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SXSW Wrap Up Part 2

Now for SXSW Part 2, almost a month later.  Worth the wait perhaps because I have some interesting footage below, including the Death From Above 1979 1st reunion show/riot and Odd Future crew who are on the booster rocket to stardom.  Onward…

Day 4

Odd Future

Part of Odd Future’s success is certainly due to their unhinged live shows.  These guys are young, virile, and reckless and you know it by watching them perform.  They whip the crowd into a frenzy even before they take the stage, simply because the legend of violence and chaos from their previous shows precedes them.  Of course, you need good beats to start with and that combined with Tyler the Creator’s gravelly voice have the makings of good, grimy, hip hop.  And outlandish, immature lyrics certainly help to get the kids into it (as someone over 30, I’ll try to pretend to be offended so the kids can think they’re being rebellious).

A couple notes about the video from the show below – I wanted to see OF at the Thrasher Party @ The Scoot Inn because it was being billed as an all-ages show, which I thought would add to the energy.  That was true, but upon arriving well over an hour before their set, the line to get in was around the block.  Instead I decided to get a spot on the chain link fence outside with a clear, if distant, view of the stage and good sound.

The Scoot Inn is located east of I-35 in a light industrial zone and judging by the bouncers and other staff, is probably a punk bar/venue.  These are guys you don’t want to mess with.  Fortunately, for my entertainment, many who couldn’t get in decided to do just that.  The first few to jump a high rear fence made it, but soon the staff got wise and started semi-violently ejecting jumpers.  One guy hesitated while still at the top of the fence, and a bouncer nimbly bounded up the interior wall, forcibly shoved him off.  The would-be trespasser fell backwards a good 8 feet.

At one point, after Odd Future went on, the plastic ties holding two pieces of the chain link fence got snipped and people about 6 feet to my left started pouring in.  I was content to stay outside as I saw several of those people get the “hammerlock shove-out” from bouncers that were getting increasingly ornery.  Of course, at least 20-30 people got in scot-free.

The show itself didn’t disappoint.  The kinetic energy generated by OF was off the charts.  The music was decent for a hip-hop show – shows I usually find disappointing  sound-wise.  I can’t say the music is insanely new or overwhelming, but that’s what the performance is for.

Tyler and crew stage dove from increasingly higher points: first from the stage, then the speaker tower, then the rooftop.  At some point a stage dive by Tyler broke some poor kid’s nose.  In the video below, during Tyler’s high profile track, “French,” the first thing you see is the broken-nose kid talking with staff.  Then you can see Tyler and I believe Hodgy Beats up on the speakers, just above the blue tent in the foreground.  Tyler jumps from there, then later (at 2:38 on the video below) you see Hodgy fall from the sky (actually stage rooftop), feet first:

Toro y Moi

After that chaos, I was ready for a mellow afternoon.  I walked up around the corner to the Pitchfork #Offline festival that was winding down.  Toro y Moi, major buzzband with its second release just out, was just starting their set.  It was nice afternoon set, the sound set up there was very good as far as Austin venues go and the sun got low while the breeze picked up.  I have a hang-up with Toro mastermind Chaz’s voice that no one else seems to mention – a little hollow and off-key at times – but with a full backing band, the music was great.   The last time I saw Toro, it was just Chaz and a laptop as I recall.  This is a major step up.


Later that evening I headed to the Dickies party at Lustre Pearl.  During the Interactive conference part of SX, the Pearl was a great spot not too far away from the convention center, but away from the chaos of downtown.  It’s an old house with a huge backyard.  For the Dickies showcase that backyard had a fairly big tent in it for Noah & the Whale, Gayngs, Black Lips and Little Dragon.

Gayngs, a super-group of indie rock that has come together to make smooth “yacht rock”/70s am gold, is great.  I have a soft spot in my heart for this kind of music.  Plus what’s better than Justin Veron of Bon Iver doing backing vocals with an auto-tune or vocorder effect?  Toward the end of the set, they brought out Har Mar Superstar who brought the house down with a rendition of George Michael’s “One More Try” (forgotten single from the Faith album), which you can see in the second clip below.

Black Lips

The Black Lips predictably led to some good old fashioned moshing.  I took a little video, but it wasn’t any good, which is saying something.  I enjoy the Black Lips.  I never saw them when they were really reckless, but they still messed with the crowd a bit.  Just good old dirty garage rock, nothing wrong with that.

