the week and the line-up of shows I've put together. The ugly truth is that you meet a lot of people that have "business" written across their face, and you wind-up scratching your head wondering if they still really enjoy music like they used to when they picked up their first few albums years and years ago. They talk to you like you're their friend, but they're looking for press in an indirect slide of tongue. You have to avoid it at all cost.
Still, in the face of said motivational devastation and confusion brought on by the powers that control what you should like and what gets shoved against your eardrums and thrown on a NOW THAT'S WHAT (SERIOUSLY?!?! THEY STILL MAKE THESE FUCKING THINGS?!) compilation or even a BEST NEW TRACK or "essential podcast" for the month, it's about making the best of the week. It's sitting in the corner of the lunchroom knowing that the so-called "popular" majority will never understand your qualms against the mundane and your love of things that keep you on your toes and heighten your curiosity and subconscious intrigue you can't shake for days after the circus lets out and the animals go home.
If I sound bitter, it's partial nerves and partial exhaustion. I personally came into this line of work because I needed to control and make sense of all these commentaries in my head I was spewing amongst my friends. Instead, it's been three to four years of really learning the divided line of integrity and lack thereof that knows no genre and isn't discriminatory to just bands - but publicist, managers, and labels as well. We're entering one of the largest music festivals of 2012 and there are still a good number of people "in charge" that are unsure of how to control piracy, get their music to more people beyond just touring and just plain be noticed in a sea of thousands of others that just want a shot at this dream of playing music as a primary outlet of, well, a job.
Here's to South by Southwest. Here's to mediocrity. Here's to the intimate crowds and long lines to see that one band you were really hoping to catch. Hold onto that moment when you get in and close to the stage. Enjoy it and forget that a complete shit show of false idealism is happening around you.
Rebecca Black's "Friday" has been the jam of this year's South by Southwest. This isn't at all a good thing. On the heels of arguably the biggest music festival in the United States, Black released what could possibly go down as the worst song (read: abortion) to have happened to music in some time. I mean, have you heard that thing? Someone should get the shit kicked out of them for putting money into this. Something like "Friday" is beyond the point of subjectivity in music, in fact, I'd probably fund the next Attack Attack record just to have this go away.
Even after sitting through every remix possible (the dubstep one being my favorite, the actual GMA live performance being my least), I still went about most of the week of South by Southwest in the best possible attitude towards what is about to happen in this scene - scene being subjective, but generalized to the stereotypical parameters this site might endure at times. After working on putting on five shows months prior for the already busy week ahead - that produced six interviews for the site and three to four hours of decent sleep a night - it was still a blast through all the negative stress of my many jobs. Most importantly, I was able to do two things that directly effected how I foresee the future this year and in the next few while it lasts: I was able to witness the next wave of bands interact and have conversations about where they think things are headed. For one week I felt like Don Letts being part of the inside of the budding punk scene.
Let's face it. Music DOES move in waves. We were in tough times of good music there for a while. That's not to completely denounce the end of the last decade which DID produce good music, but for some reason the uncreative talents of some seemed to soar higher than others. In opposition of that, in communities of the Midwest, the Northeast and even spawning up in the Southern California area, bands were beginning to grow into tight friendships and touring families. Those families were melding into labels. Those labels were and now ARE coming together to form tours with substance and integrity. Instead of every band sounding like each other, bands are now unique again in their execution. While Level Plane and Revelation and Dischord are all but dead, labels like Topshelf, No Sleep, Sargent House, Bridge 9, Paper + Plastick, Count Your Lucky Stars, Mylene Sheath and Run For Cover are forming challenging communities.
My last day of South by Southwest was not spent rioting outside a Death From Above 1979 secret set or waiting for the late night performance of Kanye West down at the power plant. It was spent amongst some of my closest networks, and some of my new friends I've met over the past year since last year's outing. Yes, some of the bands I love are now friends, and I have no problem saying that, just as they have no problem with me being honest with them about their music. Saturday morning I spent the day at No Sleep and Atticus' showcase featuring some of the best bands around right now. Native, Defeater, Former Thieves, Felix Culpa, Touche Amore, Aficionado, Make Do and Mend and so much more. But it was a set from Balance and Composure that made me excited about the future of No Sleep. A band that I haven't payed much attention to, but caught my eye that afternoon as something special in our future with their upcoming release, and another nail and board in the ever growing structure of No Sleep. Stealing the set of the day, and unfortunately early for some because of time conflicts, Moving Mountains showed how a band can back up their buzz and anticipation. Showcasing easily one of the best sets of the weekend, the band showed why they have such a strong following, and how people are still discovering a bit of underrated quality about the group, including myself. Waves is looking to go down as one of the best this year; their performance said it all.
