Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guest Blogger Review: Nick Cave at ACL TV by Matt Shiv


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Austin City Limits taping
July 20, 2014
by Mr. S.

In the upcoming documentary 20,000 Days On Earth, Nick Cave discusses his love for performing live, but indicates that he loves to focus on a small handful of people from the front row and frighten them. Hardcore fans of the Bad Seeds are not easily scared, but this revelation did make me curious about how his taping in the Austin City Limits studio would go on Sunday night. The perimeter of the stage is typically roped off to provide room for the camera operators to capture the performance, keeping the audience at a slight distance.

20,000 Days On Earth - 1080p Trailer from Drafthouse Films on Vimeo.

20,000 Days On Earth - Official Trailer via Vimeo

When we walked into the venue for the taping, there was a major change to the way that the stage was set up. Two small runways were jutting out from the front of the normal stage. Two cameras normally set up directly in front of the stage were moved back to risers near the soundboard. Two camera crane operators were also positioned further back than normal. It gave us a great vantage point from where we were sitting and made me even more excited to see how the set would unfold.

As the band emerged on to the stage, Mr. Cave almost immediately took advantage of the runways. From where we were sitting, it looked as though he was floating into the crowd. The set started off with “We Real Cool” and “Jubilee Street”, two back-to-back songs from the band’s most recent album Push The Sky Away. Cave strutted around, punctuating the lyrics with the brazen demeanor of a preacher warning his flock of the fire and brimstone they’re facing. The first sign that the band would be digging deeper into their catalog came when they started to play “Tupelo,” their 1985 single from The Firstborn Is Dead. One of the band’s most recognizable songs, 1994’s “Red Right Hand” shook the venue next, getting louder and moodier as it went on.

Cave’s first real attempt at banter came as he introduced “Mermaids” off of Push The Sky Away. He noted that the song would not make the television broadcast because of the lyric “I was the match that would fire up her snatch,” the logic of which seemed a little odd only because he had previously improvised a very loud ‘motherfucker’ during “Red Right Hand.” Feeding off the energy from the crowd pressed up against the stage, Cave became visibly annoyed by the rest of the audience who were seated quietly throughout the set. He tried to wave people from the stands down onto the floor, perhaps unaware that the only free space left at stage level was closed off for the cameras and crew members, chastising those of us who were seated as “lazy fuckers.”

The band dug a little deeper as the set continued, pulling out the title track to their 1984 debut album From Her To Eternity and both “Love Letter” and “God Is In The House” from 2001’s No More Shall We Part. One of the highlights in the documentary 20,000 Days On Earth is footage from a performance of “Higgs Boson Blues,” a dreamlike dirge that somehow manages to reference Robert Johnson and Miley Cyrus. It was a great success during the taping as well, enrapturing the crowd gathered at his feet as well as those who looked down more reverently from the balconies above. It paired nicely with “The Mercy Seat”, a 1988 single that is one of the band’s most iconic tunes.

What happened next caused a few truly frightened folks to flee early, but it was one of the highlights of the night for me. “Stagger Lee” originally appeared on 1996’s Murder Ballads and it is a traditional song that has been performed over the years by everybody from Pat Boone to the Black Keys. It’s safe to say that Nick Cave’s version is the most profane and wicked of them all. If “Mermaids” was somehow questionable for making it into the broadcast, the recorded footage of “Stagger Lee” is likely to be locked in a vault for all eternity. Cave continued to cavort between the two stage runways through the number, which has to be the most offensive song to ever be performed during a taping in the history of Austin City Limits. It was a few minutes in by the time he got to the lyrics “I’m a bad motherfucker, don’t you know and I’ll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get one fat boy’s asshole." By that moment, the crowd had thinned out a touch.

The die hard audience members went wild by the song’s conclusion and then we headed into what turned out to be the final song of the night, the title track to Push The Sky Away. There were visible indications that Cave continued to be annoyed by the audience (or other unknown factors) by the end of the song and the band waved goodbye, walking off stage. For a few tense moments, it seemed as though the crew was prepping for an encore, but then the chance of that happening ended almost as quickly as it began. The house lights came up and the show was officially over.

