SXSW 2009 : Day One

Took it all in on Day One of South by Southwest, with fourteen hours of music. ...

SXSW 2009 : Day One

Took it all in on Day One of South-by-Southwest, with fourteen hours of music.  The acts seen ranged from long-time favorites to newer discoveries (though the latter may have been around longer than the former), from must-catch, have-wanted-to-see-for-years to accidental run-ins, big-name to nobody (or at least not-big-yet).  Worn down at points, hyper at others, it was a hell of a lot to take in.

We doubled-teamed South-by-Southwest this year – continue for Ted Chase’s SXSW 2009 Day One recap, or click here to go straight to Austin’s own Robin Sinhababu


Ted Chase:


IODA’s Opening Day Blast @ Emo’s Annex

Y La Bamba, 12:15 PM

Y La Bamba

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Y La BambaRight from the get-go, SXSW is running late – expect more of this to come.  The Portland, Oregon Y La Bamba play gypsy pop on the GyspyPop label.  While the singer/guitarist has a good voice (and not the voice you’d expect, from looking at her), the band isn’t that interesting to watch (especially as she’s sitting).  Plus, the other two guys on back-up vocals are kind of pointless.  More disappointing: they don’t have power for the pancakes, and the free, sponsored ‘Dark Star Stout’ beer is terrible (at least an older woman did tell some just-past-21 kids there that, now that it’s past noon, it’s okay to start drinking…).


Theresa Andersson, 12:40 PM

Theresa Andersson

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Theresa AnderssonTheresa AnderssonNow this is how a singer/songwriter is supposed to perform.  While Andersson (QRO interview) didn’t have time to introduce The Kitchenettes (her alter-egos – QRO live review), she still does a great one-woman show, getting the crowd clapping along (even taking the beat, when Andersson accidentally turned hers off).  She does sound a lot like her record, Hummingbird, Go! (QRO review), but that’s only to be expected.  If you’re going to play at noon-ish at SXSW, doing it the first day is the best – performers & crowd eager to see music, and not hung-over.


SXSW Daystage @ Austin Convention Center

Girl In a Coma, 1:10 PM

Girl In a Coma

girl not in a comaClick image for full gallery

SXSW’s Daystage is in the Austin Convention Center, up an escalator (which weirdly takes you from the first floor to the fourth…), to a seated space, which isn’t really the best way to see a band – though the air conditioning is a serious draw, and the place is on time.  San Antonio’s Girl In a Coma are decent, but don’t really stand out (asiding from the singer/guitarist’s faces) – the setting certainly doesn’t help, so am hesitant to judge them based on this performance.  Their indie-rock has some alt-southwest country to it, about what you’d expect from San Antonio – though they do go against expectations in being a band with the female gender in their name, and actually being all-girl (as opposed to the usual all-male line-up of acts like The Morning After Girls – QRO live review – or Women – QRO photos).


PASTE Magazine Day Party @ Radio Room

Amanda Palmer, 1:35 PM

Amanda Palmer

nip slip?...Click image for full gallery

The currently soloing lead singer of The Dresden Dolls had just flew in from Australia that day, but she was in the giddy stages of being up way too late, not the tired stage (though she did slip-up and promote the free Magic Hat beer, which wasn’t free by that point – another facet of SXSW that was going to pop up a lot…).  Certainly animated behind the keyboard, one song in and it looks like she’s gonna have a nip-slip, but the strapless bra saves her (in fact, it almost looks planned…).  Out on the Radio Room Patio isn’t exactly the right setting for her grand, gothic music, but there is some shade and a nice breeze, and she’s wisely wearing less make-up than usual.  Palmer is a funny personality, telling the story behind one song, which producer Ben Folds (QRO album review) pegged as being an upbeat, sixties girl-group, Shangri-Las-style (QRO photos) song about abortion and date rape (and it’s banned on U.K. radio, despite having no curses, but we live in the land of the free…).  Unfortunately, the song itself is too obvious with its lyrics, though even Palmer admits it’s better on record with back-up instrumentation (including from Folds).


Little Radio Presents @ Red Eyed Fly

Evangelicals, 2:45 PM


Click image for full galleryJosh Jones - or a young Moz?

Oklahoma’s Evangelicals (QRO spotlight on) were definitely an act that had to be caught at SXSW, after the excellent The Evening Descends (QRO review).  But it took them forever to set up, with singer/guitarist Josh Jones (who looks like a young Morrissey – QRO album review) admitting, “I’m under the impression we don’t have a lot of time here…”  And they didn’t – were only able to do four songs.  The simpler set, without lights or get-ups (QRO photos), was still strong, a nice mix of loud rock and activity with alt-strange.  And there was a good turnout, including all of the not-playing-there Annuals (QRO spotlight).



