Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review: HAIM and MS MR

Last night MS MR and HAIM played a sold-out club show in anticipation of their appearances at Austin City Limits Festival. It was my first visit to the newest version of Antone's and I have to say, fuck the haters. The space that is now labeled Antone's over on East Riverside is a great room. It's an intimate venue with great sight-lines. The sound is fantastic, access to the bar is easy, access to the bathrooms is handy. Did you notice that bathroom was plural? That's right, there are TWO! The parking lot was full by the time we arrived but we managed to find street parking across the way near Buzzmill.

As I mentioned the show was sold-out, and both HAIM and MS MR are pretty buzzy right now so I anticipated a crowd full of scenesters who were more interested in saying they were at the show than actually watching the show. This was not the case at all. As we walked toward the venue I heard the man in front of us hurrying his girlfriend because he was concerned he might miss the opening moments of MS MR's set. That bit of eavesdropping truly set the tone for the night.

HAIM - Don't Save Me video via YouTube

Mer, Mr. S. and I walked into Antone's found a good place to stand and about the same moment that MS MR took the stage. We were watching from the balcony so we could see the crowd just as easily as we could see the band. It took a song or two for the crowd to really get into it but by the third song MS MR has the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. There was dancing, singing, and an overall feeling of exhuberance that flowed back and forth between the crowd and the performers. You could see it on the band's faces as the set progressed, they were feeling the intense love from the crowd and they reflected it right back.

There are bands that create songs in a vacuum and then when they perform them they do so timidly. MS MR is not one of those bands. They perform like a band who has been on their grind playing half-empty clubs for year. They don't just stand on stage and run through their songs. They live every word and feel every break. It was plainly evident that they were having a lot of fun on stage and they were psyched to be sharing the bill with HAIM.

HAIM is one of the buzziest bands in the indie-verse today. Last night's show was their first U.S. performance since the release of their album on Tuesday. Their set began roughly 12 hours after the band's feet touched American soul and it was followed by a DJ gig. Most people under these circumstances would be zombies but the ladies of HAIM are pros. They have been trying to achieve their music dreams as a band since 2008 and now that they are on the cusp of their dreams becoming a reality they are elated.

I knew that HAIM wrote great songs and that their record is brilliant and I had read all of the buzz about them. Hell, I even featured them as a band to catch at SXSW this year but until I was in the same room with them I felt like the whole thing could be an elaborate marketing campaign. Turns out, I was wrong. Or maybe I was right but they are still incredibly fucking good. I walked out of Antone's after seeing HAIM last night convinced of this band's superstardom. I guarantee the band's next non-festival, Austin appearance will be a sold-out show at Stubb's.

Not only is the songwriting on point, the musicianship was also on point, the banter was on point, and the stage presence was also on point. The sisters of HAIM have that 'it' factor that compels an audience to watch them. I was incredibly impressed with their crowd control skills. They know just when to yell, "C'mon!" and get the crowd to roar, they know just when to flirt with the crowd and when to shred and unleash a psychedelic freak-out. When we all sang along to, "Say you will, say you will save me." We all meant it and it felt like they could.

I won't be attending ACL Festival until next weekend and I'm already counting down the hours until I get to see HAIM perform again. Don't let your pre-conceived notions of this band prevent you from seeing them if you get the chance. Those of us who were at Antone's last night have seen the future and the future is 3 sisters from L.A..

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Friday, October 4, 2013

ACL Festival 2013 Preview: Day 2, Weekend 1

It's Friday night. How many bands are "killin' it" right now? SPOILER ALERT: A lot. Hopefully you found my tips for your first day of the festival helpful. By now, you've already become familiar with the layout of the park. You've seen some great bands, you've had some domestic beer, your feet probably hurt and your bed is calling you but guess what sucka? You've got two more days to go and that's only if you're only going the first weekend. So take some Vitamin C, drink some more water, eat some greasy food and get as much sleep as you can muster because you're going to want to be down at the park early again tomorrow. Once again, I'll post the highlight artists below the break. I'm not going to break it down for you as far as which stages are where, you're on your own in that regard this time. Also, there's bound to be some overlap when you want to watch more than one act at a time. I can give you advice as far as whom I would see but there are so many factors to consider that I would advise you to follow your heart.

HAIM - The Wire video via YouTube

When I look at the list above, I see a diverse group of talented artists. I almost included Passion Pit in this list because they are also playing Saturday at 7:00pm but you'll notice that is when Wilco is scheduled to play. I enjoy both Wilco and Passion Pit but I've also seen both artists perform in the past and I can assure you that there is no contest for your attention in this time slot. However, as I said I recognize there are many factors involved in who you choose to see at ACL Festival so, if Passion Pit sings your heart-song how can I fault you for that?

