(photo of "Self Image opening, by Troy Wise)
In the current Current issue, online and in print today, my story appears about “Self Image” at Stella Haus, the show by students in the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center’s MOSAIC after-school arts program for high schoolers. You can read the shorter version here.
As noted there, I got to go to the closing party for “Self Image,” a group exhibition of portraits (mostly self-portraits, though Michelle Moreno executed two graphite drawings of her mother and grandmother, as well), and talked to the student artists about their work. I left the party uplifted and inspired by their work and what they had to say— about the program, the process of artmaking, their instructors, their future plans, and each other.
As excited and encouraged as I was by the talent and enthusiasm of these artists, I was also moved by the dedication and commitment shown by the grownups involved with the show. Dayna De Hoyos opened her gallery to their art, and has taken on the smart, talented, and amazingly talkative Trevor Miranda as Stella Haus’s gallery intern for upcoming First Thursday and Friday openings!
Kim Bishop, the art and art history teacher at Brackenridge High, also deserves mucho respect from her community and her students for her involvement with MOSAIC and for her teaching; the students were grateful to her, many affectionately name-dropping her as an instructor and as an artist. Kim Bishop makes artmaking, art history, and the local contemporary art scene real and accessible to her student artists, every day.
And Alex Rubio, as many know, in addition to being an amazing painter, has spent years doing community arts organizing and mentoring young artists from San Anto— most famously, perhaps, Vincent Valdez, whose “El Chavez Ravine” show is up at SAMA (see Elaine Wolff’s review here), and who gave a brilliant lecture there last week. Alex Rubio (who, by the way, is immortalized several times in Valdez’s art) took 30 MOSAIC students to hear Valdez speak, and also to see the show and to meet Valdez. Several of the MOSAIC-istas talked to me about drawing deep inspiration from Valdez as an artist, and from Alex Rubio as an artist, as an instructor, and as a mentor.
Here are the words of Rubio and these students, along with images of them and their work.
“[These students] have all been part of my class since last September. They go to class every day, Monday through Saturday, so they’re very disciplined. We always talk about careers in art, creative jobs, and continuing their education. They’re reaching out to the community through their art as well. The first step [for the students to participate nin the contemporary art scene] is to attend First Friday events at Blue Star…now they’re actually part of the contemporary art scene, by exhibiting in Dayna De Hoyos’ gallery, Stella Haus. …I started [painting] when I was 14, I was part of the mural project at the Mirasol Housing Project…that started my career off. And Vincent Valdez started out as a teenager, doing murals, too. So I tell my students, you’re part of a city with a great tradition. I’ve been amazed by the level of talent and creativity in these students, and when you combine that with a high degree of discipline and dedication, you have an incredible art worker, in a city that fosters these young workers. I’m excited to see their futures.”
10th grade, Brackenridge
“At first I wasn’t interested in art. But after making this (tiled mosaic) piece—we did all this at Blue Star—I’m thinking of pursuing art after graduation. Of majoring in criminal justice and art. I’m influenced by the old artists, such as Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh. But art just came out of nowhere for me, and seeing my work on a gallery wall, I felt really proud of myself for doing something I didn’t think I could do.”
(A John F. Kennedy graduate, now a student at SAC)
“I was a fan of Alex Rubio and of Vincent Valdez as well, before I studied with them. I’m a fan of Roberta Buckles at SAC, too. I’m a classically trained clarinetist and with sheet music, I play what’s in front of me. With art, you’re free to do whatever you want. I’m a music major, but I can’t imagine my life without i[visual art], it’s a part of me now.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
“I’ve been doing art since I was ten, just drawing, doodling. I’m taking Art History with (Kim) Bishop, so I like Early Renaissance artists, like Donatello and Verocchio. Alex is really helpful, he’s amazing. Like Trevor, I’m interested to do graffiti and body art, though I’m still learning. I’m interested in studying at either the Rhode Island School of Design and the San Francisco Art Institute.”
12th grade, Brackenridge
“I grew up on the Eastside of San Antonio, there was no art around there when I was coming up. I’m always glad to tell that, because coming to Brack really switched my life around. I got into sports, and when I graduate, I wanna become an artist in any form. Any opportunity I come across, I try to take it. What can I do to help my community, and at the same time, do what I know how to do? I’m trying to be a voice for graffiti artists, and mix fine art with graffiti art.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
“Movies, books, music all help me make art. I love older vintage stuff, from the 70s and 8-s, like Pink Floyd and the Cranberries. I think I was born in the wrong time! I love thrift stores, too, and I’m interested in fashion design. I’d never done a color portrait of myself. I’m basically a shy person, and doing this self portrait in stronger colors helped me see myself in a new way.”
12th grade, Kennedy
“I like a lot of contemporary and Chicano art, especially Alex [Rubio] and Vincent [Valdez]. I’m inspired by music, too a lot of old punk, like Dead Kennedys. My favorite singer is Richie Valens, though, and Queen! Freddie Mercury. I have a tattoo of him. Ten years from now I see myself painting, tattooing, and teaching, probably high school.”
Here, by the way, is Richard’s Freddie Mercury tattoo:
along with an eyeball, and SATX’s area code.
BONUS INTERNET MATERIAL!
MEET THE VERY TALENTED MYRA QUIROZ!:
10th grade, Brackenridge
“That was my first drawing, and I’m happy, but I was nervous. It felt good to see my drawing on the wall, but weird, too. It’s my first time! I like art, but also music — I like reggaeton a lot, cumbias. I’m from Mexico, but I’m from San Antonio, now.”
Michelle with her color piece.
Michelle with self portrait and portraits of her mother and gandmother.
11th grade, Highlands
“My Mom says I always drew, since I was little. These are portraits of my grandma, my mom, and me. I was gonna do one of my great-grandmother, but I couldn’t find a picture. In my family, it’s the women who are the strongest. Alex makes me wanna get a scholarship so I can do art in college.”
Lauren with her tile mosaic piece
Lauren with her color pencil piece (taken from the same photograph)
11th grade, Brackenridge
“At first [my family] was surprised [I went into art], because my sister is an artist, and I thought I had no talent….I remember in 2nd grade, we had to draw an Indian, and after I did mine, everyone [said] ‘do mine! Do mine!’ The other kids’ were stick figures, but mine had a body, a costume, braids. I won a nationwide contest in 7th grade, a mestiza lady making maiz in a pueblo-type house. The prize was a trip to Mexico, I got to meet the President at that time…I took my grandma, since that’s her homeland, she’s from Coahuila. My next piece is a portrait of my Dad.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
(Lead Artist of upcoming First MOSAIC commissioned mosaic tile mural at San Juan Square Apartments on South Zarzamora St.)
“I want either of two things—to be an artist or a psychologist…a lot of teachers say I should go for art therapy. Color pencil was really difficult for me for a while, technically. I wanna try oils. My family’s happy, they’re like ‘it’s good you get paid for doing something you wanna do.’ Before [the MOSAIC program] I didn’t know much about contemporary art, I just knew I loved to draw.”
(Note: I don’t have any images for Michelle R.: Michelle, if you read this, I’m sorry! Also, please send me upcoming images of your San Juan Square Apartments commission, and of yourself, and I will feature the project in an upcoming post, Reach me at email@example.com)
After an exhaustive search, the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio have hired a new musical director in Troy Peters, currently the music director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra and conductor of the Middlebury College Orchestra. Present YOSA musical director Marlon Chen is retiring at the end of the season.
Peters, who’s also won acclaim in popular music circles as an orchestral collaborator with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, will relocate to San Antonio in August. While moving from the Vermont Youth Orchestra to YOSA might appear to be a lateral move, Peters says San Antonio’s diversity and larger size are significant factors.
“The big thing that was on my mind is that San Antonio is a city with a real diverse, kind of vibrant scene, it seems to me. And as a musician, the fact that it’s also close to Austin is of interest to me. So between the two, I felt like there was a lot of musical opportunities,” said Peters by phone today. “I’m really interested in, not only opportunities in classical music, but also in the way that different styles of music relate to each other and it seemed like a place where there was some receptiveness to that.”
Peters says Vermont has been great, but that it’s a small population with an inherently smaller music scene that can't match South Texas.
“The level of skill and the number of student musicians is not as high as it seems to be in San Antonio, so I think there’s more potential, musically, for the program at YOSA to grow a lot,” said Peters. He noted that YOSA has a great administrative staff and a national reputation, with executive director Steve Payne being someone people from other youth orchestras turn to when they have questions about how to put together projects.
Peters says he grew up playing rock, jazz and classical without putting a lot of walls between the styles and that he thinks a lot of young musicians now have that same attitude.
“I think it’s about not focusing on what the distinctions are, but focusing on what are the shared elements? Some of the work I’ve done has been built around that idea, especially of course the work I did with Trey Anastasio, has been about how the skills and perspectives that somebody has in one style of music can transfer and be explored in another style of music,” said Peters.
Peters says he and Anastasio shared some friends in the same circles in Vermont and that one day he heard Anastasio had an interest in classical music, particularly Ravel and Stravinsky, whom Peters also had an affinity for. So Peters sent him a letter saying that if he ever wanted to think about writing for orchestra, there was a great local group he could work with.
“Literally, I mailed that letter, and he called me the next day,” said Peters of the beginning of collaborations that have included several youth orchestra projects and recordings with Anastasio’s solo band. Peters says the first piece they did was purely orchestra, by Anastasio’s choice, as the guitarist wanted to focus on writing for orchestra.
“He was the composer and I was kind of collaborating with him on how to arrange for orchestra, how to deal with the notation and the number of instruments involved,” said Peters. “But I’ve done some of that work where somebody gives you something really simple and you do all the work for them, but with Trey it was a real collaboration, where he sat down and would present something… and we would refer to, there’s this spot in Bernstein or Ravel or Stravinksy, where this happens, and I want to have a similar kind of orchestration. He had a real knowledge of how the orchestra works, and I was just the guy helping him to find the details to get that in front of the orchestra and have it make sense.”
Peters says the stylistic table for YOSA is wide open, but that in the long term he’s very interested in how students collaborating with different styles can help them to explore new musical frontiers.
“I certainly wouldn’t rule out some of the people I’ve worked with in the past potentially being people we’re reaching out to, and I’ll be interested in looking at… artists who are in the region and what kind of relationships might make sense,” said Peters.
Will Peters’ presence here perhaps lure Anastasio to town to deliver one of his orchestral performances, such as the one happening May 21 in Baltimore?
“I would say that’s a conversation I might be having,” said Peters. “There’s certainly no firm plans at this point, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility.”
I'm thinking we should all go to this.
Pack your Xanex, cause tonight (Friday, March 27) we're heading to the Ortiz Ballroom to watch Heather Go Psycho, the self-billed "all-girl punk/rock band." They're currently one female bassist shy of supporting that claim, and are using stand-ins until they find one. I've yet to see a show at the Ortiz Ballroom (5139 West Ave.), but it sounds so exquisite, I'm contemplating renting a tuxedo. Ooh, I hope they have that fancy punch with the pineapple chunks floating in it. HGP will be joined tonight by locals Sinsa Frick and Terill Avenue. Doors open at 9 p.m., and there's a $5 cover. If you're doubting the level of actual psychosis, here's some video footage of Heather losing her shit:
Heather go Pyscho
Gonzalo Menendez – 12 Rounds
By Kiko Martinez
It only took Cuban actor Gonzalo Menendez one viewing of Arthur Miller’s Tony Award-winning play All My Sons while in college to decide he wanted to become an actor.
After studying at
Currently, Menendez (above right) can be seen in the action film 12 Rounds opposite WWE wrestler John Cena. In the film Menendez, 37, plays Ray Santiago, one of the special agents on the trail of an ex-con who has kidnapped the wife of a
12 Rounds opens today at a theater near you.
What is your first memory when you moved from
One of the more difficult things is getting used to the audition process. The first job I ever booked was on TV for
I saw that on your filmography, so I search for it on YouTube. Is that the episode shot as a Western?
That’s exactly it. I don’t know if you remember this at all, but Luke Perry [as Dylan McKay] at some point was going into regression therapy and going into past lives. In this particular episode [The Real McCoy], the therapist hypnotized him and he regressed into a persona from the Wild West. He was like a Billy the Kid-type character. I was one of the guys in his little gang that robbed banks. I lied my pants off in that audition. They asked me if I knew how to ride a horse and I said yes. I had no idea what I was doing, but I just wanted to work.
Including 90210 you’ve been on at least one episode of 26 different TV shows in the last 12 years. What has your experience been like transitioning into film?
Well, for this project, from top to bottom, I was working with some of the best people in the business. The producer is Mark Gordon, who did Speed and Saving Private Ryan and on TV does Grey’s Anatomy. He has a terrific reputation. Then we have director Renny Harlin who did Cliffhanger and Die Hard 3. Then there’s John Cena, who is the biggest superstar in wrestling. He is the Hulk Hogan and the Rock of his generation. It’s like being a good baseball player and then all of a sudden finding yourself playing for the Yankees. You look to the right and there’s Derek Jeter. You look to the left and there’s A-Rod. You’re just happy to be there and really want to be part of the ride.
What about the WWE as a production company? They really seem to be backing their wrestler’s acting aspirations. Do you think John Cena can be the next big action star?
Absolutely. He has all tools for it, not only physically but mentally he is a really bright guy. I don’t know if you watch any of the WWE wrestling shows, but all those interviews he does are totally off the top of his head. He is a very funny dude. He’s not just there to pick things up and throw them down. He has thoughts about the scenes and how they should be played. As far as the WWE, I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a little kid. I grew up watching Dusty Rhodes and Blackjack Mulligan. Anything involving wrestling, I’m there. If [WWE owner] Vince McMahon wants to put up money to make movies that are either going to go straight to DVD or be theatrical releases like 12 Rounds, I think it’s money well spent because he is a really bright guy and has done well so far. I think his business plan is going to work out just fine.
What is your fondest wrestling memory as a kid?
I use to drag my father out to the
I’m sure you would’ve loved to jump into a wrestling ring when you were a kid, but what about now? Could you go a few rounds with John Cena?
If they offered me the opportunity, I would take it in an absolute second. But you have to learn how to do it first. I asked John to teach me a couple of things when we were out having a couple of beers at a bar one night. I have to tell you, that boy is stronger than hell so I would have to beef up at least 20 lbs. before I end up eating the pavement again.
I know the answer’s probably not John Cena, but if there was anyone you could pick to go 12 rounds with who would it be?
Why don’t we just say 13 rounds and I’d love to come back and be Cena’s partner in the next one.
Gene Elder at the HAPPY Foundation archives, photo by Justin Parr.
Chris Forbrich photo by Chuck Kerr
Intro Note by Sarah Fisch:
Gene Elder is a conceptual artist and the archivist at the HAPPY Foundation. His interview series, "View of Reality From a Chartreuse Couch", has featured various art-world figures and has run in Voices of Art Magazine and elsewhere. You can read more about Gene in this story, and see another blog post by Gene here.
Chris Forbrich is runnning for City Council, District 1. You can read more about him in this story.
(ART) Chartreuse Couch w/ Chris Forbrich
View Of Reality From A Chartreuse Couch
My Own Private Idaho by Gene Elde______________________r
Interview with Chris Forbrich
Candidate for District One, San Antonio City Council
Questions from: Margaret King Stanley, Bill Sibley, Naomi Shihab, Joan Grona and David Rubin.
Gene: Chris!!! Thanks for coming and letting me ask you art questions. Several important people have sat right there where you are and survived. You can sign your name to the couch when we finish.
Chris: Thanks for having me Gene. I have heard this is a famous sofa. It is so great to get to visit today.
Gene: Yes, it is! Ok, first things first. You have a degree in something. What?
Chris: I have a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Information Systems from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Gene: Well, that sounds impressive. I'm sure people have run for City Council with less. I want to ask you some questions to educate our audience as much as help you get the artists' vote. So lets begin with the Hotel, Motel, Dotel Tax. How much about that do you understand at this point?
Chris: I have been doing my homework on this! The Hotel Occupancy Tax is a state law that allows county & municipal governments to collect a tax on hotel rentals based on price. The revenue that comes from this tax must be used for tourism. Based on San Antonio ’s Council-Manager form of government, there are some specific allocations that must be made for the Convention Center and visitor’s center of the city. Another common use of funding is for art. The intention of the funding for the arts is to encourage visitors to visit the city to experience the art community and their works. Many of the local artists live and create right here in District 1.
Gene: As well as District 1 has the majority of art institutions.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Oh I hear the phone already. Let me get that. Hi Margaret! It's Margaret King Stanley. She works with education with the Opera Guild. She would like to speak with you.
Margaret: Hi Gene. Hi Chris. I am pleased to know that you are committed to the arts. I do work with the Opera Guild and I am glad to say that the Guild recently welcomed over 1700 students in area schools to an opera performance at the Lila Cockrell Theatre. We provided teachers' guides and CDs of the opera in advance. The students were so attentive you could almost hear a pin drop at the three hour performance. Who knows, one of those attending may decide to be the next star of opera or Broadway. Do you agree that these activities are important for our children? And will you support such endeavors as a councilman?
Chris: Hi Margaret! This is a great program. Last night, while visiting with neighbors at Monte Vista's Third Thursday, several ladies were discussing this very event with me. Exposing children to the arts early on will help them have a better appreciation of artists, culture and creativity. Our school system has a strong focus on practical skills to prepare students for college and a career, but run short on funds to give the students a real understanding. As a councilman, I would fully support this and many other programs related to the arts.
Margaret: We believe the Guild's introduction to opera for these students is vital in their education and their future. Some of the kids had never been to a big theatre or heard a big orchestra before.
Chris: I totally agree. Opera, along with theater, sculpting, music, painting and other mediums for artistic expression are so important. Through middle school and high school, I was a violinist with my school's orchestra. The experience made a profound impact on my view of art. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a class on painting. Through these classes, I had first hand experience of what they meant and how talented those that perform them really are. Thank you for working with these children and making a difference in their lives.
Margaret: And Gene I would like to add this for people to think about. Today more and more scientists are proving how important the arts are to “brain power.” I understand that AT&T has stated that they “look for artists” to hire because creative types are the people who are needed to "fill the 21st century jobs." In March, 2008 the Dana Consortium showed that students of the arts outperform their non-arts peers on SAT tests.
Gene: GO ARTISTS!!! GET 'EM, GET'EM!!! GET THAT BALL!!
Margaret: Yes, and recently, I heard Dr. Robert Duron, Superintendent of SAISD, say that he believes arts education drives academic achievement. So you are thinking in the right direction.
Gene: Thank you Margaret for calling. You always have great ideas to offer.... Well, while we are on the subject of education, I just want to say that I do believe in Intelligent Design, and the more intelligent the design the more I worship it. I just don't believe it should be taught in science class. They should be teaching it where it belongs, in art class. Which makes me want to ask; "Why doesn't every one of our schools have an art class?" Talk amongst yourselves.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: I see we have Bill Sibley on the line. Hello Bill. You have a question for Chris?
Bill: Yes, Hi Chris. According to a recent New York Times article, states like Michigan are aggressively pursuing film productions by offering up to 42% incentive returns on production costs. How might we stimulate a similar economic package here in San Antonio to (once again) lure back those out-of-state film companies to come here and spend their money?
(EDITORIAL NOTE: A step in the right direction was made yesterday morning, when Film Incentive Enhancement Bill HB 873, filed on January 29, 2009 by Representative Dawnna Dukes, was passed by the Texas House of Representatives. It must still go through the Senate — Sarah Fisch)
Chris: Hi Bill! What a great question. Bringing the film industry back to San Antonio is a great idea to stimulate the local economy and provide creative outlets here in town. There have been several commercial films that were shot here in San Antonio and it is a shame that more are not. San Antonio is so versatile. With many vacant buildings around town, the city should look at creating a partnership with landowners of vacant properties to provide some workspace for film producers. There are a number of things we can do for the film industry in San Antonio from public and private resources.
Gene: As you may know, Bill is a writer and has several film scripts to his name. I have an idea for you to help with your campaign. I picked up this brochure from the library about the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is the One City One Book program they do every year. What you need to do is carry a stack of these around with you and pass them out while you campaign. That is a way to make your run for City Council more interesting. That is one of the things I would do when I ran for Mayor on the Party Party Ticket, the artists' political ticket. That was in 1979. Maybe you could be a Party Party candidate.
Chris: These days, party politics are not allowed in city government, but I do want everyone to know that I am the pro arts candidate.
Gene: Well, it's not like it's a real political party. GIRRRRRRL!?
Well, moving right along.
Chris: Gene, what do you think attracts the arts community to San Antonio?
Gene: Sex. And money. And Mexican food. The same as everybody else. Now, you attended Luminaria. What was your opinion of that?
Chris: I think Luminaria is an innovative event for San Antonio. Walking through the different exhibits and performances showed the volume of creative flair that San Antonio has. The crowds, from all over San Antonio, were able to experience our art community’s possibilities for all of its glory. Bill FitzGibbons’ work with light really started a movement in the city and one that I hope continues for many years.
Gene: You pick a topic. What event did you like this year?
Chris: There are so many presentations throughout the year. I enjoyed the On Fred Off Fred tour and the recent photo exhibit at the Joan Grona Gallery. I am hoping this weekend to see the Classic Theater's production of Twelfth Night at Jump Start Theater. I have heard promising reviews. Another event that I would encourage, and have been talking to residents in the Alta Vista Neighborhood about, is having an annual Acoustic Music Festival in San Pedro Park. San Pedro Park is our oldest park. Alta Vista neighbors want creative uses for the park and have suggested this festival.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi Naomi. It's Naomi Shihab Nye, our favorite poet.
Naomi: I would like to know your honest thoughts about Main Plaza?
Chris: I think that Main Plaza was revitalized with the best of intentions. My issue is that the project creates traffic congestion, wheelchair accessibility problems, going grossly over budget, and it isn’t very green.
Gene: And you have an art statement. We need to know about that.
Chris: Absolutely. I want people to know that I am serious about the arts here in San Antonio. Just this last week, I issued a statement regarding my position on the arts. The statement, which is posted on my website at http://www.chrisforbrich.com , asks those that agree with my stance to email us their names and we will add their names to the platform. We have had an overwhelming number of responses regarding the statement.
Gene: Well, add my name. And about controversy in the arts. Every so often someone does something that upsets certain religious groups. And they start attacking the funding source. How would you handle a sticky situation like that?
Chris: Art can be controversial and I would never want to have the government tell an artist what is or isn’t appropriate. I do think though, that allocating art monies to neighborhood projects, festivals and community events is a good way to make sure that all points of view on a controversial piece are open and discussed. Interpreting the artist’s intent is part of the fun of it.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi Joan. It's Joan Grona with a question.
Joan: As you know, I have a contemporary art gallery at the Blue Star Art Complex. When tourists visit the gallery their complaint is that they could not get information on where they could find “Art” in San Antonio. They inquire at the hotels and the information center across from the Alamo. Can something be done about this?
Chris: Thanks for bringing that to my attention Joan. Concerns like these need to be addressed. I don’t know the answer right off hand, but I appreciate you making me aware of the issue. The first thing I would do is speak with the people at hotels and the visitors’ center and see what can be done.
Gene: Thanks Joan and I will see you at First Thursday. I do an art performance piece at her gallery openings where I pretend I'm a bartender and pour wine for her guests.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi David! It's David Rubin with a question. David is the art curator for SAMA.
David: Currently, San Antonio is one of the few cities in the U.S. where the creative class (artists, poets, musicians, etc.) can afford to live and work. It used to be that way in San Francisco, but then the dot com-ers took over, rents went up, and the artists were priced out and had to leave. What will you do to prevent that from happening in San Antonio?
Chris: David, you are right, that is a real problem. Not only for the artists but for many people who are getting priced out of their neighborhoods. This will have to be a group effort. It has to do with real estate prices and taxes and I am open for any good suggestions. Artists need to take control of their lives as well as rely on others to provide opportunities. I would think the best place to start is to see what other cities have done and how those solutions fit San Antonio's needs.