To cap off my week in highly anticipated style, I spent it with my closest network since beginning this sham I call a writing career. Sargent House is that label for me. There's a diverse roster (Gypsyblood, Adebisi Shank, Native, Fang Island, etc.) and a challenging group of bands at that. While I'm beginning to see that challenge set in among the bands and groups of friends across the rest of the labels I've mentioned, Sargent House still sits as that bar. Sure, label owner Cathy Pellow has been known to be very vocal, but that takes gull, and she's got a label and following to back it up. Back to the "challenge" ideology. The prime example is seeing Zechs Marquise's performance Saturday night. While everyone was mainly waiting for *cough* the Mars Volta *cough* Zechs Marquise gave the best performance of the day, and easily of the week. Though Omar didn't skip a beat, his brothers are certainly stepping up to pedestal that others see him on. That's awesome! David Sandstrom told me that the thing about The Shape of Punk to Come was the challenge of the rest of the bands in Sweden. The rest of their SCENE was immersed in the marketplace of ideas and expanding and melding new things and making it a game. I'm not denying Omar's talent, but I hope he looked at both his siblings Saturday night and thought about showing them up in the future, something of a supportive rivalry.
That's what is needed. It's one thing for us asshole critics and elitist fans to be subjective in our taste and outbursts of what WE find to be good music, but it's more important that those communities of bands that are rising up right now are challenging each other and feeding off the talents of their friends. When we reach that point at the end of the year when we just have this pile of good music, then we can say "Okay, this one was better than this one because..." setting a verbal bar and enticing even further progression amongst our favorite artists. It's about seeing a band like The Saddest Landscape, who were making music earlier in the decade, stepped away, and now they have come back stronger than ever. In our interview, they were commenting on the stronghold that this community of bands have. No one wants to go home, but when they do, they're already gearing up to be back on the road. It's not about the money per say, but it's about the friendships and experience outside the community one has grown up in. It's about expanding life experiences and molding that into your next album. Outside this specific group I'm speaking of, this can also be applied to great music across the board. The way Grizzly Bear choose a spot to record and feed ideas off of. The way Bradford Cox can just create a plethora of songs via his apartment floor. It's looking past sounding good on tape, but connecting outside Pro Tools and an ADAT.
The days of the rockstar are all but dead. Most of the bands I had stay at my place or hung out with all week had normal nine to five jobs back home. Most of the bands you love and support are living off the same part time wages you probably are. We tend to forget that being in a band is a job. As I sat there and watched one band plan best for their upcoming tours, you could feel the excitement of being added to certain bills, but the caution to do things right, because unlike some of the bands in the past few years, things aren't just simply given to them. I'm not talking just money, but critics blowing a load over a band before that band has time to hone their talents and then later basing criticism off of a still evolving bucket of talent.
2011 is going to be the year the dam breaks again. It's still hard to say or pin down an album or band that is going "redefine" or "rewrite" the past like Shape of Punk to Come or Relationship of Command or even Deja Entendu or Full Collapse did. Even if things aren't pushed that far, after my experience at this year's South by Southwest, I can say that any notion of dark times many still feel they are in with music (which they shouldn't be, I was at two labels' showcases of plenty of great bands on Saturday, not to mention other great label showcases all week), the next two years are going to shift the respect back to the artists that deserve it. Who will survive? How long will it last? Time will make fools of us all, and even I can only take so much in day by day.
The best advice I can give right now is to keep an open mind on the future, for so long I got caught up in how things were going to run and how the industry was going to shape its business models on the day to day. Honestly, I think I've worn myself out with all of that. Now I'm just ready to sit back and enjoy what's coming in one of the most exciting times for music since I was 16 years old.
- love and respect
[All photos are courtesy of Mitchell Wojicak. I have had the pleasure of Mitchell staying with me over South by Southwest, and he is one of the best dudes to be around and an all encompassing genuine guy.]