If you only listen to my opinion about one artist, please see Autre Ne Veut. If I can bend your ear further you should also see HAIM. If you're letting me advise you on my top 3 Saturday artists then you need to see Wilco as well.

You may have noticed I didn't mention The Cure. That wasn't an accident.

Autre Ne Veut - Ego Free Sex Free video via YouTube

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Review: QOTSA for ACL TV

Last night the Queens of the Stone Age showed the audience at ACL Live why they deserve to be on Austin City Limits Television. Josh Homme and co. are legends in the California hard rock scene. To those in the know this collection of musicians is a supergroup. I'm not going to lie and pretend like I'm a superfan of QOTSA. I've listened to their records and I know their singles but I certainly can't sing-a-long to all of their tunes. After witnessing their performance last night I can tell you that these guys absolutely shred. I watched the guitarists' hands and I tried to keep track of the drum patterns and I realized that the majority of touring bands today couldn't perform in a QOTSA cover band.

Queens of the Stone Age - My God is the Sun video via YouTube

The Queens' songwriting is smart and referential. Almost every song is built around a groove that remains mostly static while the rest of the song changes around it. This isn't the case with every song but it's true of all of my favorites. The line-up has shifted over the years but the six men who performed for ACL TV last night are a well-oiled machine. With songs built around complicated syncopations, it takes a set of musicians with incredible chops to pull it off.

Luckily, you won't have to take my word for it. Last night's performance will be part of the 39th season of Austin City Limits Television, which means it will air in living rooms across this great nation thanks to your local PBS (and viewers like you). Keep an eye on your local listings because you're not going to want to miss these quintessential California rockers.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

ACL Festival 2013 Preview: Day 1, Weekend 1

So, here we are Thursday. It's the unofficial launch of ACL Festival Part 1 of 2. The first Official Late Night Shows kick-off this evening and tomorrow we start the big show. Hopefully you've been listening to this Spotify Playlist I made for you, featuring 50 of my favorite artists playing this year's festival. Well, it's go time kids. Let's get right down to it. Below the break, I've planned Friday for you. Then I've rambled on about things. Enjoy.

Dana Falconberry - NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert video via YouTube

Friday, 4 October 2013

Ok, so here's the deal. If you look above you'll notice a lot of overlap. There are several strategies here. Read the crowd, if it feel like you can easily traverse the park and see several bands within an hour or two hour block. Go for it. On Friday, this is especially easy before 4pm. The other strategy, which is what I recommend, is you choose a side of the park and sort of pick a spot in the field that's somewhat between the two largest stages. If you look closely to the schedule of artists above, the stages in bold are are on the West side. That's toward the left after you walk through the gates. The stages listed in italics are on the East side of the park, which is toward the right. The stage that is underlined, is closer to the west stages but it's closest to the food. So, it might be a good idea to plan your eating in a way that allows you to hear some of the sets from the Austin Ventures stage.

Not taking into account the artists performing on the stages themselves, the West side stages are definitely more advantageous. The west stages are closer to the gates, the main stages themselves are closer to each other and are placed in a way that is more parallel than the major stages on the east side. I also think it's easier to get to the water refill station on the west side of the park and the access to porta-potties is handier. Also, let's get real, the headliner on the East stage is always harder to hear than the headliner on the West stage. The big stage on the East side is on a lower plane than the big stage on the West side so, the sound naturally drifts from the west toward the east. If you're planning to bring a folding chair, it's easy to find a spot that is situated between the two West side stages, you'll be able to see and hear both stages with little to no shifting of your chair. That is not the case on the east side. With that all being said, there are obviously some great artists playing on both sides of the park.

Regardless of which side you choose, or whether you decide to move throughout the park without a real plan, make sure the first place you walk once you get through the gates is the water station. There are stations to the right or the left but the closest one once you walk through the gate is sort of straight and to the left. Grab a paper festival guide from a volunteer, there will be a map there. If you have a child with you, make sure to get them geo-tagged or whatever they do. You'll see that on the map as well.

Oh, and one last thing. Be prepared to have giant, ridiculous "flags" obstructing your view of the stage. It's annoying but if we prepare ourselves maybe it will be a bit more tolerable. Happy Festing!

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Totally NOT ACL Fest: Part 1

ACL Festival starts this Friday for many people but for some of us it starts next week and for some others amongst us, it doesn't start at all. Intrigued? You should be because this post is all about all of that stuff that isn't ACL Fest (part 1).

Let's start with tonight, shall we? Sure it's only Wednesday and it really has nothing to do with ACL Fest but I still want to talk about the fact that Unknown Mortal Orchestra are playing the Mohawk tonight for $14. Also, while some intern is trying to hunt down 500 humidifiers for Lionel Richie's tent compound, the OBN III's will be rocking so hard you won't even be able to think about the government shutdown. OBN III's will hit Beerland's stage sometime before the bar closes. Expect this one to be packed to the gills, loud and one of the best rock and roll experiences in your recent life.

