Friday, November 11, 2011

Interview: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Canadian, folk-rockers The Wilderness of Manitoba will be on Austin tomorrow night. They play the Parish in the support slot for Rasputina. If you're a fan of honest, pastoral, roots music packed to the gills with gorgeous harmonies, then you should listen to the latest album from The Wilderness of Manitoba, When You Left the Fire. Or, you can just pick-up the new album down at the Parish tomorrow night. There are still tickets available and if you buy them today instead of tomorrow, you'll save yourself 2 bucks. I had the chance to interview Melissa of The Wilderness of Manitoba, which you can read below the break.

The Wilderness of Manitoba - Orono Park video via YouTube

What inspired the title "Orono Park"?

We worked on this song over the course of a couple of months, in different parks around Toronto and finally finished it while on tour, in Montreal's Mont Royal park. We visited Scott's hometown of Orono, ON before heading home and decided that Orono Park would be a fitting name.


Who designed the beautiful album art and what is the medium?

I made the artwork for the album using a variety of media - watercolor paint, hand screen-printed fabric, embroidery and yarn woven on a traditional loom. Then it was scanned and collaged together on the computer. It was, in part, inspired by the idea of loneliness in the wild and Joni Mitchell's song 'Cactus Tree'.

What was the music of your youth? Was your household a musical one?

Some of us grew up with parents who played instruments and wrote songs (one of our songs, 'Evening' was written by Will's mom in the 60s) and I think in general, we were all influenced by what our parents listened to which is a lot of the music that we continue to be inspired by. Bands like Simon & Garfunkel, CSN, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac etc.

The song-cycle is very wintry, what is one of your favorite winter records?

'Our Endless Numbered Days' by Iron & Wine is a great wintery album that I'm into. The song 'Cinders & Smoke' has a sound, somewhere in the background, that I imagine is a gas stove being lit in a snowed-in cabin.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?

Joni Mitchell. I feel like I could learn a lot from working with her and I know that she would be entertaining to hang out with - she seems to have such a different perspective on life and music and is a very funny woman (or so I've heard!).

The title, "When You Left the Fire" implies an important life-change. Was this record inspired by a specific event or series of events or is meant to be evocative?

I suppose it's a combo of events and the desire to express loneliness or of an empty, wild landscape. At the time that we made the album, we were spending a lot more time together (some of us were living together) and that led to more writing and arranging as a group so that did affect the sound from the previous recording that we had done and it also affected how we interacted with one another.

Is everyone who performs on the record part of the touring band and/or are there members of the touring band who are not on the record?

The 5 of us are all on the record and touring together - though some songs on the recording didn't involve everyone and sometimes we tour without our drummer, Sean.

What are the high-points and low-points of touring? Is touring the U.S. vastly different from touring Canada?

High points - camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, meeting cool new people, listening to great bands like Other Lives or Rasputina live, trying delicious craft beers like 'Ibita'. Low points - traveling for too many hours at a time, traffic on I-95 from Delaware to NC, Northern Ontario van breakdowns. So far, the difference between touring in Canada and the US is minimal though we are learning a lot of new things about each state that we go to - like the honey on pizza thing that we discovered in Nebraska! - but the crowds are equally friendly and supportive.

As Canadians, what are your thoughts on Ketchup chips?

Sometimes, you crave them but they aren't an every day kind of thing!

Read more!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Great Wednesday Shows

It's hard to imagine going out to see a show after spending 3 days at Fun Fun Fun Fest but you know what y'all? I'm going to do the hard thing and go drink cheap beer while listening to bad-ass live music. Keep me in your thoughts. No, but seriously there are a lot of really fantastic musical outfits playing downtown this evening. Personally, I know I'm going to be at the Phantogram show at the Mohawk. Sadly, if you don't have tickets you can't get through the door because this show is sold-the-fuck-out. Should I tell you how great this, upstate New York, band's latest album is or would that just depress you? I guess, technically Nightlife is a 6-song EP not an album but you should check it out whether you can make it out tonight or not. It's on Spotify if you want to hear it before buying it. You can also download a couple of Mp3's over at the Barsuk Records site.