Little Dragon

Little Dragon was incredible.  Up to this point I hadn’t seen them before, seemingly missing every one of the countless shows they seemed to be doing around LA in the last couple years despite KCRW DJ Garth Trinidad’s constant hyping of them.  I even missed their Coachella set last year.  Anyway, it was good stuff, but I only have one album (Machine Dreams) so wasn’t sure what was what.  Was too ‘in the moment, man’ to take any video.

Day 5

My last day of SX started with the Mog party right back at the Mohawk again, where it seemed long ago when I had seen No Age and Washed Out (along with some band in which comedic actor Michael Cera was playing bass).  It was actually only 6 days, but SX has a way of stretching and contracting time in strange ways.  By the way, Mog is a slick app/web-service if you’re into the subscription based model of getting music (I’m not a paid spokesmodel).

Twin Shadow

I was very excited to see Twin Shadow.  I really dig his debut album.  And I’m not sure why.  This music draws from a genre – New Wave – I’ve only sometimes understood or enjoyed, and from artists that often revolt me, well, namely Morrissey.  But there is something different with Twin Shadow that I can’t put my finger on.  Maybe the music is bouncier and the voice more smooth and slightly less vulnerable.  Maybe it’s the production on the album.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia for an 80s prom I never had, yet for some reason actual New Wave is from actual 80s proms so it’s tainted (wow that’s convoluted…).  Maybe I just haven’t given the Smith’s and Morrissey a fair shake.  (Hey I like some of The Cure and Depeche Mode.)  At any rate, this set in the tiny Mohawk indoor stage was much anticipated.  It was fairly up close and personal, but the music sounded pretty good for the room.  When Mr. Twin Shadow, George Lewis Jr., said “see you next time” I shouted “at Coachella” to which he responded “you guys can’t get enough, can you?”  I think he was in awe of the music appetites of SX attendees in general.

TV on the Radio & Big Boi

Unfortunately after watching Twin Shadow, TVOTR was already playing and the patio stage area was packed.  So I took it in from much less crowded but also less enjoyable VIP terrace.  The stiff breeze and high perch was no way to take in a TVOTR show.  I look forward to seeing them here in May.

Big Boi was easier to hear for obvious reasons, but I was still upstairs.  He spent what I thought was an inordinate amout of time playing Outkast hits.  Be a big boy, Big Boi!  Eventually he played some of his own stuff from the underrated Sir Luscious Leftfoot.  His flow is impressive.

DFA 1979

There were some tempting options on hand for Saturday night, but in the midst of planning my final moves, I caught wind of something that almost flew under the radar: Death From Above 1979’s 1st show back since breaking up 5 years ago.  I had not seen them the first time around, and though there was a chance to see them coming up at Coachella, I had to see the first show back.  I got to the venue just in the nick of time.  While the wristband line was quite long, there were only two people ahead of me in the badge line.  Within minutes it was more than 10 people.  I still had to wait awhile to get in, but eventually I did.

Footage of the riot outside can be found in plenty of other places.  Suffice to say when the fence came down, I was ready to bolt to the Beauty Bar’s backdoor to escape the on-rush of people.  (Note: This show was in a small tent in the alley behind the actual Beauty Bar.  Its capacity was said to be capped at 200 people.  There were at least as many people outside the tent as in it.)  At the time when the fence came down, I found it curious there wasn’t immediately a dangerous crush of people.  Only found out later it was due to a small band of security and police pepper-spraying and tasering people who tried to cross the fence.  It was a song or two later, after the fence was put back up that you saw the mounted police who were actually beating people.

Below you get all the rocking hits (sorry too lazy to label them all) as well as a lot of DFA’s banter to calm down the ‘rioters’ outside.  Call your mom.  Right now.  Call your mom.


SXSW wrap up Part 1

Welcome to Austin

So SX is already old news, but I’ve got a lot of semi-crappy iPhone video for you!  Actually the audio in most cases is pretty good…still surprised the at capabilities of the 4.  Now if I could just stand still at these shows…

Day 1

While I had seen a little from the likes of Washed Out and No Age during the Interactive part of SX, I couldn’t really give them my full attention.  So Day 1 for me was March 15th – the crossover day where Music begins picking up even though it doesn’t officially start until the next day.  It was a warm up day for me as well, with only a couple bands.  (Didn’t take any video).

First, was The Foo Fighters at the closing party for Interactive.  I had actually been anticipating the originally billed group, Fitz and the Tantrums, but the Foo took their spot.  (I learned later that Fitz went on much later in the evening, but at the time had no idea whether they would be performing or whether Foo had been a last minute replacement.  Hope to see Fitz et. al.’s soul re-hash someday).  I respect the Foo Fighters, dig Dave Grohl’s sense of humor and charisma, but I would never pay to see them.  However, seeing them for free at the less than 2000 person Stubbs was a nice treat.  They played their forgettable new album in its entirety and then 6 or so of the hits everyone wants to hear.