Gene: Yeah! Artists are people too! Thanks David. I recommend the Richard Florida book, Who's Your City. And thank you Chris for adding your karma to the Chartreuse Couch and I'm sure all artists will be glad to know you will be our new councilman. I always let my guest have the last question. So you ask me something.
Chris: Gene, are you ready for a New Day for District 1?
Gene: I have been ready for a new day since day one.
A GayBLT(A-Z)History Archives
A Letter from Estonia
Karen Mahaffy is a San Antonio artist, an instructor at Palo Alto College, and the recipient (twice, mind you!), of a Fulbright travel grant.
…Y’all ever heard of this place, “Estonia”? I barely had, but that’s where Karen is now. Whilst there, Karen is having some amazing thoughts, making some very keen observations, and taking some gorgeous photos, which I have her permission to share.
She's a terrific writer in addition to being an amazing artist. Here are the first two “chapters” in a new era of CurBlog guest-blogdom, the “Eesti Buroo Correspondent Mahaffy.” All photos are by Karen, except where noted.
CurBlog's going to have several posts by Karen, so if you have any questions or remarks about Estonia/Karen/the Fulbright/etc, be sure to comment on this post!
In late spring of 2007, I sat at my desk daydreaming of escape from my routine; a familiar feeling of wanderlust creeping up. So, mostly as a measure of escape in itself, I began researching ways to make some extended travel an affordable reality. Eventually, I realized that I was eligible once again to apply for a Fulbright program - I had participated in a Fulbright-Hays Group travel to China in 2004 - and immediately and for the next two months poured over the awards list for the Fulbright Scholars Grant 2008-09 academic year. (This list can be searched by area/country or by discipline; some grants are discipline specific and others are open.) While perusing the list for awards in the Arts, I landed on one for lecture/research in Estonia and subsequently applied.
I have had a lot of people ask me why I chose Estonia (of all places)… my best and shortest answer is, “Why not?” A longer answer is that the more I researched Estonia – including first locating it on the map which I found having to do very intriguing - the more I realized I knew next to nothing about this part of the world in spite of its incredible history and recent emergence onto the global stage…the more I realized that this where I needed to come.
Estonia is a country of about 1.3 million people and is, according to the CIA World Factbook, slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined. It is also comparable in size to Denmark but with one quarter the population. It is said that you can drive from one side to the other in 4-5 hours, without rushing mind you, but it is also said that, “it is much larger on the inside”. In its tiny acreage, Estonia offers landscapes as varied as primordial forests, bog lands and coastal bluffs, all of which I hope to see. Coming here from one of the largest states in the US, I am interested how this intimate national scale could inform a sense of personal space or affect one’s worldview.
Geographically considered Eastern Europe, the Republic of Estonia (Essti Vabariik), along with its Baltic cousins, Latvia and Lithuania, sits between Europe, Scandinavia and Russia. And although influences from each of these cultures are evident, Estonia holds a distinct cultural identity.
Evidence of human inhabitants in Estonia date back over 10,000 years to early fishing and hunting tribes, which appeared just after the Ice Age. It is thought that the name Estonia (Eesti) was derived from the description of the Aesti people by the Roman historian Tacitus in his text Germania written ca. 98 CE. Estonia has been ruled or occupied by other cultures since the 13th century (including Denmark, Sweden, Teutonic and Nazi Germany and Tsarist and Soviet Russia) until the reestablishment of its independence in August 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet regime. Its initial, but short-lived, independence was declared between the World Wars - following the Estonian War of Independence - on February 24, 1918. This date is still celebrated as the national Independence Day. This period of National Enlightenment and cultural reawakening was soon squelched, with the signing of a non-aggression treaty between Germany and Russia (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1938) which saw to redivide the “properties” which lay between the two major powers. The years following resulted in occupations by both powers and the forcible annexation of Estonia into the USSR, which was never legally recognized by the international community.
Despite its tumultuous history, Estonia has reemerged into its independent Republic state intact as a unique and nuanced culture. It has not only maintained and renewed its own customs, styles and mythologies but its own language. Estonian (eesti keel) which is one of the Finno-Urgic languages, is most closely related to Finnish. I have picked up a few polite phrases but do not have much of an opportunity to use them as a large portion of the population of Tallinn (the capital and largest city) also speak English.
Through this travel blog over the next four months, I am hoping to share cultural information as well as an intimate experience of my time in Estonia and surrounding regions. I hope you enjoy.
II. NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG LADIES
I have been here in Tallinn, Estonia for one month now and I suppose that it is high time that I begin to convey my experience so far into the best words I can muster. I can sense already that some of what I am about to write in this initial entry is going to read as negative but please bear with me…it’s not.
I would like to start by confirming that the experience of being alone in a foreign place can be just that…lonely and foreign. But let me follow immediately by stating that I think it’s unfortunate that both these words can conjure a negative reaction. Although, a sense of both isolation and the unfamiliar can be very acute, I would hope for nothing less. An experience consisting only of warm cafes and accommodating people would not be much to write about and would probably just mean that I had not been here long enough for the shine to disappear from that penny (or kroon as the case may be).
Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is an amazingly lovely place and its intact sense of history and importance could be lost on no one. I have spent hours wandering quietly, contentedly, along the streets of the Old Town and ventured well past the city walls. (More on walking later…) Inside the unavoidable process of witnessing the touristic aspects of the monumental (thank you Boris Groys) in a historic city such as this, I see and continually seek the minor and fleeting aspects of it; the unpreserved and relatively temporary places which are simply the accumulation of necessity. These are by far my favorite brand of place.
I find myself here, for the first time in 15 plus years, without community (and anyone from San Antonio knows what kind of community I am used to). I have very little contact with anyone in my immediate context - aside from the occasional invitation from a colleague or the infrequent administrative email or meeting which are slow in coming and have produced little to date in the way of lectures or meaningful conversation. So, while waiting for the slow churn that is my Estonia, so far, I am left to my own devices… I have chosen to take this purely as an unexpected gift and an opportunity to search for unforeseen reasons for being here.
I have frankly never felt more afloat and without obligation (other than my own internal Midwestern need to be purposeful). And, although this is unsettling for me to experience for a period longer than expected, it has had a beauty and wonder and even a listlessness I can only relate (in my adult life) to childhood - with time to sit and stare at nothing in particular, listen to the church bells chime and even begin to dare to be bored.
(above photo courtesy Michele Monseau)
It has been difficult to communicate these distinct feelings to friends and family with the sense of wonderment which I think they deserve without words of consolation or advice returning to me through whatever cyber connection we are on. (But that’s what loved ones do for you, thank goodness!) But, rather than wanting to “solve” the situation, I want to embrace all aspects of the experience before it comes to an abrupt end or slips away into some vague recollection of my first weeks here.
I have now been here long enough that my situation is known, my immediate environment explored, the city mentally mapped and resources discovered to a degree of comfort. I am ,of course, nowhere near finished with any of this but the newness has passed and has become daily life. I find myself now in a transition from tourist to resident…
7:15 p.m. - Exhilarated by an afternoon of great music, my
friends and I sought out even more, a nighttime of activities ahead of us. We
walked to the Bat Bar in the Austin Convention Center to find out the scheduled
shows for that evening and possibly score tickets to Echo and the Bunnymen the
The wonders of air conditioning awaited us as well as comp tickets to see L.A. synth-rockers, Shiny Toy Guns. Whereas the first album, We Are Pilots, relied on 80s keyboards and even trance and electro dance, it was apparent from the setlist at the Bat Bar the band had headed in a new musical direction, leaving behind much of the electronic flourishes in favor of emo guitars. The group looked great, however, and was in fine form when it came to inter-song banter.
First, go to this youtube clip and watch the "cockroach poet"/bebop hipster/native Tejano/human rights activist raúlrsalinas perform with a terrific backing band, including Manny Castillo.
Photo/altar by Jane Madrigal.
Now hear this: what with National Poetry Month (otherwise known as "April") almost underway, here's an event you verse-sters should investigate; a poetry contest in memory of raúlrsalinas, who died last month at the age of 73.
Here is more info, from the contest organizers:
"We remember you, ese!
RAUL R. SALINAS
March 17, 1934 - February 13, 2008
The Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press and Red Salmon Arts seek submissions for the
As a way to honor the late Xicanindio poet activist the Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press (San Diego, Califas) and Red Salmon Arts (Austin, Tejas) have teamed up to create the raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest. The Redz seek material from authors whose poetry best reflects the lifework and interests of raúlrsalinas, including Native and immigrant rights, the Chicano Movement, Black Power, prison struggles, political prisoners, Leonard Peltier, Mumia abu-Jamal, social movements, EZLN, Cuba, independence of Puerto Rico, the Beat writers, and of course jazz, amongst many other issues related to culture, human rights, community empowerment and social justice.
Raul was an inspiration for many. This effort is a way to keep that inspiration alive.
raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest
The raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest seeks work by Chican@, Latin@ and Native poets between the ages of 18-35 who have not graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing, nor are currently enrolled in an MFA program. Poets also must not have a collection of poems published by a small or large press exceeding 64 pages. Self published books, being published in anthologies and/or on the internet is ok. Previously published work will be accepted only if author has full rights to work. Please indicate with submission wether work was previously published.
To enter the raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest authors must submit via email the following:
1) Ten poems written in caló, Spanglish, English o en español
2) A short essay describing your community work
3) A short bio in third person
4) Personal info: full name (and pen name if applicable), age, occupation, education, address, phone number, email, and website
Please send as 2 separate Microsoft Word files using Helvetica font size 12. One file with poems and the other with personal info, bio and essay.
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline: May 1, 2009
Contest results will be publicly announced by the end of June 2009.
The winner will be determined by a three judge panel including:
Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D. - Editor of raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen
Rene Valdez - Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts
Brent E. Beltrán - Co-owner of Calaca Press and member of the Red CalacArts Collective
The judges will be looking for the following:
1) Well written poems whose themes and subject matter relate to the lifework and interests of raúlrsalinas
2) Creative use of language
3) Your community work
The chapbook will be edited by Cal A. Vera who will have final decision (with input from the author) on title, chapbook contents, layout, and cover art. All ten submitted pieces may or may not be used. The editor may ask for revisions or even for alternative poems prior to publication.
1000 copies of the chapbook will be printed. Winner will receive 100 copies. The chapbook will be approximately 40 pages (give or take four).
Winner must own publication rights to submitted work. Author retains all rights to poems after publication of chapbook.
Depending on budget constraints the contest winner will be flown to, and read at, two chapbook release readings (one in San Diego and the other in Austin) and receive an honorarium of $250 for each. Readings will be scheduled for September 2009.
More about raúlrsalinas and the judges:
raúlrsalinas, the author of the seminal Chicano experience poem, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, was not only an accomplished poet but a dedicated community activist who gained a political consciousness while serving approximately 13 years inside some of America’s most notorious prisons (Huntsville, Soledad, and Leavenworth among others). While in prison at Marion he was befriended by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda (famed for an armed assault on congress on March 1, 1954 with fellow Nationalists including Lolita Lebron). Sr. Miranda was a major influence on Raúl’s lifework. Imprisoned during the early Chicano Movement years he was active in the prison rights struggles of that time. His book, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen: Selected Writings by Raúl Salinas highlights his struggles and victories inside America’s prison system. Including winning a landmark prison rights case. After his release from prison in 1973 he dedicated his life to Chicano and Native American causes. He was a member of the Centro de la Raza in Seattle, the American Indian Movement, a cofounder of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and various other progressive organizations dedicated to defending the rights and interests of all working class and colonized people. A true internationalist he was committed to supporting Puerto Rican independence, the Cuban Revolution, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the Bolivarian Process of Presidente Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela among many other struggles. After serving many years of forced exile in Washington state (where he helped defend Native American fishing rights), he eventually returned to his home in Austin, TX. Shortly thereafter he opened Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Arts which became a cultural and political hub for East Austin’s Chicano community. Raúl authored four poetry collections Viaje/Trip (Hellcoal Press), East of the Freeway (Red Salmon Press), Un Trip Through The Mind Jail (Arte Público Press) and Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey through Indian Country (Wings Press) as well as three spoken word CDs Los Many Mundos of raúlrsalinas: Un Poetic Jazz Viaje con Friends (Calaca Press/Red Salmon Press), Beyond the BEATen Path (Red Salmon Press) and Red Arc: A call for liberation con salsa y cool with Fred Ho (Wings Press).
Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include Chicana/o Literary and Cultural studies, U.S. immigration literature, prison literature, and oral histories. Dr. Mendoza is the editor or coeditor of four books including: Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience (Red Salmon Press/Calaca Press, 2006) and raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen (University of Texas Press, 2006). He is currently working on two books related to his 2007 Journey Across Our America research project on U.S. Latina/o communities that he conducted while bicycling around the perimeter of the country.
Rene Valdez is the Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts and Resistencia Bookstore in Austin, Tejas. A long time protégé of raúlrsalinas, Mr. Valdez continues the work Raul started at Red Salmon and Resistencia.
Brent E. Beltrán aka Cal A. Vera is a spinal injury surviving, third generation pocho and Chicano Studies community college dropout who dishes out the word from Calacalandia in National City, Califas. Along with his super hero wife Chelo, and fellow Red CalacArts Collective member, he runs the maverick Chican@ publishing house Calaca Press. Lacking two tongues himself he has committed the last 10+ years of his life to publishing rebellious writers whose work dances somewhere between the ever shifting boundaries of Castellano and the King's English. To date he has published/produced work by over 100 different authors and artists.
For more information on Red CalacArts, Calaca and Red Salmon:
Red CalacArts Collective
P.O. Box 2309
National City, Califas 91951
(619) 434-9036 phone/fax
Just this morning I sat down for a one on one interview with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns who is in town promoting his upcoming project about American National Parks. The conversation covered a variety of topics - past projects, working methods, and yes, a bit of the criticism leveled against him from various groups for feeling excluded from his documentaries, including a blog by a former San Antonian that takes it's name from this very issue. Burns was happy to defend himself on this issue. I never saw the WWII documentary so I'm not able to comment either way on the issue.
I probably won't be popular for saying this but I like Ken Burns' documentaries. Of course they aren't perfect, but he does things I still find interesting - he shoots on 16mm film, he has an elegant style, and his narrative structures are often effective.
Here it is...
Greg M. Schwartz
What a great week in Austin for the 2009 SXSW conference and festival. It was an honor and privilege to be down on the scene for such a great event, with Austin proving once again that it has one of the greatest music scenes on the planet. Walking down Sixth Street at certain times was like being barraged with a zillion radio channels at once, with music coming from everywhere - no escape!
The musical lineup provided just about everything a fan could hope for in such a multi-day extravaganza — the chance to see some big bands in unusually small settings (METALLICA), the chance to see some up and coming bands that you’ve been wanting to check out but hadn’t caught yet, plus a plethora of opportunity to discover new bands that you weren’t familiar with. This could happen via recommendation from randomly chatting up other attendees or it could happen just by randomly winding up in the right place at the right time, which is always a treat.
The other cool thing about SXSW is how there’s so much going on that you could send ten people to cover it and get back ten totally different reports. There were somewhere around 1,900 bands playing over five days! I didn’t make it for much in the way of daytime conference events due to other demands, but felt duty-bound to see as much music as possible in the evenings.
Wednesday March 18
The first band I was able to catch was The Heartless Bastards at Stubb’s BBQ. The more I visit Stubb’s, the more I am convinced that it is one of the finest concert venues in the world. It’s decent sized yet still intimate (2,100 capacity), has a great sound system, is easy to get around, has plenty of bars, good food for cheap with pulled pork tacos going for just $2.50 and has a breezy outdoor vibe. It’s no wonder it’s the nighttime epicenter of SXSW.
The Heartless Bastards rocked a big sound, especially on “The Mountain,” the title track from their latest album, which soars with pedal steel guitar on top of a Zeppish garage rock sound and the booming pipes of guitarist/vocalist Erika Wennerstrom. But since I’d just seen the band at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio last month, I bailed early to head over to Maggie May’s on Sixth Street to catch San Antonio’s own Girl in a Coma.
The all-girl punk trio were rocking the lower room with high energy, especially singer/guitarist Nina Diaz, who seemed like a woman possessed, with her wide-eyed and powerful vocals often appearing as if they were being channeled from a past life as a Yaqui medicine woman or something. This gal has got some mojo working. Bassist Jen Silva and drummer Phanie Diaz were rocking it hard too, but the band was unfortunately battling a weak sound system that robbed their music of its full power.
The sound system in Maggie May’s lower room has a mere one speaker on each side of the stage, which gave the band a thin sound, especially in comparison to the big sound the Heartless Bastards were putting out at Stubb’s. Later shows at the Convention Center’s Bat Bar with its booming sound system that is actually way too big and loud for such a small space had me wishing that Girl in a Coma had been given a better draw on venues. But the girls gave it their all, with a set mostly focused on tunes from their upcoming new album that rocked hard and kept the audience’s eyes glued to the stage. I’ll be looking forward to their CD release show in San Antonio at the end of May.
After Girl in a Coma, it was back over to Stubb’s, where I wanted to catch The Avett Brothers and then The Decemberists. But a lot of other people had the same idea. The Avetts went on at 11 p.m., but I spent most of the 11 o’clock hour waiting in the badge line to get back in and the only bit of the Avetts I caught was what I heard from afar. But the North Carolina trio has a new album produced by Rick Rubin coming out this year which I suspect will be a good one. For more on the Avetts, see my review of a San Francisco show they played last year.
There was a big buzz for The Decemberists, with postcards being passed out announcing that their set would consist of their new album, The Hazards of Love, in its entirety. The place was absolutely packed and I soon understood why. This was my first time seeing the Portland band, but it sure won’t be the last. The album had the feel of a rock opera of sorts, with the dynamic array of songs smoothly flowing one into each other. Lead vocalist/guitarist Colin Meloy is the ringleader of the band, but it seemed like a democratic affair, with a variety of female vocalists and other instrumentalists all receiving a share of the spotlight. The tunes varied from heavy rock to pop rock to wistful melancholia, percussion jams, quite a varied affair. You could tell the band members were psyched to be delivering these goods, and it made for a memorable ending to Wednesday night’s festivities.
Thursday March 19
I heard that Quincy Jones’ keynote speech on Thursday afternoon covered a wide variety of interesting ground, but I was otherwise detained slogging through the voluminous files that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has regarding the toxicity issues surrounding the former Kelly AFB in San Antonio (this was a working trip after all.)
I must say I like Jones’ idea about having Uncle Sam create a Secretary of the Arts position, as well as his viewpoint on how musicians “are conduits” for a “higher power.”
After spending all day in TCEQ’s Central File Room, I was ready to rock and made my way back over to the Convention Center to catch The Von Bondies at the Bat Bar, one of several venues set up right in the Convention Center for video taping of performances. The Detroit indie-alt rock band rocked loud and hard, perhaps a bit too loud considering the smaller capacity of the room. This space couldn’t have held more than 500 people or so, yet had the same type of huge sound system that you see at venues like Stubb’s or the Fillmore. Or maybe The Von Bondies just turned it up a bit too much. If you didn’t have earplugs, the band’s talent was somewhat obscured by the ear-crushing volume.
But the quartet rocked out with a tight precision, and it’s always nice to see bands that have a 50/50 male-female mix. Lead guitarist/vocalist Jason Stollsteimer is the frontman, but the band was at its best when bassist Leann Blanks and rhythm guitarist Christy Hunt were contributing their sugary power-pop vocals to the mix. Drummer Don Blum was also a force to be reckoned with.
I was about to exit the Convention Center to look into some other matters when a gal who was entering informed me that I would be missing out if I didn’t catch The Airborne Toxic Event in The Bat Bar at 8 p.m. Turns out she works with the band, so she wasn’t exactly the most objective observer. But upon being queried about the band, she described them as having a singer with a David Bowie-esque vibe, as well as having a female violin player. That sounded interesting, so it was back into The Bat Bar to catch the Silverlake, Calif., act.
The band’s name sounds like the type of environmental disaster I’d been researching earlier in the day at TCEQ, but their vibrant sound turned out to be one of the most pleasant new discoveries of the week. The band are actually label mates with The Von Bondies, but have a much different sound. They delivered a dynamic set that had the packed Bat Bar’s full attention, with lead vocalist Mikel Jollett sounding like a star in the making. His band delivers a rich sound behind him, combing elements that recall such acts as the Arcade Fire, the Strokes and indeed David Bowie. The band is not as hard rocking as The Von Bondies, but rather has a up-tempo, feel good vibe that fans could also dance to. Violinist Anna Bulbrook exuded an uplifting charisma as she joyfully added her sound into the mix, with a big smile on her face throughout the triumphant set, and why not? This band is clearly going places.
It was back to Stubb’s afterwards for one of my personally most anticipated sets of the week with The Meat Puppets. Guitarist/vocalist Curt Kirkwood sounded fantastic, ripping off smoking hot leads on almost every tune while bassist/brother Cris Kirkwood sounded great as well, combining with drummer Ted Marcus to form one of the hardest hitting rhythm sections of the week. The Meat Puppets are a power trio in the best sense of the term.
Originally out of Phoenix, the band now calls Austin home. The alt-rock trio were a little known but hugely influential band upon the alternative rock explosion of the early ‘90s, as none other than Kurt Cobain covered three of the band’s songs in Nirvana’s acclaimed MTV unplugged performance, even inviting the Kirkwoods onstage. It was particularly heart-warming to see bassist Cris in such fine form, since he had been out of the band for a number of years before 2007, battling substance abuse problems.
With that rock solid rhythm section behind him, Curt Kirkwood tore it up with his melty, echoed leads contributing a tasty dose of alt-style psychedelia to the SXSW mix. “Plateau” was an early highlight, with most of the crowd probably thinking it was a Nirvana song, and Kurt’s spirit most certainly seemed present. Later the band also threw down “Lake of Fire” in a more up-tempo, rocking version than the haunting arrangement that Cobain delivered. The set was a pure triumph.
I skipped Gomez to go meet some friends on Sixth Street who wanted to see a hip-hop act, a venture which turned out to be a mixed bag. Let’s just say that Austin’s finest are to be commended for taking a tourist friendly approach to law enforcement that encourages festival goers to want to come back instead of feeling like the cops are out to hassle people.
I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Andrew Bird, but feared I might have trouble getting back into Stubb’s for Ben Harper & Relentless7 if I didn’t get in early. Bird’s set was not bad, although his softer indie-folk sound seemed like it would have been better suited for a smaller club than the bigger audience at Stubb’s. He’s played big festies like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza though, so he must be doing something right. But his sound didn’t particularly grab me, although melodic whistling in a pop context is always cool.
Ben Harper & Relentless7 saw Harper putting his Innocent Criminals on hiatus and unveiling a brand new band composed of Texas-based friends. Harper is going to deliver the hard rocking, soulful goods no matter who’s backing him up, but this band definitely brought the heat. “Shimmer and Shine,” the lead single from the group’s impending debut album White Lies for Dark Times, rocked the house early with a powerful sound as Harper threw down his signature bluesy slide work and gritty, soulful vocals.
With a setlist focused on the new material, the performance couldn’t deliver the sing-along unity of the greatest hits-type affair that Harper and the Innocent Criminals delivered at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival last August.
But SXSW is generally considered to be the place for bands to deliver new material, so the crowd wasn’t expecting to hear a bunch of old stuff and was into the new material. Harper and his new mates more than rose to the occasion by throwing down a 90-minute set of high-energy tunes, whereas the average SXSW performance was about 45 minutes. The band also threw in a great cover of the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure” that was a festival highlight.
Sixth Street circa 2 a.m. was still a thriving nexus of activity, with music fans pouring out of every venue looking either for food or to connect with others to plot further late night adventures.
Friday March 20
Since there’s way more music than a single human being can hope to catch, tough choices are a constant obstacle to navigate at an event like SXSW. I’m looking forward to the day when human bio-evolution gives us all some powers like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen so that I can be in more than one place at a time. But until then, it takes strategy. You’ve gotta decide what your top priorities are and then augment with whatever else is near by. If you’re all about seeing a certain band on the east side at a certain time, then it’s just not really going to be feasible to catch artists you might like to see at Antone’s or La Zona Rosa, way on the other side of downtown, in adjacent time slots.