All-in-all, this incredible performance lasted for 90 solid minutes. Even though there are at least two fairly lengthy tracks that will need to be edited out of the final broadcast, that should still leave plenty for producers to work with. Here’s hoping that it turns into a full hour-long episode when it airs this fall as part of the show’s 40th season on PBS, likely around the same time that Drafthouse Films releases 20,000 Days On Earth into select theaters nationwide.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Heart the Band: Gems



I'm not exactly sure when I first heard the band Gems because I feel like I was mixing them up with Gem Club and/or Gemini Club? Regardless, I was already following them on Soundcloud so they were at least marginally on my radar. Then a couple of weeks ago whilst trolling my Soundcloud stream, the song Scars came up. I was floored. The way the tracks drops in is huge. Then the vocal comes and it starts out as a fairly straight-forward R&B vocal until the chorus comes and it melts into ethereal Cocteau Twins arena. Is Trip-Hop being reborn? In a post-iPod world everyone listens to every genre and contemporary artists don't feel hemmed-in by what sounds they're supposed to use. Last night's show at Red 7 featured three bands who are blurring the line between indie-rock and R&B music.



Austin band, Young Pharaohs started things off last night. I had seen the name but had not heard them before. I was excited to discover that Austin has its own Vaporwave/PBR&B band. I don't really know what to call the genre so I'm borrowing two ideas that loosely apply here. Think How to Dress Well, Active Child, inc. and artists of that ilk. Basically it's pop music for serious people like me.



Gems performed the middle set last night. The band consists of one man and one woman both of whom have keyboards, pedals, sequencers and the there's even a guitar! There wasn't a lot of chatter from the stage but the band did seem humble and approachable when they did speak they were gracious and seemed generally excited about performing. When you hear pop music recorded it can be very deceiving so I always reserve full-on adoration until I see a live performance. I can assure you, Gems deserve full-on adoration. The vocals were incredible, they had great stage presence. They were very presentation conscious. They had white lights at their feet that were cued only occasionally to create dramatic stroboscopic lighting during key performance moments. They also had a projected image that eventually became animated. The audience was definitely drawn into the performance and a lot of people who were there for the headliners became and remained attentive throughout Gems' set. They don't have very much released, purchasable material at the moment but as soon as they get an LP or two under their belts, they'll be a headlining act. Last night they delivered one of my favorite sets of the year, I look forward to the band's return to Austin.

Hundred Waters headlined last night, touring in support of their newly-released LP, The Moon Rang Like a Bell. I appreciate the new LP and I thought their performance last night was good. I'm just somewhat reserved about overall adoration. Maybe if I hadn't been so head-over-heels for Gems' performance I would have enjoyed Hundred Waters more? It's not that I didn't like it but I didn't feel entranced by the performance either. There was something about the performance that fell flat for me. The songs aren't super dynamic and it felt very performance-y. It seemed like the members of Hundred Waters earned their chops playing more recitals than gigs. That's not coming from any sort of place of knowledge, that's just a snap judgement based on a style of performance. I felt the same way a thousand years ago when I saw Antony & the Johnsons. Antony is an incredible talent but he sings so effortlessly it didn't feel like it came from his guts.



I suppose if I'm being honest, the other reason I wasn't blown-away by Hundred Waters is because I've seen Braids twice and they do a similar thing in a way that makes you question your own existence. Also, if I were to review the bad review I've just written I would say it's not good. Lacks balls. Carry on.



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Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Jeff Tweedy for ACL TV


Jeff Tweedy returned to the Austin City Limits Television stage Friday night and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Jeff Tweedy has graced the ACL TV stage several times in the past with his band Wilco but Friday evening’s taping was a showcase for brand-new songs from an upcoming solo record.


Jeff Tweedy - Thrash Lab Documentary video via YouTube

Tweedy explained that he started recording the new album playing all of the instruments himself because he thought that’s what you were supposed to do for a solo album. After awhile his son Spencer started playing drums and eventually his solo sound was fleshed-out with a full band of friends and houseguests. Friday evening’s set was essentially two sets in one. The first hour was Tweedy with a full backing band playing all-new songs from the upcoming LP. The second hour of performance was mostly solo, with a bit of help from the ladies of Lucius on backing vocals. Incidentally, the ladies of Lucius lent their vocals to both the full band and solo sets. The evening closed with a full band song followed by a solo number. In other words, it was everything you would want from a, sans Wilco, Jeff Tweedy set.