Not knowing the status of Fitz and curious about looking forward musically rather than backward to Fitz’s Motown-soul, I moved on to Emo’s for Mount Kimbie and Golden Panda.  I only caught the last two songs of Mt. Kimbie, but all of Panda.  Both acts to me reveal a future direction for music – I have a feeling the bands who follow in these guys footsteps will create so much bass, chopped vocals and noise that I will have to admit old-man defeat (aka my musical glass ceiling).  But for now I find myself very curious about these acts and actually enjoyed their sets.  The way both of these acts play and manipulate their electronics and how they combine them with vocals and/or “regular” instruments seems novel compared to a lot of electronic artists.  Hoping to see Mount Kimbie for a full set at Coachella so I can get a better reading on them.

Day 2

The second day was my first full day of music.  Things began in the afternoon at Club de Ville with Yuck and Smith Westerns.  I hadn’t really listened to either act very thoroughly, but was curious especially about SW as more than a few people had said their album, Dye It Blonde, was their new favorite.  I found both acts enjoyable, though I wasn’t blown away by either.

In the evening I saw James Blake back at Stubbs.  His smooth R&B croon combined with blasts of heavy bass had the girls in front of me swooning.  This is the more accessible future of music (as compared to somewhat less accessible Golden Panda and Mount Kimbie – the latter being a band he used to play with).  Here are videos of the two most popular song from his most recent album:

Freddie Gibbs – I wasn’t too impressed with.  Halfway through the show at the Mohawk he felt compelled to take off his shirt to show off his gym body.  Cool bro.  It is often hard for good hip-hop on albums to translate live, but this was especially poor.

Low – I left the hip hop showcase at Mohawk a bit earlier than I thought to go to church.  Yeah they use a couple downtown churches for showcases of mellow acts.  I knew nothing about Low but discovered they are quite popular – there was a sizable crowd waiting to get a spot in the pews.  I could see why, these guys make powerful songs (that was only enhanced by the setting).  This was my favorite song from their set:

Memoryhouse was the reason I came to the church.  After hearing just a couple songs from the blogosphere (probably GvB) I was curious to hear more from them.  I was into the “chillwave” acts from a couple years ago (Memory Tapes, Washed Out, etc.) and these guys seemed in that vein.  Their setup ran into a little trouble – a pedal for the guitarist didn’t seem to be working right – and they were delayed probably 15-20 minutes.

As an aside, probably the most common and difficult thing (for audiences and bands alike) at SX is not getting proper sound checks and/or quality sound people at various venues.  This was not the only time I saw technical difficulties delay a performance.  And of course, even if a band gets their set up done without a hitch, the sound systems at a lot of venues leave a lot to be desired.  To me, this SX fact of life might actually serve the beneficial purpose of putting bands through numerous trials by fire – if you can setup your own stuff and not get flustered by any problems you run into, it seems even the greenest of bands will be well seasoned after playing 4-8 SX sets.

Anyway, Memoryhouse was ok.  Coming after Low, whose music filled the room, Memoryhouse felt a little more hallow.  The lead singer has a pretty voice, but it is very stiff and mannered.  Listening to them live this aspect of her vocals seemed more pronounced than on record.  After spending upwards of two hours in church pews I got antsy and left about 3/4s into their set.

I ended my night at a bar on 6th Street, listening to DJ Cam.  His setup took longer than you would think for a DJ because he seemed to really need this little projection screen behind him that just showed still pictures of forest scenes.  His set was decent, but unfortunately the plug was pulled on him just as it seemed he was getting into the hip-hop portion of his set.

Day 3

Day 3 began with an afternoon Miami Horror DJ set put on by Om Records and some magazine.  They played a fun set mostly of forgotten 80s electro/house – the most memorable track included snippets from some old Arnold Schwarzenegger workout video.  I tried to ignore the ping-pong table that wasn’t being used (and to some degree abused) on the W Terrace.  Hey K-Swiss, if you’re going to put a branded ping pong table up at a party, maybe you should have someone there encouraging people to use it for something more than a drink table or bench.