My musical activities on Friday started at 5 p.m. by catching Ben Harper & Relentless7 again at the Convention Center’s Bat Bar. This was too good a band at too convenient a location not to see them again. And just as in the previous night, the band surpassed expectations by throwing down a lengthier set (75 minutes this time) than was the norm for that stage.
This caused the set by Third Eye Blind at the adjacent Lone Star Lounge that was scheduled for 6 p.m. to be slightly delayed, but it was worth the wait. The San Francisco pop rockers were often on the receiving end of critical derision as “corporate rock” sellouts when they first hit the scene about a decade ago, and I had long considered them something of a guilty pleasure myself. I never bought their albums and had never seen them live, but always found myself turning up the radio when their songs would come on the airwaves. So I was intrigued to check them out.
It was interesting here to catch the band’s brief sound check before the audience was admitted. Several media folks attempted to take pictures, but were told by a stagehand to please not take pictures during the sound check. Singer Stephan Jenkins showed some sincere humility by thanking the folks for just being interested in trying to snap some shots.
Once the doors opened, the room quickly filled up with eager fans who went on to display one of the highest levels of enthusiasm that I witnessed all week. I soon found out why — Third Eye Blind not only write some darn catchy tunes, they rock them out with a tightness that makes those hooks hit home even deeper.
The band tossed in a couple of their hits, but the set was mostly focused on tunes from their new album and it’s clearly going to be a strong one. Jenkins’ down-to-earth and even socially conscious lyrics demonstrated that he’s anything but a stuck up rock star, and is actually a sincere and humble artist of a high caliber. “Red Star” epitomized the band’s current sound with a melodic rocker where Jenkins sang with heartfelt emotion while guitarist Tony Fredianelli filled in with tasty licks in all the right places. Drummer Brad Hargreaves is a beast and the bassist who currently goes unnamed at the band’s site displayed pure coolness while delivering one of the warmest, clearest bass tones of the week (whereas many bands suffered from somewhat muddy bass in the mix.)
“Why Can’t You Be” was another winner, as Jenkins introduced some comic relief by explaining the song as a tale of how he’d told an ex-girlfriend that he thought he was her first true love and she had responded that her first love was with a high-powered shower nozzle. The song takes a he said/she said lyrical approach and the comic overtones combined with the emotions from a breakup made for one of the most uniquely compelling tunes of the week. “Non-Dairy Creamer” was another standout, with Jenkins saying the melodic rocker was about being fake versus real, with lyrics that encourage conscious consumerism — take that “corporate rock” critics!
I would have liked to have seen Austin supergroup The Arc Angels at the Auditorium Shores Stage at 8 p.m., but that would have been both a lengthy hike and a conflict with Bassnectar and the Silversun Pickups at Stubb’s. Not to mention the semi-secret performance from Metallica that was to follow. I had also caught The Arc Angels in December at Antone's, although I would suspect their SXSW performance was a better show.
I got into Stubb’s right at 8 p.m. looking forward to catching Bassnectar, a trip-hop DJ whose rep has been booming in the jam scene. But Stubb’s entire schedule for the evening wound up getting moved up an hour, so I missed Bassnectar altogether but arrived just in time to see The Silversun Pickups takes the stage for a hot set of the guitar-driven alt rock that made the Silverlake, Calif., rockers one of the breakout artists of 2007.
The new “Panic Switch” from the band’s upcoming Swoon album picks up where Carnavas left off, with Brian Aubert’s guitar alternating between atmospheric and crunchy, while bassist Nikki Monninger and drummer Christopher Guanlao hold down a mean low end. Keyboardist Joe Lester augmented the sound with keyboard psychedelia as the band heated things up for that impending Metallica set. Guanlao is an absolute monster, and it’s his rhythmic fury that really brings on those Smashing Pumpkins comparisons. Monninger’s infectious energy doesn’t hurt either.
Aubert confirmed what everyone already knew, which was that the band would be followed not just by a mere “Guitar Hero Metallica Madness Competition,” but rather by a full performance from the masters of metal themselves. He admitted to being slightly daunted at the opening task, but the Silversun Pickups did an admirable job in pumping up the energy with their hit “Lazy Eye,” which delivered a frenetic sonic assault that ended their well-received set with a flourish.
There was already a good crowd but it filled in even more now. Three winners of the Guitar Hero competition, the Metallica version of which is soon to be released, got to take the stage and play a Metallica tune as a plastic power trio, surely a thrill for any music geek. But it was nothing compared to the sonic thunder when Metallica hit the stage with a one-two gut punch of “Creeping Death” and “For the Whom the Bell Tolls," both from 1984's seminal Ride the Lightning. Heads were banging and fists were pumping at the rare thrill of seeing an arena rock behemoth like Metallica in such an unusually intimate setting. Lars Ulrich was his usual dominating self on the skins, while guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett reveled in throwing down some of the heaviest riffs in music history. Bassist Robert Trujillo no longer seems like “the new guy” either, holding down that massive low end just like those who preceded him.
It wasn’t quite the typical Metallica crowd of course, with so many industry folks present, but there was still a high level of energy in the crowd as the band threw down a mix of classic hits as well as some strong material from their new album Death Magnetic. New tunes like the dynamic “Cyanide” certainly conjure a similar feel as some of the band's classic material, with this one having a killer riff that recalls 1988's “Shortest Straw.”
“We are a young band from Norway... and we want get signed,” guitarist James Hetfield joked early in the set with a very fake accent. The upstairs VIP section looked packed as well, with such stars as Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction (who played their own secret guest list only show at a warehouse the previous night) observing from the stairway. Farrell and his wife never seemed to so much as nod their heads though, but watched with rapt attention.
An actual moshpit broke out midway through the set, and while at least one person was reported to have been carried out, it mostly seemed to be in good fun. “Harvest of Sorrow,” “One” and “Sad But True” all delivered signature sonic fury, but the energy only seemed to keep building into a colossal closing trio of “Sanitarium,” “Master of Puppets” and perhaps best of all, “Blackened,” the scintillating tale of apocalypse that opens the band's 1988 masterpiece, And Justice For All. It was straight up kick-ass folks!
Some have decried Metallica’s presence at SXSW as not keeping in tune with the festival’s historic indie vibe, but if throwing in a surprise treat from one of the greatest bands ever to rock the stage isn’t cool, then I’m not sure what these folks are looking for. There were a gazillion opportunities to see indie bands, so having an arena rock headliner for Friday night was just a bonus and it wasn’t a guest list only show either.
After having been a huge Metallica fan from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, I’d soured a bit on the band when Lars Ulrich came out so strongly against Napster in the late ‘90s file sharing controversy that still dogs the music industry. Metallica had always been a people’s band, so something about that just didn’t seem right. I often wondered if the RIAA had gotten some kind of blackmail goods on Ulrich. So I actually hadn’t seen Metallica since 1994. But I sure won’t be waiting that long to see them again. A “Breadfan”>”Whiplash” encore drove the fury home, but it was a second encore of the obligatory “Seek and Destroy” that would have threatened to tear the roof off, if Stubb’s had a roof. What an electrifying show!
Metallica is a very tough act to follow, as Dokken found out the hard way back on the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour, but SXSW wisely switched up the vibe altogether by having San Francisco’s DJ Shadow close out the evening at Stubb’s, appropo since Metallica are a Bay Area band as well. Shadow is known as one of the most influential DJs in the biz and while much of crowd departed after Metallica, those who stayed had a groovy good time as Shadow threw down his patented mix of trippy dance beats and psychedelic samples. The only drawback was that the music was not accompanied by his standard psychedelic lightshow, since Metallica’s roadies apparently needed the house lights up in order to load out all of the band’s gear.
Sixth Street circa 2 a.m. was once again pure mayhem, with a massive crowd of music fans from all walks of life parading back and forth in what seemed to be various states of delirium.
Saturday March 21
Saturday’s musical activity started for me at 2 p.m. with Great Northern at the Convention Center’s Day Stage Café. I would have liked to catch their late set the previous night at the Karma Lounge, but such travel just wasn’t happening after being a little worn out from the Metallica show and with DJ Shadow being right there afterward. But I was eager to see what this act had to offer, since the Los Angeles band’s new album Remind Me Where the Light Is has a strong mix of atmospheric psychedelia, pop hooks and soaring vocals from Rachel Stolte.
This 20-minute acoustic performance was just Stolte and Solon Bixler in an unplugged performance on a pair of acoustic guitars, but they sounded superb. You know you’ve got great vocalists and winning tunes when the songs can stand on their own with just a pair of acoustic guitars.
After a lazy lunch and a little NCAA March Madness, I dropped a friend off at the airport and then headed over toward the Auditorium Shores Stage at Lady Bird Lake, where I wanted to catch Erykah Badu at 7 p.m. This was the only time of the weekend that I attempted to drive anywhere in Austin. But as I was headed toward the park, I heard some melodius music coming out of a restaurant called Threadgill’s. Since there didn’t seem to be anyplace to park at Lady Bird Lake anyway, I parked at Threadgill’s and went in to see what was happening.
They have a great little patio out there with a small stage and a decent number of arm-chaired seats. The previous band was done, but while The Lee Boys from Florida were setting up, Amy Lavere of Memphis took the smaller sidestage with her trio and delivered a knock out set of bluesy, folk rock. She cites both Willie Nelson and Pink Floyd as influences, which gives a good idea of her well-rounded vibe. The dark-haired beauty rocked an upright bass, while also delivering some angelic vocals as her band conjured an infectious and well-received sound.
I only caught a couple songs from The Lee Boys, who bill themselves as a “Sacred Steel” ensemble, but they had a strong bluesy vibe going, and were said to be back on the same stage for a Sunday gospel breakfast. Pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier (nephew of the Lee brothers) threw down hot licks that recalled Robert Randolph and the Family Band. The breeze was blowing, the setting was intimate and comfy, Lavere and the Lee Boys were both complete pleasant surprises and my trip to Threadgill’s was a perfect SXSW moment that wound up being more memorable than what I went over to that part of town for in the first place.
A large crowd was gathering over at the lake stage, which had a true festival vibe with the stage being on a large lawn with lots of vendors all around. But word on the street had it that Erykah Badu and/or her new cohorts the Cannabinoids were late arriving from Dallas, and an hour after their 7 p.m. scheduled start time, there was still no music. There was a great sunset though… Badu finally took the stage with what looked like just a handful of DJs and keyboardists and sang a mere two numbers before departing. It was nothing like her triumphant Saturday night headlining performance at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, Calif., two years ago.
Friends and I plotted to meet up back at Stubb’s later and I checked back into Threadgill’s to catch the end of the Texas-Duke tournament game. The #7-seeded Longhorns were right there with the dastardly Blue Devils, a #2 seed, which made it fun to watch with an Austin crowd. But alas the men of burnt orange couldn’t quite get over the hump and lost a perfectly winnable game that knocked them out of the tournament.
I totally forgot that I wanted to try and catch Tinted Windows at 10 p.m. at the Bat Bar, where the new band that included Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha would perform, and instead started heading down Sixth Street toward Stubb’s to try and catch PJ Harvey. It’s for this reason that I vow to own an iPhone or some similar web-enabled device by SXSW 2010 so that I can have my pre-selected schedule at my fingertips at all times.
Stopping at Death Metal Pizza on Sixth Street, I ran into Krayolas vocalist/guitarist Hector Saldana, who was snazzily dressed and feeling good about his band’s SXSW performances. I complemented him ontheir Luminaria performance last weekend and then we were both off to Stubb’s for PJ Harvey. But the dreaded line that caused me to miss the Avett Brothers on Wednesday was back and I only made it in for Harvey’s last song. She’s definitely got some powerful mojo working though.
Next up at Stubb’s were The Indigo Girls, who delivered a set that featured some strong new material, but opened and closed with classics “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo.” There was a bit of cognitive dissonance in the sense that the same stage that had featured Metallica just 24 hours earlier was now featuring two folky women on acoustic guitars, quite the sonic contrast. But the timeless harmonies of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers always come across well to those who appreciate fine songwriting in all its forms, from metal to folk.
The closing set of the evening was another performance by Third Eye Blind, who took the stage at Stubb’s with the same energy they delivered in their more intimate set the previous day at the Lone Star Lounge. This band has a devoted following — Stubb’s wasn’t quite as packed as for Metallica, but there was a big crowd on hand for the closing set that started around 12:30 a.m., and everyone was rocking out. The band was firing on all cylinders, and while they played mostly the same set as the day before, it still felt fresh and exciting. I predict 2009 will be a big comeback year for Third Eye Blind.
A friend and I were attempting to find a cab over to the Red Bull Moontower party, one of the exclusive SXSW late night events that I had RSVP’d for, but we were sadly informed that it had been shut down around 3 a.m. instead of lasting until 5 a.m. As we walked back up Sixth Street to our hotels, Austin suddenly seemed like an eerie ghost town, as if Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name might turn the corner at any moment. But after four nights of almost non-stop music, I was sated.
Sunday March 22
There wasn’t much official SXSW activity on Sunday, which seems a shame, since a sunny Sunday afternoon would be a great time to have one more show on that Lady Bird Lake stage. But alas all I could find to attend was a retrospective seminar at the Day Stage Café on Stevie Ray Vaughan, the highlight of which was the playing of some old sound clips from when Vaughan was just 15-years-old and clearly already wailing like the legend he would become.
One other extracurricular activity worth mentioning at SXSW was the totally awesome Flatstock 20 rock poster art convention, from the American Poster Institute. If you’re one of those music fans who likes to decorate your home with rock art, Flatstock 20 was like being a kid in candy store — a veritable Willy Wonka factory with all your favorite flavors of sugary sweets. There was something for every musical taste, and so many great artists.
Sean Carroll from the Sandusky Bay Poster Works in Ohio had an incredibly cool Iron Maiden poster from a show at Cleveland’s Blossom Ampitheater that featured Maiden mascot Eddie posed as the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo, swinging a bat with a tattered Ohio flag hanging from it, sort of like the art from “The Trooper.” If you were a Maiden fan from Cleveland, it was a must buy.
Then there was Gary Houston of Voodoo Catbox in Portland. His work featured mostly Northwest shows, but he’s also landed himself a gig as an in-house artist for the Grateful Dead family, with gorgeous posters from The Dead, The Other Ones, and Phil Lesh & Friends. He had a 2002 fall tour Other Ones poster that featured flying saucers creating Grateful Dead-themed crop circles. If you were a Deadhead who’s into UFOs, it was a must buy.
Lastly, I’ve got to put in a good word for Fuze beverages, one of SXSW’s official sponsors. Upfront disclaimer is that I had two friends there working for Fuze, but I wouldn’t tout the product if I didn’t dig it. I can’t vouch for all of their flavors (and I didn’t particularly care for their cranberry blend) but the Fuze black & green tea had me picturing Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction calling it a “a tasty beverage.” And a relatively healthy one too, with no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. It also claims the antioxidant capacity of two servings of vegetables, as well as being loaded with vitamins C, E and B. When you’re out drinking beer all night, this stuff really helps restore the system the next day.
Well, I can’t believe I just wrote over 5,000 words about SXSW 2009. But it was a world-class event that I’ve just had the privilege of attending for the first time, and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last. I wish I had caught more San Antonio bands, and will have to plan better for that next year. Viva SXSW!
If you’re on Facebook or Myspace or haven’t been living in a cave since last Saturday, you’ve probably already seen some photos of Luminaria, and then you moved on in your life to SXSW, and now you’re even over that.
And yet…here are some photos of Luminaria, because that’s how I roll: about 10 days late.
The following several photos were taken by the very talented Davis James, who in addition to being one of the UTSA New Media students I talked about in this story, also took the cover photograph for this cover story back in December.
BTW, you can find the blogs of some of these New Media-teers here. Many thanks to Davis James, Leslie Raymond, and all the New Media class who let me follow them around and get to know their work. You did a wonderful job.
Derek Brown’s “No Borders.”
Utah Snyder’s myriad free giveaway items (sadly, plundered by the time I got there)
Onlookers entering the UTSA New Media area, greeted by Davis James’s
photo of the Convention Center Gallery, San Antonio River photograph installation by Ansen Seale visible, as is Dan Suttin’s “Big Ball”
New Media literature; note cheerleader denoting college program (?)…is that a cheerleader? Or a badminton player?
People checking out Joshua Hurt’s piece.
Jennings Sheffield’s installation of “Separation of Powers.”
This photo’s by John Mata, of his New Media Shelter, actually called "Room made of mostly cardboard and masking tape, containing various media relating to the idea of New Media and Future Utopia."
Another view of Mata’s piece, by Davis James.
From here on out, sorry to say, the photographer is me.
Torch of Friendship in celebratin’ mode
San Antonians in Alamo Plaza
Readers taking full advantage of Jenny Browne’s fantastic “Libro Libre” giveaway program.
Nate Cassie trading free prints for on-site drawings of bee hive, birdhouse.
Artist Albrechto Alvarez dubbed this photo of mine “alien lovers abductors.”
Gary Sweeney’s Joske’s window
Laura Varela and Vaago Weiland’s EnlighTents installation, I liked “mother” on the Alamo.
Nicely sentimental papel picado in Market Square, earlier that day.
BTW, a very, very good Luminaria post at Emvergeoning by Justin Parr can be found here.
It's all about being in the right place at the right time. There was easily a
hundred shows going on at any given time during the South By Southwest 2009
Music Conference. With so many bands and bars offering entertainment from
late-morning to the wee hours of the night, how do you know you’re at the right
party? How do you know you picked the best spot to be at any particular
Standing second row, stage right at the Filter Magazine SXSW Showdown at Cedar Street Party, 10 feet away from the performers, so close I could spit on them, watching a show that would later find it’s way onto the front-page of the website for NME, the weekly UK music bible, I knew I was at the right party. It was the best free event of the week featuring positive affirmation for a new band, a violent clash between another and security, and most importantly, great music.
2:45 p.m. – My friends and I arrived to the Cedar Street Courtyard in time to see half a set by The Whip, one of my favorite indie-dance bands in the world right now. From the music hotbed of Manchester, this quartet wears its influences on its collective sleeve, New Order being a big point of reference. This group of live musicians combines guitars and drums with a heavy dose of throbbing electro beats, and in the process, make some of the best music to set dancefloors on fire.
Two indoor bars straddled the Cedar Street Courtyard. In the back sat the music stage, outdoors, connecting the two buildings. My friends and I took the right-hand bar all the way to the front of the stage, bypassing the already rammed-to-the-hilt crowd. We came out a door literally a beer throw away from The Whip, digging into the killer single, “Blackout”. Our asses began to shake uncontrollably.
When I decided to cover SXSW for free, without a wristband or badge to show
it could be done, I envisioned moments like the one I experienced the minute I
parked myself in front of The Whip. Here I was, rocking out to a band who had
made my top 10 albums of last year, that had single-handedly helped me score
phone numbers at my former DJ monthly, Metal Disco, just by playing one of their
songs. That's the power of The Whip, people.
The quartet played its best, and most danceable songs, including “Muzzle No. 1,” and the crescendoing killer of disco-ball enthusiasts, “Trash.” Another thrill came when I got to talk to the band after the set, congratulating them on what was a sign of great music to come.
3:30 p.m. – Set-times were way behind at this point, but that was cool by my friends and I, as it allowed us to schmooze at the bar, being that it was within a hop, skip, and a jump to the the stage. Promo companies Spy Sunglasses and some shoe company were set up back there; rock stars who had lined up appointments, were spotted walking back and forth to score free shit.
We chatted with some of the merch reps – I once partied on the Spy Sunglasses booze bus until 5 a.m. in downtown Halifax, one of the drunkest nights I’ve ever lived through – and even talked to the extremely affable drummer of The Von Bondies, Don Blum, who showed up with his band to get free apparel. Funny moment: Jason Stollsteimer, the lead singer of the VBs was in the exact same outfit he wore at the show the day before, leading us to wonder if he’d have to be buzz-sawed out of his clothes after days of wearing them in hot, sweaty Austin. That’s what you call packing lightly.
4:00 p.m. – The current UK buzz-band, Late of the Pier, featured in this month’s Spin magazine, hit the stage an hour late. Some people around us thought this might be Razorlight, the band scheduled at this particular time. The discrepancies between the performance times came back to bite organizers in the ass in the most rock ‘n roll moment many of us witnessed at SXSW 2009.
Late of the Pier are a gang of young misfits from London, four cheeky art-student looking hipsters who on first impression, don’t appear to give a shit about anything but music, girls and themselves. Thankfully, that attitude suited their avant-garde, electro-synth punk. The crowd quickly got behind these upstarts. The same can’t be said for the venue organizers and security.
Near the end of the set, the Late of the Pier roadie signaled lead singer
Samuel Eastgate they only had time to do one more song. Eastgate announced the
band would do two more songs. A loud voice over the PA coming from the
soundbooth told him, no, the band had only one more song.
“God? Is that you, God?” Eastgate said into the microphone, looking to the sky. “No one likes you anyways, God.”
After playing the track, Eastgate ignored his roadie and God, telling the crowd they'd play their last song. You could see the anger visibly rise amongst venue staff standing at the side of the stage. At the time I thought, these kids are new, they don’t know any better. But If you were headed back to slogging it out in small clubs, it would make sense for them to say, screw it, I’m never coming back to Texas any time soon, let's make an impression
That’s when the tension started building. One of the stagehands walked over to the sound engineer supposedly hired by the band, and proceeded to get into a shouting match, kicking him off the boards. The roadie who had signaled to Eastgate earlier came over to stall the staff from shutting down the show. A large security guard got involved and a pushing match ensued.
The macho posturing moved to the stairs to the left of the spectators, finally erupting with the security guard taking down the roadie. Band management jumped in, Eastgate noticed what was going down, and mid-song, ran over to the fracas, trying to land several punches on the rather imposing security guard. That prompted venue staff to back off, just enough to clear things up.
Meanwhile, the band played on and after the roadie was safe, Eastgate ran back to the stage and finished the song. The audience erupted in applause, perhaps sympathetic to the plight of the roadie, but mostly floored at Eastgate’s brazen and ballsy move. It was a spectacle to behold, and since it was on the elevated stairwell, everyone saw it. The brilliant thing about it was the band didn’t miss a beat and created enough of a diversion to complete the set.
The story made UK industry pubs, including the New Musical Express. Check out this NME article for another take on what transpired. I’m actually in the photo. What am I doing in it? Taking notes, of course.
4:50 p.m. - Unfortunately for Razorlight, they had to follow the madness. Not surprisingly, it made for a bit of a let down. The one usually making headlines is the outspoken Johnny Borrell, the lead singer and main songwriter of Razorlight, who has drawn the ire of many for his blatant disses in the British music press of anyone who gets in his way in or bands he doesn't like. It should tell you something that Kate Moss courted the guy before she hooked up with Pete Doherty.
Borrell definitely exuded confident charisma and his four-piece band played a
decent roster of songs, taking a few requests from the audience, including the
UK-hit “In The Morning.” Other highlights included Borrell’s Mick Jagger dancing
and an overwhelmed female fan that hit on the singer mid-song. It was a set that
didn’t do Razorlight any damage, but it didn’t make a deep impression.
6:00 p.m. – Finally, the act I came to the Filter Mag party, nay, SXSW to see, headed down the boxing ring, er, stairs to the stage. London-based White Lies recently hit No. 1 on the British charts with To Lose My Life, the trio’s debut album. One of the producers of the record was none other than Ed Buller, who manned the knobs for two classic Brit-pop albums albums that changed my life: the self-titled debut by Suede (which also hit No. 1 when it came out in 1993), and His N Hers by Pulp.
White Lies may get criticized for sounding like too many other act such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, Editors, Interpol, even The Killers. To me, this isn’t a problem. I love the dark, post-punk sound: stark lyrical imagery, melodic bass lines, and sharp, complimentary guitar-riffs. As long as bands keep making these type of records, I will keep buying them. And it’s a helluva lot better than trying to keep the teen-pop sound alive (ahem, Jonas Brothers).