Affliction/MySpace Records/Ticketweb/Spaceland’s SXSW Thrown Down! @ Maggie Mae’s

Vivian Girls, 3:10 PM

Vivian Girls

Cassie RamoneClick image for full gallery

Only made it there for a single song – the deck stage was packed for the blowing-up Vivian Girls (QRO album review).  They sounded good (and were certainly having fun), but are they up to the hype?  There are a number of Brooklyn alt-garage acts at SXSW, including Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts (QRO album review), caUSE co-MOTION! (QRO album review), and Pains of Being Pure at Heart (QRO album review); will they all be able to make it big?  caUSE co-MOTION! (QRO photos) seems the least likely (not having any females in the band will do that to you…), but right now, Vivian Girls (QRO photos) seem to be taking the lead from the former front-runner, Crystal Stilts (QRO photos) – revenge for the Stilts stealing Vivian drummer Frankie Rose (QRO photo).


Harlem Shakes, 3:20 PM

Harlem Shakes

Jose SoegaardClick image for full gallery

But forget about all of those bands – the band that should/will blow up from Brooklyn, or anywhere, is Harlem Shakes!  It’s easy to get lost in love for the Shakes, from calling them early on with Burning Birthdays EP (QRO review) to them living up to the anticipation in next week’s debut full-length, Technicolor Health Todd Goldstein(QRO review), but they really deserve it.  Their live show (QRO review) is just getting stronger, and they kicked off their first SXSW (kind of surprising that they hadn’t done it before) by killing it.  Everyone in the band is so animated, especially guitarist Todd Goldstein (also of solo side-project Arms – QRO album review) and bassist Jose Soegaard (QRO interview), that it almost makes singer Lexy Benaim look a little unengaged by comparison, but he’s building too, drumming on something at some point on just about every song.  And you’ve gotta love keyboardist Kendrick Strauss’ (QRO interview) porno-stache.

Harlem Shakes

Kendrick Strauch & 'stacheLexy BenaimThe band played almost entirely Health songs, except for ending with Birthdays’s “Old Flames”, which was a good way to play it – made that song special.  Even though Health isn’t out until next week, the crowd seemed to know all the songs – was leaked a while ago, and many in attendance were New Yorkers.  Still disappointed missed them opening for Bell X1 last weekend, back in Manhattan (QRO Bell X1 live review), but will be seeing a lot of them at SXSW.

Harlem Shakes & friends


The Midgetman’s Big Texas Jumpstart II @ Creekside Lounge

Grant Hart, 4:50 PM

Grant Hart

Grant HartClick image for full gallery

Another must-see at SXSW, maybe the most-must, was punk rock icon Grant Hart.  Singer/drummer of Hüsker Dü, leader of Nova Mob, and solo artist, Hart has always stood in the shadow a bit of Dü’s singer/guitarist Bob Mould (QRO live review) – even his work with Nova Mob was the same era as Mould’s with Sugar, as well as their solo stuff paralleling.  And Hart hasn’t physically aged as well as Mould (and doesn’t have Dü’s bassist Greg Norton’s sweet-ass handlebar mustache), but he has moved up to guitar, which he was doing solo at Creekside, outdoors over an actual creek (“You can fish here…”).

Since the Hüsker split, Hart has gotten the reputation for being cranky, but he seemed to play with that rep somewhat.  He condemned his own management company, BMI, for spending too much on glossy ads with the president, as they should instead give all their money to him – “That I’ve earned…”  Hart also asked if there were any old-timers out there who had requests – was he inviting someone to ask for a Hüsker song written by Mould?  The crowd was older, but not that old – for one request, Hart simply said, “You’re too young to be asking for that.”  But he did fulfill a request for “Green Eyes”, over “Diane” – “I’d rather play the happy song than the sad song – don’t want to get suicidal” (though another request was “too happy”).  He started with a new song, which wasn’t the best move, but still hit up great songs from his entire career, including Dü’s “Green Eyes”, Nova Mob’s “The Last Days of Pompeii”, and solo’s “2541”.