In the evening, I made it an unheard of back-to-back nights in a church, this time the Presbyterian one, to see Julianna Harwick and Cults.  I really wanted to stay for Glasser as well, but had a conflict with The Kills who I can’t really get enough of.  Harwick is kinda a one-trick pony; using only her vocals and a device that loops her phrases, she creates these soaring, ethereal songs.  It is powerful stuff, again aided in no small way by the soaring ceilings and lit stained glass windows.

Cults followed Harwick.  This was another band whom I hadn’t heard more than 2-3 tracks from, but seemed to be gaining momentum on the internet and from music festival programmers (they are scheduled to play Coachella among other fests).  Yet again sound setup problems delayed their set, but it was not nearly as long as Memoryhouse the night before.  Cults trade in sugary sweet poppy songs.  Some of their songs sound like songs for toddlers.  That sounds like a putdown, but it’s not.  It’s incredibly catchy stuff.  I don’t think the church setting was too helpful for their sound, but they didn’t sound bad either.  And in the clip below can see a lady with some sweet hair bopping along to their song “Go Outside.”  Look for Cults songs to be licensed to any brand that wants to convey “summeryness” in its commercials this summer.

I hustled my way over the Emo’s so as to make sure I got in for The Kills and got there early enough to see Austra.  I had never heard of her, and I found it decent.  The frontwoman has an amazing voice.  The overall feel of the music and show was like “what if Fever Ray went glam?”  You can get more background on Austra and better video here.  But here is my crappy video from her set:

Ah the main event – The Kills.  I was very much looking forward to seeing them in such a small venue as Emo’s, and a venue that is grimy enough to fit the vibe of their whole sleazy aesthetic.  The couple new songs from their upcoming album I had heard before this set were very promising and the new songs they played during this set might have been even better, including the one I recorded below, “Heart is a Beating Drum.”  Their set was all new music except for “Sour Cherry” and “No Wow.”  I’m hoping we get a slightly longer set at Coachella so they can play a few more old songs alongside the great new album.

All jazzed up after The Kills, I was hoping to catch an artist named Woolfy.  I have his album but have never really investigated anything about him.  The album is just pure funky goodness.  Unfortunately after hoofing it across town to Malverde, I discovered he wasn’t playing for some unknown reason.  So Woolfy remains a mystery.  Instead I got a DJ set from Classixx (pretty fun, more 80s funky electro) and then a karok-ish act called Punches.  I felt compelled to record them because they have their very own Bez.  Bez was a member of the Happy Mondays, whose sole job was to dance ridiculously on stage during their shows.   Well this group Punches has their very own Bez, for better or worse.  Or maybe a redundant backup twin DJ since at the end of this clip the Bez takes control of the computer and the similar-looking DJ becomes the Bez.


Day 4

Odd Future chaos at Scoot Inn, Toro y Moi, the Dig, Dickies showcase: Noah & Whale, Gayngs, Black Lips, Little Dragon

Day 5

Mog party: Okkervil River, Twin Shadow, TV on the Radio, Big Boi.  And the DFA 1979 riot.


Pow, pow pow pow pow, pow pow pow pow

Last few weekends have seen good powder at both Mammoth and Jackson.  Good testing ground for my new GoPro (which everyone seems to have nowadays).  This is from Jackson on Sunday.  14″.  More soon…


“Remigration” – SXSW World Premiere

A short film entitled “Remigration” will be premiering at SXSW 2011 – just a few short weeks away!  The film was commissioned by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), produced by my company Strike Anywhere and directed by the talented Strike Anywhere partner, Barry Jenkins.  The film is part of ITVS’ “Future States” series.  If you find me at SXSW and say you read Forest For the Trees, I’ll buy you a beer!


Happy Coachella MLK

In celebration of the long weekend, but also today’s “announcement” that Tame Impala will be playing Coachella (!!) here is a little video I made from a camping trip to Yosemite last summer.  The new Tame Impala album had just come out and we were listening to it a lot on that trip, so I had to use “Alter Ego” as the music.

What do you think of Coachella’s 1-band-video-per-day announcement method?  I kinda like it.

Go camping this weekend!  Snow is no excuse!


Jay Z, Coldplay, AND Jamie Lidell?? The Cosmopolitan Vegas – New Years Eve

Hey there Vegas fan, do you like the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino but hate how it’s away from the action on the Strip?  More importantly, do you hate how it continues to be associated with only the most douchey and/or has-been music acts of recent memory (check out the upcoming Tiesto residency, Disturbed and Korn double bill, and Santana here), and regret staying in a hotel where those douchey bands’ trashy fans stay?  And maybe your days of needing to score that 8 ball and a hooker at the Circle Bar for your buddy’s bachelor party are behind you, but you’re not quite ready for the lameness/corporate Disneyland-esqueness of the rest of Vegas?  Well the mad bankers at Deutsche Bank (not to be confused with Douche Bank) may have the hotel for you: The Cosmopolitan.  And it may very well become a music lover’s paradise.

