The Austin music scene through the eyes of a programmer/music enthusiast/show-goer

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Buy This Album Bitches:
The Long Winters -- Putting The Days To Bed

I can't stop listening to this disc. It came out a few weeks back on the same day the Silversun Pickups' album did. I picked up both and they've remained mainstays in the CD changer since.

When going to see the Silversun Pickups actually, at KEXP's SXSW broadcast in March, I was chattin with mid-day show DJ, Cheryl Waters, when she introduced me to this large, burly fellow w/ interesting glasses on. "This is John Roderick," she said. "Of The Long Winters?" I replied. Indeed it was. I can't remember what we talked about. I do remember I was completely surprised that this was the man that churns out such amazingly catchy, power-pop songs.

Cheryl Waters w/ John Roderick during SXSW (photo by gregoryperez)

And Putting The Days To Bed is chalked full of hooky, can't-get-out-of-your-head songs from start to finish. Opener 'Pushover' will have you singing 'for you I'm a pushover' all day. Next track, 'Fire Island, AK', gets the most airtime on KEXP and rightly so. It's a damn good song. I could tell you about every song on this disc, but what's the use. They're all good. 'Honest', 'Sky Is Open', and 'Seven' are among my current favorites on the disc. This disc is solid all the way through and worth your investigation.

John Roderick @ Sonic Boom records (photo by gregoryperez)

The Long Winters will also be at ACL this year. I fear they won't be seen by many, however, because the scheduling geniuses behind the festival put the Winters up against uber-indie-band The Shins -- both playing on Saturday at 4:30. I'd like to meet the brains behind this scheduling conflict. Hmm...both poppy. Both quality. There's no way someone would like both of these bands. Book it. This is the worst conflict on the entire 3-day grid for me. And I said before the entire list of bands was released that one band I was most exited to see was The Shins, because I dig em and I've actually never seen them yet. That's how good this Long Winters disc is. Check that shit out. At the very least, sneak away from The Shins for a few tracks. I certainly am. And I might just stick around for the whole thing. Hopefully they are as good live as I think this album is.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Austin no 'Sad, Sad City'

Ghostland Observatory, Say Hi To Your Mom blow collective minds of Emos-goers

I first saw Austin band, Ghostland Observatory, in a drunken haze during an early evening performance during SXSW this year. It was at an outdoor venue behind Emos' alley (I forget the name), but the venue kinda blew for this band. My friends stood in shock as they pondered why Derek and I brought them to this joint to watch a younger Willie Nelson look-alike dance around like he was on crack to this unique brand of electronic rock. It was a little disappointing, but they showed serious promise. I kept saying I'd see them again in a proper joint for their sound ... like Emos.

Ghostland play KVRX live. photo by Garrett Traya

Well that day finally came last Saturday night. It was worth the wait. Ghostland rocked the F**KING house! I honestly can't say I've ever seen so many indie-fied, hipster types collectively looking like they were actually into the band playing on stage. There was dancing, singing, a mosh pit?!?, people on the stage ... INSANITY!!!

The evening began with a set from Brooklyn rockers Say Hi To Your Mom. Since hearing a few of their tracks on KEXP I've been intrigued. I checked out their solid 4th album, Impeccable Blahs, and was excited to see they were playing the indoor stage of the Ghostland bill. Their vampire infused songs were even better live than on the album. Album and show opener, 'These Fangs,' was a highlight, and there wasn't really a bad song in the set.

Then it was time for the main attraction. From the show opener, 'Piano Man,' I knew it would be a long, sweaty, ridiculous night. That it was. Ghostland, made up of singer/guitarist Aaron Behrens and drummer/knob-turner Thomas Turner, had the entire audience hooked from the first song. Turner rolled up in a floor length, baby blue cape w/ the huge Dracula collar! Who wears a cape? It was quality. Nice way to ring in his birthday, which happened to be that night. Behrens rocked his trademark Willie braids and shades. They came to rock.