Grant Hart & crowd over a creek

Hart also was “there to provide information” (said after “Little Miss Information”), telling people to Google “Dr. Brinkley from Del Rio” – according to Wikipedia (link) after WWI, Dr. John R. Brinkley invented a cure for male impotence by implanting the testicular glands of goats, which led to him losing his medical license in Kansas (that and operating while intoxicated), and after he failed in two attempts to run for governor (getting around 30%) of the vote, he moved to Del Rio.  Oh, and he also founded Kansas’ first radio station, then started the age of Mexican ‘border blasters’ that would broadcast in America from just on the other side of the Rio Grande…


SXSW Daystage @ Austin Convention Center

Princeton, 5:20 PM


Jesse Kivel - or Matt...Click image for full gallery

Like when they played Cake Shop during CMJ 2008 (QRO photos), Princeton were without their drummer, who this time didn’t make it all (at least for this show).  That, and the nature of the daystage, limited Princeton, but they ended by not only getting people to stand up, but even come up close for “Shout It Out”.  Led by the good-looking twins Jesse and Matt Kivel, the band’s sunny Cali-sixties-pop (QRO album review) is sure to charm the girls.  And they’re actually from Princeton Street – in California, and not central New Jersey (for real P-town rock, you got either Saves the Day or Jonathan Benedict in Jones Street Station – QRO interview).


~ and Present Stimulus Package @ Paradise

Motel Motel, 6:20 PM

Motel Motel

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Eric EngelNot an official SXSW venue, but located right on 6th Street, Paradise was free and open to the public, 11:00 AM to 2:00 AM (though again, no free beer like promised).  The upstairs isn’t a usual venue, just raised a bit in the corner, but nice enough during the day.  Showed up late for New York critic-fave Motel Motel, and while the band did get better as they proceeded, lead singer Eric Engel’s alt-country nasal voice (sort of Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes doing alt-country) was kind of annoying, and didn’t fit the rest of the sound.


Gringo Star, 6:55 PM

Gringo Star

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Nicolas FurgiuelePeter FurgiueleOne thing going for Paradise: it was running on time.  Gringo Star even started a little early, with their one sad song, “Satellite”.  While the song’s great, and putting that at the front lets the band showcase that side of themselves without bringing down their fun songs from All Y’All (QRO review), it wasn’t the best for the venue.  The band also had technical difficulties with their kick drum – considering they can all play anything, it seems, you’d think they’d have something to play during such events.

worse set-up

Pete DeLorenzoMatt McClavinBut after that, their live show kicked it up.  Their rotating of members is neat, but the best set-up is probably with Peter Furgiuele on keys/vocals, Pete DeLorenzo on drums, Nicolas Furgiuele on bass, and Matt McClavin on guitar (starting with “Satellite” put DeLorenzo on lead vocals to start).  Gringo Star (QRO photos) are almost too good for their own good – the switching of instruments and singers takes away from the procession of good times.  They’re about to head off on tour, opening for Austin’s own …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (QRO live review), who can hopefully teach ‘em a thing or two about how to do it seamlessly.

better set-up


My Old Kentucky Blog Showcase @ Radio Room

The Phenomenal Handclap Band, 8:00 PM

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

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old guy......young girlsWith a name like ‘The Phenomenal Handclap Band’, there was a lot to live up to – and they didn’t (well, there were handclaps…).  After a long line as Radio Room switched from day party to night showcase (tearing down all the PASTE signs, even though they’ve gotta put them back up again the next day…), PHB were disco-lame.  They also followed the too-common trend of having pretty young girls front the band, but most of the instrumentation is from old guys (like Lavender Diamond – QRO album review).  While they did sing, the girls also clapped and ‘play’ tambourine – pretty much the definition of ‘there for looks’.


Favorite Gentleman/Terpsikhore Showcase @ Radio Room Patio

Lonnie Walker, 8:10 PM

Lonnie Walker

Lonnie WalkerClick image for full gallery

& paintingFar superior was the more southern Terpsikhore, the Raleigh indie label run by Annuals (QRO spotlight on), who were playing later on and in the crowd for friend Lonnie Walker.  The slightly geeky, slightly nasal alt-country/rock of Walker is a bit like Phil & The Osophers (QRO spotlight on) meets Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (QRO live review), and not just because the really nice singer/guitarist is leading a strong back-up band.  Walker seems to put a bit too much into the mix – including an on-stage painter, like Cloud Cult (QRO photos).