Phantogram - When I'm Small video via YouTube

Some of you may recall the band opening for Phantogram from their set at Austin City Limits Festival. They take their name from the Rugrats favorite cartoon character Reptar. They have an EP out right now on Vagrant Records ridiculously tittled, Oblangle Fizz Y'all. As you've probably surmised this band takes themselves VERY seriously so not talking or smiling during their set. Obviously, I kid their music is fun, energetic and kind of reminds me of 80's band Was Not Was. How's that for an obscure musical reference? Since tonight's show is an outdoor event you can expect Reptar to go on around 8:00pm.

Reptar - Rainbounce video via YouTube

Let's move onto non-sold-the-fuck-out shows shall we? Our old pals from Detroit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are back in Austin this week. They played Stubb's inside stage last night, they will do so again tonight but you can also catch a free in-store performance from them at Waterloo Records. Then, tomorrow night, the guys from Dale Jr. Jr. will be hosting a screening of Jurassic Park at, the much beloved, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. I already scored by tickets for that screening and you should too.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Simple Girl video via YouTube

Speaking of Stubb's, Modest Mouse are playing for their second night in a row and would you believe the show is sold-out? Do people really love Modest Mouse enough for them to play Stubb's two nights in a row? Do you know the name of their latest album or when it came out? I really thought their moment was over as soon as they signed to a major label. I bet at least one of you is reading this thinking what a bastard I am and you're ready to proclaim your undying affection for all things Isaac Brock. Well, that's lovely that you're still a huge fan and apparently there are enough people in Austin who feel strongly enough to buy $38 tickets to see Brock and co. at Stubb's for two nights in a row. If they still play Neverending Math Equation and/or All Night Diner then I'm with you in spirit but I'm guessing the sets are heavy on whatever their newest record is called. Seems like the last new one came up in March of 2007 and is called We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Can that be right? Are they touring in support of a 4 year old record? Oh, I guess they actually did release an EP post-2007. Can you feel all of the meh oozing from this paragraph?

Modest Mouse - Neverending Math Equation video via YouTube

On the opposite end of the Modest Mouse spectrum you'll find Austin-based folk-pop group, Wild Child. They play Antone's tonight in support of their record, Pillow Talk. I encourage you to keep an eye on WIld Child, their songs have mass appeal and they put on a great live show. Don't believe me? Watch the performance I've posted below and listen to their album embedded below that.

WIld Child - SIlly Things video via YouTube

Pillow Talk (full album available now) by WildChildSounds

Read more!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FunFunFun Fest Wrap-Up

Alright y'all, I procrastinated on this yesterday but it's time to put the 6th edition of FunFunFun Fest to bed. I did a wrap-up of day 1 at the beginning of day 2 and it got out of hand, so I'm going to try to keep this write-up a bit more concise. I bore witness to many great artists and I'm not going to run them all done. Think of this as the USA Today of festival write-ups.

So, let's start with the highlights, shall we? The award for best set from an up-and-coming act, definitely, goes to Purity Ring. I was predisposed to enjoy their set based on my love of the 3 tracks they have floating around the internet but I really had no expectations of their live performance. When an artist's music is electronic you never know what you're going to get. It could just be one person cueing up backing tracks, which was the case with MNDR or you could be seeing a live band, essentially doing covers of the electronic compositions. Purity Ring gave us something that fits between those two areas. It was just two people, one of whom was mostly just doing the vocals but it was incredibly powerful. The gentlemen twiddling knobs was using some sort of homemade contraption that I presume was wired to an MPC. It had various, brass pipes welded together that would cue different sounds depending on which part of the pipe sculpture he struck. He was also manipulating the vocals live, sending phrases off into different directions and generally tweaking the hell out of them at key moments. The singer had a bass drum on her side of the stage, which she would dramatically strike on occasion but she was mostly tasked with having a strong, beautiful voice. The cheers and applause from the crowd grew more emphatic at the close of each song in the set. By the end of the set the crowd was densely packed and roaring with excitement. You could tell the audience was completely awe-struck with the performance and I feel very pleased that I was able to be there for the whole thing.