Last year was a different story. I was a fairly new name on the street, and as I wandered showcase to showcase interviewing and enjoying myself, I didn't feel like I was a big shot, I felt like I was just simply trying to take every sight and new sound in. Whether it was the discovery of Warpaint or meeting new friends and networks, South by Southwest was one of the best weeks of my life. While, I still didn't feel like a big shot this year, I had way more on my plate but much more direction. I was housing bands, putting on shows at work and still trying to take in as many sights and sounds as I could of the week(end).
All in all, I think I made it out positively, but that's not without seeing some of the negative. Lines wrapped around the corner for the Artery Foundation's morning showcase, while Equal Vision barely filled up most of the day. Kids packed in the small venue of Plush, hitting cap on and off throughout the day, and creating lines for the venue's headliners most of the week. It was certainly an uplifting thing to see.
While I never got a chance to slip into the Alt Press show to catch what Black Veils Bride is all about, or even to see if it was real, I was hanging out at No Sleep's showcase - a showcase of community, friendship and a fighting battle against what's being passed around as of the last few years. Good music has existed for the past few years, but now it's about to break. There will be a few gateway bands leading to even more great bands.
Tours will be better built and labels like Sargent House, No Sleep and Topshelf will continue to diversify their rosters, doing their best never to become stale or pigeonholed to a standard, or even worse, a cliche. Even better, each community will meld with the other communities and ideas will begin to flow, and in the most positive way, challenges will be set to keep the ball rolling on the creative end (and most important) of music and its ever growing marketplace of ideas.
With all the added work and stress and close riots and outrageous behavior of the past week, it was something to see bands like Zechs Marquise, Moving Mountains, Xerxes, Aficionado, Colour Revolt and Adebisi Shank absolutely blow me away in the best performances of the week.
I'm going to stop here and really sit down and get all these thoughts out to you by Friday. I've had some of the best conversations with some of the best people in this industry this past week, and there are a lot of thoughts running through my head. The next thing you read in here will either be a warning of a rapture or the bright light we will all soon see at the end of the next few months of a short tunnel.
I'm pretty beyond exhausted. I don't blame the booze. I don't blame the walking. I don't blame the combination of both on top of a severe lack of food. I blame the 3 in the morning showing of Heavyweights at my apartment. As The Felix Culpa are packing their stuff and we're all getting ready to head to the No Sleep/Atticus showcase, it's kind of surreal that this is the last day of South by Southwest this year. Again, between the stress of putting on shows, housing bands and just trying to enjoy myself with friends I get to see once every year - it's definitely quite another experience as opposed to last year.
There are a lot of things I've taken in this year: how things don't run on time, the humbleness of bands to even be able to play the festival, the way some bands hate the insanity of the festival, the way I'm beginning to hate the insanity of the festival, the bar owners who sleep on the floors and backrooms with three hours each night just to have kids and adults alike stiff them on free drinks.
On a very positive and fortunate note, I've been able to hang with some of the best people in this industry for the past few days, and that's what matters most to me. It's a muse. Yesterday's The Saddest Landscape interview was amazing, and one of the best I've done in a while. It's the kind of interview I feed my thoughts off of.
Enough babble, I still have to shower and get downtown. I've got two wonderful showcases to hang at today and five interviews! So let's wrap up one of my best days of SXSW.
Once downtown, I traveled across town to meet some new friends and catch Maps and Atlases. Thought the venue made them sound a bit echoed in their sound, the flawless technical skills were all present. I'm glad I got to see them at some point this week, and I can't wait to see Dave play solo tonight. While at the venue, I ran into Moving Mountains and we walked a bit further to catch Colour Revolt, who I did not think I was going to be able to see at all. In 30 minutes, they proved their underrated nature as Jesse's voice just cut deep throughout the set. Staged a very intimate bar setting off the beat of the path from the rest of SXSW, it was one of the best sets of the week so far.
I hurried about ten minutes back East to catch The Saddest Landscape and Sleep Bellum Sonno one last time. As usual, those guys killed it. Sleep's sound is one that's an acquired taste, but seeing them live is a whole different story. Just an all around great set from the guys - even better than the night before. I caught the last bit of Helen Earth Band and most of Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson. Youth Pictures was pretty gnarly in their delivery. Another band that just sounded heavy and filled the room with their sound. Even though they're from across the ocean, I back the buzz of this band after seeing them yesterday.