~ and Present Stimulus Package @ Paradise

The Morning Benders, 9:00 PM

The Morning Benders

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bar-goersChris ChuBy now, SXSW was in full force – including huge lines and packed houses, so it was back to Paradise; it might be barely a venue, but no line and not cramped (as well as still on-time).  The Morning Benders (QRO photos) were playing more to bar-goers than industry or music-fans, but they still charmed and got a sing-along, as well as pulling out a brand-new song, that moved from sad-stripped to sad-grand.


SXSW Showcase @ Pangaea

Paper Route, 10:05 PM

Paper Route

JT DalyClick image for full gallery

Andy SmithWas hitting the wall by this point, but was revived by Paper Route & Pangaea (with an assist from the excellent Best Wurst sausage stand on 6th).  Pangaea was just far enough away from the center of things that it wasn’t some giant cluster-fuck, and the nightclub was super-classy, with soft seats and impressive lighting, which perfectly fit Paper Route (QRO photos).  They could have been cheesy and emo-eighties, sort of nighttime Peter Gabriel (and singer/keyboardist JT Daly looked like a young, pre-drugs Pete Doherty), especially with Pangaea’s lighting, but it totally worked, thanks to just enough pressure to go along with their grandeur and originality.  They’re following up last year’s Are We All Forgotten EP (QRO review) next month with Absence, and look to be going strong.

 Paper Route

~ and Present Stimulus Package @ Paradise

BLK JKS, 11:05 PM


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We took HOW LONG?!?Yet nearly all that energy was lost, thanks to Paradise & BLK JKS.  There was a line up the stairs at at-capacity Paradise (lots of ‘it’s my friend’s party’ line-skipping attempts), but what was worse was inside: BLK JKS, despite being scheduled for 10:00 PM, despite 9:00 PM Morning Benders (see above) having finished on time, were still setting up!  They literally took a whole band’s set, just to set up, which bumped scheduled-at-11:00 PM Harlem Shakes back.  And Paradise was wall-to-wall packed to watch these guys take forever to set it up.  The Johannesburg group finally went on, and their acid-rock-jazz wasn’t bad, but not special (save the funny faces from the drummer) – though could they really be, after making everyone wait (heard they were great at KEXP session).


Harlem Shakes, 12:00 AM

Harlem Shakes

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Brent Katz & David Kant And BLK JKS (see above) didn’t even have the decency to shorten their set, forcing Harlem Shakes (QRO photos) to an hour later.  But while the Shakes couldn’t be as good as their first-ever SXSW show earlier in the day (see above), they still had a ton of energy (despite the wait), and sound diverse enough that they don’t feel repetitive.  Shakes did play the same set as earlier, ending with the only non-Technicolor Health (QRO review) song, Burning Birthdays EP ’s (QRO review) “Old Flames” – but did invite Daoud Tyler-Ameen (of Air Waves) up to rock the standing drum with guest-saxophonist (who was with them last month – QRO live review – and back in 2007 – QRO photos) David Kant to join drummer Brent Katz on percussion.


Favorite Gentleman/Terpsikhore Showcase @ Radio Room Patio

Annuals, 12:35 AM


Baker v. FlorenceClick image for full gallery

BLK JKS took HOW LONG?!?BLK JKS (see above) bumping Harlem Shakes (see above) meant was only able to catch the end bit of Annuals.  The packed house at Radio Room Patio got an energetic show, like always from Annuals (QRO live review), including not only the great drum duel between singer/guitarist Adam Baker (QRO interview) and guitarist Kenny Florence (who also leads the rearranged Annuals, Sunfold – QRO album review), but also a guitar duel between the duo – and bassist Mike Robinson’s (QRO interview) tongue…

 Baker v. Florence, Round 2


Wichita Showcase @ Red 7 Patio

The Bronx, 1:05 AM

The Bronx

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Red 7 Patio was a skuzzy venue with a skuzzy crowd – perfect for The Bronx (who are actually from L.A.).  Their hardcore punk isn’t a retread, or angry & talentless, like so many in the genre.  Definitely better than your run-of-the-mill punk stage acts at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (QRO festival recap) in Austin.