The aware for best set from an established artist goes to M83. Again, I knew I was going to like this set. I love M83's last three records and I have seen them perform before so I know they are strong performers, the wildcard was the crowd response. I wasn't sure if my enthusiasm for M83 was an anomaly or if there were a lot of people excited to see them play. Well, around 5 o'clock on Saturday when I was jammed into the crowd with cheering people, I realized I wasn't the only one excited for M83. I couldn't see the edge of the crowd in any direction and people cheered at the opening notes for the majority of the songs. I was surprised that the newest single, Midnight City received one of the biggest reactions. Generally speaking, when an artist has been around for a long time it's the older stuff that gets the biggest reaction but Midnight City is such a monster single that the opening squelches sent the crowd into a frenzy. I truly feel as though M83 could have played a headlining time slot, as opposed to a dinner time set. Conversely, I feel like Passion Pit could have played a dinner-time set but that is none of my business.

The award for best frontman goes to Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. She had so much stage-presence, energy and enthusiasm I wanted to cheer, scream and smile all at once. Their set started at 1:30 in the afternoon on the final day of the festival and they put it all out there. She stalked the stage, she mugged for the crowd, she jumped into the photo pit, she leapt from the drum risers and she did it all in the cutest little dress. She was like a female, mexican, punk-rock version of a young Mick Jagger. My favorite of all of her stage tricks was the way she would stalk to the edge of the stage and sing to the crowd without the benefit of a microphone it was incredibly powerful and she even did it for the folks watching from the side-stage platform. I had heard Le Butcherettes played some incredible showcases at SXSW and I look forward to seeing them play again.

The award for most intense dance-party of FunFunFun Fest goes to the back-to-back sets from Flying Lotus and Diplo. Their styles are so different from each other but they can both throw-down like no others. Flying Lotus' mixes would build into absolute chaos with layers of beats and noise that crescendo into a frenzy and then he would completely clean up the sound and leave you with a simple beat. Diplo used his signature blend of samples from indigenous cultures mashed up with modern pop references to make the crowd go bananas. The last time I saw a set from Diplo was during SXSW 2008 and I can definitely see a huge progression. He is a master at working the crowd both with his music choices and shouting directives into the mic at key points in the set. The result of these back-to-back sets was pure, ass-shaking magic.

The award for best performance from a band I have seen many times before is to be shared between Girls and Ra Ra Riot. Their performance styles are so different but they are both so great. Ra Ra Riot always perform like they are having the time of their lives on stage and that energy is contagious. You can't watch a performance from Ra Ra without a huge smile on your face unless you're a complete and total dick. Girls are less enthusiastic but their songs are so gorgeous it makes up for their lower energy. Also, this was my first time seeing them perform with back-up singers and that added a really nice texture to their sound.

The award for in your face haters goes to tUnE-yArDs! I tried to tell people who were hating on the record that it's a much different and more powerful experience in person but they had to hear it in person before they became believers. Merrill converted many haters and preached to the choir of painted-faces in the crowd.

The award for talk of the fest goes to dust, Glen Danzig's soup needs and Ryan Gosling. These were the things that seemed to have the most chatter both online and in real life. I contributed to chatter on all of these topics and choose not to delve into them any further.

The award for sets are heard great things about but didn't attend goes to Trash Talk and Black Lips. I heard both sets were absolute madness in the best possible way but sadly I was not there for either one. Isn't that always the story of festival attendance?

The award for oh yeah, they're awesome goes to Spoon. Having seen them perform on many occasions, including their Austin City Limits Television taping I had planned to skip their headlining set at Fun Fest. However, through a series of circumstances I ended up watching their performance and was reminded of why they are local legends to begin with. Great songwriting, spot-on performances, lovely stage decor, it was magic.

Obviously, I saw many other great sets throughout the weekend but I'm not going to recount them all. FunFunFun Fest is, by far, my favorite music festival with a centralized locale and I look forward to how they top this year's fest next year. I, like many of you, was hesitant of the move to Auditorium Shores but I think it went off without a hitch. Sure, it was a longer trek to get from the Orange stage to the Black stage but it was nice to have more vendors and having more space made the walking part easier because the crowd density wasn't as intense as it had been at Waterloo Park. Did you have fun at the fest? Who would you award with what?

Read more!