Friday, March 9, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Spoek Mathambo

Photo Credit: Sean Metelerkamp

Last year at the Sub Pop Records showcase I caught a set from Shabazz Palaces, which melted my mind and made me think about hip-hop in really scary, existential ways. Their album, Black Up ended up being one of my favorite releases of 2011. This year that same showcase will feature a set from South African rapper Spoek Mathambo. I've been listening to his second (and newest) LP, Father Creeper for the past few weeks and to be honest I don't even know what to say about it. It is different from anything I've ever heard before. There are moments that feel like straight-ahead rock, there are moments that sound like hip-hop and then there are moments that sound like an iPod fell from some distant galaxy. You can hear some tracks from Spoek Mathambo on the official Sub Pop artist page. Also, most of Father Creeper is on Spotify although there are songs that are unavailable on there.

Spoek Mathambo - Father Creeper Trailer video via YouTube

Spoek Mathambo has two official performances at SXSW. The first is on Thursday March 15th at the Copa, the second is the official Sub Pop showcase at Red 7.

There are a couple of unofficial opportunities to catch Spoek at SXSW this year. Actually the opportunities are official but the showcases are not. Look for them at these two high-profile events, with the potential for more as well:
  • Wednesday, 3pm at Waterloo Records
  • Friday, Spin Magazine party at Stubb's

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Races

There are record labels who can do no wrong in my eyes. When I get a press release that says Frenchkiss Records signs _______. I know that I will love ___________. This isn't blind devotion, this is a proven track-record. So, when I received an e-mail about a band called Races who had just been signed by Frenchkiss I immediately gave their music a few spins. They released a 3-song EP last fall called Big Broom, which you can listen to on Spotify or Bandcamp. It's hard to judge a band on just 3 songs but if those 3 songs are solid then you should pay attention. Races' full-length LP will be released on March 27th and it's called Year of the Witch. I expect after making the rounds at this year's SXSW there should be a considerable amount of buzz for their LP.

Races - Big Broom video via YouTube

Since, SXSW starts next week I can finally start telling you where to catch the bands that I feature. However, keep in mind that lots of bands modify their schedules at the very last possible moment. As of right now, Races are scheduled to be at the following places at the following times. The links below will take you to RSVP pages to attend those events. The only official, credentialed event is the showcase at The Stage on 6th.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Purity Ring

For a band to have as much hype as Purity Ring with only a few released songs they have to be good right? Well, maybe not but I saw Purity Ring at FunFunFun Fest and they melted my mind. I liked them from the opening song but by the time they played their last tune I was completely enraptured. They don't thrash around the stage and they won't have a spectacular light show what they will have is a home-made contraption they use to trigger samples, they'll distort the beautiful child-like vocals and they'll live-program some of the coldest beats you've ever heard. You'll want to dance but chances are you'll just stand staring, mouth agape in total wonderment. I have been waiting for Purity Ring to return to Austin since November and I will do my best to be wherever they are as many times as I can. Luckily for you, me and everyone else on the planet there will be several chances to see Purity Ring during SXSW. In the meantime, I encourage you to listen to the three tunes they've released thus far over on Purity Ring's Soundcloud page.

Purity Ring - Lofticries video via YouTube

I wanted to follow yesterday's post about the Robert Glasper Experiment with this one about Purity Ring because I'm presented with the Sophie's Choice of SXSW. Do I see an artist, who I have seen before, or do I go check out someone who I really want to see. I mentioned above the break that Purity Ring will have several performances during SXSW but they are only playing Central Presbyterian Church once and seeing them play there would be astounding. Unfortunately it's happening at precisely the same time as the Robert Glasper Experiment's set at The Elephant Room. Both performances are in great spaces and guarantee to be fantastic experiences now it's just a question of choosing.

The first performance from Purity Ring during SXSW will take place at the Chevrolet Sound Garage. They go on at 1am Wednesday evening/Thursday morning. If you want to catch Purity Ring at the church their performance is at 10:30pm on Thursday the 14th. However, the same people that booked them at FunFunFun Fest are hosting their, outstanding, Mess With Texas party where you can also catch Purity Ring. If you are only doing unofficial SXSW events make sure you see check-out the Mess With Texas party.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Radiohead on Austin City Limits TV

Many of you who know me in real life know that Radiohead is my favorite band. I have been obsessed with them for over 15 years and I even followed them around (Radiohead pun intended) on their Hail to the Thief tour. After living in Austin for 6 years I was resigned to the fact that Radiohead was too big to play our fair city. We are the live music capitol of the world but we don't have very many venues that would be appropriate for bands who do stadium tours. There are always rumors that Radiohead will play Austin City Limits Festival but I contend that you will NEVER see Radiohead playing a stage with the Budweiser logo above them. Yes, they've played Bonnaroo and Coachella but those festivals give their stages names that have nothing to do with multi-national corporations. Not to say that those aren't corporate festivals as well but you won't see the Google+ stage on your program for either one. All this to say, when it was announced that Radiohead was playing the Frank Erwin Center I squeeled with glee, then immediately thought (and tweeted) if they play Austin City Limits TV I will die. Well, guess what kids? Tonight, Radiohead played ACL TV and I didn't die!

Radiohead - The Daily Mail video via YouTube

I wasn't sure what to expect from a Radiohead ACL performance. I had seen what they've been playing on this tour but part of me still felt like since they've never done the show before that we might hear a greatest hits set of sorts. I was way off the mark and I'm totally ok with that. Before tonight, I have seen Radiohead five times. In those experiences I have seen them play all of my favorite songs as some point. I've even heard them play some of my favorite B-Side like Talk Show Host and Pearly. Tonight they explored the side of themselves that is most present on the A-Side of The King of Limbs. This is the highly-percussive side. The side with lots of electronic guitar effects. The side that makes Thom do his infamous spastic dance-moves. They played mostly songs from TKOL with a few older tracks that fit in with that aesthetic. You'll even notice some songs that were released AFTER TKOL as well as two songs that haven't even been released yet.