The Bronx crowd


SXSW Showcase @ Wave Rooftop

Phil & The Osophers, 1:20 AM

Phil & The Osophers

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Phil......& The OsophersSinger/guitarist Phil Radiotes and his Osophers (QRO interview), drummer Kevin Estrada and now bassist Gus Iversen (who plays with his fingers, like a ‘true’ bassist – i.e., not a converted guitar player), have played some crappy places at industry fests like SXSW or New York’s CMJ (QRO festival recap), and being stuck at 1:00 AM on the rooftop of the small Wave for their only ‘official’ show could have kept that trend up.  But the rooftop, while small, was nice (and to get to it, people would have to walk right by & snub whoever was playing below to get to the stairs), and the band were blessed with some excited – if certainly drunk – fans, dancing their hearts out (under the gaze of a disapproving SXSW volunteer).  Phil joked with the crowd, “We’ve got free CDs, literature, matchbooks – and Hot Pockets; they’ll be ready in five minutes.”  The crowd demanded another song, and Phil & The Osophers (QRO photos) fulfilled that request (an advantage of playing last…), but “Then we run out of songs we know how to play…”

So who's this guy?


PASTE Showcase @ Aces Lounge

Fastball, 1:45 AM


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FastballStill had time to hit up a bit of one last band before Austin’s 2:00 AM bar closing time (New York makes you spoiled…), and made it locals Fastball.  Aces Lounge has a neat set-up – the band plays on a very raised square in the corner, around which is the bar, putting the bar right between the band and the crowd.  You’d need a fun band that’d get a lot of love from the crowd, and luckily Fastball fit that to a tee – even had both floors (and the rockin’ out bartenders, another necessity for this set-up to work) singing along to their decade-old break-through hit, “The Way”.  And they played another song after that, just to rock right to last call.

Aces Lounge


Elvis Perkins In DearlandUnfortunately Missed:

– Akron/Family (QRO photos), Elvis Perkins in Dearland (QRO live review), & Gringo Star @ Mohawk Patio, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM.  All three of those bands would have been a lot of fun, outdoors.

– M. Ward (QRO album review), Wild Light (QRO photos), & Loney Dear (QRO album review) @ Radio Room, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM.  Huge line to get into Radio Room.

– Camera Obscura (QRO live review), St. Vincent (QRO spotlight on), Department of Eagles, & M. Ward @ Central Presbyterian Church, 9:00 PM – 1:00 AM.  But not one, but two, even huger lines to get into Central Presbyterian Church (one for ticket buys, one for wristbands/badges) – M. Ward is one of the biggest draws at SXSW this year, even without Zooey Deschanel (the ‘She’ to his ‘Him’ in She & Him – QRO album review).

-Manchester Orchestra (QRO live review) @ Radio Room, 1:00 AM – 2:00 AM.  Just saw him in New York (QRO live review).

– The Decembrists, The Avett Brothers, The Heartless Bastards (QRO live review) @ Stubb’s, 10:00 PM – 1:00 AM.  The massive Stubb’s is having probably the biggest shows of SXSW – i.e., super-packed and not what you go to South by for.

– Peter Bjorn & John, Von Bondies, Cut Off Your Hands @ Vice, 8:45 PM – 11:45 PM.  Made it inside during Cut Off Your Hands, but the place was packed to the gills and utterly unable to see anything.  And heard that PB&J started late & sucked because they were all too high…
Other Notes:

– Unsurprisingly, huge lines to get wristbands & badges at Convention Center – as well as to get the wristband for the other-side-of-the-highway FADER Fort.  Glad got both on Tuesday…

– Early in the day, ran into a number of musicians would end up seeing later that night, like Miles Zuniga of Fastball (in the Convention Center bathroom), Phil Radiotes (QRO interview) of Phil & The Osophers, and Mike Robinson (QRO interview) of Annuals.  Also saw John Norris of MTV News at Paradise.

– Afternoon’s Canadian BBQ (ran into The Subjects – QRO interview – there) had some great food.  The bands?  Not so much…

– But nothing’s better than Best Wurst


Robin Sinhababu:


SXSW Showcase @ Karma Lounge

Cubismo Grafico 5

Cubismo Grafico 5

Cubismo Grafico 5’s presentation can overwhelm the American reviewer, especially one who is easily amused by the Japanese.  It takes a little effort to describe what they’re doing musically, not because it’s all that complicated but because they’re hilarious and very loud.

These four Japanese-looking guys and one gaijin-looking guy put on a ludicrous show that easily won over the small Karma crowd.  A plurality of their music is power-pop, but most of the time they’re doing a more frenetic, less technical version of Mr. Bungle’s genre blending, moving quickly from hard rock to pop-punk to reggae to salsa with major-key goofiness the only constant.  They throw “Pomp and Circumstance” in there, too.  It’s all tight and amusing, though they’re not great at any of the genres they try.  They may not be equipped for multi-genre theatrics: their guitarist tends toward chugging bar-chord riffs, they’ve got a hyperactive Tony Lombardo type bassist, and the gaijin keyboardist favors a piercing organ tone that sits oddly above the guitar and bass sounds.