I headed down to work for my last show for the week, and the bill was absolutely stacked. Pswingset opened with a broad sounding set, and with the additional guitar work of Joel of Junius, they're beginning to sound better than ever. Helen Earth Band had some technical difficulties, but once started, sounded great. If you haven't heard their album, it's a pleasant display and throwback of some of the more finer emo-rock of the mid-2000's that somehow got lost in the scream-scene later on in the decade. Xerxes proved their buzz as the new kids on the block with one of the loudest, gut-punching performances of the week. Caravels was heavy, but Xerxes packed it with a wider fist.
Side note: Speaking of fists. I just want to go on record, and I think I speak for everyone here, when I say Ben Weasel is a fucking douchebag. No matter what a girl does to aggravate you, to the point of spitting on you - you do not punch one under whatever circumstance. His actions were uncalled for, period.
I can't say enough good things about Former Thieves. Their new album is just incredible. It's what the hardcore scene needs right now, but opposed to (great) records more in the vein of traditional hardcore with Defeater and Make Do and Mend, Former Thieves are channeling the late-'90s post- scene and doing it so well. The songs came off well live, and I can't wait to see them again today. After two hits of heaviness, The Felix Culpa brought a very intimate, but tight ship of a show. It boggles my mind why these guys aren't bigger than they already are? I know this may come off as biased because they've stayed with me this week, but I'm hoping No Sleep does wonders for them in the future. Their performance last night proved the worth. Into It. Over It. closed the night with a great set and plenty of jokes from Evan. After this week, I can generally say that he is one of the most genuine, fun guys I've had the pleasure to hang out with and just talk with.
This was one of the best days of SXSW ever for me. It really was a day of hanging out with some of the best people I've been in contact with for the past week. I really have to get dress and head to No Sleep, but I'll have way more to talk when I can sit down and not rush all of this between a few hours of sleep and hopping out the door.
South by Southwest can be an interesting time of year, because it's like the summer camp or large gathering of close friends: some of which haven't seen each other in months, some of which have never personally met, and some of which who hate each other. While many of us are working in a competing market of ad sales that should be so far removed from the whole reason we're here - the music. I love talking to many of these people, because it gives me a different perspective, a challenge, to my own writing style of doing things.
Just because you disagree with someone, doesn't mean they're carrying out something in a wrong way.
Yesterday began with Equal Vision's showcase. Harvard kicked things off as a special guest and just sounded so damn good. They're definitely one of those bands that sound way better live - more full - than on record. A killer performance to start the day. This Time Next Year put on an energetic performance, and while they didn't sound bad in anyway, they're definitely riding the line of pop-punk worship that doesn't set them apart from the rest of the revival. Here's waiting to see what they have to offer on their next album. Wild Orchid Children just killed it as I was expecting, even with the lead vocals popping out around the beginning of the set, it was an absolute blast. Next, Orbs played through two songs, but were tight as can be through each 8 to 10 minute journey.
The place piled in for Gatsbys American Dream - not nearly as packed as the Artery Foundation line in the morning (damn you kids!) - but a solid crowd got an even more solid show from the band. Now, I've never been a huge fan of the band like some of you, but recognize how talented they are through and through. That said, the band's set gave new light to just how good they can be. It now makes sense why this band needs to come back and wash a bit of the scene clean. Nick Newsham was connecting with the front row, giving them lead vocals multiple times. There was just a positive vibe all around that radiated from the crowd to the stage and back to the crowd.
After Equal Vision, I had to head down to the night show I was putting on, and the line-up was a beast. Local bands Innards and Sohns were stacked with Caravels, Sleep Bellum Sonno and The Saddest Landscape. Every time I see Innards and Sohns, they just get better and better. More full sounding. Tighter and not disheveled from when I first saw them play. It's always an enjoyment to see them. Caravels fsimply sound great. They're loud, but tight in their mix, making for broad sounding set parallel to that of their recordings. Sleep Bellum Sonno sounded much better than the last time I saw them, but I think last time's PA didn't do the duel vocals much justice in the end. Their split with Joie De Vivre is nice gem waiting to be heard. Closing the night, The Saddest Landscape put on the set I was expecting, and more. Even though it was the front of a restaurant, the band treated it like any other show, as Andy Maddox just let himself go in his performance. Easily one of the best bands I've seen at SXSW for the day along with Wild Orchid and Gatsbys.
I'm still running on about three to four hours of real sleep each night, but seeing some of my favorite bands just continue to show me that good music exists is well worth it. More than that, the discussions and people I've been hanging out with this week has been unreal. I am a fortunate kid.