Needless to say, I had high expectations for this band. As they strapped on their instruments, I was surprised to realize the guys I admittedly harbor a man crush on were nothing more than boys, maybe in their early-twenties. The crowd gave them a receptive welcome, but they looked diminutive, shy, and slightly awkward, almost as if they didn’t realize how good they might be.
All insecurity melted away as soon as the band kicked into the first notes of
the electrifying single “Fairwell to the Fairground.” From that moment
on, White Lies held the complete attention of every single person in the Cedar
Street Courtyard, confidence building with each track. They blazed through half
their album, songs such as “E.S.T.,” “Unfinished Business,” and the title track
making us realize that some acts just “have it” and some don’t.
One of the greatest things about being a music fan is discovering a band before everyone else does, making it your secret, hoping “your” band builds on that early potential while earning deserved success. Think Radiohead, a group that found modest commercial achievement early on, then built on it with innovative creativity without losing critical credibility.
White Lies is one of those acts for me and by the time it simply destroyed the audience with “Death,” easily one of the best songs of 2009, I felt like every ounce of adoration for this young trio had been justified. It’s one of my favorite performances all SXSW and may go down as those shows that people talk about years from now, telling their friends about the one time they saw this band with a few hundred people, packed into a courtyard in Austin, Texas. It was that good.
Chalk it up to another lesson learned while doing SXSW for free. It was entirely possible to see some of the best new acts as well as some of your favorite ones without paying for a wristband or badge. Not to mention, it was entirely possible to gain VIP-type access to those bands and be there to see it all go down as it happened mere feet away. The Late of the Pier episode confirmed the rock-music adage that sometimes a little bit of naughtiness makes it even better.
Stay tuned for the rest of Day 3 and Day 4 of SXSW For Free to be posted throughout Monday.
Here are some pictures of the acts I caught during Day 1 and 2 of South
By Southwest. Stay tuned for my Day 3 and 4 posts along with
photographic evidence that I rocked just as hard, if not harder than
anyone with a badge or wristband. The cover fee to see all the bands
below? Only $5 over two days. That's what I like to call a bargain.
"If you have a schedule, throw it out," joked "Little Steven" Van Zandt about an hour into his Friday afternoon Underground Garage showcase at Antone's. If the announced order for this four-hour celebration of raw, three-chord rock bore little resemblance to what the assembled crowd saw, that's in keeping with a musical form that puts a premium on spontaneity.
San Antonio's Krayolas got things rolling with an assured and spirited set powered by the Westside Horns. Drummer David Saldana carried the lead vocal on the ultra-melodic "A-Frame," and deftly handled the Spanish-language intro for the challenging "Corrido Twelve Heads in a Bag." Before that song's final chord had faded, Saldana's brother, Hector, ripped into the classic guitar lick from the Kinks' "Who'll Be the Next in Line," featuring keyboard work from Augie Meyers (who frequently played the tune during his long stint with the Sir Douglas Quintet). This made for a wild, let-it-all-hang-out finale to the band's set.
The sets were short, with bands hitting the stage, cranking out a handful of musical adrenaline shots, and hastily making way for the next group. HIghlights included: The Breakers, who played a kind of Scandinavian garage-soul, including a surprisingly effective cover of Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone," and an assault on "Shout" that suggested Otis Redding backed by the White Stripes; the poptastic all-girl Norwegian band Cocktail Slippers, who paid homage to their mentor Van Zandt by playing "St. Valentine's Massacre," a song he wrote and produced for them; and Memphis' instrumental soul band the Bo-Keys.
This showcase was pop-nerd paradise without a cover charge. If there was any doubt about that fact, it was answered shortly after the Bo-Keys brought Roy "Treat Her Right" Head onstage to join them for a couple of his old dance-crazy warhorses. At 67, Head -- who launched his recording career in SA more than a half-century ago -- is still one hell of a raunchy dude and he moved his midsection in ways that most twentysomethings would be too afraid/embarrassed to attempt. But only in pop-nerd heaven could a craggy-faced senior citizen take off his jacket in mid-song to reveal one of those big cowboy belt buckles your grandpa wears, and draw screams from the guys in the front rows. For all I know, I might have even been one of them.
By Abbie Kopf
Before I start in on my fourth and final day at the glorious SXSW Festival, I have to purge this almost forgotten thought from my sun-and-beer-fried brain. On the second day of SXSW, my friends were lucky enough to happen upon a band that, like many artists looking for the maximum amount of coverage, was performing on the busy streets of downtown Austin. Generally, these people are playing on the street for a good reason, but Katzenjammer, a girl group of four huggable cuties from Oslo, Norway, belongs on a stage playing to enrapt admirers. In fact, as they played the streets, an enormous crowd (including yours truly) gathered around to gawk, mouth agape, at their fantastic talent and kooky music.
Katzenjammer plays from a buffet of instruments (some of them include: accordion, mandolin, guitar, piano, balalaika bass, glockenspiel, trumpet, kazoo, melodica, drums, and banjo) and indeed they had a heavy arsenal of noisemakers that lay scattered around them on the street. Katzenjammer plays an odd amalgam of polka, folk, and pop that is the music version of that ugly couple that has an adorable baby. You don’t know how the wacky bastard came OK, but it did. Aside from their instrumental prowess, Katzenjammer offers four pure, powerful, and transparent voices that could sound out above the din of the street and still come across as sweet and inviting. They are definitely quirky, so try to quell the urge to understand them. Download: “Tea With Cinnamon” or “Play My Darling” to get a taste of these odd but fun girls.
Phew! Now that’s off my chest, let’s get back to Saturday evening when I had the pleasure to witness Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir, an Austin-based band that has won over critics with its smooth and familiar sound. I relished the opportunity to see this band at their Momos showcase, mostly because I had witnessed a fair amount of shit over the week at SXSW. It seems that a lot of people believe that because they have fingers and voices than they can start a band. They should not. But Drew Smith and his battalion of backup musicians were talented, disciplined, well-practiced, and sober. Incidentally, they did also have both fingers and voices.
As soon as the first notes reached my ear, I felt a wave of euphoria as I caught a big ol’ strong whiff of Van Morrison emanating from the band, and it smelled delicious. I found it particularly enjoyable because the band wasn’t reduced to being a Van Morrison tribute — they took elements from the legend and substituted their own vibe of alternative country, poppy folk, with a sprinkle of blues thrown in for taste. As a lyricist, Drew Smith utilizes a precise compass of intelligent and meaningful poetry which points towards the familiar themes (love, loneliness, playing music) without being tiresomely cliché or obvious. Smith’s voice has been compared to Randy Newman and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, but his voice isn’t what makes the band. Don’t get me wrong, he controls it well, and it is entirely sufficient, but he would be nothing without his lonely choir, which deftly and professionally carries his sound to the next level. The horn section didn’t squawk, and the drums and guitar were consistently tight and energetic. His keyboardist even treated the audience to a keen solo that was beautifully performed and technically sound. Together, they synthesize with Smith’s charisma and obvious talent to create music that goes down easy and is equally as digestible.
I ended the festival with an indulgence I can only attribute to my love of gay bars and raves when I caught the Crystal Method at La Zona Rosa. This duo of mix-masters has been around for awhile and they have either become fantastically efficient or they’ve lost the thrill, because the most outward display of rocking out was the occasional fist pump or drink of water. Maybe they have mastered the craft, because the audience had its hands in the air for the entirety of this ode to dance and techno, while even wallflowers couldn’t help but tap a foot or nod the noggin. They didn’t come with any tricks up their sleeves, nor did they switch up their classic electronic sound to suit the venue. They did offer up the usual: big, drippy beats and bops, thrashing record spins, and adrenaline-inducing dance anti-melodies that assure them a place in the techno hall of fame. All in all, if I were on ecstasy the show would have blown my mind. Though my mind is still intact, it was reeling on a furious high that only glorious dance beats can engender.
De los Muertos
Let’s take a brief moment to point out the obvious and say it’s practically impossible to hear De los Muertos vocalist Paul Lopez without thinking of Tom Waits (especially since he performs in a fedora and sings about “gambling and boozing”) and the guitar and bass are often so surf-rock influenced, you’ll picture the first scene of Pulp Fiction with nearly every riff. But if you’re guessing at influences instead of watching them play, you’re missing the point. Lopez’s voice approximates the same sort of thumbtack-gargling growl as you know who, but when he’s staggering around the stage in a bleary-eyed electric side, he seems completely himself. Have a look:
And the audience, just as clumsy, grins and dances along. “You’re fuckin rock ’n’ roll, alla yous,” Lopez says. But the music is more than Lopez‘s stage presence. “Wanderer” has a country-western bounce and catchy “for crying out loud I’m just a man” hook seem destined for body-spray commercials (and that’s a compliment), and vocalist Becca Najera’s rough, booming voice (unfortunately victim to a bum mic setup) finds harmony in some of those seedy, poorly lit places.
For some reason, one of my favorite moments at the festival was immediately before this video when Alvaro Salas took out his pocket trumpet and asked “Anybody out there like to smoke pot?” For a second, it seemed like Salas might be showing off a trumpet-shaped bong -- this is Austin, after all -- but the band ripped through (urban?) legendary joint-butt ballad “La Cucaracha” in record-setting time. Most of Piñata Protest’s originals have the same Flaco-Jimenez-with-a-mohawk vibe, an oi-punk/conjunto hybrid that gets the audience dancing and moshing simultaneously. Salas hits the accordion keys like he’s finger-tapping on an electric guitar. “We’re looking for an after party after the show tonight,” Salas says. Have fun. I’ll be at home cleaning the beer out of my hair. Not that I’m really complaining.
by Abbie Kopf
The third day at SXSW started out as enjoyable as licking sweaty nards. We had RSVP’d to the “Hot Freaks” party where mopey indie sad sacks American Analog Set were set to play a show. I wanted to see them because the band is no longer playing together (save this show), and I felt like it would be poetic to witness one of their final performances. Unfortunately, thanks to the large crowd and unseasonably warm weather, it was like trying to watch the symphony from Dante’s Inferno, surrounded by sleazy, middle-aged men who were drunk off of free PBR.
Andrew Kenny, lead singer of the disbanded Analog Set, has started a folksier side-project, the Wooden Birds, which I hope is a little more upbeat. The Wooden Birds’ new album, Magnolia, will be released May 12. If you are a melancholic college student, check it out.
Since I was planning on staying at the Hot Freaks party for the better part of the day, I found myself with a little extra time on my hands. A summery indie pop group lured me into Emo’s Annex where I got to witness not one, but two fantastic bands—Fanfarlo and Port O’Brien.
Unfortunately, I only caught the end of Fanfarlo, but I found it hard to believe this sixer is from bleak London — they’re as warm and fuzzy as the Beach Boys and as talented lyrically and musically as any alt group I’ve seen at the festival. I was sick that I didn’t get to see more of them, but I cherished the brief moments I could drink my Corona and sway to the tickly electric guitar, nice-guy vocals, and throwback trumpet accessory sounds.
Following my too-brief tryst with throw-your-hands-up Fanfarlo, I was fortunate to catch another swinging act, Port O’Brien. I suppose that the SXSW gods were paying me back for that butt-fucking I got this morning at the Hot Freaks party, but Port O’Brien was a great treat, and probably earned my favorite band of the day award. (Dear Port O’Brien, I’ll mail you the plaque. Please hang it on your mantle. ) This foursome was formed in Oakland, California, where you’d imagine lead singer Van Pierszalowski penning songs next to a bonfire on the beach while he slurps oysters and smokes a joint. In fact, Pierszalowski found his inspiration while working in Kodiak Island, Alaska, in a commercial salmon fishing boat while enduring the oppressive cold and alienating confinement from human life.
Perhaps these stark geographic disparities helped the band stroll down the very fine line that most indie artists seem to walk over with the grace of a drunk co-ed. Port O’Brien doesn’t give into the solitary, drippy angst of their Alaskan winters, nor do they give themselves over to the Mentos commercial puff of California summers. Their folk-rock resounds with thoughtful and analytical lyrics that are coy without being evasive, while the jumpy, upbeat rhythms stay where they belong, in the background as highlights of the Nuevo-folksy sound.
It’s no wonder that this band has found favor with the likes of M. Ward, or that they have toured with indie icons such as Rogue Wave, Bright Eyes, and Modest Mouse. There are generally two categories of good musicians, those who revolutionize music and those who improve upon it. Port O’Brien isn’t changing the way that we hear folk or indie or pop, but they are making these genres feel like home again. They counter their disciplined and technical playing with a lighthearted romp around the folk music jungle gym. It’s just Alaska meets California, and it’s alright by me.
Since I was starting to feel a bond with the California sound, I braved the atrocious crowds at Cedar Street Courtyard to catch Bedouin Soundclash. Though this group’s been around for some time, their claim to fame was through Grey’s Anatomy, where their dreamy single “12:59 Lullaby” made everyone want to take a vacation. Their acoustic reggae sound could make a fan out of anyone, but especially the beach-minded. Remember that Sandal’s Resort vacation you took? Or your honeymoon in Hawaii? Or that time you went to Jamaica with a big group of your friends? Yeah, that’s where this music will take you. I find it peculiar that this oceanic band hails from the block of ice-shit above us, Canada. I have no idea how they’re inspired to sing this kind of music in the negative degrees, but more power to them.
The Soundclash seemed at home in the open-air Cedar-Street Courtyard, but from the first note I could tell that something was amiss. The lead singer’s voice, which always sounds like it’s seconds away from breaking down, actually started breaking down. Instead of sounding like a charming scratch on your favorite vinyl, lead singer Jay Malinowski sounded like a scratch on your favorite chalkboard. I think they were tired. They must have been, because this band performed for about 35 minutes and called it quits. I heard several “That was it?” when they left the stage, in what seemed like a premature exit.
Though their live show was indeed a little limp, a lively brass section contributed significantly to the band’s increasingly ska sound by giving some meat to the bones of the anemic Soundclash. I propose that SXSW had drained them, and they were simply trying to get through the show. I don’t hold it against them, however, because their creative reggae, power-pop infusion makes them a real treat for winter-weary or life-weary listeners. They’re newest album, Street Gospels, is generating some good buzz, so I’ll just believe they were saving up their good juice for their upcoming tour with No Doubt, and trying not to expend too much on us. Whatever the case, it was a solid wind-down from my day of poppy California-sounding bands, even if it did make me want to take the next flight to the beach.
Crowds and lines outside venues were a common sight during Day Two
– If Day One was a zoo, then Day Two was chaos. Uncontrolled, unrepentant, unequivocal chaos. People of varying degrees of drunkenness and weirdness were everywhere, a nightmare for the claustrophobic, agoraphobic, and OCD-suffering; a dream for music fans with so many shows across many genres. Thankfully, I fell on the latter, South By Southwest 2009 firmly becoming one of the better experiences I’ve had at a festival due to sheer volume of choices and free things to do.
After scoring a primo spot under I-35 at 5th street on Wednesday, central to many of the day and night activities, I spend the first portion of Thursday walking a mile from my downgraded parking status on 7th and Comal (far, far away) to the Austin Convention Center.
The layer of sweat and any lingering
road-rage quickly evaporated when I got to air-conditioned
Thank goodness for the hook-up. The always affable Grant showcased songs from her just released Echoes – plaintive, heartfelt and artfully arranged songs on love and loss with a magically charismatic voice to make it all go down easy. For those not in the know, Jenn Grant is one of those musicians who quickly make a home in your heart.
Jenn Grant worked her wonders, as usual, at the SESAC Day Stage
I once compared her to Leslie Feist, which in hindsight, was a bit of an unfair statement. Grant’s tunes are entirely more organic and a slightly more melancholy. She also has grown into her own distinctive voice, her lilting tone inviting listeners to get lost in her . Of course, that fiery, straight-outta-Anne Of Green Gables mane of hers adds to her whimsical beauty.
As you can probably tell, I’m
a big fan. When she started off playing little clubs on the East Coast, I
predicted in the national music pub, Exclaim!,
it would only be a matter of time before the rest of the country knew her. The
same could be said in the
2:45 - After a sing-along with Jenn and her fellow Haligonian compadres (check out Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees, one of the many side-projects by Jenn’s bassist, Sean MacGillivray, a band quickly garnering mad respect in the indie-dance world), I checked out the trade show and loaded up on schwag. Stickers, potential jobs, free magazines, free Twinkies, lots of good ideas and hopes for the health of the music industry going forward come from the hour spent at a trade show I could have easily spent all day in.
– A wonderful spell in an air-conditioned environment, I walked down to Mohawks for the Rhapsody Rocks party. I noticed the crowds were much thicker than the previous day, the lines to get into venues way longer, and the choices of events to see, too many. Easily the longest line of the week goes to the Radio Room on 6th, actually two lines stretching down the street in either direction. Is Superdrag really that good, people?
I got into the Mohawk just
Glasvegas is in the latest round of UK It-Bands
Glasvegas is in the latest round of UK It-Bands
3:50 - I debated waiting
around for …Trail of Dead, but decided to grab a quick bite and head over to
the Red-Eyed Fly for Viva Voce. After a jalapeno brisket taco from Stubb’s
filled my belly, and a smoothie cooled me down, I saw the last few songs by
Alberta Cross, a mix of Led Zeppelin and
– Portland, Oregon’s Viva Voce took the stage after an extended soundcheck, new songs in tow from their forthcoming album, Rose City, out in May. Viva Voce was one of my great discoveries of 2006 with the Barsuk release Get Yr Blood Sucked Out , an album of mysterious alt-rock, the kind that builds in psychedelic waves, slow-grooves complimenting melodic riffs. Kind of like the Dandy Warhols without the ego and penchant for hard pharmaceuticals. Highly recommended.
Essentially a husband and wife duo in Kevin and Anita Robinson, Viva Voce was filled out by an extra guitarist and drummer for the Red-Eyed Fly performance. It was one of their first performances in a while as the Robinsons were busy building a studio, Kevin recently produced a few albums, and Anita went on tour with the Shins as a back-up vocalist, even appearing on Saturday Night Live.
Viva Voce showcased songs from upcoming album Rose City at Red-Eyed Fly
Viva Voce showcased songs from upcoming album Rose City at Red-Eyed Fly
From all told, the new songs sounded great, especially the title track from the forthcoming album. Anita had the prettiest guitars I’ve ever seen, a pink Gibson and another model inlaid with roses. Pretty might give the impression of soft, though Anita was anything but, churning out the hooks with the might of anyone twice her size. The only problem of the set came from low vocals, a problem half-fixed when I politely asked the band to turn them up. Overall, the performance left many excited for things to come from Viva Voce.
the l last set I made a few new friends. Yvonne, a Roller Derby cheerleader
(for reals) from Austin, and Marissa from
At first I thought I might need a wristband to get in and sure enough, most people in line had them on, or a badge around their neck. That didn’t deter my new friends however, who walked up to the desk, and in what was the smoothest diversion I’ve seen, snagged a comp ticket from the table without asking, giggling as they handed it over to me.
– We spent
a little time off our feet, waiting in line to get into the Bat Bar aka TV
sound-stage. It was a welcome respite. By the time SXSW is over I will have
walked the distance to
The discomfort subsided as the Von Bondies hit the stage for an extended, blow-your-face-off set. The band kiced off with “Swank” from 2004’s Pawn Shoppe Heart, lean, muscular and loud, before striding into “Pale Bride,” the first single off the Detroit quartet’s comeback album, Love, Hate, Then There’s You. Other highlights of the set included a still raging “C’Mon, C’mon” and “Not That Social,” sung by the ladies in the group.
No flash made for tough photos during a killer Von Bondies set. Photo by Marissa Munoz.
No flash made for tough photos during a killer Von Bondies set. Photo by Marissa Munoz.
While the Bondies have been out of action for the last few years, it’s like they haven’t ever left. For better or worse, the band’s distinctive garage-rock sound left relatively intact. While former members Carrie Smith (bass) and Marcie Bolan (rhythm guitar) left, they’ve been replaced by two more-than-capable female musicians equally easy on the eyes in Leann Banks (bass) and Christy Hunt (guitar). The boy-boy-girl-girl dynamic – Jason Stollsteimer and Don Blum rounding out the band - always worked in the Von Bondies favor, something appealing about having a live presence that can speak to both men and women in the audience.
The Bat Bar performance equaled anything I saw up to that point of the festival and I overheard a spectator say to a friend afterwards, “I would say the Von Bondies wiped the floor with (unrecognizable band name).” Although I didn’t know which other band the guy was talking about, I didn’t really need any further explanation. The Von Bondies simply killed it.
Exhilarated and ready for some more, my newest allies and I headed down to
Peckerheads for the My Old Kentucky Blog party, featuring
Birds Make Good Neighbors rivaled any other album as my favorite in 2005, the four-piece
live band namely made of the second husband-wife duo of the day with Ivan Howard
(guitar, vocals) and Kelly Crisp (keyboards, vocals, tambourine, smiling).
Howard and Crisp make the pretty and slightly melancholy music with chiming
guitars, soaring vocals and melodious keyboard lines recalling classic 80s
college rock such as Smiths and R.E.M, and perhaps the quieter,
much-less-layered moments of Arcade Fire. Not surprising, the Rosebuds find
their home on the indie-fabulous Merge label, the same as the aforementioned
purveyors of funereal alt-rock from
The Rosebuds had the most endearing set of the day. Photo by Marissa Munoz.
The Rosebuds had the most endearing set of the day. Photo by Marissa Munoz.
If the Von Bondies rocked my face off, the Rosebuds made me very, very happy, a smile strapped concretely on my face throughout the proceedings. Crisp came into the audience during soundcheck to chat and show off her adorable designer dress. The personal touch lasted throughout the show with 80 percent of the setlist built from requests taken from the audience, and Crisp high-fiving those in the front row after the first tune of the night.
Most of the songs played relied heavily on fan favorite Birds Make Good Neighbors, such as the gorgeous “Boxcar,” “Hold Hands and Fight” and “Shake Your Tree.” The other songs from later albums were just as good, including “Get Up, Get Out” from the darker, more electronic Night of the Furies (2007), and “Nice Fox” from 2008 release Life Like, which broke down into a hilarious sing-along. Howard called on the guys in the audience to warble the hook, then called on the ladies, and in a twist on the arena rock stunt, then called on his surprised bassist to sing.
There’s no doubt the band wanted to keep on playing and only stopped when told by organizers they couldn’t play anymore. Those there to witness the most hospitable and endearing performance of the day would have listened to the Rosebuds as long as they wanted to go on.
2:00 a.m. – Lack of food, hot venues, sun, and fatigue took hold after the Rosebuds, leading to an intermission back at my friend’s place to recharge and finish my sprawling Day 1 blog entry (now I know why writers only concentrate on one showcase a night…). By the time I finished, it was late. But late never means there isn’t something to see or do at SXSW.
I decided to catch
That brought me to my second disappointment of the music conference, as the powers-that-be at the house refused to accept any RSVPs, only letting in VIP wristband holders to the event and telling the rest of us to come back at 3 p.m. the next day to get our own wristbands for that day’s shows. It was ridiculous and a complete waste of time, especially with a half-full venue from what I saw.
A walk down
Goal: Spend under $100 over the course of the festival
Money spent so far: $40. $10 on food throughout Day Two, $10 on beverages + $20 from Day One.
Free stuff, Day Two: Entrance into five venues, free Twinkies, stickers, a comp ticket to the Von Bondies, parking, several job possibilities.
Pedometer, Day Two: Over 14000 steps (over 9 miles).
*Live photos will be
uploaded on return to
By Abbie Kopf
I’ll have to admit that today I was out of sorts. I misplaced my schedule and was flailing without my properly marked printout of bands that I wanted to see, arranged by hour. I perused the SXSW pocket guide, looking for a name I remembered from my lost agenda. I saw She Rides, and I thought that this band sounded like a singer-songwriter or gentle duo that would purr to me about the countryside in June.
I schlepped over to Spiro’s Bar to watch me some She Rides, and it wasn’t long until I realized I had made a mistake. The pre-show songs sounded like Mastodon had children with Pantera. The concert-goers around me were wearing shirts that said things like “The Satans” with pentagram tattoos and five-inch boots straight from the Hot Topic spring catalogue.