But they really go for it, especially the frontman.  This guy had the dorkiest haircut I saw in Austin the entire week – an oddly front-cropped version of the standard Asian bowl cut – and a black t-shirt with “TV TOOK MY BABY AWAY” in white.  He usually wore a small keytar, and was eager to rap or belt out or jam on the keytar or do whatever else was necessary to sell the songs.  They had an SXSW volunteer working with them as an interpreter, as they didn’t seem to speak much English.  Yet their shirts all had English slogans, and they sometimes counted off and sang in Spanish.  The less I know, the more entertaining, but I’d see them at least one more time.


SXSW Showcase @ Emo’s Annex


Amber Valentine played through a wall of amps nearly as wide as the stage.  Ed Livengood played the biggest drum kit I saw all week.  The two Athenians sounded big, if lacking texture, but they played mostly unremarkable sludge riffs and didn’t groove.

Between the guitar rig, the drum kit, fog production at full blast, and Valentine’s physical presence, the show was a spectacle.  The only funny part was when Livengood sang toward the end of the set.  At that point, his mike was so far behind him that he was leaning far backward with his head turned around to sing, all the while playing a truly enormous kit.  And maybe it was just the acoustics of the makeshift Emo’s Jr. tent, but however big the drums sounded, they lacked resonance outside of his solos.

Valentine is great at juxtaposing her voice’s intensity with the rest of the band’s.  She can sing in a growl, in a young girl’s voice, and everything in between, and her singing made for the best moments of the show: menacing howls with drum rolls and calm guitar, and childlike crooning that somehow cuts through massive metal onslaught.


Austin Music Awards @ Austin Music Hall

The Dicks with David Yow

If I’d been to the Austin Music Hall before, I’d have known that it is not a small club like The Dicks might have played in their heyday, but a 4400-person venue that was hosting the Austin Music Awards, where The Dicks were to be inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame.  From there I could have guessed that this would be one of David Yow’s more sober performances.  Indeed, he appeared to look at someone in the audience and feign depants-ing through his sport coat while his co-presenter Exene Cervenka spoke, but that’s as silly as he got.

After Cervenka and Yow presented – and after several less applauded awards were given out – The Dicks played a short, tight set, seeming to feed off the energy of the gaggle of middle-aged folks who crowded the front of the stage.  The band had noted the passing of original guitarist Glen Taylor in their acceptance speeches, and that they now needed two guitarists to handle Glen’s parts.  Even with Taylor’s death and twenty years’ time, they’ve maintained the trait that distinguished them from nearly every American punk band of the era: the bluesy, side-to-side rhythm that was often lost in hardcore.  Only Black Flag’s first EP swings as much.

Yow walked on to sing the Dicks tune that The Jesus Lizard covered, “Wheelchair Epidemic”.  I was pretty sure he was going to point at Gary Floyd when he got to the line “or just a faggot,” and he did.  When Yow finished, Floyd reclaimed the mike for the last number, “Dicks Hate the Police”, one of the best punk rock songs ever written.


SXSW Showcase @ SoHo Lounge

My Disco

SXSW is a huge mess of venues and bands, and it’s common to see bands playing stages inappropriate for their aesthetic.  That’s why My Disco’s set upstairs at SoHo was so cool.  The stage was small, elevated, and separated from the audience by railing, and dim blue lights fell over the band.  It’s one of the most lifeless and sterile venues I’ve been to, and it couldn’t have been better for this mechanical band.  The next day, they played outdoors on a lawn at 5:00 PM, and I bet that was silly.

The Melbourne trio walks a fine line between minimalism and mere repetition.  Although I wasn’t counting, Liam Andrews seemed to hammer through some songs with one bass note and three words at his disposal.  Drummer Rohan Rebeiro somehow managed to groove with sparse, bulldozer-paced beats, which speaks to his hitting and precision.  Guitarist Ben Andrews was the most random element, often silent for minutes at a time and occasionally soloing.  Two or more tones rarely formed a pattern.

They were effective as deconstruction, but not as minimalism.  That they took Shellac-style sparseness to an extreme and rocked is impressive, but there wasn’t much of a process to the music, and without process, repetition is just repetition.  Ben Andrews played some cool trebly solos, and Rebeiro knocked out a great solo in their last song while holding down the beat.  But these moments were simply good solos accompanied by quarter notes, not exciting stages in a minimalist narrative.

Concert Reviews

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