I know it can be tricky when you go to a concert and the artist plays an hour of brand-new material but in the context of an incredibly reverent ACL TV audience it was perfect. The new material didn’t sound like Wilco material but it definitely sounded like Jeff Tweedy material. The lyrics were clever and poignant the melodies sounded instantly classic and the rhythms were playful. I think there was even a song in 5/4 time! How do you like that for rhythmically playful?

The majority of the set I witnessed Friday night will never be aired on your local PBS but the parts that do make it are going to be magical. Solo, with Wilco, with Uncle Tupelo or even on an episode of Parks & Recreation, Jeff Tweedy is a national treasure. You, me, and everyone we know should see him perform every chance we get.



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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sturgill Simpson - The Promise

I discovered Sturgill Simpson earlier this year while I was putting together my SXSW 2014 Spotify playlist. Generally, I would have heard the classic country sound of his music and dismissed it as not for me but his song titles were so good it made me listen more closely. Simpson may sound like an old-school country dude and he is but he's an old-school country dude through a contemporary filter. He's cynical, he's familiar with psychotropics and his voice is like honey. If this dude's not on your radar, he probably should be.


Sturgill Simpson - The Promise video via YouTube

This brand-new video for The Promise is great but it doesn't really showcase what makes Sturgill Simpson a special snowflake in the world of country music. For that I'm going to take you a bit deeper to a track from his first LP. This performance was put together by My Old Kentucky Blog, who has been a champion of this artist for years already. Isn't it time you get on the Sturgill Simpson bandwagon?


Sturgill Simpson - You Can Have the Crown -> Some Days video via YouTube

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Papertwin - Arco

I honestly have no idea what is happening in this new video from Papertwin but I'm a total sucker for this dark synth-wave sound.


Papertwin - Arco video via YouTube

Are we looking at a trashbag as the video starts? What's with all the trashbags on the fence? Hey, why do they have trashbags on their heads?!? That's not safe! Don't these girls know fur is murder? Who wears a trashbag on their head to the beach? That just seems unsavory. Is that a hospital gown or something I can buy at American Apparel? They wear bags on their heads AND they smoke?! Eww, was that a giant Coors Light? And they're sharing it? No. Oh shit, they dancing in the streets, they dancin at the gas pump. Twerk white girl twerk! Get a photo of me looking bored while you dance behind me, then we'll huff something from those handy trashbags. Have you ever tried smoking in the bathtub? It's pretty much a waste of cigarettes. #soggy

So what's with that Yankees fan at the end? Is that their Dad or could he tell they were Red Sox fans just inherently? Regardless, I feel like the message of this video is...hang on, I know this one. Is it about homelessness? Were they homeless? Are those girls runaways? Do runaways wear furs? Maybe it was a commercial for Coors Light? Or gas stations? Or twerking? Maybe it's just about YOLO? Are you about YOLO? What if Drake got reincarnated, we he still say YOLO to his new caterpillar community?

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ed Sheeran for ACL TV



Last night I was in the audience for Ed Sheeran's taping of Austin City Limits television. Before the set started I posted a photo of the program to Instagram and someone left the comment, "I can't help but like him." That's when I realized, he's a very like-able young man. Ed Sheeran is not only like-able, he's downright charming.

Before his set started I was surprised to see the stage was almost completely bare. No drummer, no keyboards, the only thing on the stage at the start was a loop station on the floor and two mic stands. Since Sheeran's latest single, Sing, is very beat heavy I was expecting a full band. Turns out he is a full band.


Ed Sheeran - Sing video via YouTube

Sheeran started his set with You Need Me, I Don't Need You / My Eyes Are Red, a ten minute medley that serves as a sort of preview for the rest of the set. He banged on the body of his guitar to make a bass beat and continued to add layers to the song creating a backdrop for him to rap over. Don't get it twisted, this wasn't a rap song but it was close enough to make my Mom turn to me to say that it wasn't the sort of music she normally listened to. I didn't catch all the lyrics but My Eyes Are Red is definitely about how he smokes pot and it's no big deal. I don't disagree with this message but it was a bit strange to me considering the audience. Although, in fairness I doubt any of the parents in the crowd caught much of anything Sheeran was singing on this particular number.