Luckily for me, I’m hypersensitive to hurting people’s feelings, so I bared down for 30 minutes of what I was sure was going to involve scary songs about impaling babies’ heads and eating them with gravy. Or something.
The Rhode Island-based band hopped up to the stage, said “fuck” about six times in succession, and started in. For the first song or so, I was somewhat terrified. Their brand of hardcore punk is deafening and intense, with five head-banging men attacking their instruments and, it seemed sometimes, themselves. A curious transformation happened to me while getting my hardcore cherry popped … I started to dig these guys.
The lead singer of She Rides explained that they had already played two other shows that day. In fact, between January and March they will be playing around 70 shows. I couldn’t understand, watching them from front row, how anyone could keep up this much energy and rawness once per day, much less three times in one day. These rockers were wild-eyed (and I think pretty fucked up on some shit) and animalistic in their delivery. From the shirtless drummer who had the imperious air of a scientist to the screaming, gesticulating lead singer, She Rides was an assault on the pansy-ass emo boys and girls who can barely get it up for one show.
I don’t think I’ll be buying a hardcore album anytime soon, but She Rides is everything that art should be. They transplanted me out of my hippie paradigm to CBGBs in New York City, hearing this bare, garage punk rock for the first time. Lead singer Joe Krewko is truly a performer who, whether it was drugs or momentum, cultivated a whirlwind of excitement and screamy delight.
This band has recently been signed to Stillborn Records, so if you’re into this freaky shit, I say check them out.
Next I sidestepped to Emo’s Jr. for some music that seemed a little more up my alley. Garotas Suecas is a Brazilian band that crosses genres from power-pop to soul with a little big band thrown in. I was highly hopeful for this sextuplet (five guys and a girl) of cool Brazilian youngsters, but unfortunately they fell a little flat.
Every once in a while, they would kick out a lovely melody that echoed the Monkees, or would get down in a Sam and Dave like collaboration of funk and soul. They especially hit the G-spot with their cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” to which they added their own flare. I would consider it disrespectful to cover Ms. Franklin in most instances, but Garotas Suecas have mastered this peculiar genre of Brazilian Motown.
Unfortunately, I’ve been at a festival where it isn’t uncommon for a band to walk up to the stage and blow the crowd apart with electricity and “that thing,” whatever that thing is. I wasn’t feeling a lightning strike with Garotas Suecas, but if you’re going to the beach soon, this is a pleasant, non-offensive CD to take along. NPR gave the band a thumbs up, (really, the NPR crowd will heart this band), and they suggested you listen to “Eu” and “Bugalu.” I think that’s Portuguese.
This anti-climactic experience got me thinking while on the long trek to catch Tori Amos at La Zona Rosa. This festival has more than 2,000 bands, some of which are signed and some of which, despite their talent, won’t ever get a record deal. Is it really just luck that some bands find international stardom, while other groups end up fat and alone at 40, playing gigs at the local roller rink? Is this music thing just a racket? I was still pontificating over the music biz when I arrived at La Zona Rosa just in time to see blogger extraordinaire Perez Hilton waltz onstage and introduce Tori Amos.
I’m pretty sure there’s something fucky about Perez Hilton, but I’ll have to admit it was a thrill to see him. I wasn’t expecting him, and I certainly wasn’t expecting him to have anything meaningful to say in his introduction of the singer-songwriter goddess. However, Hilton said that one of Tori Amos’s albums, Little Earthquakes, literally changed his life. I agreed with him. This album changed mine, too. And from the look of the heads nodding in agreement, I could guess that she had affected many more. And that’s when I realized that there are some artists that had no other option than to become world famous. They are just that good. And those are the ones who will make it every time.
A thin, straight-haired Amos ascended to the stage and very quickly took her seat at her grand piano; a fortress that I assume this seemingly shy girl finds solace in when onstage. From the first note, the crowd almost audibly gasped. Her voice rings out like a storm siren tellin you to take cover; something big is on the way.
Amos treated the audience to several songs from her new album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, which will be released on May 19. The new songs were classically Tori, pensive and moody, serene with intermittent spasms of anger, and sometimes downright funny. The song “Mary Jane” is about a boy’s love affair with pot. Her other songs “Lady in Blue” and “Curtain Call” seemed to mark a return to the Tori Amos of the ’90s, before she went all Bjork-y on us and began experimenting with her music. Perhaps it’s being a mother, or the wisdom that comes with age, but Amos seemed perfect and in her element.
Luckily for those like me who have Tori Amos crushes, she played a few of her classics including “Crucify” and “Silent All These Years.” During the latter, perhaps her most recognizable song, Tori drew out the notes in a languid lover’s voice while she presided over her song, which she attended like a baby. It seemed like Amos has deeply missed performing her music (she hasn’t performed since 2007), and wanted to drag it out just a little longer. She concluded her set by singing the line “She has risen, she has risen.” Ain’t that the truth? Check out her album.
I was still on a Tori high when I scuttled to Vice to check out Kraak and Smaak, a Holland party band that’s like bumping a line of cocaine off of an Adderall brick that’s been dipped in Red Bull. The DJ was a masterful whiz-kid, weaving concentrated beats that escaped the cliché and monotonus unh-che, unh-che, unh-che that people associate with electronica. The rest of the plaid-clad band rocked a bubble-gum-fun personality and exchanged playfully with the crowd.
I didn’t quite understand the set up of Kraak and Smaak. This is what it says on their SXSW site: “Although Kraak & Smaak originally started out as a studio project for the founder members Oscar De Jong, Mark Kneppers & Wim Plug it quickly became one of the hottest live properties in dance music. The live band has the addition of Ro Krom – drummer & vocalist, Rose Spearman – vocalist and Marc on the bass guitar and Paul Jan on the guitar.”
Whatever the case, vocalist Rose Spearman is not only drop dead gorgeous, but she’s got a voice on her that’s as powerful as Whitney Houston and as intuitive as Allison Krauss. She huffed and puffed and blew the house down, while her backup boys goaded her along with the tried and true mix of keyboard, synthesizer, drums and scratchy record. The entire club was bouncing up and down, high on this house-music that was unpretentious booty-shaking fun. They were just the right amount of funky to bring a new dimension to the electronic without becoming a caricature of themselves. Kraack and Smaak is a perfect way to start or end a night on the town, especially this town.
Day 2 was my first "full" day at SXSW, and armed with an 8GB CF card in my camera, I was determined to see as much as I could, and shoot it as well. Wednesday's Dept. of Eagles set was pretty incredible, so I had high hopes for Thursday.
After an exhaustive search, I finally found a parking spot on 7th and Neches and hoofed it to the Parish to catch the tail end of the NPR Showcase, walking in on Blitzen Trapper's last song. While I enjoyed their debut, Wild Mountain Nation, their new record Furr didn't make as big of an impact on me, trading much of the kooky mountain man stuff for some more subdued Dylanism. The only true upside to missing this showcase was bumping into Annie Clark of St. Vincent in the Parish stairway. I congratulated her on her set last night, and she seemed pleasant if not a little distracted. St. Vincent plays two or three more gigs before Sunday; I don't think I'll be able to catch any of them, but if you're at SXSW I highly recommend one of her shows.
After the NPR showcase, I popped my head into ... um, now I can't remember the name of the venue. But I do know that the band inside was called Sickboy, from Ireland. The trio (two gingers and a Pete Doherty/Quentin Tarantino doppleganger) played a propulsive set, all stomps and downbeats, laying a solid foundation for two- and three-part harmonies (if you can call shouting in unison "harmony.") It reminded me of a rawer, scrappier (and better) Futureheads.
I decided to try and line up early for the Sub Pop Showcase at Radio Room, even though the only act I could catch was noise-pop duo No Age, who made a big splash with their latest record, Nouns. First mistake: forgetting ear plugs. Second mistake: standing next to THE BIGGEST NO AGE FAN IN THE WORLD, who proceeded to elbow-dance to every song, only slowing down during the white-noise sections. It was pretty hilarious, and he actually upstaged No Age a bit. I'm not their biggest fan — they basically play pretty standard garage-rock with some noisy interludes — but their drummer, Dean Allen Sprunt, was fun to watch.
After No Age I had to run off to Emo's Jr. to catch local sensations Hacienda. Being early, I walked into the tail end of indie-pop Austin group The Carrots, who take a cue from '60s girl-groups with at least three female vocalists and coordinated outfits. I didn't see enough to really make an educated decision on whether or not they were too gimmicky, but the last two songs I heard were pop perfection.
Taking the stage after them was Garotas Suecas from Sao Paolo, Brazil. This group really won the club over, despite the language barrier (I think they were singing in Portuguese). The youthful Garotas clearly had passion for American soul music, channeling the swagger of Jagger and the ass-grooving basslines of James Brown. And their cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" really brought the house down, and the energy up.
Hacienda was up next. This was their third or fourth show at SXSW, and they just came off their two-week national tour with Dan Auerbach (guitarist for the Black Keys). But instead of showing signs of road-weariness or been-there-done-that-syndrome, Hacienda simply knew the drill — taking the stage without a lot of fanfare but then proceeding to rock the hell out of Emos Jr. The band of brothers (and a cousin) may look and sound like '6os pop throwbacks, but this isn't a tribute band — when Hacienda covers the moldy Sonny and Cher song "Baby Don't Go," they're not doing it to be ironic — they're doing it because, removed from the cheesy context of the Sonny and Cher variety show, it's actually a pretty damn good pop song.
It fits right in among the rest of their set, heavy with tunes from their Auerbach-produced debut album, Loud is the Night. By show's end, all four members were sweat-soaked, but grinning — and the audience was more than appreciative. Look for a longer, more in-depth review of the Hacienda showcase at Emo's Jr. in next week's issue of the Current.
After Hacienda's amazing performance, I was inspired to check out another local artist repping San Antonio: rapper Daniel Boskind, better known as Question. Question, who brought along other SA artist R&B wonder Eddie B and rapper Fast Money, had the double-edged honor of following Da C.O.D., an Austin crew that was immensely popular judging by the crowd's reaction. When Question's initial shout-out to San Antonio was met with a muted response, he brushed it off, getting cheers when he switched gears and started asking for people from Texas to make some noise. Despite the noticeable lack of audience participation at the beginning of the show, Question's not-too-fast, not-too-slow flow began to win the room.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the trend continued, since had to duck out early to catch Moth!Fight! at Wave. Moth!Fight! is an Austin band with a special San Antonio connection: Marcus Rubio plays violin, saxophone, Micro-Korg, and tiny megaphone. As you could guess, Moth!Fight! have a ton of instruments and gear, all aimed at creating a fantasy landscape that is both modern and oddly Victorian — sort of a cheery steampunk. It's hard to explain adequately, but the members of Moth!Fight! are so enthusiastic that they eventually convert everybody in the vicinity — even drunk cougars whose favorite artist is probably Kelly Clarkson.
Stay tuned for EVEN MORE SXSW coverage, right here on Curblog!
6th Street is the center of the action at SXSW
A late start didn’t put a damper on Day 1 of the South By Southwest Music Conference, which featured a warm day, great music, and a few surprises. Most amazing, I did it all on a limited budget, spending less than what I'd shell out for a night out any other time of year.
first attempt at a free event at SXSW wound up being my first
disappointment, my name never making the list. I wondered if I had
Canadian passport, would that have been enough for entrance? Shouldn’t
Canadians be allowed entry to this sort of thing?
texts to friends, I wandered down to
- A friend texted me, telling me to head on down to Maggie Mae’s, where I found bands performing on three stages, sometimes all at once. I walked into the first, street level, bar and caught the tail-end of a set by Titus Andronicus, an act that recalls And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead with slightly more atmospherics, but the same level of debauchery.
Titus Andronicus definitely wasn't wearing these clothes during their Maggie Mae's set.*
Titus Andronicus definitely wasn't wearing these clothes during their Maggie Mae's set.*
One of the guitarists fell from his amplifier stack after security told him it wasn’t club policy to rock out on equipment over 10 feet high. The player gave him a brief, nonchalant look, and then jumped from his stack, rolling into a half-somersault, not missing a power-chord along the way. It was my first rock ‘n roll moment of the festival.
Looking over my shoulder, who did I see? I'm pretty sure it was Carrie Brownstein, formerly of the now defunct, but still awesome Sleater-Kinney. I tried not to stare and I almost said hello, being that I interviewed her for a feature piece a few years back for my former weekly.
– I then headed to the Red-Eyed Fly in hopes of catching a set by Detroit garage-rockers, the Von Bondies, but soon discovered they swapped sets earlier in the day with another band. Instead, I got to spend a little time with Sweden's The Tallest Man On Earth also known as Kristian Matsson, a singer-songwriter, plying his earnest ballads to an appreciative crowd. Nothing too spectacular, though. It’s hard to thrill me when you’re a man and his acoustic amongst 2000 bands. Sorry, dude.
Sweden's The Tallest Man On Earth had the right idea for attire for SXSW 2009
– Next up, the Mohawk offered the
LIke Titus Andronicus, Akron/Family played in a lot less clothing than depicted here
Two things I noticed at that point:
1) It was freaking hot. Maybe I’m not used to summer-like
weather in March, but the sweat soaked through my t-shirt and turned my stylish
hat into nothing more than a headband. I had to put it in the dryer later that
2) There seemed to be an awful lot of facial hair in
Irregardless of the heat and extraneous hair,
Akron/Family's set earned a closer inspection when I get back to
5:45 – Hidden on the other side of I-35, the Fader/Levi’s Fort presented one of the better line-ups of the day, including Swedish indie superstars Peter, Bjorn, and John (the contagious whistle hook in 2006 single “Young Folks” is permanently imprinted in my brain, whether I like it or not), all for free. I headed over to the Fort to hook up my wristband, but the line stretched way too long for me to even consider joining it.
As I turned
back to where my car was parked, I ran face-to-face with none other than Carrie
Brownstein one more time. I figured it was fate and took the opportunity to say hello this time, thanking her
for the time she hooked me up with a guest-list ticket to see
Sleater-Kinney play one of their final tours, opening for Pearl Jam in
– The heat forced me to a
brief respite at the friend’s place I commandeered for the week while she was
A great concept, Data Pop suffered in execution during the two acts I witnessed. First up, 8bk OK consisted of two singers, female and male, and a dude playing a pre-programmed, hijacked Gameboy. The trio ripped through several campy Nintendo-esque odes, including several show tunes (“Kiss The Girl” from The Little Mermaid and “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors), set to an 8-bit beat. The singers were great, but the set was a novelty at best.
Sievert proved modestly pedestrian, a set marred by technical problems. The only saving grace came from the pizzas he handed out to the audience at the start of his set, temporarily forgiving him for a couple of train-wrecks during his first tune.
me wrong, I love glitch-pop and 8-bit-inspired electronica. Check out anything
by Crystal Castles for proof on how it creatively good it can be done. But it
was really hard to rock out to a performance consisting of someone pressing a
button, holding a souped-up Gameboy aloft in the air, and not much else.
10:45 – At that point, I wanted something a little more organic, so I headed to the Monstrosity Party on Wilson Street to check out We Have Band, an act from London that has been receiving some buzz in the music press. I arrived at the party, only to be greeted by those leaving, some telling me the cops busted the neighborhood bash due to a noise violation.
Fortunately for me, a local restaurant serving food at the party was still in business, providing backyard treats to those left lingering. I took the opportunity to indulge in some of the best Frito Pie I’ve had in some time straight from the bag, loaded with cheese and jalapenos, and definitely worth the $3 spent.
– A quick drive downtown
and a brisk walk down
– After checking out The Rub, I began walking towards the Noise Revival Orchestra show at
investigated further, coming to a tent next to the Cedar Room. Only it wasn’t
Echo and the Bunnymen, but
The Cloud Room surprise is what SXSW is all about: stumbling upon great acts
Belfast's General Fiasco closed the night off on a high note
Tallying it up in the comfort of air conditioning, I spent only $20 over the course of the day. The worst decision was the four-dollar Red Bull at Beso Cantina when I could have easily asked for and received as many Red Bulls as my brain could handle at the Gameboy party (Red Bull was a sponsor). I saw a bunch of bands and shows across the musical spectrum on Day One, not once being asked to see my wristband or festival badge. It contributed to a feeling of musical empowerment that grew stronger after reviewing the quality and quantity of talent seen and experienced at minimal cost.
Goal: Spend under $100 over the course of the festival
Money spent so far: $20. $5 on parking, $4 on Red Bull, $3 on Frito Pie, $5 on admission to one show, $3 on water.
Free stuff: Entrance into six venues, one Red Bull, two Captain Morgan wristbands, plenty of stickers that found the inside of a trash bin.
Pedometer: Over 11000 steps (nearly seven miles).
will be uploaded on return to
By Abbie Kopf
Arriving at SXSW was a lot like my first day in high school. I was walking around with a map in my hand, hoping that the cool kids wouldn’t notice that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or where I was supposed to go. It was in this uncomfortable and self-conscious state that I decided to head into the first bar I saw, the Parish, to find my sea legs over a Corona. As I sat there, trying to decipher these Dead Sea scrolls called the SXSW lineup, my ear was drawn unexpectedly to the Irish band that was owning the stage and giving me lady-wood in the process. I didn’t set out to see this band, but this, I would soon learn, is the magical thing about SXSW—you never know who you’re going to find.
The Mighty Stef is named after shaggy-haired lead singer Stefan Murphy, whose mumbly and gentle speaking voice would lead you to believe that his vocals would be equally as murky. When he started singing, however, he had an authoritative and thick, deep voice that sounded like an intersection between T-Bone Burnett and Johnny Cash. He carries that same sort of dark predilection and almost hymnal sound of his music. Murphy’s morbid descent in the performance of “Death Threats,” just drove me crazy. Whether Murphy is delivering punchy bar anthems in the vain of his fellow Irishmen, Flogging Molly, or exploring grungy country, he can draw in the crowd with the persuasion of a Svengali. And thanks to them, SXSW is starting off with a bang. Head on over to their MySpace page to get a listen for yourself.
After drying off my panties I headed over to the Soho Lounge to catch New Zealander act the Enright House. Perhaps it was because I was caught up in the sweaty masculine sound of the Mighty Stef, but something about the lead singer of the House struck me as kind’ve…douchey. The music itself sounds like it’s from The Hills Soundtrack, when Lauren Conrad is at a super-chic club, looking around pensively and forlornly for reasons that we’re all unsure of. I think that’s what this guy is going for. He described his music as perfect for “falling in and out of love and philosophizing about life, or simply for rolling around in your feelings like an Irish Wolf dog in the leaves of a forest park.” Gag me.
Actually, if you leave him out of the equation, the show was enjoyable. I appreciated the contrast of emphatic and weighty beats that punctuate the long drones of synthesizers and manufactured melodies. It produced a feeling of magic and ethereality that dense arrangements of loops, recordings, and other AI can effectively communicate. Unfortunately, there was this jerk whispering over it the whole time, and it cheapened what could have been a great experience. However, it would be worth your time to check out the song “Darkwave=MC Squared.”
I needed to shake off the sad that the Enright House had sprayed all over me, and I couldn’t have found a better cure than Starfucker, who I caught at Radio Room. These lighthearted weirdos immediately endeared themselves to me because they had their keyboard set up on a suitcase, which sat atop what looked like a TV tray. I like a resourceful band.
The Portland, Oregon, foursome made the stage their laboratory, with every music-making instrument short of an accordion part of their act. I particularly loved DJ Ryan Biornstad, who worked the turntables like a lonely woman before bedtime. He danced with controlled enthusiasm and really became the focal point for the band. Throughout this display of Starfucker’s lo-fi, hearty pop genius, the band stole joyous looks from one another, like four siblings who were slipping something past mom and dad. The entire crowd was head-bobbing to maintain the super-cool hipster vibe, but it was clear that the invitation to dance was becoming too irresistible; some found their way to the front of the stage to throw up their hands and dance like only white people can.
Though their live concert was a treat, I imagine that Starfucker is best enjoyed in the car or in your room alone, when you can turn those pop tunes up and not care who hears you. The band is releasing and promoting a mini-LP called Jupiter that will hit on May 9 of this year. I suggest you pick up a copy.
After a few more hours of boozing, I was ready to see Those Darlins, a trio of Southern girls that specializes in rockabilly but throws in a nice amount of sassy to get the crowd going. The twangy lead singer’s infectious hoots could be compared to Tanya Tucker or a country queen legend like Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette, which is sublime company. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling, however, that the Western spin of this band seemed more like mockery than earnest love for country music. Indeed, one of the girls was wearing an Indian Headress while another wore an outfit from the Grand Ole Opry circa 1976. Were they really dressing up like cowboys and Indians?
On their SXSW description page, it’s stated that they have a genius for making “a good joke out of rural isolation and provincial idiocy.” I get that they have an ironic sense of humor, which I can dig, but it came across to this first timer that if their content is a joke, then the band is a joke. And that just shouldn’t be the case because these are three bad-ass chicks with a lot of talent. Whatever the case, the show was a fun 15 minutes until the novelty of the headdress wore off, and I was ready to get home.
It was a long, slow crawl up I-35 to Austin last night, but there was only one SXSW show, or showcase, on my to-do list: The 4AD Showcase at Central Presbyterian Church. It was a heavy line-up: M. Ward, Department of Eagles, St. Vincent, and Camera Obscura. While Matt Ward and Annie Clark play Texas frequently enough (they both just played ACL and Fun Fun Fun Fest, respectively), Department of Eagles (side project to critical darling Grizzly Bear) and Camera Obscura (from Glasgow, Scotland) don't play Texas very often, if ever.
After getting badged and bagged (relatively quickly), I high-tailed it to the Central Presbyterian Church only to be confronted with a line out the door and down the block. Long lines of hopeful music fans isn't uncommon at SXSW, but this was the badge line.
Everybody and their mother wanted to see M. Ward, who released the stellar Hold Time this year (read my review here), and blew up on the national radar with his other band with Zooey Deschanel (so jealous!), She & Him. But having seen Ward at ACL last year, and determined to see DOE, I stuck it out and waited for his set to be over. Predictably, the church emptied after Ward finished, and I made it inside.
The church was impressive — according to the church members selling bottled water for $1, the CPC is the oldest church in Austin, actually predating the creation of the Austin City Charter by two months in 1839. They've been hosting bands at SXSW for a few years (Lyle Lovett once played there and apparently loved the acoustics), and it's one of the bigger showcase venues, capacity-wise.
Department of Eagles took the stage (er, altar) without a lot of fuss, in direct contrast to their incredibly powerful concert — their haunting songs filled the church (Lyle is right, the acoustics are pretty good), and created echoes and textures that sounded remarkably like their awesome second record, In Ear Park (which was Music Editor Jeremy Martin's top album of 2008, and should've made my list). Most impressive was Rossen's ability to loop his vocals in real time, creating a huge-sounding backing choir of Rossens. DOE also performed two brand-new songs that would fit right at home on Ear Park. With Grizzly Bear releasing Veckatimest soon, it might be a while until the next DOE release.
St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), however, is about to release her new record, Actor, and judging by the strength of her set at CPC it will surpass her debut, Marry Me. With flute, clarinet, sax, and violin in tow, Clark flirts with Disney cartoon arrangements before injecting them with off-kilter distorted guitars and some surprisingly muscular beats. Actor just jumped up a notch in my Most Anticipated Albums of 2009 mental list.
In person, Clark was Manic Pixie Dream Girl personified, alternating between standing stock-still and dancing like Seinfeld's Elaine Benes. At one point she gave a shout-out to her 8 and 10 year old siblings, and later, teared up during her second-to-last song. But the music never faltered, and her final song rode a wicked duel-saxophone-guitar riff that is still stuck in my head. Listen to "The Strangers," the first single off St. Vincent's upcoming album, Actor.
Camera Obscura was good, despite the sore throat of singer Tracyann Campbell. I've been fond of the Glaswegian band since hearing their early single "Eighties Fan," but after the technical wizardry of St. Vincent and DOE, they were a little anti-climactic. Camera Obscura's music is incredibly twee, owing much to '60s pop, particularly The Ronettes. But they've never been able to achieve the emotional depth of, say, fellow Glaswegians (OK, I just like typing "Glaswegian") Belle & Sebastian. Camera Obscura's tunes are catchy enough, but don't say much beyond "Hey Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken."