Ghostland blasted through songs from both of their albums, last year's and 2006's Paparazzi Lightning. By the end of the set, random girls were climbing on stage just to strut their stuff, while Ghostland charged on unaware, or just unfazed by the distraction. Eventually during the show's encore the stage filled with what looked like 100 people that filled in every hole the band didn't take up onstage. It was amazing to see that many people on the outdoor stage at Emos, dancing away as Ghostland blasted on.

Their myspace page says they are playing again in Austin on 9/8 and again on 10/6, both at locations TBA. After experiencing what was one of the more enjoyable live shows in Austin that I can remember, I'll be at at least one of those upcoming shows. I advise you do the same.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pitchfork Music Fest: Best Of

Ah Chicago! I moved to Chitown after college (hook em) then moved back a year and a half after experiencing what I can only describe as "cold as shit." It was a bit of culture shock, but beautiful for 3 months of the year.

And it's no wonder that Pitchfork would pick the middle of the beautiful summer to host what was an awesome festival. I jumped at the chance to return to my old haunts, check out some Cubs action, eat a bunch of amazing food (see Frontera Grill, Piece, hotdogs w/ shit piled high, and mad mad pizza), and watch a group of the best artists playing music today in a tiny West side community park.

In the spirit of my SXSW review, here are the top guns ...


Best Show: The National

Wait a minute ... he didn't say Band of Horses. I know. Because it wasn't the show that The National put on (and if Alligator was put out this year that's all I'd write about probably and be giving BOH the honorable mention). They played for about 40 minutes and threw out just about every good song (ok, they're all good) off of Alligator plus a couple of new ones for good measure. If the new songs are any indication of what is to come, LOOKOUT! The new songs were called 'Mistaken For Strangers' and 'Start A War'. The first was a rocker talking about being "mistaken for strangers, by your own friends" and the second was the show closer; started pretty chill and finished strong. I didn't want this set to end.

And the best part - they brought violinist Padma Newsome with them! I've seen The National a few times, but never w/ the violin player. He added such power and beauty to the songs, which really brought them to life from how they play on the album. That fool can jam a violin too. The entire 6-man group seemed to pour whatever they had into each song, especially singer Matt Berninger. During most songs he actually looked like he was in pain just from the words coming out of his mouth, and at the end of 'Abel' I thought he was going to keel over. They didn't mess around for their entire set, which I felt could have gone on longer given that the next band wasn't up for another 20 minutes. But seeing the look on his face after every song, I think it's possible that they didn't have anything left in the tank for a few more songs. Either way it was worth every minute.

Best Show (before The National came on): Destroyer

Both my lady and I agreed that this set was the highlight when we left Saturday. I've always been a fan, but haven't really had the opportunity to check out Bejar & Co. as they don't make it all the way to the Lone Star State much (if ever). We were in the unfortunate position of being right in front of the right stack of speakers. So apart from being deaf for the following 3 hours in our right ears only, it was an amazing experience filled with songs from Rubies and Streethawk: A Seduction. Listening to Rubies will never be the same again. The guitar jam in the middle of 'European Oils' not only made my ears bleed, but made me wish the set could go on for the rest of the day. The entire band was solid, not really missing any steps as they churned out Destroyer's not-so-ordinary songs.

Worst Experience: Every second the band announcer spoke

That guy needed to be shot, quartered, and dragged to each corner of beautiful Union Park for public mockery. He felt compelled to repeat himself every time a new band came on - telling us to be part of a "community," start our own band like Art Brut, pick up trash, not pass out flyers, blah blah, other annoying shit, some poems, and bullet to the head. And his little speeches got longer each time he told them. It was amusing to see BOH stand behind him trying to hold in the laughter as he thought we was being clever working "Everything All The Time" into his shitty intro poem. Well done Bridwell & Co.