One of the many charms of last night's performance was the between song banter. Ed Sheeran, donning a black Austin City Limits T-Shirt acted both as performer and host for the evening. He asked the crowd who was seeing him for the first time, which was the majority of the audience. At that point he proceeded to explain and then demonstrate the loop station at his feet. I grew up in the same region of Maine as Howie Day so I'm already quite familiar but I thought it was wise to show the crowd that he wasn't using a backing track.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post I had a great vantage point of the front row of the audience last night, which truly elevated the experience. Unlike most tapings I've attended of ACL TV last night's audience was filled with young girls who were absolutely giddy to be in the same room with Ed Sheeran. Watching the looks of pure, unadulterated love on these girl's faces reminded me of when I was less dead inside. These girls sang every lyric to every song and even clutched their hearts during the most meaningful parts. There was a lot of call and response singing throughout the set and these girls were the most willing participants. There was even a boy who must have been about nine years old in the front row. During a song break Sheeran looked toward the boy and said he heard it was the kid's first concert and he asked if he was enjoying it. At another point in the show Sheeran dedicated a song to a girl in the front row. I'm telling y'all he was charming.

Musically the performance straddles that line between Jason Mraz and Blackstreet. The first time I heard Ed Sheeran several years ago I thought to myself, "Oh, he's a ginger Jack Johnson from England." I wasn't too far off-base but since then he has certainly moved closer to 90's pop-R&B. Last night he sang a Nina Simone cover as well as a traditional Irish folk song and he performed both songs using R&B-style vocal runs throughout. His newest record is sure to open him up to a new audience. Like most artists who are slapped with the label Singer-Songwriter he is doing everything he can to break the perception that he's just a coffee shop dude with an acoustic guitar. His performance for ACL TV won't air until October, at which point I suspect his profile will be even higher than it is today. Ed Sheeran may not be my favorite artist in the world but last night he certainly demonstrated to me and roomful of excitable young ladies that he is a star.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flesh Lights 7" Release Show



Hey remember me? I used to write a music blog, now I just send out the occasional tweet. What's new with you? JK, don't care. On the real though, I got a sweet new job downtown and I've been so obsessed with making salads to pack in my executive bag that I've abandon you. I still love you dear reader and I want you to know that there is a can't miss show happening at Beerland tomorrow evening. Put on your tight jeans, grab some cash for the door and perhaps some ear protection because it's gonna get noisy and you might get beer "spilled" on you. A new 7" from Austin's-own Flesh Lights is the main cause for celebration but each band on tomorrow night's line-up is worth your time and attention.



I'm new to team, The Dead Space but from now on I'm one of their most vocal supporters. Before their latest single appeared in my Soundcloud stream a week or two ago I had no frame of reference for this band, who has actually been playing Austin for several years. By the time the breakdown hit at about the 3 minute mark of Behind the Wall I was ready to build a shrine to this band. Tomorrow night will be my first time seeing them in a live setting and I suspect it's going to be even better then sitting at my computer listening to them via earbuds. The jury's still out on that one though.



Rounding out tomorrow night's bill at Beerland you'll find Ditch Witch and Xetas. I have not seen Ditch Witch play but I caught Xetas opening for Protomartyr a few weeks ago and they are pure energy. If you're used to indie-rock shows with self-conscious nerds who spend most of their set doing the 1000-yard stare, then you have to be at this show. This line-up is raucous, loud and everything else you want in a real rock 'n roll show.



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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LGBTQQIAAPunk at Red 7



As a member of the LGBTQQIAAP community, I don't judge or define people based on their age, race, sex, ethnicity or gender identities. With that being said, it's hard to ignore the high percentage of killer rock musicians who happen to have vaginas playing at Red 7 tonight. Arrive early to catch Austin's-own Feral Future. The first time I saw Feral Future I was completely blown away and they are the perfect tone-setters for this lineup. If you don't have the patience to listen to three complete songs embedded below, then start with Blackout.



