Friday, March 21, 2008
As promised, here's some video from the M. Ward and Jim James performance at St. David's Episcopal Church that I promised. For me, it is exceptionally great to be able to re-live one of the best moments of my concert-going life. It features M. Ward playing Roller Coaster, and that sour note that I mentioned. It also features M. Ward and Jim James playing together on the impeccable Chinese Translation, My Morning Jacket's Bermuda Highway, and other assorted clips. It's beautiful (and unfortunately too short for me!) and comes courtesy of Peter Babb and KUT 90.5 . According to Mr. Babb, more of the video/audio might be released at a later date, so we will keep you posted.
It's always a bit awkward to see bands play to a less than crowded room of people who are too apprehensive to even approach the stage, and that's how Lola's was on Wednesday night when The Dodos played. I'd like to think that the band will catch a huge deal of critical acclaim after people have time to hear their just-released album The Visiter, and I think I'm right. You will all catch on!
We've been listening to The Dodos (formerly known as Dodo Bird) since it was just the solo-brainchild of Meric Long, and now the project has now, umm... evolved (pun!), to include percussionist Logan Kroeber. The inclusion of Kroeber has probably been the best decision for Long. Kroeber's precision on the kit was a stand-out of the performance. I thought that maybe the tambourine taped to his foot was merely a way to settle a shaky foot that didn't know what else to do without a kick-drum, but I was wrong. The tambourine was indeed an instrument, just like the toms or snare, and Kroeber used it well. Long, sporting lengthy fingernails put to good use instead of picks for his acoustic guitar, lead the other half of The Dodos with his loops and finger picking. At times, his acoustic sounded like a full-blown electric and he even brought out a trombone for looping, that ended up sounding nothing like one. They did sound a bit out of tune and out of sync at times, but the flaws added a certain amount of character. I think these guys are going to pick up some steam soon.
Hey! Remember that Beach House in-store that we were totally psyched to bring you? Yeah? Well it went wonderfully and we'd like to thank everyone who showed up on such short notice, and of course, Good Records and the band!
The band got off to a slightly rocky start with some sound problems, but they worked through them in turn, played a beautiful set. Thankfully, the good folks at Lullabyes were there to record audio of the show and and a guy by the name of Marcel Maitland was able to capture some of the show on HD. So, since you have almost every opportunity to be there, even though you really weren't, I'm keeping this one short.
Here's the link to the MP3's: Beach House In-Store MP3's
Thanks to Gorilla vs. Bear for hosting the video!
(As always, photos by Trent Lesikar!)
Since SXSW was pretty keen on throwing us curve balls, day 4 proved to be no exception. But, just like the previous days, this one worked out just fine. The plans were to head out to the last day of the Paste/Stereogum event to see High Places, No Age, and Fuck Buttons, but when that didn't work out, we walked over to the Mohawk to catch David Bazan and Islands play the Hot Freaks Party, curated in part by our friends over at Gorilla vs. Bear, who hooked us up VIP style.
The first act that we wanted to catch, Mr. David Bazan, proved that after all of his time, he's still as relevant as ever. His fan based is still very attached to him and what he has done in the past, and he still shows them love at every opportunity in his set. Just like the last time we caught him, he took a moment out of the set for a Q&A time to answer some of the crowd's burning questions like when his new material is coming out and how he was doing. Throughout the set, people were looking in on him through the windows and he acknowledged them with a smile and a joke, where most would have scoffed. Towards the end, he named the song he was about to play, and when someone shouted out for a different one, he changed his mind and obliged. What a guy.
Another solid performance came from Canada's Islands. The band shortened their set to newer material that will appear on their upcoming release Arm's Way. They did however play a couple of the older jams, sounding as good as ever. The new material sounds fantastic and I'm pretty confident that it will end up on my year-end best-of list.
The one night show that worked out for us also happened to be one of the most coveted of the entire festival. Not only was it a rare experience to see two musical geniuses stripped down to their musical essentials, but to see them perform together, was a highlight of my entire concert going life. The show took place on the third floor of St. David's Episcopal Church on 7th street, in a tiny room that supposedly seated 250 people, that really felt like 150. I think that M. Ward put it best when he said "It feels like we're a million miles away from 6th street right now. It's kinda nice." Those words are the best way to sum up the feel of the show. The setting was so intimate that Ward gave audience members longer-than-comfortable gazes while playing his acoustic and singing in his raspy tone. When we saw him in Denton, he seemed cold and detached, but this performance was the antithesis of the previous. He was warm and inviting and seemed to genuinely care that we were enjoying ourselves. On Post War's Rollercoaster, Ward hit a sour note on the acoustic and to the audience's surprise, he completely halted the song to tune for the note, hit it again (correctly), and then took the song off the rails, into a flurried solo that required him to take a seat at the empty piano bench to play it. Midway through his set, Jim James joined Ward on stage to sing songs like My Morning Jacket's Golden and M. Ward's Chinese Translation. On both, James's higher register accompanied Ward's lower tones in the most perfect way. The pairing of the two voices was impeccable. When the pairing portion of Ward's set was finished, Ward picked up his pedal board and scuffled out the doors to another gig. James finished out the night by playing tunes from MMJ's upcoming release Evil Urges. One particular standout of the new material is Librarian, a song with some strange lyrics about "the sexiest librarian" that Jim James has ever seen. A beautiful twist was put on What A Wonderful Man, which James decided to play on his electric auto-harp (or whatever that thing is?), which toned it down infinitely, and ultimately made it feel like a completely different song. His set was closed by the best version of Z's Gideon that I've ever heard. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take photos at the show (although I could have gotten away with it), but I have found some videos so you can experience some of the glory for yourself, and I will get around to posting those at a later time.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
SXSW Day 3: DeVotchKa, Dr. Dog, High Places, Angelo Spencer, Kimya Dawson, and Tiny Masters of Today
Day 3 brought us back to the wonderful KLRU/ACL studios, where Seattle radio station KEXP played host to DeVotchKa and Dr. Dog, who took the place of the Handsome Furs. DeVotchKa kicked off the afternoon with a late, but well calculated set of songs from their new album A Mad & Faithful Telling, and an older one or two for nostalgia sake. The band was joined by a string quartet that complemented their sound to the nth degree, and it would be hard to imagine seeing them without the addition in tow.