Best Band Member Encounter: Aaron Dessner of The National

Ok, you're saying it's because he's obsessed w/ The National, but it's the only encounter that didn't involve seeing someone walk by. We decided to lounge in the field while catching some Ted Leo and eventually The Walkmen. We were just chillin' on our blanket and I hear this familiar voice [familiar because somehow I run into this guy at every music festival they are at ... I swear I don't stalk] say "We've been in the recording studio for the last 2 months." So naturally my ears perk up and I'm interested to see who's been laying down them tracks. And to my surprise it's Mr. Dessner creepin' right up on our blanket (He's playing the bells during the start of 'All The Wine'). Being the solid music citizen I am I didn't interrupt his convo with some little lady. But I was excited to learn that they'd been recording. This is very good news. I very much wanted to confirm they would rollin' to Austin on the next bigger tour (following a jaunt on the West Coast), but it wasn't meant to be. They will come. They must.

Biggest Surprise: The Pitchfork folks didn't screw it up

It was pretty much a high quality experience. Water was $1. There was GOOD keg beer from local brewer, Goose Island. Small tents were set up for shade. Lots of good food. A tent full of stuff to keep you occupied when not peeping tunes. The Flatstock poster show was fantastic. I always mean to go during SXSW, but a man's got to sleep sometime. After wakey time it's day-show time, then on to showcase time. Where am I supposed to find the time? The location was amazing -- right off the L and very easy to get to. And a beautiful park surrounded by huge trees w/ the Sears Tower peeking out in the distance. Besides the amazing line up, the best part: $30 for 2 days! [For shame ACL.] I'd have paid $30 for The National and Destroyer alone. Well done fork folks. Here's hoping they don't slowly up the price, squeezing us indie music lovers of our hard earned dollars. We gotta have some duckets left over to actually buy the CDs our favorite bands put out.

Funniest/'What Is Up' Moment: During the short wait before Spoon's set, 2 SOUND team songs were pumped over the speakers

I thought my ears (not my eyes) were liars, as the song I was peeping suggested. I'd like to think this was Britt Daniel's way of stickin' it to the fork while simultaneously reppin' a fellow Austin band. Or maybe it was the fork saying, "SIKE, this stuff really is good enough to be played at our festival." Either way it was legit.

Best Non Festival Moment: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!

Actually Cubs SWEEP the Cards for the first time since the 70s. We caught Friday's 6-5 victory. After rolling up a little late to find the Cubbies down 3 in the 3rd, our spirits were uplifted with a 6 run 4th inning! They gave the Cards 2 more to keep it suspenseful (and keep us drinking them Old Style beers), but the Cubs held on for the W. Good times. Oh how I miss living a few short blocks from the best baseball stadium in the world.

UPDATE: More pics ...

Texan Hotel Fork-trot

Band of Horses to sound guy: "Huh?"

The band waits for the horrible announcer to wrap it up. (Check out that smoke!)

Berninger croons

Padma plays violin and guitar!

Berninger almost passes out singing 'Abel'

Syncronized Dessners playing new song 'Start A War'

From the floor of Union Park

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Band of Sorrows: Brooke leaves BOH

The fork is good for something. People send them press releases and shit. They're reporting that Mat Brooke has officially left Band of Horses.

Brooke plays at End Of An Ear in store during SXSW

This doesn't really come as a surprise, since he was absent from pretty much every show since SXSW. At least showgazer can take solace in the fact it got to see Brooke play for 2 legit shows during Austin's SXSW. Seeing him perform w/ the band in March solidified my belief that BOH would be my favorite band of 2006. So far that's holding true. Maybe he'll come out of retirement to guest on some songs on future albums. Brooke -- you will be missed.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Buy This Album Bitches:
Silversun Pickups -- Carnavas

Showgazer usually keeps it's coverage to live shows in the Austin area, but lately we've stretched our wings a little with discussions about the ACL festival and the recent fork vs SOUND team debacle. I figured I'd introduce a new section I call "Buy this album Bitches." Because in this day of downloading, sometimes there are albums you should just straight up give the band its due, and buy the damn thing.

Before Pitchfork takes it upon themselves to [possibly] ruin the budding career of L.A. rockers, Silversun Pickups, with a simple number, let Showgazer be the first to tell you that this album is f**king LEGIT.