Brooklyn-based band Swearin' are next on the bill. With hooks for days, riffs you wanna learn and vocals we can all sing along to, you'd be a real shitbag if you talked through their whole fucking set. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I think Fat Chance is a good starter song if you want to check out Swearin' below but I'm a sucker for songs that lean ballady/R&Bish.



As a native New-Englander and a person who appreciates a good band moniker, I am predisposed to love Potty Mouth. The band describes their sound as being inspired by 70's punk and 90's college rock. Who am I to disagree? Their debut LP, embedded below, was released last fall. Don't be embarrassed if you don't own it already or it didn't make your favorite albums of 2013 list just be happy you found it and maybe spend legal currency to prove your devotion? You could at least buy a fucking pillowcase! How can you resist that pillowcase? You can't. You bought it already.



Speaking of bands with good monikers, Perfect Pussy will play the final set of the evening at Red 7 tonight. I have seen them three times this year and each time I noticed something different about the performance that I was captivated by. The first time I wrote about Perfect Pussy I talked about the live experience as a piece of performance art from the line check to the teardown. I won't take you through all of that again, I just wanted to prove that I'm smart and pretentious because clearly you needed to be reminded of those facts. Incidentally Perfect Pussy's debut LP is getting more buzz than redacted vibrator joke and if you haven't listened to it, you should. If you have listened to it and you love it, then you should probably own it?


Perfect Pussy - I video via YouTube

Don't hold me to the order in which these bands are appearing, just show up early and you won't miss any sets. Buy me a Topo Chico while you're at. Thanks.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Protomartyr Tonight



What da shit you guys?! Tonight's Protomartyr show at Holy Mountain isn't sold-out yet?! Before you go any further get yourself a $10 ticket because the doors open in less than three hours and by all rights this show should have sold-out last week.

It just goes to show what a strange bubble SXSW can be. Last week I saw Eagulls who were tremendously buzzy before and during the festival but there was hardly anyone at their headlining show last week? Protomartyr came out of the festival critical darlings and several people whose taste I trust told me they were great at the festival but somehow this show isn't sold-out? What's going on Austin? Has the bro-culture surpassed the blog-culture? I know downtown is mostly brofessionals and trustafarians now but we working-class indie kids need to do our part too.



Part of me is afraid that bands like Protomartyr will woo Austin bands away to Detroit. As our city gets more crowded and expensive, urban wastelands like Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh become more and more appealing to artists. After doing a quick Craigslist survey, it looks like you could live three months in Detroit for the cost of one month in Austin. Le sigh.

Regardless of trends in urban development and the possibility that we could lose our favorite bands to cheaper cities we need to focus on right now and right now we are preparing for tonight's show at Holy Mountain. We've already discussed the fact that Protomartyr is the headlining act and that they're from Detroit. Playing the support slots tonight will be Xetas and Simple Circuit. Both of those bands live here so don't let the Proto guys convince them to move ok?





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Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's the Last Thursday in May!



It's the last Thursday in May! You know what that means?! It means there's a bunch of cool shit going on tonight! Should I finish every sentence in this post like this?! Can we feign this level of excitement?!?! The answer is, no. We can't do that and we won't do that.

Chaos in Tejas isn't back per se but they are presenting 7 shows over the course of 5 days and two of those shows will take place this evening over at Red 7. Floor reunited last year and decided to make a new record, which came out last month. Tonight you can hear them play songs from their first new album in over a decade simply by purchasing a $15 ticket and checking out their set on the inside stage.




Maybe you're not really into "Doom Rock"? That's cool, you might want to stick with Red 7 but just head to the alley out back because Parquet Courts are headlining the outside stage tonight. The inside and outside shows tonight do require separate ticket purchases and they will be using both the front and back doors, so to speak. Parquet Courts' new album is available in a limited-edition available exclusively to 7 record shops around the country including our-own End of an Ear.



Perhaps you have some sort of issue with Red 7? You don't like places that don't sell Budweiser or something? Don't sweat it because right across the street at Empire Control Room you can catch Heavenly Beat. Tickets for this show are $12 and don't expect Heavenly Beat to start until late in the evening, the event info specifies that the show will end at 2am.



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