Ah, it's that time of year again, the summer camp for the music industry world - yes, a lot of people fly in from other countries for this, if you weren't aware - has graced us with its presence, and for me, in my backyard of a town I live in. It's kind of like that Family Guy episode where "leafers" plague Quahog. At least with the annual South by Southwest though, we get music, and plenty of it.
This year was certainly different though. Instead of simply covering shows and doing interviews, I've been planning a few shows for months now. For me, the festival started on Monday with a gracious performance by Mansions. Christopher Browder is a man to watch. Last night he sent me his new album, and when I get time after this week, I'm going to give it a good once through and soak it in. After seeing him close-out the first show I put on Monday night, I only expect great things.
Since this is a bit of different experience of South by Southwest for me, being on both ends of covering shows and putting them on, it should be noted that my reviews will be less of a portrait and more of a Gonzo style meets Hemingway's stream of conscious portrayal. For the last three days, I've not only been able to enjoy the bands I wanted to see this year, I'm housing them and giving them a place to showcase their greatness. There's a fine line of integrity nipped at here, but this is how it has been rolling, and will continue until the week finishes out.
Topshelf Records and Count Your Lucky Stars have been dominating my schedule so far. On Tuesday I threw a Topshelf Pre-showcase with The Clippers, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and Everyone Everywhere. Football Etc. opened and were phenomenal. Their first full-length reminds me of the old Crank! Records catalog: forceful, broad and moving. A great album. Every band, one after the other, just knocked it out. The Clippers have been gaining buzz, and rightfully so, adding a touch of surf to the punk drive. The World is... just sounds so good live. Both their performances Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were lush and full. Name aside, this is one of the bands to certainly keep an ear out for future releases. Everyone Everywhere's performance was solid as well. Easily comparable to the mid-'90s emo movement, cuts from last year's full-length flushed out nicely live. At the last minute, Bob Nanna (Braid, Hey Mercedes, City on Film) was added to close out the night, and it was a fortunate thing to see. His set was solid and all around an honor to see. To be the icing on the cake, the simple request of "Never Will Come For Us," made the anticipation of the next Braid album only that much more heightening for this fan.
I spent most of the first day at South by Southwest at Plush enjoying Topshelf and Count Your Lucky Star's showcase. Lucky to catch The Clippers and The World is... again, one after another each band showed why the underground scene is boiling over again for kids across the U.S. Slowly reaching capacity throughout the day, one after the other, crowds (mixed with fans and the other bands alike) gathered around in the very intimately spaced club to performances by Annabel, The Reptilian, Joie De Vivre, Pswingset, Into It. Over It., Football Etc., Grown Ups, Empire Empire (I Was a Lonely Estate), Caravels, and special guests Moving Mountains and Defeater. From Annabel on, you could feel the community in the air. Replace the club setting with a back room of a house or basement, and it just felt right. Bands were stoked to see other bands, even the ones that some were touring with to and from South by Southwest with, or ones they haven't seen a few years. Joie De Vivre was the standout of the day for me. Just technically tight and very full sounding, the band held my attention through the entire set.
At one point, I cut out to head to IFC House to catch my only time slot to see Portugal. The Man, and as usual they didn't disappoint in their show. In a room of about 50 people, they pushed through a little over half and hour of material. Much to my chagrin though, there was no showcasing of upcoming material off their next full-length slated for this spring/summer. Even though I was a bit disappointed in that, the set was flawless as usual.
Thanks to Grown Ups being late, by the time I headed back to Plush, Empire Empire (I Was a Lonely Estate) was bumped up, and I was only able to catch the last song and a half. It sounded great, but the band was one I was looking forward to catching and missed out on, but so goes one of the many pitfalls of South by Southwest - time management. When Grown Ups showed just minutes after Empire Empire ended, they blasted a very energetic and crowd encompassing set that at one point found Greg Horbal of The World Is... crowd surfing just inches below the venue's ceiling. I had to cut out halfway through Grown Ups to meet up with Paul Tao for a minute before heading back to the next night show I was putting on, but word was that kids lined up around the corner for Moving Mountains, and things got crazy for Defeater. I can't wait to catch both bands on Saturday at No Sleep's showcase.