In March I was lucky enough to catch one of the many Silversun SXSW shows when they joined KEXP's broadcast at the ACL studios. The set was fantastic, and one of my favorite performances of all of SXSW this year. They played four new tracks, which got me itching to hear the entire thing. When I finally got my hands on the entire thing I couldn't stop listening to it (to the point where I had to go into detox just so I wouldn't get sick of it).

For those that can only listen to something that's been given a rating ... I give it an 8.5 out of 10. I have no formula for that number, just that it looks impressive w/o looking too ridiculously high. I can tell you that after listening to this disc for the last couple of months it's climbed its way into my running top-5 albums of the year and is currently holding strong in spot #2 just behind the boys of Band of Horses. Sorry Silversun, I love me some BOH right now. But as for straight up rocking ... you guys (and gal) have the market cornered.

Derek snapped this at the Silversun's performance at the
KEXP John in the Morning @ Night show in Seattle.

The thing that impresses me most about this album is that even w/ a fantastic debut EP (titled Pikul) to introduce the band, this debut LP features ALL NEW songs!! This is refreshing when bands tend to recycle a good portion of their EP songs on their first proper albums. Sorry Black Angels, but I heard most of your album before it even was an album.

So speaking of all new songs ... they're all good too. The entire album is rocker after rocker, minus a couple of slower songs near the album's end, which are just as legit. 'Three Seed' is one of the slower tracks, and remains one of my favorite. I have to give the nod to 'Future Foe Scenarios' as my favorite track. Every time I listen to it I feel the need to add 30 mph to whatever the speed limit is of the road I'm currently on. That is the definition of a good song. Another song I really dig on this album is 'Little Lover's So Polite', which you can check out on the new and improved Silversun website.

This album, put out on the Dangerbird Records label, officially comes out on Tuesday, July 25th. I'll be picking up my official copy at Waterloo then. You should too.

ps. (for Silversun Pickups) you bustas better come back to Austin now that we've actually heard the album. That SXSW preview shit ain't gonna cut it. Ya heard.

UPDATE - This shit is a mere $9.99 at Waterloo. Get off your humps chumps!

LIVE: the Austin 'SOUND machine'
(sans Gloria Estefan)

Last Saturday, Austin's own SOUND team, fresh off their pounding in the caboose from the fork, played to a packed house @ Emos. I rate the show at 3.7 (on a scale of 3.875).

It was a double stage job w/ other Austin bands filling in. Inside we caught The Glass Family first. They played a pretty good set of new mixed w/ old. The alternative choice outside was The Black, who are completely horrible -- if forced to actually watch them that is. I can't handle the singer. I don't know what it is about him, but I get the urge to throw things at him until he goes away. I might actually be able to listen to the music if I didn't have to see his face. Anyway --- The Glass Fam were pretty dope. I first caught them at The Continental Club, which was a much better show. What're ya gonna do ... Emos sounds like hell. Is it possible to turn up the volume anymore guys on the inside stage? Seriously .. I don't think I got enough blood (from my ears) on my shirt.

Zykos' Mike Booher

We stayed inside to catch Zykos play a bunch of new songs. I was really looking forward to this show as I used to call the 'kos my favorite Austin band (before discovering now defunct Dead Whale Tide. WHY? WHY have you forsaken me DWT?). Unfortunately it wasn't the best, mostly because they played all new stuff. It wasn't bad new stuff, it's just always tough to get into something when you've never heard it before. But I still like me some 'kos so please keep bringin' the rock. Check out their 2 new demos on myspace here.

What Made Milwaukee Famous at ACL taping
(I think it was beer. Or Alice Cooper in Wayne's World)

Then it was outside for the end of the What Made Milwaukee Famous set. I can't really say I'm a fan of them. They write good, catchy tunes, but it's not really my bag. To be fair I haven't really given them a devoted listen yet. My lady likes the piano player. He must be dreamy. We mostly just hung on the outside edge and put away a few PBR tall-boys in preparation for the machine of sound. Which reminds me ... why is he calling them the 'SOUND machine'? Isn't it SOUND team? Yes, they are. But earlier we ran into a friend of ours at the show and asked her who she was there to see. She said the "SOUND machine," and naturally we laughed and mocked. She felt bad and said she "knew she was going to screw it up." Good times. But I kinda like it. It worked for Miss Estefan.