After one-hit-wonders The Breeders took the stage, the station's announcer mentioned that Dr. Dog would be performing next, without any mention of the Handsome Furs, which lead to some confusion by people stopping by the studio, but our thoughts were "At least they replaced them with someone good". We've seen Dr. Dog three times now, and the band is consistently tight and fun to watch. They also showed their humorous sides when answering questions by the moderator and made the wait worth the while.
After the Merge Showcase didn't work out for us, we headed back to our safe bet Ms. Bea's and caught High Places set. The band just released a compilation of recorded material, 03/07 - 09/07, that we've been spinning frequently, so naturally we wanted to catch their set since our previous plans didn't work out. The band played their hypnotic beats to a crowd of sweaty 20 somethings who are new converts.
Before his wife took the stage, frenchman Angelo Spencer played a short, yet charming set of his one man band's tunes on the side stage. The Juno fans in the crowd, which comprised most of the front row, were confused by him and probably left scratching their heads. But, the reason that most people were there, was to see Kimya Dawson. Mrs. Dawson played songs from her upcoming children's album Alphabutt that are sure to be enjoyed by everyone, not only the kids. She added a little bit of audience participation into her set when she asked the audience to shout out names of animals and then make the sounds that they do, and later called them "suckers". For the last two songs of her set, she had the Tiny Masters of Today, a band comprised of kids who can actually play their instruments, join her to finish things out. What a way to end the day. Since I thought we would be at the Merge Showcase, I didn't have my camera and I really regret that. Sorry!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
We kicked off day 2 of SXSW at the Paste/Stereogum show at the questionable Volume Nightclub. While the venue was lackluster, the bands we saw shined above that. Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond, kicked off the show almost immediately after doors opened. She is just as charismatic as her music, and at some times, it came off as a little bit too over the top, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.
While Ms. Worden seemed a little too out there, Nada Surf gave a performance that was extremely grounded. The band played a stripped down acoustic set, with plugged in, turned down bass, acoustic guitar, and a weird drum-kit-in-a-box type instrument. Now I've never listened to the band, but the majority of the crowd had requests to shout out when the band ran out of songs that they wanted to play. Its always nice to see a band that is out to fill the audience's requests. If only Mr. Bejar had taken a page out of their book.
The main reason we were at this thing was to see Destroyer play their only day show of SXSW. Before the show, we had built up what an ideal set of his would have been, and the one he played at Volume was not that, but we should have known. Don't get me wrong though, the guy was totally on point and with the band in tow, he did sound great. The set started off with a wonderful version of New Ways of Living and then morphed into a review of some of the better songs on Trouble in Dreams, which just so happens to be out today, which include The State, followed by Dark Leave Form A Thread, and Foam Hands. This Night's Modern Painters and Hey, Snow White rounded out the set. By all means, the band's performance was a highlight of the festival, just not what we wanted, but beggars can't be choosers, right?
Heading down 6th street, away from downtown, we spent the rest of the day at Ms.Bea's, the questionable bar that plays host to SXSW's best free, all ages shows curated by the one and only Todd P, where we caught sets from Dark Meat, the huge collective of woodsy, nomadic, music makers. When I say huge, I mean that this band consisted of about 20 members. There were so many of them that they took up the stage, the side of the stage, and the front of the stage. The band consists of a face-painted horn section, two drummers, a singer with a tambourine, B.P. Helium from Of Montreal, and a ton of others that I couldn't see. Their set was plagued with power outages thanks to their large numbers, but they played through them. Their set went way over their allotted time slot with a lengthy closing number that staggered on and on, but other than that, the band was fun to watch.
The Death Set was the main event on the bill for us, and they gave us more than we bargained for. The band and the crowd was amped beyond belief and their set was filled with a barrage of elbows and sing-alongs. Johnny Siera climbed the sketchy rafter above the stage and managed to stay up there, singing and playing his guitar all the while, while the crowd tore down the beer sponsored banners. The power kept going out every time the band started playing Around the World, which was disappointing, but they soldiered on and kept the momentum moving. The lack of photos kind of explains it all. Oh, and we are helping The Death Set bring their on-stage party to Dallas, but we will tell you more about that later (just know that I'm kind of worried about it).
My Brightest Diamond