For fans who were looking to hear Radiohead play Creep or My Iron Lung they should realize those songs were written by a different band. Radiohead decided after OK Computer that they had explored anthemic guitar-rock as much as they wanted to and then they moved on. Those are great songs but if you go to see Radiohead in 2012 just to hear them play songs from The Bends you're going to be disappointed.

Luckily, tonight's taping was full of serious Radiohead fans. I was posted up in front of Ed near the front of the stage and before the show started my fellow crowd-mates and I all swapped Radiohead concert stories. We had all seen the band before. Some of us saw them in Montreal, or New York, the Hollywood Bowl or even here in Texas. We all knew what they had been playing on this tour and we all had our favorites and wishful-thinking songs.

There were many amazing moments throughout this evening's set. Some of them will make the broadcast and some of them won't. You'll notice that Paranoid Android was played but it will not be aired. I feel as though Thom intentionally sang it poorly so it wouldn't make the cut but it still pleased the audience. As an uber-fan there are always moments that bring me to near tears. Hearing the new song Daily Mail was one of those moments but the moment that cracked me was after Idioteque. It's certainly not Radiohead's most touching song but I was overwhelmed with emotion being so close to the band as they unleashed all of the energy it takes to perform it live. Reckoner required a re-start as Thom was not pleased with his guitar sound and when he stopped the song the crows exploded with approving applause. I was definitely surprised to hear The Amazing Sound of Orgy make the set. That song is a B-Side to a Pyramid Song single and it had long been forgotten. Thom explained that it was about the collapse of the banking system and it has re-emerged as that theme has become more relevant.

Overall, just as they do every time I've seen them, Radiohead delivered in a big way for me. They continue to evolve and I continue to embrace them. Sure there are songs I would love to hear live that they didn't perform but they played songs I had never heard period, which is the perfect demonstration of where they are as a band in 2012. If you want to hear a band make and perform The Bends over and over go to a Coldplay concert. If you want to see a band challenge themselves and their audience while still being entertaining then go to a Radiohead show.

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SXSW 2012 Preview: Robert Glasper Experiment

Houston's Robert Glasper Experiment has released the best album of 2012 and chances are this is the first time you're hearing about it. Released on Blue Note Records just last week, Black Radio is already a must-have album for anyone who loves music. It combines hip-hop and jazz in a way that I haven't heard since Madlib's Blue Note remix record, Shades of Blue. With guest vocals from the likes of Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Musiq Soulchild Black Radio is a powerhouse that you can not overlook. You can listen to the whole thing on Spotify but we have it on vinyl at our house and it brings a whole new dimension to the dynamics of the album. Black Radio is the fourth release from Glasper but it is the first to push the boundaries of jazz so far into the world of hip-hop and certainly the first with such a bevy of guest vocalists.

Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Yasiin Bey - Black Radio video via YouTube

The Robert Glasper Experiment appears to only have one scheduled performance during SXSW and, unfortunately, it's on Thursday night the 15th. This is unfortunate because there are so many great showcases happening on Thursday night already. However, most of the other artists I want to see that evening are playing more than once during SXSW whereas there is only one chance to catch Glasper. On the bright side of things, Glasper is playing Austin's only true Jazz venue The Elephant Room, which will be an amazing space to experience his music in. It is also a pretty small venue so it could end up being tricky to get in to for his 10:30pm performance.

Keep your eyes peeled for the possibility of extra performances from the Robert Glasper Experiment or at least listen to Black Radio even if you don't think you'll see the performance at SXSW. Show List Austin, Do512 and SXShhh are my go-to resources for all things unofficial.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Sports

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but sometimes when you hear, or see a band's name it makes you not want to listen to them. I have learned my lesson about this a few times but it's still all about first impressions. I didn't listen to Austin-band Leatherbag for years because I found their name unappealing and assumed they played punk/metal or some other genre that I'm not interested in. I avoided Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr for similar reasons so, when I received a press-release about a band called Sports I threw up in my mouth a little. As a husky, young, gay boy I never gave a crap about sports and as a blogger I, generally, abhor band names that are difficult to Google but I gave Rochester, NY band, Sports a chance and I'm very glad that I did.

Sports aren't re-inventing the wheel, they are making great bar-band music with vocals that simultaneously sound like Elvis Costello and Jarvis Cocker. I have listened to their album three times in the last couple of days and every time it gets to the last song I'm a little surprised and disappointed. These songs are gems and the record seems to breeze by really quickly with only nine tracks but it's also pretty perfect that it seems to be brief. You don't want to listen to an epic record from a bar band, you want to get in and get out, preferably drunk. You can listen to some great bar music from Sports on Spotify, Bandcamp or Soundcloud. They also have their self-titled album for sale on vinyl (with CD) for $12.

Sports - Side Effect of Talk video via YouTube

Sports is the second band I'm featuring who is not playing the official SXSW music conference but they will still be in Austin for the festival and I still think you should catch one of their sets if you can. They are still scrambling to book more parties and events but as of this moment they will definitely be playing here:
  • March 15: Instant Classic Records Showcase @ Weirdo's
  • March 16: STPP Showcase @ The Dogwood

Keep an eye on Show List Austin, Do512 and SXShhh for other opportunities to see Sports while they're in Austin.

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