Last night's show was nuts. Aficionado's live show was full-throttle and energetic, and proved their underrated nature from their capturing set. This has been a band that's flown a bit under my radar since hearing their album last year, but no longer. Last night's performance changed all of that. Look Mexico's set was great as usual. They've got some release plans coming up that I can't quite reveal, but expect more music sooner than later from the guys. Twin Killers killed it too. I'm particularly biased of this band because they're all very close friends of mine from back home in the swamps, but their sound and approach is very fresh, and I can't wait for big things for them in the future. Zlam Dunk closed out the night with energy and grace. The guys always bring a great performance, but last night really was one of their best. I always hear about people either loving or not being fond of this band, but I'm certainly part of the former on this one. The band's party approach is lovable, and their sound isn't cheap like much the "party" hardcore that is passed off to kids today.
So far this South by Southwest has been more of an experience and less of a coverage. In the past three days though, I've been thinking about a lot of things. I've been thinking about the bands and networks pushing to get here and then doing their best to make an impression last. Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It.) and Mitchell Wojcik have been staying with me the past two nights, and we had a general discussion about the festival late last night. We've agreed that there's a LOT going on, to the point that it's overwhelming at times. There's two main groups of people as well. There are the ones here for the music and hangouts with close friends and other bands, and there are people here for the party, just filling space for free booze and food. I'm here for the music that I love. That's why I'm giving bands a place to stay. That's why I'm throwing shows for them to be heard. Though my primary goal is to be bringing you guys the view from the barracks, I'm honestly just more involved this year in the process. Don't worry, I'm still trying to enjoy myself with bands I want to see, as opposed to bands I have to see or are cool to see. Just don't forget that important point of South by Southwest.
- love and respect
P.S. - The homeless guy in the "The Used Warped Tour 2003" shirt I saw last night has been the best part of this week so far.
Last night was "technically" my first night of SXSW. I stopped by Purevolume House to pick up my pass. I was able to meet PV's owner, Josh Rowe. Very nice guy. We talked a bit about working more in the future. Headed to IFC House and watched most of This Will Destroy You's awesome set. Then I picked up Kevin of Topshelf Records and went and hung out with pswingset while they were printing screenprints for their Friday show that I'm putting on. Ends up that it was at Joel of Junius' house. Small world, right?
I babble all of this because, I realize how big this next week is, and after recent events across the world this past week, I'm very thankful for being able to do what I do. I'm not going to get much sleep in the next week, but it's very well worth it. SXSW has a lot of stigma and negativity to it with egos and business-'tudes overshadowing it.
I'm glad most of my week won't be spent with that.
I was thinking about this last night:
Industry? I don't know. I'm just some dumb fortunate kid who gets to stand on a soapbox on the corner.
I hope to see some of you guys, gals and networks around this week. Show my town respect and leave your firstworldproblems at the house. Be grateful it's not floating somewhere in the ocean.
It's been a little over a week since South by Southwest came and left. While many of us are back in our L.A. or New York offices (or sitting on a futon typing this at my apartment), the week was one for us to check out who was going to be the hot new thing this year, or who still has it after disappearing off the radar for a while.
Here are five performances that blew us away this year. Five bands to be aware of. Though not all of you were in attendance this year, let's just discuss who may or may not have the ability to climb to the top of the national showcase this year.
1. Warpaint - Shoegazing and beautiful. These four ladies took the stage at Purevolume House and entranced what modern rock music should be. The structures were biting and accessible at the same time. There were no hooks, only a heavy hold on the ears. If the Top 40 were flooded by this, I may not have a problem with Clear Channel anymore.
2. Look Mexico - Somewhat established, but the band's latest, To Bed to Battle, is a showcase of what was and what it can become with some outside genre influences. The band played a set at 12:30 in the afternoon. While I'm pretty sure most the room was hungover from the night before - everyone was feeling the band's comforting blend of Midwestern brash songwriting from the heart, intertwined with lush vocals and keys.
3. Cast Spells - It seems like the typical side project. One member has no room to fulfill his creative taste inside the band, then takes ideas and records them on his own. Maps and Atlases' Dave Davison isn't to be ignored. Even while catching up with a friend at the show, Davison's blend of 60's-70's rock-pop held my attention the entire time. It's good to see some people haven't forgotten just their past generation's influences, but their elders alike. It seems through Davison's side outlet, they are one in the same.
4. Circa Survive - I'm breaking the rules on this one. Though we all know the hype on the band's long awaited follow-up to On Letting Go, everyone show be aware of what to expect live in the next few months. This isn't the same Circa Survive. It's a band that doesn't just play the songs to a crowd, they lose themselves in them. It's a show where the band connects with their songs and their audience in a one electrical jolt of a set. Possibly one of the truest shows I saw all week.