Stay tuned for more SXSW coverage on Curblog!
The Shaky Hands
As far as I’m concerned, these guys made two mistakes right off: They took the stage a little after noon when everyone was still nursing hang-overs, and they played with the sun reflecting off thee cliffs in the background, which makes for some truly shitty pictures (see above). Otherwise a solid performance. The Shaky Hands have a classic guitar-rock sensibility, but confine it to an indie-rock structure, squeezing all the jammy bits to small accents and punctuations. Not bad, but they were clearly still warming up, understandably not wasting their A-game on the groggy crowd, which watch indifferently, like a herd of cattle in plastic framed hipster sunglasses.
The Paper Chase
Dallas’s the Paper Chase, (sometimes known as the pAper chAse; someone in the band totally doesn’t get how caps lock works) started their set with a shrieking air-raid siren and only got noisier. I missed these guys when they came to San Antonio a few months back, and I’m really sorry I did. They match a relentless punk rhythm to abstract noises and bassist Bobby Weaver has a totally sweet beard. But the rock star onstage is unequivocally singer-guitarist John Congleton. Congleton’s not coincidentally the only member of the band not wearing sunglasses, apparently so he can make some intense-to-the-point-of-being-uncomfortable eye contact with members of the audience. “We know where you sleep,” he screamed at one point, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one who checked under the bed before tucking myself in. But he also had like one fourth of the audience singing along with every song, and with good reason. All that incredible volume is obscuring some pretty intriguing shit: “You were a good man for the state, but you’re no longer needed here,” Congleton manages to express at one point before keyboardist Sean Kirkpatrick pounds the keys and drowns him out. A great stage show that demands some obsessive at-home listening. I suggest you start now. If you’ve noticed that the pictures are much better for this show, that’s because this is when my wife Lauren Martin took the camera away from me and started taking the photos herself.
Following Paper Chase, Portland’s Horse Feathers acoustic set-up seemed completely out of place, and the sound wasn‘t adjusted to suit them. Vocalist Justin Ringle’s gentle tenor has a male beauty you don’t normally here outside of shitty James Blunt castrato pop, and he deserves credit for, and it would’ve been nice if they’d given his mic some more juice. While he strums the guitar, a cellist a violinist and a banjo player accompanied at approximately the volume of a drinking fountain. It’s got an Appalachian feel, but violinist Nathan Crockett is most definitely not a fiddle player. Instead, he and cellist Catherine O’Dell (and sometimes multi-instrumentalist Sam Cooper, who occasionally plays second not-fiddle) are a bona fid strings section. Other instruments onstage: an adorable baby drum kit, a mandolin, a glockenspiel, and a freaking saw. All this auxiliary instrumentation only made brief appearances, adding tiny embellishments to the songs. The comparison to Iron & Wine is too obvious to be of much use to anyone.
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
“We haven’t played in a while,” vocalist Thao Nguyen explains “so I’m a little out of shape.” You might think she meant to say “practice,” but you’d be wrong; then again, so was she. Drummer Willis Thompson and bassist Adam Thompson spotted Nguyen while she balanced serious bouts of No Depression with tropical melodic guitar plucking and even a little beat-boxing:
At one point Nguyen asked for requests, and a few people (possible plants) in the audience for maybe the first time ever in the history of concerts screamed to hear a new song. Nguyen complied, unveiling “Body,” saying, “I haven’t finished writing it yet, but fuck it.” The song was by far the heaviest and most exciting of the set, swapping the alt-country bounce for hardcore shrieks and garage guitar abuse. It’s time to put down the pen, Thao.
Marnie Stern’s appearance at the Kill Rock Stars party confirmed something I’ve suspected for a while now: She’s one of the best most guitar players alive. Not in terms of technical skill or wanking speed, but because her self-taught finger tapping and alien sense of rhythm are the most interesting sounds coaxed from a guitar since Thurston Moore shoved a drumstick under the strings. The show in all honesty was actually a little off -- her rhythm section had some serious trouble keeping up at times, even though her touring drummer was playing a simplified version of the percussion Zach Hill played on the album (most noticeably in the frantic closer “Prime”) though, to be fair, I strongly suspect that Hill is actually some type of cyborg. I’d never seen Stern before, so I was mostly just glad to discover that this tiny, adorable 30-something who records manic pep-rally chants over violent guitar assaults actually exists and isn’t the creation of a record label. She sounds like the subject of a Disney Channel movie of the week, but she’s for real and we've got the video to prove it:
On the opposite end of the rock spectrum, now-power-trio the Thermals almost always stick to the power-chord-heavy alt-rock blueprint, and they never missed a beat. Lead singer and guitarist Hutch Harris manages to avoid staleness mostly through some incredible songwriting, delivering clever religious and political screeds in a pissed off but charismatic voice. Those lyrics were less intelligible live than I’d have liked, but the band’s single-minded intensity kept it interesting. The fact that Harris was wearing what appeared to be the bottom half of a woman’s bathing suit and had the word “slut” written in magic marker across his stomach probably didn‘t hurt either. The set list consisted mostly of songs from their upcoming album, Now We Can See, but included “A Pillar of Salt” from 2006’s phenomenal The Body, the Blood, and the Machine, and a cover of Nirvana’s “Verse Chorus Verse.” The catchy title track from their new album closed the set with this gloomy meditation on America’s Hope-era hypocrisy and deadbeat dad urges: Yeah baby we were savage. We existed to kill. Our history is damaged, at least it was a thrill. But now we can see! Now that our vision is strong, we don’t have to admit we were wrong. I can’t see any reason these guys aren’t one of the biggest bands in the world.
for entrance into audiophile heaven grew smaller and smaller as the days inched
closer to the musical Mecca known as the South By Southwest Music Conference.
Although a veteran of several music festivals, I’m relatively new to these Texas parts and my contact list had been growing at the pace of a Portishead album. Meaning, I had little in the ways towards obtaining the golden SXSW ticket: a media badge that run regular spectators a paltry $650.
My salvation came a few weeks before the festival. I was in Austin to see Australian band Cut Copy perform at Stubb’s BBQ, ground zero for all things SXSW. I brought up my quandary as I chatted with a table of newly found acquaintances introduced by a friend before the show. Zach, one of the guys at the table, happened to work in the local music industry and gave me the scoop: no badges or wristbands are necessary to experience SXSW.
The key, Zach told me, is to RSVP to all the free parties going on during the four-day music bonanza. All of the daytime events are open to the public and there are plenty of free night shows that don’t require the exorbitant festival entrance fee.
We exchanged emails with his promise he’d send me a link to a coveted list of the free parties going down that week. The rest of the work was up to me. The next day, after a great performance by one of my favorite new bands – do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours if you haven’t already – my Gmail account contained the Holy Grail of SXSW free shows. At an astounding 34-pages, “The List” document was massive, overwhelming and awesome. I admit, I held my breath in giddy excitement for more than a few seconds at first glance.
That got me thinking. Could I do SXSW for free? Could I do it for under $100, without a wristband or media pass? Could I bypass the registration lines and crowds waiting for their multi-hundred dollar, color-coded laminates and party just as hard?
There would be something rock ‘n roll about doing SXSW for free. It had an air of rebelliousness, bypassing the powers-that-be, expecting us to drop over half-a-grand for a trade show and panel discussions we’ll probably never attend; for a festival consisting of free events half the time; a festival that offers a Dionysian orgy of free food, beverages, and schwag; and most importantly, more than ample chances to see the bands you want without having any official access. It almost begged us to do it for free.
I spent hours upon hours filtering through “The List,” honing in on the good stuff, picking out which bands I wanted to see on particular days. Little by little, an itinerary built, dozens of acts playing over downtown Austin over four glorious days, costing me only a measly email address most of the time.
Would I be turned away from some shows for not having a badge or wristband? Sure. But would I get to see a boatload of great acts for no admission fee? Hell, yes. Would I get to chow down on Texas BBQ for no pennies? Most certainly. Would I be handed a bunch of merchandise I will most likely throw in the trash later that night? You can bet on it. Would I see Hollywood celebrities attempting to up their public cred-factor? Probably so.
When it came down to it, the music mattered most. Nothing would stand in the way of a fan and his musical fix. I’m would show others its possible to get the SXSW experience without having to be a musician, manager, liquor rep, publicist, or record label executive, badge around neck, all high-and-mighty, acting like they’re better than us (while we seethe in modest jealousy). With a few bucks in my pocket, some resources, and a plan, I sought off to garner a big bang for little bucks at the best music industry conference in North America. Bring it on. Off to Austin.
Five bands I want to see and the chances I’ll get to see them for free:
1. White Lies
The latest in It-Bands from the UK, White Lies actually live up to the hype surrounding the lavish and exciting debut No. 1 album, To Lose My Life. Singles “Death” and “Farewell to the Fairground” are surefire hits amongst fans of Interpol, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division. Perhaps not coincidentally, the album drops in the U.S. this week and they’re on Letterman on March 24. This band is going to be huge.
Playing at: Filter Magazine SXSW Showdown at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 20, and Stubb’s BBQ, March 21, 7:40 p.m.
Chance of seeing this act play at SXSW: 65 percent. Not a sure thing due to the growing buzz around this band. The venue will be packed and word is the Filter party cuts-off the list at 2:30 p.m. although the band isn’t due to play around 5:00 p.m. That might not be such a bad thing as other fantastic UK bands The Whip and Razorlight play before them and there’s free BBQ.
2. Skratch Bastid
Canada’s finest and most hardworking DJ, Paul Murphy was already famous in hip-hop circles before he produced Buck 65’s 2007 release Situation (earning him a Producer of the Year nomination at the Junos, Canada’s answer to the Grammy Awards). A wizard on the decks, this guy does things you only see on YouTube. I still don’t believe I actually once opened for this dude when I DJed. I’m the Imperial Star Destroyer and he’s the Millennium Falcon – he’s light-years ahead of me. If you don’t believe it, check out this clip from one of the three times he won a little DJ competition called Scribble Jam:
Playing at: Red Bull Moon Tower party, March 18, 11 p.m.-5 a.m., others through the weekend.
Chance of seeing this act play at SXSW: 50 percent. We’re on a first name basis. I’ve written bunches of stories on the guy. I practically made his name, so he damn well better let me in. Unfortunately, the only party I know he’s playing, the Red Bull Moon Tower Party, is invite only.
3. Echo and the Bunnymen
Every year at SXSW, there seems to be a band that the music industry acknowledges as “the Shit” AKA “We wouldn’t be here without you, now we’re making you headliners at our festival.” It’s about time Ian McCullough and company get some recognition, and it only took 30 years after they formed in Liverpool in 1978. There would be no post-punk movement - no Joy Division, no U2 (maybe that’s not such a bad thing), and no Interpol - without these guys. Most of you know them as that song in Donnie Darko (“Killing Moon”). True music aficionados know them much better. To all those kids out there wearing black with funny hairstyles, listening to depressing music, these guys started it. Pay your respects.
Playing at: Emo’s Main Room, March 18, 12:30 a.m.; SXSW Live (The Bat Bar) Austin Convention Center, March 21, 5:00 p.m.; Rusty Spurs, 12:00 a.m.
Chance of seeing this act play at SXSW: 20 percent. This is the act to see at SXSW 2009. All shows are strictly nighttime, badge and wristband only. I will have to beg, borrow, or steal someone’s credentials to get into any of these shows, but I might have an in with the Rusty Spurs venue, an event that might be RSVP. Fingers crossed.
4. The Von Bondies
Jack White’s least-favorite band, Detroit’s the Von Bondies return after a few years off with the awesomely named album, Love, Hate, Then There’s You. A few members have left, a few have joined, but at it’s core the group is Jason Stollsteimer, a banshee of a lead-singer and guitar-player that continues the fury of 2004’s Pawn Shoppe Heart, with an added dose of Jesus and Mary Chain to the already sharp garage-rock attack. SXSW is the quartet’s comeback party.
Playing at: Little Radio Presents Party, March 18, 5:20 p.m.; Rock Band Party, March 18, 9:00 p.m.; MySpace Party, March 20, 12:00 AM
Chance of seeing this act play at SXSW: 75 percent. I’ve RSVPed to the Little Radio Party, so as long as I show up early, I should be in.
5. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead…
I had to have an Austin band on here. Trail Of Dead is lucky in the sense that they know everyone in Austin, therefore can play anywhere they want, at pretty much any time they want during SXSW. They just released their latest, Century of Self, a supposed return to form after a few major label albums. I’ve been dying to see this group live since I scored their excellent debut disc for a dollar in a bargain bin whilst living in Canada.
Playing at: Namely everywhere. I will probably see them at Lucky Lounge between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on March 19.
Chance of seeing this act play at SXSW: 95 percent. Free or not, if I don’t see this act at least once at this year’s festival, I’ve failed as a music writer.
By Kiko Martinez
Filmmakers Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore were in San Antonio last week to promote their new film Miss March, which opened in theaters Friday (See Jeremy Martin's review in this week's issue). The duo sat down with the Current to talk about working with Playboy icon Hugh Hefner and told us why they think a movie like this is different from others in the road-trip subgenre.
Current: Uh, where is Sara Underwood (2007 Playboy Magazine Playmate of the Year, who has a cameo in Miss March and toured with Zach and Trevor for a week to promote the film)?
Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore: (Laugh)
TM: Well, she came on the bus with us for about a week. It was great. She told us a lot of stories.
ZC: Hef didn’t come. I don’t think he was in the mood for a bus trip.
My guess is that he’s probably happy right where he is.
ZC: Yeah, he’s happy in his nice house.
Did either of you ever stumble upon your dad’s Playboys like the kids in the opening scene?
ZC: I found my grandfather’s in the closet. It was kind of like it is in the movie. I was intrigued and afraid all at the same time. And I knew I wasn’t supposed to be looking at it.
How old were you when you started noticing girls?
TM: I guess it was in kindergarten when I had my first girlfriend.
ZC: I had my first crush when I was like in the 5th grade. I remember in 3rd grade the girls would chase the guys and hold them down and kiss them.
Girls were maturing much faster than boys at that age.
I remember in the 5th grade a group of girls came up to me giggling and asked me if I wanted oral sex.
ZC: In the 5th grade? Isn’t that a little young?
Yeah, well, I literally had no idea what that was and when I told them I didn’t, they just laughed at me.
ZC: I remember in the 4th grade someone told me that a blow job is when a girl blows on a guy’s penis and foam comes out.
Did either of you get the sex talk from your parents?
TM: Well, I remember the day that I found out how sex worked. I was at the playground and there were some older kids there. Basically, there was this kid there trying to put this ball into this bucket and I said, “Put it in, put it in.” All the older kids started laughing. I knew it had to do with your genitals. I figured genitals went inside other genitals.
During the writing process, did you guys ever worry about being able to get away with some of the more vulgar jokes and images?
ZC: No, basically we just wrote what we wanted to write. We were lucky because no one really stepped in and said, “Whoa, guys!”
There weren’t any issues with Playboy? Well, I know they did “The House Bunny” last year but that was pretty tame.
ZC: House Bunny is for girls.
TM: We showed them the script and they liked it. We did get a call from Hef about a week before we were going to shoot with him and he said, “At one point you call a girl ‘busted.’ What does that mean?” I said, “Uh, it means that she’s not good looking.” He said, “Will kids know that?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Okay, that’s fine.”
I read that you had actually filmed Hef’s scenes with Robert Wagner playing the role. What did Hef think about coming in to replacing him?
ZC: The first thing he said was, “I don’t know why you guys want me to do this. I thought R.J. did a great job.” It’s not that [Wagner] did a bad job or anything. We replaced him with the man he was portraying.
Why did you decide to make the switch?
ZC: [During test screenings] we were getting a sort of disconnect when the door opens and it’s Robert Wagner. I mean, everybody knows Hef – The House Bunny, The Girls Next Door. He’s an icon.
Why did you decide to make firemen the antagonists in the movie when the rest of the world always depicts them as heroes?
TM: That’s why. Especially after 9/11 – and rightfully so – you’re not going to see firemen as the bad guys. It ended up working well because they have those huge super trucks and they all have axes. They really are pretty scary.
Do you think your characters, two guys on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, would be friends in real life?
ZC: I think Eugene and Tucker have been friends since they were little kids. I think Eugene is a nerd who probably couldn’t make any friends in high school and Tucker just doesn’t know any better. He’s loyal out of stupidity. Eugene appreciates that for whatever its worth.
Why is this movie different from other road trip movies?
ZC: Underneath it all, I think this movie has a message. These two characters basically have the same problem. Both are putting sex up on a pedestal in an unhealthy way. Tucker is obsessed with sex. He has a girlfriend but he want to sow his wild oats. Eugene is obsessed with [not having sex]. He spends his time talking to kids [about abstinence]. His girlfriend wants to be intimate and elevate their relationship to the next stage, but he is unwilling to do that and that is poisoning his relationship. It’s about these two guys finding this middle ground. I don’t think it’s an idea you would normally get in a “we’ve-gotta-get-laid-by-prom!” kind of movie. Our movie is totally dirty. It’s filthy. We know that. But under that, it has a message that says sex is not this monster and it’s not the best thing in the world. It’s something you have to figure out on your own.
How do you all take criticism? What’s going to happen when you read a bad review of Miss March?
ZC: I don’t read reviews at all. Listen, I know what this movie is. This is a movie for young guys. There’s poop jokes and cum jokes. Critics are not going to be kind to this movie, so why put myself through the torture of listening to people saying how dumb they think this movie is? Anyway, no critic can scathe this movie as much as I do in my own brain.
Do you have an automatic pass now to get into Playboy mansion?
TM: They said they were going to invite us to the parties, but I doubt it.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Bill Maher.
ZC: (Laughs) No, I don’t think so. I would love to go to a party at the Playboy mansion. The Midsummer Night’s Dream party is supposed to be pretty amazing.
Do you think they’re as wild as people imagine?
ZC: Yeah, I think they’re insane. I’ve heard that the grotto, by the end of the party, it’s just people…
In a massive orgy.
ZC: Yeah! I mean, I’m not going to get into an orgy in the grotto or anything, but I wouldn’t mind peeking in.
A Cornyation group fundraiser. King Anchovy this year is Cheryl Sculley. Apparently you have til 4 pm tomorrow (Wednesday) to RSVP.
TONIGHT TONIGHT TONIGHT!
(That's Ed on the right)
This should be fun, I think. Scroll down for info on tonight's St. Paddy's opening/party.
"FL!GHT gallery proudly presents Ed Saavedra in "All By Myself." This one-person exhibition features work produced within the last twelve months at Saavedra's Lone Star Boulevard studio: paintings in the main gallery, and sculpture/assemblage/collage on one wall of the salon-style gallery he co-curates with founding director Justin Parr.
Absent a neatly-packaged shtick, Saavedra avoids easy categorization by simultaneously experimenting on multiple projects and series. His art offers mere static glimpses - only the ends, artifacts, fossils - from a daily process concerned with purpose and progress rather than yesterday's finished product.
Figurative painting (more realized, self-conscious, acrylic-on-canvas versions of the marker portraits Saavedra rendered as a toddler) remains the artist's primary compulsion, but assemblage and performance silliness provide trusty, diversionary outlets for spontaneous creative bursts.
"His wild style incorporates mixed media, collaborative work and found objects. For instance, a pencil found at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California became a pivotal piece of his work 'Marker's Remorse #2.' And his singular sense of humor is apparent in the titles he chooses, such as his fertility goddess-esque creation: 'Our Lady of the Perpetual Taco-Money Hustle.'" --Jennifer Lloyd (210 SA)
Saavedra's work has been enjoyed at Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center, Institute of Texan Cultures, L.A. Art Fest, Rhose Amarillo, StoneMetal Press, Galeria Ortiz Contemporary, and the late Cinematexas Short Film & Video Festival."
"Ed Saavedra: All By Myself 2008-09"
1906 South Flores
(the heart of the burgeoning South Flores Arts District)
San Antonio, TX 78204
www.turnitoff.tv AND www.southflores.com
TUESDAY, MARCH 17 2009 opening with the artist.
6-11pm (FREE) reception with special musical guests (presented by Portland, Oregon music and art label Hometapes in an exclusive-to-San-Antonio pre-SXSW engagement):
For information about the bands, visit:
For info about Silace Amaro and Media Decompression Berlin click on:
We’ll begin our SXSW coverage in earnest beginning tomorrow with blogging and photos galore, but today we’ll begin listing the SA acts playing non-SXSW-sanctioned showcases and day parties in Austin. (All the SA acts with official SXSW showcases are profiled here.) We realize his list is probably incomplete, and we’d love to add any other bands appearing. Send info to email@example.com or add it in the comments section below.
Unlike the SXSW showcases, these shows are all free, but they’re all still in Austin, in case that wasn’t made clear. As more bands get added, I may have to take this back, but I’ve seen all the bands listed below perform live, and they’re all highly recommended.
Wednesday, March 18
The Hawks (of Holy Rosary)
Music for Listeners day party
Red House Pizzeria
1917 Manor Rd.
311 E. 6th St.
Music Gorilla Fest
Spill on Sixth
212 E 6th St
Thursday, March 19
Texas Rock Fest
Treasure Island Pirate Bar
413 E 6th St
500 E 6th St
Sarah & Octopus
Custom Tattoos From the Soul
516 E. 6th St
We the Granada
Custom Tattoos From the Soul
516 E. 6th St
Friday, March 20
Isaac Benavidez from The Heroine (acoustic show)
Texas Rock Fest
407 E 7th St
Ledaswan (acoustic show)
Texas Rock Fest
Pure Night Club
419 E 6th St
Saturday, March 21
Music for Listeners day party
Red House Pizzeria
1917 Manor Rd.
Texas Rock Fest
300 E 6th St.
Marcus Rubio and the Gospel Choir of Pillows
Music for Listeners day party
Red House Pizzeria
1917 Manor Rd.
Greg M. Schwartz
Hats off to the Luminaria organizers for coming through with a musical lineup that matched the rest of the arts fare going on downtown on Saturday night. There was quite a variety of high quality, homegrown musical entertainment on display, and at some scenic stage locales as well. Some of the music came from a teenage demographic, demonstrating that the San Antonio music scene could well indeed be poised for that often talked of yet still overdue resurgence.
The Ashlee Rose Band hit the Convention Center Stage at 7:25 p.m. and rocked out with a classic rock vibe powered by the voice of the19-year-old Rose. With a voice somewhat reminiscent of a young Sheryl Crow, Rose also rocks out on rhythm guitar and brings a presence to the stage that belies her true age. She and bassist Katherine Dawn rocked with a visible chemistry, revealing influences from Led Zep and the Beatles to Courtney Love and Ryan Adams.
The high-octane “Ride With Me” was an early highlight, as Rose captivated with her soulful voice and hard rocking guitar work. A variety of melodic rock tunes followed, with Rose commanding the stage like a seasoned pro. A cover of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” revealed some impressive alt-rock influence, while the bluesy “Save My Soul” had a gritty, old school flavor with Dawn laying down a heavy low end. “Live it Up” brought the energy back up with another electrifying rocker, as Rose continued to demonstrate her wide range.
The only drawback in the set was the trio’s lack of a keyboardist or lead guitarist to help push the music to the next level. But Rose’s songwriting and vocals are clearly ready for prime time. Local club owners are apparently throwing away money by not booking this gal just because of her under-21 age. What’s up with that? Derek Trucks was jamming with the Allman Brothers Band when he was 12, so it’s not like there’s no precedent for younger musicians in rock 'n' roll.
I wandered over to the Ticket Sports Pub on Houston Street to catch some of the Spurs-Rockets game, as well as the Big East Championship game. A full house cheered on the Spurs as they pulled out a tight game against the rival Rockets. National pundits have all but handed the Western Conference title to the Lakers, but the Spurs certainly won’t give up without a fight, which should make for some interesting playoffs. If the Spurs can hang onto the second seed in the West, anything can happen.