Finally we got to experience what a 3.7 rated album plays like live. It was LEGIT. It was my first time seeing the team of sound and it was an enjoyable experience. They ripped through most of the more upbeat tracks on the quality long player Movie Monster. They also graced us with a few tracks off of the just as quality Work EP as well.

SOUND team's Bill Baird

That Bill Baird is a force on the bass. I don't think I saw his face once since he was bouncin' all around, floppin' his locks up in his face. More than once he put a tamborine around his neck and played it by making his shoulders knock it into the microphone as he continued to grind on the bass. It was good stuff. I was boppin' my head the entire time and was sad for the show to end. I will definitely catch them when they play in Austin again. Might I suggest The Parish next time fellas. (wink wink)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BOH on Letterman: DO IT

Reminder: Set your DVRs for tomorrow night (7/13) - Band of Horses will be on Letterman. Hopefully Mat Brooke comes out of hiding for this one. Yayah. They will be joined by former Austinite, Luke Wilson. How can you say no? Seriously. You can't.

UPDATE: Finally got around to watching it. Brooke was a no show. Punk. They played The Funeral. Go figure. They clean up real nice.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

SOUND ream

In a suprising turn of events, our "pals" over at the fork have decided to dole out even more low blows on Austin's beloved SOUND team. Surprising that they would take shots at the band? Hardly, considering last week's absurd review of Movie Monster. My real surprise (which quickly turned to disgust) was had in Pitchfork's undying hatred for such a promising young band, even after already destroying them with an embarrassing 3.7.

If you haven't already caught wind of this latest Pitchfork attack, check it out here.

Yeah, so basically, SOUND team posted a humorous clip trying to make light of some undeserved bad fortune. You, Ryan Schreiber, Editor-in-Chief of the most influential indie music rag (online or not), mean to tell me that that deserves this response?!

"In retaliation of the 3.7 rating, the band-- or someone purporting to be them-- posted a YouTube video depicting a sort of Sound Team effigy being mutilated, thrown off a cliff, burned, and dismembered by a Pitchfork. Creepy! That's exactly what we did to our promo copy this weekend!

In the band's defense, the music backing up the visuals here is a vast improvement over their record. A bit more focus and you'll have it, guys..."

Good one Shreiber. Way to reveal yourself to your readers as a juvenile, spiteful, no-talent prick. What did SOUND team ever do to you? Is it the major label? Is it the nods to their influences through great music? Did they steal some of your hipster faithfuls from your SXSW showcase during one of their far superior dayshows? I just don't get it.

I've watched over the years as Pitchfork has taken the literary dump on more than a handful of undeserving bands, but the malice usually ended there. But now with Pitchfork's readership reaching an exponentially larger and larger audience, their journalistic responsibility and respect of power seems to be falling farther and farther. How backwards is that?

Anyhow, I've depoloyed an email to the source, which will almost certainly not be responded to, but atleast I can take solace in knowing that I'm not the only one a little miffed about this whole thing. Check it:

Chris' mention and the 40 or so comments that came after
Zane's personal discussion with Pitchfork reviewer Marc Hogan
More commentary from Eric Grubbs
Austinist's post
SOUND team's graphic depiction of the review

UPDATE: And more...

Tim O Thompson chimes in
More from Zane
Noise for toaster has some great thoughts...

"if they can't handle the rise of influence from independent music bloggers, even with the same ultimate goal in mind - that is, to share good undiscovered music - and continue relentlessly to step up and imitate the qualities of blog posts (mp3 downloads, youtube streaming, live concert pictures blog-style), we have a bunch of immature foot-stomping adults on our hands."

The text in bold brings up an especially great point. Pitchfork's news feed is in fact now just a blog engine, but the ability to comment on a post is for some reason unavailable. Gosh, I wonder why...