5. Yelawolf - By far the most unexpectedly amazing act that I saw at SXSW was Yelawolf. Now, I'm not going to try and pretend that I'm an expert at hip-hop, but when I saw his performance at the Levi's/Fader Fort, I thought he was a fantastic combination of lyrical ability (the speed and annunciation of his words was lethal) and entertainment knowledge (throwing out alcohol, bringing girls on stage to dance, an entourage who knew exactly what to do to make the crowd go wild). Basically, this guy rules. (Paul Tao)
Just walking around the local grocery store tonight, it felt exhausting. Early rise, late bed, lack of food, steady roll of free drinks to relax the day - it's a rhythm that one rides for the expanse of South by Southwest. It's a four day vacation where work is fun and relaxing, but flooded by the outside world as well. It's a party at the office, where everyone is invited and there is not enough cake to go around.
For some of us lucky ones, we get to hold onto our red staplers.
I was so beat from yesterday, that I woke up late and was running behind schedule. Add that to the weather that went from beautiful, sunny and cool, to post-storm chill factor - it was a great way to kick off the final hours of South by Southwest.
I first hit the Suburban Home SXSW Party to catch Look Mexico. This is a band that's a reminder of how indie/emo used to be, but overlaid with a southern-tinge. It kind of reminds me of Braid - if they grew up making music in Georgia. It's a band that is expansive in sound, without being the cliche progressive portrait. I was able to sit down with the guys later in the day, and it seems that their already working on pushing beyond their upcoming album To Bed to Battle.
I headed over to the Alternative Press day show to catch The Forecast. The band were spot on. Vocally, Shannon Burns and Dustin Addis were great and burned through a 30 minute set of new self-titled material and great gems off of In the Shadow of Two Gunmen.
Around the corner, Rocky Votolato played an intimate set that held the crowd, even as so many rock acts were echoing at the venues around the intimate tent outside. It was a set that featured new songs from True Devotion, while still sprinkling in some old fan favorites. One girl even came up to him to thank him for playing her favorite song, on top of it being the first time she was able to see him. Votolato and I sat down to talk about True Devotion and the direction he took with the record. It was a lot more natural for him as opposed to past albums, and he is really happy with that process and the way the album came out. It's a way he wants to approach writing and recording from here on out.
I pretty much zoned out and met up with some old friends of mine and new friends I met this weekend to say our goodbyes for a good two hours afterward. The ending to my week may have been the best part to come.
In participating in South by Southwest for the first time, I like to think that it's one big vacation for the industry. Like I said in my opening, it's work, but a week where you meet people who you normally interact with behind a computer screen. You just relax and talk music and industry with others who hold similar/opposite views of the workings of the current state of an uneasy business. Some of us are very well off, while some of us are still working part time jobs around what we love. This includes bands, some journalists and industry interns. In the end, we are all a part of one big community. We are all here for the love of music, not based on one specific genre or label or hype machine.
A few months ago I was approached to throw a free D.I.Y. show at my work. I accepted based on the bands - whom I all love and have the utmost respect for. Last night was a show up from downtown, and across from campus at a restaurant. Not an uncommon South by Southwest venue, but the strip seemed quiet last night, except for this.
The show featured Sohns, Native, Brother/Ghost and La Dispute. I not only consider them ground to comment on, I consider them friends. Last night was a display of what punk rock was and is beginning to become again. With the long lines that flowed out of the street all week to get in high capacity venues based on badges, wristbands and who you know (and I'm more than guilty of this, but more than grateful for the week I've had), it was great to end the week being a part of a show where 200 kids and four bands poured their heart out. There was no separation of a high rise stage or barricades. Sohns and Brother/Ghost are up and coming local powerhouses playing with Native and La Dispute, two bands already making a mark on a national level. La Dispute's new songs sound absolutely killer, and they will be released on two splits this year.
In a week where I was the judge and jury for the shows I attended - the enemy - I was happy to end my week on the other side of support. It's a support of a positive community that I hope continues to grow across any sort of message boards, inner circles or genres of any mass or local stature. Yes, that's what South by Southwest meant to me this week. This is punk rock. This is rock and roll. Yet, it's a little bit of country at times too. More importantly, we're all one big community (bands, writers, managers, etc.) trying to do what we love, and for some of us, it's all we know how to do. I am grateful every day I get to do this. This week certainly proved that feeling.