Louisville seemed to be pulling ahead of Syracuse and I then decided that it was time to get back out and see some more music (condolences to the UTSA Roadrunners, who looked like they might join March Madness today, only to fall to Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference title game.)
I had heard good things about the Krayolas and figured I better check 'em out, and was glad I did. Right in the center of downtown, the Torch of Friendship Stage offered a spectacular setting with lasers shining off the Hilton and lights shining all over the torch sculpture. The Krayolas were rocking out with a highly groovy and swinging sound, and it seemed a mystery as to why 90 percent of the crowd was just standing there when such tasty tunes were being played. The band’s upbeat vibe made it easy to see why they were once dubbed “the Tex-Mex Beatles.”
Lead vocalist/guitarist Hector Saldana and his mates appeared to be having a great time, with the whole band in high spirits. The saxophone of Louis Bustos and trumpet of Al Gomez added an extra air of festivity to the proceedings, and it was only a shame that the band didn’t get to play a little longer.
The laser show that followed seemed a bit underwhelming, but thank goodness for that in retrospect or I might not have wandered down to the HemisFair Stage to check out what was happening there. Little did I realize that I was about to witness not just the performance of the night, but a dazzling display of such stunning depth and power that it’s caused me to significantly upgrade my assessment of the entire local music scene.
Behold San Antonio, for I have seen the future of rock and it is the Young Generation. Led by 15-year-old vocalist/lead guitarist John Trevino and his 16-year-old brother Joe Trevino on drums, the quartet threw down one hard-hitting rocker after another with face-melting guitar solos on every tune from John and a percussion fury from Joe that recalled no less than masters such as John Bonham and Lars Ulrich.
But unlike so many dime-a-dozen hard rock groups, Young Generation has an extra dose of charisma coming from the other half of the band in the form of 16-year-old Jordan Gutierrez on rhythm guitar and 13-year-old Nayeli Lopez on bass. Gutierrez has got rock star written all over her, oozing coolness at all times almost like a female Keith Richards, as she maintains her parts on some fairly complex arrangements. Lopez blows your mind by holding down a rock solid low end despite appearing at first glance like someone more likely to be playing with dolls than playing bass for one of San Antonio’s hardest rocking bands.
With a young group like this, you might expect that the songwriting would lag a bit behind the chops, but you would be dead wrong. The tight arrangements and soulful vocal melodies put to shame much of what passes for modern rock from musicians who are 10-15 years older. Someone should call MTV, because a show about these kids pursuing their rock ‘n’ roll dreams would seem to be a surefire winner.
The band’s overall sound is based in hard rock and metal, with influences from groups such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Deep Purple, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Queensryche and more. The way these kids pull off one tight, progressive arrangement after another is simply stunning, considering their age. But there’s also a bluesy classic rock influence underneath which demonstrates that, unlike most of their peers, Young Generation have an appreciation for where hard rock grew from in the first place.
The band threw down a smoking rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” in the middle of their set, and then closed the show with Jimi’s “Little Wing,” as well as seguing into a cosmic jam on “Third Stone From the Sun.” John Trevino even played his Stratocaster behind his neck, not that he needed to resort to showy antics to blow your mind with his amazing chops. But as impressive as the Hendrix covers were, the band's original material is even more so.
The term “old soul” would seem to have been coined for John Trevino, with both his soulful vocals and dazzling guitar skills suggesting the talent and persona of someone far beyond his years. He must surely thank the Music Gods every day for giving him such an amazing drummer to play with in brother Joe, because having that that kind of tight percussion to work off of is every guitarist’s dream. The chemistry provided by Gutierrez and Lopez is surely another blessing, as there are way too few women in rock who actually really rock. These gals on the other hand are no mere pretty faces, but are rather bringing some serious musical heat.
If the band is this good now, it’s mind boggling to think of where they might be a few years down the road. San Antonio hard rockers had better beware, because seeing this band might make you feel like hanging it up. The Young Generation is setting an extremely high bar.
The Washington Times recently wrote an article suggesting five ways that jam rock kings Phish could help boost the economy now that they’ve returned from a five-year retirement. One of the items suggested was becoming a publicly traded entity. I’d love to buy some stock in Phish, but I’d also love to buy some stock in the Young Generation, because my crystal ball tells me these kids could well be one of the biggest bands on the planet in about five years or so. Stay tuned for more from the Current on these young phenoms soon…
Luminaria had it really going on because the fun still wasn’t over yet, as Mojoe were rocking it back at the Convention Center Stage in the 11 p.m. hour. No mere rappers with just two turntables and a microphone, Mojoe brings a whole band to the party, taking their music to a higher level than most of their instrumentally challenged peers in the hip hop scene can imagine.
The band was playing a highly funky number that had the crowd dancing, before wrapping it up with a softer R&B flavored number they said was the first they’d written. I wished I had caught some more of the set.
I only caught the last couple minutes of the Henry Brun Orchestra, but they seemed to have a jazzy flair going on that suited the downtown festival vibe well. The Luminaria-closing fireworks show put a stylish end on the evening, with a barrage set to the tune of numbers like “Get Down Tonight” and “Play That Funky Music.”
It’s clear now that the San Antonio music scene has got more talent than just what we’re seeing in the clubs, so let’s hope there’s some more opportunities coming up for the under-21 crowd to strut their stuff.
CATCH THE FEVER!
Pretty soon I'm going to move on to another topic--this week, in fact, it shall be the unmissable "Phantom Sightings" show at the Alameda, but do y'all know what today is...?
FREAKING LUMINARIA FINALLY!
And you peeps better not be scared off by a little breezy precipitation. GET OUT THERE, ART FANS! WEAR A JACKET! CARRY AN UMBRELLA! YOU WILL NOT MELT...unless you happen to be this lady:
...in which case: sister, I advise you stick to the convention center.
Hopefully you have some idea of what-all will be going on, what you'd like to see, and where they are. Here are a couple final updates, though:
1. Michele Monseau, in addition to her work with CAM (see, what, 2 Luminaria posts previous for more info on that?), has a Luminaria piece!
"Please come by and check out my 2-channel projection on the side of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not building. Believe it.
I will be sharing the projectors, so my piece will be projected from 9-midnight."
I will do that. Also, speaking of Michele/CAM, Elaine, Beto Gonzales and I will be bartending at the Beauty College starting at 6, so come by.
2. Nate Cassie (see...hmmm, 3 Luminaria posts previous for more info? I think) has been moved from outside the old-Joske's windows to inside the convention center:
"I will now be in the convention center visual arts gallery. Warmer, drier and I've got a front row seat for the symphony if you come by." Nice!
3. Furthermore, artist/math educator Dan Suttin, who I blogged about here (scroll down), will be showing his sculpture, about which, he says the following:
At “Luminaria”, in the Convention Center gallery, I will be exhibiting “The Big Ball”, or called more technically “Variation on the Truncated Icosahedron”. It is made out of brightly-colored cardstock paper (called cartulina florescente in Mexico where it comes from). It contains 3,600 pieces, and is held together by
55,440 paper clips, and white glue. It took over 500 hours to create, and each time I put it up for display, it logs another 10 hours or so to assemble its 12 sections.
On one level I am an artist and geometric sculptor exploring 3-D Geometry and spatial relationships. But on another level I am an educator and the designer of “The OCTA-TETRA Construction Set” out of which this sculpture is made. OCTA-TETRA teaches principles of geometry, art, architecture, engineering and design. OCTA-TETRA traces its roots back to Buckminster Fuller, and then to Alexander Graham Bell, and then to Leonardo da Vinci, and perhaps all the back to Pythagoras. And it appears in various forms as the roof of the San Antonio Public Library at Judson and Nacogdoches, in the structure of the greenhouses at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and even, with some stretch of the imagination, in the tricord-trusses that support the main lobby of the Convention Center.
Here are 2 images, too:
He always makes it an edu-taining presentation (art-u-tational...?)
4. Finally, I hear from my friend Denise Wilson that this guy will be there. "Dirty car art", if that's your thing. She says
(Google map image of area, sent by Thomas Cummins)
Streetscape Luminaria artists: a Quick Run-Down
Firstly, though, a note about weather readiness and changes by Libby Tilley, Luminaria spokesperson:
"Everything is a go for Luminaria! We are weather-proofing Luminaria and will be ready to welcome the San Antonio community to downtown San Antonio rain or shine! We have moved a couple of things inside to the Convention Center.
The San Antonio Symphony and the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio has been relocated to the Convention Center in Exhibit Hall A.
6:20 pm Youth Orchestras of San Antonio
9:00 pm San Antonio Symphony"
I rang Libby up; she added that there’s no rain forecast for tomorrow night, but it will be chilly. “Wear a coat,” she advises.
And now a few words and images from some of the “Streetscape” artists. I asked them to send locations, titles, descriptions of their pieces, and images if they wanted. The diversity of the responses is pretty great.
I am in the bandstand in front of the Alamo and am making a piece that involves audience participation! … We will start at 6 and go until all the materials have been used- we are making a collaborative piece in which we make wishes for things, forces, animals that cannot wish for themselves.
Title - "Maverick Walk"
These pics are of my location Maverick Walk but are also the photographs I'm using as my piece.
510 E Houston St. Maverick Walk is a pedestrian walkway that was built with the Hyatt hotel and its garage with one entrance found on Houston St. in between Alamo and Losoya.
[These are] two images of the location from both entrances of the alley - so you see the way you came in from and you see the exit you're leaving out of.
Both images are 27'' x 51''…and will be facing opposite of one another.
I'm on a building to be seen from the lawn where Movies in the Park was this year. behind Magik Cildrens Theatre & across the street from LUCA.
"Home Again, Home Again"
I am in the window at the Joske's on the Alamo street side.
“green x green x green"
This piece is a multimedia installation that consists of three wooden boxes (12” x 12” x12”) sustained off the ground by a wooden stand. Inside each box there is a video loop playing and mirrors placed all around it. The boxes have a small peephole, so people would look into the hole and see the video being played on the screen as well as the reflections of that video on the mirrors.
The video inside the boxes will be a compilation of colorful and beautiful images of fragments of nature. The video footage includes extreme close ups of flowers, clouds, water, earth, grass, etc.
(this third photo is a still from “Volver,” a previous work upon which “green x green x green” is based)
The boxes are painted white with black handwritten text over and around them.
My installation is going to be in the exhibit hall at the convention center, along other video installations.
I will be hovering around Hemisfair Park dressed like a box of hot popcorn.
Laura Varela (with Vaago Weiland)
The photos are just mockups and the proposal doesn't really include very much detail about the multimedia component, but I did get permission to project on the Alamo facade and on the wall on the left, which is the oldest wall in San Antonio.
Regarding Multimedia - Think brown faces on the face of the Alamo !!!
Generations of mankind lived and travelled in tents. All of their possessions were placed in their tents. Everything took place in nature or these tents: life, love, birth and death. Fortunately, the most important values of life are inside of us–inside of our being. We don’t need thick walls to shelter these values and beliefs. We don’t need missions, large houses, skyscrapers or defensive fortification to feel secure or connected with other life giving energy. The understanding of the basic law must be inside of us–our heart, soul and mind. The beauty of mother earth reminds us of this constantly.
It is easy to change your position when you are living in a tent. It is easy to change your point of view when you are not living behind thick walls. You are just covered and sheltered by a thin membrane and are coexisting with nature when you live in this manner.
This membrane is easy to destroy; everyone has to be careful. You need a lot of sensibility, respect and knowledge to handle it. Fortunately, even in these modern day’s you won’t find peoples treasure’s in their “tents;” you will find it in them.
Weiland is from Europe and studied architecture as well as sculpture and spent time in San Antonio in 2007. He recognized that the San Antonio Missions were built like castles and defensive fortifications. Throughout his discussions with Varela on why the Europeans attempted to destroy Native American culture one conclusion was clear: the belief and knowledge of the basic law of the universe and nature was sheltered behind thick walls.
Tonight, we're headed to White Rabbit to check out the grapheme-happy Pygmæus, who we can only hope will be performing in kick-ass light-up top hats. If not there's going to be hell to pay come review time, mark my words. The dudes in Pygmæus will be joined by locals Slain Monarch, the Dick Brown Experience, and Marcus Rubio & the Gospel Choir of Pillows. Admission is $6 for all ages, $5 if you can track down a flier, and Pygmæus is scheduled to go on around 10:30 p.m. A pygmæus is a type of orangutan, in case you were wondering (which you weren't).
...And this isn't even the last post!
Tomorrow I"ll feature artists on the "streetscape," letting you know who they are, and where they are.
But here's 2 more Luminaria possibilities.
This one happens Friday night, pre-Luminaria:
And here's a poster for a party at the Farm post-Luminaria, i.e., midnight Saturday til dawn Sunday--not an "official" Luminaria event, but a fun birthday party for Danielle "Enchilada" Collier. This poster was done by Jung Mun, a very talented artist/UTSA student, btw.
So, Ed Saavedra called me up, and a good thing, too--seems some peeps are laboring under the misapprehension that the opening for his one-man show at FL!GHT, entitled "All By Myself," is tonight.
IT IS NOT!
There is an opening tonight at adjoining ONE9ZERO6 for Missi Smith, about which you can read more here. So, by all means, go on over to the 1906 complex.
BUT ED'S SHOW DOESN'T OPEN UNTIL 3/17, ST. PATRICK'S DAY.
Here's that info:
"Absent a neatly-packaged shtick, Saavedra avoids easy categorization by simultaneously experimenting on multiple projects and series. His art offers mere static glimpses - only the ends, artifacts, fossils - from a daily process concerned with purpose and progress rather than yesterday's finished product.
1906 South Flores
(the heart of the burgeoning South Flores Arts District)
San Antonio, TX 78204
www.turnitoff.tv AND www.southflores.com
WHEN: TUESDAY, MARCH 17 2009 opening with the artist.
6-11pm (FREE) reception with special musical guests (presented by Portland, Oregon music and art label Hometapes in an exclusive-to-San-Antonio pre-SXSW engagement):
Slaraffenland (Copenhagen, DK)
Megafaun (Durham, NC)
AND live video projection and sound from:
Silace Amaro (Berlin, DE)
[Exhibition CLOSES Thursday, April 2, 2009 with a 6-11pm dance party.
For more info on the bands:
For info about Silace Amaro and Media Decompression Berlin click on:
...Ed's opening sounds fun, but again: IT IS NOT TONIGHT.
Greg M. Schwartz
Producer/Director Khashyar Darvich says it’s just a coincidental accident that his acclaimed documentary Dalai Lama Renaissance is playing here in San Antonio in the same week as the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising, but those who believe in the Buddhist concept of karma may be more inclined to call it synchronicity.
The 80-minute film, which follows 40 of the West’s most innovative thinkers to a conference with the Dalai Lama in India to discuss the world’s problems and how to solve them, premiered last May and has played in over 80 cities since. It screens at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Alamo Westlakes) tonight at 7:30 p.m, and tomorrow at 8 p.m.
“The thing audiences are really responding to is the [character] arc and the inner journey of the characters in the film,” said Darvich on the phone today. “The characters experience an inner journey from [being centered in] ego to an understanding that ego isn’t a way of solving the world’s problems. The real way of solving them is working on the self and changing ourselves.”
Darvich is f o u n d e r a n d p r e s i d e n t o f t h e W a k a n F o u n d a t i o n f o r t h e A r t s , a nonprofit with a m i s s i o n o f “ s e r v i n g a n d u p l i f t i n g h u m a n i t y t h r o u g h t h e a r t s .” He says all of those involved told him the experience with the Dalai Lama impacted them in a very real and profound way. Those characters include physicist Fred Alan Wolf, author and talk show host Thom Hartmann, nuclear physicist Amit Goswami and social scientist Jean Houston.
The film is narrated by actor Harrison Ford, who had previously spoken to Congress regarding the political situation between Tibet and China.
” I n a r r a t e d D a l a i L a m a R e n a i s s a n c e b e c a u s e I b e l i e v e H i s H o l i n e s s i s m a k i n g a p o s i t i v e i n f l u e n c e i n o u r w o r l d ,” says Ford at the film’s web site. “F o r m e , t h e f i l m r e p r e s e n t e d a n o p p o r t u n i t y t o c o n t i n u e a s s i s t i n g t h e o p t i m i s t i c e f f o r t s o f a n e x t r a o r d i n a r y i n d i v i d u a l .”
“He was so gracious at the recording session,” said Darvych. “Our plan at first was to have him just read each line three times, then he ended up reading each line ten times. He still said ‘I can read it again if you want.’”
Darvych also noted how Ford refused “star treatment,” rejecting the offer of a chauffered limo to the sessions and driving his own Toyota Prius hybrid instead.
“I feel really fortunate that audiences have expressed that [the film] has impacted them,” said Darvych. “As an artist, that’s really the most satisfying thing I can ask for.”
Among Luminaria wonders and spectaculars this Saturday: it’s the virgin outing of the newly re-organized Contemporary Arts Month (CAM). After a “velvet revolution”/handover to a new batch of organizers, CAM will put on a March’09 Luminaria show, then will also do something this July (which is the final July CAM), then it’ll up a whole new can of re-scheduled whoop-ass in March 2010.
If you didn’t know it before: after this July, CAM’s moving to March! In my opinion, this will be a big improvement, comfort-wise.
No more sweaty visits to 138 degree studios!
No pushcart-induced heatstroke, either —in fact, Cruz Ortiz’s Dignowity Hill Pushcart Derby’s already moved to March this year.
New CAM organizer Jason Jay Stevens sent me a press release, to wit:
“Contemporary Art Month continues as it has since 1985 to promote and celebrate contemporary art, especially the diverse work of South Texas artists and including art from all over North America and the world, organizing and collaborating with local galleries, art spaces, and alternative venues, with special exhibitions and unique events. ... At the end of 2008, Director Robert Tatum handed the reins of Contemporary Art Month to the organization's Artist Adivsory Board, currently Andy Benavides, Ben Judson, Michele Monseau, Leslie Raymond, and Jason Jay Stevens. This team carries Contemporary Art Month through this transition, with special events planned for March 2009, July 2009, and March 2010.
San Antonio Contemporary Art Month is now under the umbrella of SMART, a local non-profit organization that plans the annual SMART Fair.”
Just to give you some context:
Ben Judson founded and writes for essential arts blog Emvergeoning, and has curated some very interesting recent local events, including Jason Kahn's sound installation at the Beauty College, and Annette Krebs' performance at Sala Diaz.
Andy Benavides is a painter who owns and runs ONE9ZERO6 gallery, Benavides Picture Framing, and is involved in
Michele Monseau owns and runs Three Walls Gallery, is an adjunct professor at Palo Alto College, and is a video artist most recently seen in the amazing All Ladies' Video Review show at UTSA Satellite Space.
And Jason Jay Stevens, is half of new media arts collective Potter-Belmar Labs, with his partner, artist and UTSA New Media prof Leslie Raymond, who, incidentally, you can read more about in this week’s Current.
So, definitely check out CAM’s new curatorial regime at their Luminaria event at the Beauty College.
Here’s the invite:
Please join us for an evening of great fun, great art, and great music by San Antonio's best-- in our very own building at 505 E. Travis St. between Broadway and Alamo 6pm-midnight, rain or shine (we're inside anyway!!)
spread the word...free and open to the public.
music by Buttercup 8pm-midnight
cozy lounge w/ food by Madhatters for our sponsors!
curated and produced by Ben Judson and Michele Monseau, with special thanks to Chuck Ramirez, Jason Jay Stevens, Kimberly Aubuchon, Leslie Raymond, Andy Benavides, Elaine Wolfe, and Mary Cantu.
...As for me, I am particularly psyched to see new Regis Shephard work!
DOS: FREE NATE CASSIE
Nah, Nate Cassie isn’t in jail. But he will be present at Luminaria, giving away free stuff!
Check it out:
Actually, now that I look closely at the invite, it’s not so much “free” as “trade.” Go to Dillard’s /Old Joske’s and make him a drawing, and hopefully he’ll have some prints left hen you get there. Go early!
This hot on the heels of Nate’s Artpace Semester Program Artist stint, in which he collaborated with Fox Tech seniors to design three flags, which then flew in various locations around the globe. Very very cool.
TRES: Más UTSA Images
The UTSA New Media Program will be showing in the Convention Center Gallery. Here’s this week’s story about this show, which page also contains a movie by Jennings Sheffield, one of the students.
Unfortunately, we only had so much room in print for pictures, so I’m including some more images from the class.
Here are some handmade stickers by Utah Snyder. He plans to give these away free, as well as many other handmade things, such as T-shirts, videos on VHS, and drawings. I’m liking this un-commercial trend at Luminaria. I hear tell that Trinity prof/ poet Jenny Browne is gonna be wheeling shopping carts around, giving away free books, too. Nice! Maybe I should start handing out some stuff.
Anyway, here are Utah Snyder’s stickers. I hope I get one of these.
Here is a cardboard shelter built by a homeless person in Houston, from which John Mata (aka “the hardest-working man in show business”) derives some of the inspiration from his upcoming Luminaria piece, entitled “Shelter For New Media”:
Repeat: JOHN MATA DIDN’T BUILD THIS ONE. A presumably-homeless, anonymous artist did, presumably for the purpose of sleeping in. But Mata will use cardboard, apparently.
Now here are two more images by Mauricio Gudiño, whose untitled image (of a steak, a man, and a woman) adorns the UTSA story in-print and online.
I like these a lot.
also, I think, a video still.
Mauricio screened Charles and Ray Eames’ film Powers of 10 in the "show and tell" class I talk about in the article.
MUCH MORE LUMINARIA COVERAGE TO COME BEFORE SATURDAY!
By Sarah Fisch
This blog post brought to you courtesy of iced coffee and Paul’s Boutique!
I hit the First Friday art show openings on actual-First Friday this month instead of on First Thursday. I hadn’t done First Friday in a long, long time… I mostly avoid it because I have trouble focusing on art amid throngs of people, and partially because parking and shit is such a drag. I newly live in Southtown, though, so I could walk to the fracas, which I enjoyed doing.
Also, I’d spent First Thursday, instead of gallery-stalking, reclined on a beanbag chair at Artpace, watching Guillermina Zabala’s presentation of Soy Cuba, a gorgeous piece of filmic work produced in 1964 by director Mikhail Kalatozov at Mosfilm. Mind you, it’s nigh on three hours of Soviet-made propaganda — reductive as hell, and apparently not all that beloved by actual Cubans at the time of its release-- but with some of the most gorgeous cinematography this side of Kurosawa.
Soy Cuba, in addition to narratively justifying the Revolution (sugar cane workers exploited! University students martyred! Peasant farmers bombed, then joining the glorious army!) seeks to answer a question I’ve had a long time: “Is there a single solitary unattractive man, woman or child in all the land of Cuba?” (Answer: yes! They’re American Imperialists, though, wanting to buy both Cuban dancer’s vaginas and their humble crucifix necklaces.) Soy Cuba was presumably supposed to be forward-looking, but in its extolling of virtuous farmers, virtuous prostitutes, and its voluptuous adoring gaze on the countryside, it’s a sort of Cuban fantasy sprung from the mind of a… not even a Rusian Revolution-era artist, more like a 19th Century Russian, actually. Pre-revolutionary Empire. Like Cinema by Turgenev.
But at any rate, Soy Cuba is truly worth seeing, if you can find a copy…The DVD Guillermina screened for us was in Spanish, dubbed in Russian, with English subtitles, making for some unintentionally funny moments: like a Cuban female character utters “No,” over which the Russian –dubbing man’s voice intones “NYET,” then, after about an 3-second lag, the yellow English subtitle appears: “No.”
((Paul’s Boutique lyric digression: “…Is your name Michael Diamond? No, my name’s Clarence.” …Sorry.))
OK, so, I walked to Blue Star for First Friday, both to see the shows, and to get in on some gang warfare! Or, as in this past Friday night’s case, to check out the end product of what is, arguably, some affluent-older-white-people paranoia: vastly increased police presence, the likely result of a Southtown meeting about the supposed “gang activity” last month (the QueQue covered this issue here — check out our Mixxed Media video this week, too).