Bellagio fountain and Paris view from my Cosmopolitan balcony

one important aspect that might not be getting a ton of press yet is that the Cosmo is going to be plying crowds with great music

If this were a travel blog, I might go into to some detail about the awesome column-sized lobby video installations (and other art), the 3 story Chandelier Bar, the outdoor balconies in most rooms (being outside 40 stories up or more looking down on the Bellagio fountain is pretty sweet), the touchscreen directories every 10 yards, the iPads built into the check-in desks for guest use, its prime location on The Strip between Bellagio and City Center, the free wifi that doesn’t require any logging in and isn’t hard to acquire like most hotels, unique stores like Stitched, and insane restaurants like Jose Andres’ Jaleo (and a $23 buffet that redefines what a Vegas buffet can be), but now having given you this run-on sentence overview, you can go find more about that stuff elsewhere.  Suffice to say, the only bad thing about this place is that its name tends to conjure up pink girly drinks and articles about “99 ways to slim you waist by revving up your sex life.”  And while you will find more aging boomers wandering about here than the Hard Rock (due to its central location), all the beautiful people are here too.

Same view with the fountain in action

The bankers took control of the property a few years ago after they loaned the original developer a bunch of money and that developer defaulted.  Now in an apparent quest to throw good money after bad, and drive the perceived value of the property up enough to sell in a couple years, the Germans are pulling out all the stops.  (read more about the whole ordeal here.)  And it started with a New Years weekend that probably won’t be topped anywhere anytime soon, at least for me: Jay Z and Coldplay with sorta surprise guests Beyonce and Kanye West.  All played in a less than 3000 person tricked-out ballroom with an open bar, champagne and snacks.

Oh and blue-eyed soul crooner/deconstructer/loop-master, Jamie Lidell, for free (as in, you didn’t need to have bought Jay Z tickets), in the casino’s sports book.  WTF?

You see, one important aspect that might not be getting a ton of press yet is that the Cosmo is going to be plying crowds with great music – meaning artists that play our favorite festivals: Coachella, ACL, Bonnaroo, Lolla.  They have hired Austin-based C3 Presents as the exclusive booking agent and that festival-connected company is bringing in the talent.  (Best Coast and Aloe Blacc for free!  Black Keys for pay!)

So this NYE party was the first salvo across the Vegas entertainment bow.  Are there enough indie/festival music fans to help the hotel be a success?  Are they really interested in coming all the way to Vegas for a free show in a sports book rather than paying $30 at their favorite local venue?  And are these music fans who are roughly aged from the mid-20s to late-30s really the audience they should be going after?  I can’t answer, but I hope they don’t change their strategy anytime soon.

As for the shows themselves, well Jamie Lidell was just flat out weird and fun.  Which is what you expect from Mr. Lidell, but the venue only made it more entertainingly incongruent.  He was playing behind the bar and behind a pyramid of bottles on a stage that was strangely oriented.  Very few people in the sparse crowd seemed to have any clue or otherwise even care about this “lounge” act.  (Note: I saw part of his first set on NYE from 10pm-10:40 when people had other places to be.  Saw him again – not knowing it was a multi-day residency (!) – on Jan. 1st for his second set after midnight.  That set had a few more people watching and cheering, but still few seemed to be actual Jamie fans.)  Was it better than seeing him at the Avalon a couple years ago?  No.  But it was free.  And it was fun.  And not for one second did Jamie or his band act as if this wasn’t anything other than a show they should be bringing their A game to.

The videos:

As for Coldplay/Jay Z and guests, well it was a star-studded affair (so I found out later – not good at celeb spotting), and well produced with all the lighting you’d expect at a bigger show.  All the artists seemed loose – old-school-feather-head-dressed Vegas show girls stood at the wings on each side of the stage with trays of fresh bubbly that Jay Z and Kanye took advantage of –  yet still professional, and Jay Z had no problem letting Kanye perform more than a few of his songs, including “Homecoming” with Chris Martin.  I’ll let the videos do the rest, and apologies for the bad camera work but the sound I think is excellent.  Vegas on NYE + open bar + fun songs makes steady camera work difficult.

The videos:

The pictures:


24th Street

A Strike Anywhere piece of loveliness featuring Florence Hartigan covering Friendly Fires.