And I get the First Friday objections by some King Willie/Southtown residents, I do; if you own a Victorian house you’ve lovingly restored from near-wreckage, you’d rather said house get neither peed-on nor tagged. Very reasonable. Furthermore, these First Friday objectors may remember the actual, brutal, prolonged San Anto gang wars of the 80s and the St. Mary’s Strip shooting, etc, and be justifiably wary, therefore
…of elote carts? $3 earrings? And you know how horchata makes people CRAZY.
I’m being a little bit glib, and this is why, according to various e-mails, certain King Willie-ers don’t read the Current: we find this controversy a little bit funny. No doubt I would not find being shot, peed-on, or even hit with a windbreaker “funny.” THEN I’LL BE SORRY. But still…having watched a couple of the videos people took of the “gang fights,” it seemed mainly to be teens hitting each other with windbreakers. To which an affluent (and likely white) Southtowner might understandably retort, “First Friday used to be a respectable art walk, and these kids hitting each other with windbreakers and munching elote, while not demonstrably Crips, are not “art-buyers,” either.”
Well, neither am I.
Few reviewers of contemporary art can afford to actually buy any, and yet I had a good time on Friday night with many, many other people who were neither buying art, nor peeing on the shrubs (that I saw). San Antonio likes public celebrations! And for the most part, we get along—white, brown, art-buying, elote-selling, stroller-pushing, boy-cruising, or whoever —remarkably well! First Friday’s growth as a public event has less to do with gangs and crime, I feel, than with the dearth of public space to enjoy ourselves in. Public space for everybody, not just art-buying demographic (and who says elote isn’t art?)
But in any case, there were a shitload of cops out on Friday (not in the actual gallery spaces, though), a striking and novel situation duly noted by most media outlets, including those in whirring news helicopters overhead. Sitting on my porch between about 5:30 and 7, I must’ve seen 20 cop cars, and witnessed about 4 parking citations. Hopefully this one-night crackdown-as-performance-art fiesta (sorta like Luminaria solo-curated by Tom of Finland !) will both appease the frightened and discourage the rowdy, and now things can get back to normal. Including: I’ll probably go back to attending First Thursday for the art, and First Friday for la Tuna and Casbeer’s.
AND NOW, THE ART I DONE SAW.
…BUT FIRST, ANOTHER LYRIC DIGRESSION BROUGHT TO YOU BY TOO MUCH ICED COFFEE AND PAUL’S BOUTIQUE:
You're all mixed up, like pasta primavera
Why'd you throw that chair at Geraldo Rivera (man)?
NOW ART, FOR REAL.
1. Beili Liu at Three Walls Gallery.
A native of Jilin, China and graduate of University of Michigan’s MFA program, Beili is now an Assistant Professor at UT Austin.
Her mixed-media installation at Three Walls Gallery, composed primarily of intricately pulled, entwined, and hung wool fibers, is entitled “Miasma” and I found standing before it t a very stirring, curious experience; provoking both thought, and an engaging conversation with Beili Liu herself, about “femininity” in contemporary art — as a positive quality, not just a first wave reaction “against” something. In Liu’s deconstructed skeins of wool there’s a perceptible “woman’s touch,” like a gesture towards traditional knitting, a rumination on the repetitive and the domestic, but also an inquiry into the sexual (hair?), and even the ghostly (smoke?).
Continuing Liu’s philosophic bent and delicate touch with materials was “Lapse”, Alongside “a 4-panel mixed-media —painting? let’s call it?— that hung alongside “Miasma”, composed of layers of delicately-burnt vellum mounted on birchwood.
Seen from afar (though not that afar-Three Walls ain’t big) it recalled stalks or grasses or something, even evoked motion, something strewn by a natural process. Which it is: which art is.
Go look at her website for her other pieces—there’s one entitled "Void"which also uses her meticulous, unexpectedly light burning ritual/technique, upon numerous layers of silk organza. Gorgeous stuff, subtly sly, and deeply thoughtful.
Michele Monseau, Three Walls gallerist (and, incidentally, one of the members of the Artist Adivsory Board of Contemporary Art Month —the other board members are Andy Benavides, Ben Judson, Michele Leslie Raymond, and Jason Jay Stevens –more about this transition in an upcoming post) encourages you all to phone up the gallery and arrange to come see the show. REALLY AND TRULY! She does NOT mind.
BEILI LIU: MIASMA
A SITE-SPECIFIC INSTALLATION
Three Walls Gallery
106 D Blue Star Building B
call for an appointment
Through March 27
...Shadrach, Meshach, Abednigo.
2. Leona Scull-Hons at Cactus Bra
In the very same neck of the (Blue Star) woods as Three Walls is Leigh Anne Lester’s Cactus Bra Gallery, now in its fourteenth year. I’m guessing it’s curatorial coincidence, but like Three Walls, Cactus Bra’s hosting a site-specific installation using natural materials in primarily black by a female artist. TREND??
Leona Scull-Hons was in effect there Friday night, and is a candid and charming artist to speak to. Her work definitely had none of the polished elegance of Liu’s, but wasn’t trying for it either; instead, a massive, inverted, ceiling-hung tussy-mussy of black spraypainted mistletoe was meant to serve as a sort of impromptu altar under which, Scull-Hons hoped, people might find reconciliation.
Wait. Reconciliation? What about Christmas, and kissing, and green, and all that? Scull-Hons schooled me that the kiss under the mistletoe, though grown to indicate romantic kissing, grew out of a tradition….well, here, from her artist statement:
“Mistletoe has been a symbol of peace and forgiveness for centuries. In the past, if enemies met by chance under mistletoe, they were required to put down their weapons and declare a ceasefire (if only for one day). This custom later morphed into our present-day tradition—kissing beneath mistletoe.”
Alright, then. And after talking to Scull-Hons, her open-hearted community-mindedness is as palpable as that hanging mess of black mistletoe. Take a look at these images sent me by Leigh Anne, which emphasizes the installation’s interactive use (compete with hanging-down headphones playing love songs) rather than its Object-ness:
So it would seem the proximity-forced comparison of Liu’s abstract, academic (yet handmade) works with Scull-Hons inexact, somewhat muddled, yet exuberant piece isn’t as easy a fit as at first I thought. Interesting sidenote: Scull-Hons at first experimented with metallic treatment of the mistletoe, but ended up painting it black for technical (adhesive, as I recall) considerations, and came to re-frame the work in her own mind as more leaning towards the sorrowful and Victorian. Interesting progression.
To kiss me is to take me in.
Through March 21, 2009
cactus bra SPACE
106 C Blue Star
3. The third show I ducked into was the “Self Image” self-portraiture show
by the ARTsmart Students, curated by Alex Rubio at Dayna de Hoyos’ space, Stella Haus Art Space. It’s a truly inspiring and terrific show by some real creative talents, and I plan to attend the opening Saturday March 28th 5-8pm and talk to some of the artists for the in-print arts lead. Stay tuned
Here’s an image from the opening, courtesy of the photographer, Troy Wise:
That’s Alex Rubio himselfon his cel phone.
And here’s a list of the fantastic ARTsmart students, whose work you should definitely see:
Congrats on a great show, everybody. See you on the 28th.
‘Til then, don’t gang fight, or pee on anything.
And now Gilbert Garcia performing 2000's Best Song winner "Things Have Changed," words and music by Bob Dylan.
Minneapolis Bureau, Under the Bridge, y Foto-rama
I. MINNEAPOLIS BUREAU
That’s a snowplow, y’all. I put it there to herald the next installment from Lori Mocha, the Current’s Minneapolis Bureau. Winter’s still happening there, and well, sir: SHE DON’T LIKE IT.
Here's what she has to say:
“Hey down there in San Antonio, y'all. I hear it's hot there already.
Well not here in Minneapolis. Here we have piles and piles of snow and gray skies.
And our Minneapolis streets are rough, you guys. Here we have a man who just got killed by a snow plow.
So, not only might you freeze to death here, you also might get run down by a snow plow WHILE freezing to death.
I don't want to be scared of snow plows. I am jealous of your heat, San Antonio. I want to be hot! I want to be melting in the desert with you guys! In our cowboy hats, next to a cactus, drinking lemonade, as I imagine you all do, all the time.
No lemonade sipping here. There is no end to our winter in sight. It ain't over until May, even though some people here like to pretend our winter ends in March. HA! They are in denial. I mean, it is still very much winter now and it will snow at least twice in April. You better believe it. I’m telling you.
I bet my sister a hundred dollars that it will snow twice more in April. Which is confusing because now I am hoping it will snow in April, when really I want winter to be over so bad.
Gambling, wishing we were in San Antonio and feeling a little bit superior about what horrific weather we can withstand––that's how we deal with it.
But it's not working for me. I haven't seen the sun in days and it's sending me on a bender.
So when you start feeling like it's too hot there in Texas, think of me up here freezing to death in an igloo and appreciate your weather, ok?”
II. UNDER THE BRIDGE
PARASOL 2008 24" x 24" acrylic on wood
courtesy of the artist
The painting above has little to do with the following e-mail, except both were made by the same person, artist Anna-Marie Lopez. Image and e-mail posted with her permission. I think this e-mail is both very poetic and impassioned, like Anna-Marie. I hope she gets back on her sandwich-and-hope delivery rounds soon.
subject: my bridge people ????? SA the meanest but cleanest city!
i went to the "bridge" today as i have 2-3 times a week for the last few months,
loaded with sandwiches and water,
but was so very upset by what i found.
the city went and chased off my homeless people!
the arrested some beat up a few and handed out tickets
ranging from $200-$500 for camping.
i spoke with one man (michael) that was given 3 tickets. now he will
be arrested since he doesn't even have a $ or he would not be under
they are also loading them up in and shipping
them to other parts of town...sigh and there is nothing that i can do...
besides my painting this is the one other thing that i am
truly passionate about. i generally don't like people but i do care
for the homeless...i am not too far from being one of them.
please tell my, which brainiac is responsible for this?
Does anybody out there know what’s up with this? Shout out to me if you do, please.
And now for some random recent photos I hope you’ll enjoy. Funny, ever since Mark Jones bid adieu to his recurring On the Street blog post series yesterday , I’ve got an urge to be all compendium-like. I’m bitin’ your style, Jones! And for this, I shall Pay Pal you one dollar.
OK, so. Here’s some stuff I saw in the last few weeks.
Worst, first: AWFUL phone photo of very interesting “DIY and the Avant-Garde” panel discussion at UTSA downtown campus, 3/19
Kubrick-y classroom, no? Members of panel visible in photo, l-r: Michele Monseau of Three Walls Gallery, Dan Anderson of Bearded Child Film Festival, Jason Kahn,sound artist with installation at the Beauty College, currently, and Leslie Raymond at podium, introducing them. HIDDEN PANELISTS!: Chris Cogburn of the No Idea Festival, and Justin Boyd, mediator.
Sid St. Onge (of Fear Snakeface ) at the Artist Foundation Benefit Pig Roast, Feb 21. Spontaneous performance with roasted pig patas. Note Ethel Shipton, co-host of roast, laughing at him in background.
Albrechto Alvarez, also on 2/21, at Russell Stephenson opening at C-Art
Note dry erase board behind him; spontaneous original work (untitled, I think).
Alvarez at work
Detail of dry erase board, before:
After adding some negative space:
Now, here’s a random Alzafar Shrine Circus elephant in tow, 281 N, on Sunday 2/22
Bird’s nest in tree outside Unit B, Cedar Street, 2/24
Tacomiendo, the very good taco truck which parks at Artpace on Fridays, 12-2 (this was on 2/27)
Taco eaters, including (l-r) Mark Jones, Beto Gonzales, Kelly O’Connor, Elaine Wolff, cute boy, and Jesse Amado
Student sports team propaganda artwork “Battle of the Beaks,” UTSA (1604) campus, March 4. I was out there attending Leslie Raymond (of Potter-Belmar Labs) Advanced New Media class, who are showing at the convention center during Luminaria (see upcoming Wednesday’s issue for article!)
“Beak Defeat”, possibly by same artist
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals rolled into town yesterday on what’s being billed as a farewell tour of sorts and overcame some early obstacles to deliver a show rich with emotional and sonic majesty.
Adams, guitarist Neal Casal and drummer Brad Pemberton were sighted dining at Acenar’s patio on the Riverwalk before the show, just up the street from the Majestic. Adams chatted amiably with a female admirer who managed to garner an invitation to the band’s table. But requests for photos from other fans seemed to make the singer/songwriter antsy as he beat a hasty retreat out the back entrance shortly after finishing his meal.
The band took the stage with “I See Monsters,” which starts off slow before building into a powerfully rocking jam that seemed to announce a high-energy show. Other early highlights included “Peaceful Valley” and the new “Born into a Light,” both of which brought a bit of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse type of vibe. Drummer Pemberton and bassist Chris “Spacewolf” Feinstein were in superb form, powering the band with their dynamic rhythm section. But Adams seemed to become distracted by technical issues over the next few songs. “Beautiful Sorta” still rocked and the new “Fix It” sounded fantastic, but it was clear that Adams was still having problems.
The band soldiered on through a trippy “Let it Ride,” but then Adams begged the crowd’s indulgence as he asked for a five-minute break to try and deal with the problems he was having with his in-ear monitor (he would later say it sounded like Star Wars in his monitor.) Most of the crowd was probably aware of the ear problems that Adams announced to the world in a January blog post where he said he’d be stepping back from live music after this tour. So the crowd cheered in acceptance before making a mass exodus for the bar.
The band apparently was not able to fix the ear monitor problems during the break that lasted well longer than five minutes because they brought out stools, sat down and proceeded with a set that seemed like an attempt to bring the volume level down a notch in deference to Adams’ ear issues. This was disappointing to those looking for the rocking jams, but Adams has to be commended for being on the road at all while he suffers from Meniere’s disease, which affects not only his hearing but his balance.
The Cardinals’ catalogue is full of dynamic songs that can rock when they want them to, or which have subtler yet still rich sonic tapestries that can be emphasized as well. The band clearly focused on the latter arrangements in the second set. They opened with the title track from 2005’s superb Cold Roses double album and the show was back on. It’s a great song any way you slice it (Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh still has it in his repertoire after playing some shows with Adams a few years back), but one could tell the band was trying to amp things down a bit. This would be next to impossible for most bands, but the Cardinals have such a strong range that they were able to pull it off.
“Mockingbird” and “Two” were two more tunes which can rock more when they want to, but which were gorgeous in their subtler, laid back renditions. Lead guitarist Neal Casal stepped out on lead vocals for “Freeway to the Canyon,” a melodic gem of a tune about a love lost that only “feels just like a dream now.” Pedal steel guitarist Jon Graboff was perhaps the key throughout the second set, with his ethereal and bluesy sounds lifting every song.
The poignant “Why Do They Leave” opened with its familiar harmonica riff by Adams that drew a huge cheer, only for the comedic frontman to stop and banter about how “it might not be that song… it might be a totally different song,” before ultimately delivering the fan favorite. Another highlight was the beautiful “Sweet Carolina,” which received a huge cheer when Adams sang “I went down to Houston and I stopped in San Antone…”
“Born into a Light” received a second play of the night, almost as if to put an emphasis on how the arrangements can vary, as with a top jazz band that might repeat a song in a different way. The first set’s version was rocking hard by the end, whereas this one was of a mellower variety throughout, but still sounded great because it’s just a great tune.
Adams’ haunting cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” wound up closing out the show, right about 11 p.m. Whether they were out of time or skipped an encore because of dumb fans yelling out things like “Oasis rules!” during the quietest part of the song is unknown. But there’s little doubt that the Majestic Theater just received one of its finer shows of the year.
Blue Star Exec Director Bill FitzGibbons is starting a grassroots campaign to save the job of arts writer Dan Goddard, one of the edit staffers who was laid off at the daily last week. Letter's below, with contact phone numbers and email addresses. Although the Current (read: I) have been known to complain that Dan's pieces are too much reporting and not enough criticism, the "artist profiles" cranked out weekly in the Hearst faux-alt reveal Dan to be a model of thorough analysis over on E Street.
While you're phoning and typing, put in a word for cartoonist John Branch -- the reason I still look for the paper in print.
It recently came to our attention that the San Antonio Express News is laying off seventy- five employees. Unfortunately one of these employees is Dan Goddard, Art Writer for more than two decades. We feel that the San Antonio Express News, with Dan's in-depth knowledge of the current arts dialogue, has showed great cultural support with wide-span coverage of arts and culture in San Antonio and across the state.
Dan's absence will adversely affect the coverage of Arts and Culture and we encourage you to contact the San Antonio Express News and voice your opinion of the importance of Dan's role and the value of arts and culture coverage in our beloved city.
Listed below includes contact information for executive members at the San Antonio Express News:
Publisher & President
Thomas A. Stephenson
Executive Vice President, Administration and Finance
Thank you for your support in this important initiative.
Bill FitzGibbonsPresident/ Executive Director
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
“Always give your best. Always remember others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then… you destroy yourself.”
Richard Nixon, August 9, 1974 (final press conference)
Elevator (Me and You)
Oh yes, it was a good ride up.
This song, strangely, sums it all up. Consider it the soundtrack to the final post.
With great sadness we (me) here at On the Street must inform you that this will be the final post of OTS.
There’s no one to blame. Sometimes it just is. And if that wildly overrated movie The Matrix has taught us anything about the wonderful majesty of this thing called life it is that “everything that has a beginning must have an end.”
And what a great ride it’s been as we (you) look back over these 3 years . When we (I) took over On the Street it was just a mere afterthought. A few hundred words on the back pages, usually recapping a small event from the previous week…like a community theater puppet show or highlights from an aquatic aerobics class.
On the Street led the lonely local charge into the ether, which at that time was a wild frontier where print journalists either held their noses or what just flat out afraid to enter. And now what’s happened? Print journalism, as with the rest of the analog world, has continued to shift terrain (not so much becoming a distant memory, another artifact, like the 8 track tape, ham radio or back masking - though at times it feels like that’s the direction we (we) are heading.)
Each week daily newspapers shutter their windows as the “winds of change” blow across the nation. So with that in mind, shouldn’t On the Street continue in its valiant work showing people the way, like a lighthouse on the rock of Gibraltar? Over 4000 photos from OTS’ noble history would suggest “yes”.
The answer is unfortunately no. It seems our (my) work is done here. The shepherding into the post-print/digital age has now been fully realized. Perhaps when the world is ready for the post-digital age On the Street will be ready to soldier on into the cold, lonely night with time machine in hand, or whatever other futuristic tool of the trade that hasn’t been invented yet.
But for now, it’s time to say goodnight.
But before we do, let’s recap as if it’s just a normal San Antonio week. Just like the old days.
To the Letters!
And please, hold back the tears…
Last Letters (to the On the Street Ghetto Mid Century Modern Efficiency Apartment Down On Cedar)
OTS archivists reminded me that OTS (me) was a boom operator on this doc for a few days here and there during shooting…
I've been promising it for a long time but it's finally here...SXSW hosts the World Premiere of */ALONG CAME KINKY...Texas Jewboy for Governor/*. A feature length documentary chronicling the 2006 Texas Gubernatorial Race. Please join us:
*Thursday March 19th, 7:30 PM at the beautiful Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. *
Unfortunately, if you don't have a festival badge or film pass, there is no way to purchase a ticket in advance but the Paramount is large enough that we will almost surely be able to accommodate everyone interested in attending. Tickets are $10 at the door and I encourage you to come!
The link to our page on the SXSW website is: http://sxsw.com/film/screenings/schedule/?a=show&s=F15244
#2 Burger Bloggers
Who are these mysterious super heroes?
An OTS tourist sent this brief annoying message alerting us to this interesting blog…
Wendy and Lucy
Saw this film Wendy and Lucy at the Bijou, which was lucky because it’s only showing for the first screening of each day. I can’t imagine more than 60 people in town will end up seeing it before it blows through town.
10 years ago I saw a short film by this director (Kelly Reichhardt) that was shot all on super8 kodachrome. I hadn’t paid too much attention to Reichhardt but then she made Old Joy a few years ago starring Will Oldham. It made a few 10 Best lists and was called the indie Brokeback Mountain, which was such a strange, forced comparison. (Though it's interesting that Michelle Williams of Wendy and Lucy had a child with Heath Ledger, star of Brokeback Mountain.)
I had no idea I was walking into an “existential chick flick” but I think that’s what happened. A small, quiet, boring film that is also completely devastating. I can’t think of any other film that gets so much surprising drama out of so little.
With these last two films Reichardt seems to be like some sort of female Gus Van Sant in focusing on Portland-ey films.
A prediction: in the next five years Kelly Reichardt will be nominated for an Oscar. Whereas most indie films are a synonym for lame, quirky rom-com, her films contain a strange depth. Nothing really happens and then when it ends…the misery, mystery, and drama presents itself. Very unlikely. Wendy and Lucy will probably make some more 10 Best lists this year.
Oh, and what other film could get away with a Will Oldham “soundtrack” of him whistling for about 49 seconds.
Race the Tower
Saturday morning an amazing race benefit was held at the Tower of Americas. The event was to raise money to fight Cystic Fibrosis. The entry fee was high but given the cause and the large number of participants, the event was a huge success.
This is the event where people race up the steps, all 58 floors, to the top of the Tower.
The director of the event talks to local firefighters as they too were about to race up the steps.
Members of the 3rd Street Grackles team pose with the firefighters before they march up the steps in full gear.
Hundreds of people register for the event.
A view inside the steps. Perhaps the last time for cheap, low shutter techniques - an OTS signature.
Though OTS started in the back behind the firefighters as we walked up the steps, by the end OTS had made its way to the front, which was made easier by not carrying 80 pounds of gear.
And since the firefighers started 15 minutes before everyone else, is it not fair to ask if OTS was actually the first one to the top?
More uncertainty - as the real race progressed this runner from Lytle came in first. However, later I was told someone else actually had a faster time. Basically, someone waited for the race to almost end and then raced up to the top without having to compete with the large crowd.
To that I ask - does that still make it a race? Isn't racing against people and not just the clock, a crucial component?
But that's just quibbling - the benefit was the overall winner.
As people kept flying up the steps we took a walk over to the observation deck.
A fitting ending to OTS, looking out across the vast expanse of the city as the streets we once owned diverge into the distance.
"Is this all that I get?" A slow ascent to the top, and then a quick drop to the bottom. A fitting summation of On the Street experience.
I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. - Claes Oldenburg
After taking that elevator ride down, it would be easy to think there was nothing left for the week. But then in doing a final lap down the Mission Trail, I discovered the Straw People, perhaps the most interesting public(?) art to hit San Antonio.
Where did they come from? Who put them there?
Playful, yet at work, toiling away.
A shot from the ruins. Like characters from a children's animatronic movie.
A comment on domesticity?
Hi, how are you?
While I write this with my window open, I kid you not, I hear the horrible wind swept sounds of 4 Non Blondes “What’s Going On?” wafting across the neighborhood. I’d always joked that two songs defined San Antonio – the stupid “rooster song” by Alice in Chains for the hard rock crowd, and “What’s Going On?” for the 90s alternative historical re-enactors who don’t know that The War is over, yet it seems to be true.
At this point I ask myself – have I with On the Street made San Antonio a better place? Yes, what is the legacy of OTS?
I thought I had left San Antonio a better place. We’ve shepherded print journalism into the digital age but other than that small achievement, sadly, I can’t point to other significant improvements. Unemployment is on the rise. Obama, against the best intentions of the voters, is defending lamentable legal maneuvers to avoid prosecution not only of the neo con jobbers but other similar future actions by his own administration.
The DOW JONES has plummeted under my watch and now the economy is headed toward an uncertain future.
Will this be the On the Street legacy? - “Jones was out riding his bike while Rome burned?” Is that what people will say? For an answer to that pressing question, it will be up to the imaginary On the Street historians to decide.
And what will become of the OTS shephard? Don't even worry about that for a second.
For all three of you who've made it this far, feel free to leave your final thoughts on what it was all about.
And in a final act of ridiculous, tongue in cheek posturing, here is this final youtube video that sums it all up. I can't imagine there will be a dry eye in the house.
And so went another week on the streets of San Antonio. Never again to be continued.