OBN III's - No Enemies video via YouTube


Tomorrow night is the, sort of, unofficial start to ACL Fest. Courtyard Hounds are playing the Continental, Queens of the Stone Age are taping a set for ACL TV and the official ACL Late Night Shows also start Thursday.

You know what else goes down on Thursday? Our friends over at Knuckle Rumbler are presenting Art Disaster no. 16. This event takes place at both Red 7 and Holy Mountain and will only cost you $5 at the door. It's even cheaper if you RSVP, $3 for access to over a dozen bands, in two venues, on one night.


Friday night has at least three highlight shows, some would say more. First of all The Helio Sequence and Menomena are touring together and they'll play the Mohawk. You can go for the cost of a $15 ticket. Buy one now because this show is going to sell-out at any moment. Both of these bands are fantastic, I would call this a double-headliner.

Just down the street at Beerland you can catch A Giant Dog. If you're coming from the Mohawk show, there should be more than enough time to catch all of The Helio Sequence and all of A Giant Dog's set as well.

Ty Segall will be back in Austin Friday night. It was only a month ago that he played the Mohawk but this time he is touring with Fuzz so don't expect to hear a set of Ty Segall songs at Red 7 Friday night. Expect a show from Fuzz with Ty Segall on the drums.


Saturday night I might head back to Red 7 for Black Milk on the outside stage and Houndmouth on the inside stage. Those are separate shows with separate tickets so if you're balling on a budget you might choose based on personal taste.

My other Saturday night highlight is gAyCL 2013. All you really need to know about this event is that it takes place at Cheer-Up Charlies and that it's really fun. To me this event is as much a party as it is a concert. You should only go if you want to have lots of fun Saturday night.


Sunday night, bitch please. I'm going to bed.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Best Before Four: ACL Festival 2013 Preview

If you're going to spend the money to get a ticket to Austin City Limits Music Festival you should get your money's worth. Today, I've written a guide to highlight some of the artists who will be playing the festival before 4pm. Chances are you're already pretty familiar with the artists performing later in the day but there is a grip of talent hitting Zilker's stages between 11:15am and 4:00pm each day of the fest.

Let's start at the beginning shall we? The fact that Wild Nothing is scheduled to hit the stage at 11:15am on Friday is a crime against humanity. I know that SOMEONE has to be the first band but I really feel like it would have been wiser to flip Friday's schedule and Sunday's schedule for all bands playing before 4pm. Like many a festival attendee, I have to work my day-job on Friday. My job is cool so I only have to work a half-day but I still won't be at the park before noon on Friday. I know that there are many people who have similar situations.

Wild Nothing - Paradise video via YouTube

That being said, Wild Nothing is playing an Official ACL Late Night Show at the Parish this Friday evening, October 4th. Tickets to see Wild Nothing at the Parish this Friday night are no longer available. However, the bill also features Autre Ne Veut, whom I also adore immensely and their set is also early. So, props for giving these great early artists more chances to reach an audience and vice-versa.

Several of the artists featured in this post are playing bonus Late Night Shows. Check out this post for more details.



Of all of the artist featured in this before 4pm, Haim is the one with the most buzz coming into ACL Festival. The world has fallen in love with these sisters. This tour cycle will certainly be the last time Haim sets foot on a festival stage this early in the day. My personal highlight from this Saturday grouping is Autre Ne Veut but if you're more of a rock fan you might prefer to watch Deap Vally in the 1:00pm time slot.

Autre Ne Veut - Play by Play video via YouTube


This is what I'm saying about mixing up Friday's early line-up with Sunday's early line-up. I know I'm biased because I'm shaping this for my tastes BUT with this Sunday grouping, I would have Foxygen and MS MR play the 3:30 sets no matter what day you have them perform. Both of those artists are playing Late Night Shows though so there will be three chances to see them perform in Austin over the next couple of weeks.

MS MR - Think of You video via YouTube

You may have noticed that several of the artists I've featured in the post are playing at the same time. Usually at this time of day it's a bit easier to move from stage to stage. It also just come down to personal taste. For me, I'd rather listen to Grouplove than The Lone Bellow but if you're a singer-songwriter fan and/or not into synth-pop you'd be better off with the latter.

Listen to this Spotify Playlist of Austin City Limits 2013 Artists.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

ACL Festival Preview: What to Bring

I, myself, will be attending the second weekend of Austin City Limits Festival this year. I'm pretty excited because it's the first 2nd weekend of the festival ever! That means I've got more time to prepare for the festival than you do but for those of you attending the first weekend, here's some items you may want to have on your personage for the festival weekend. Oh, but before we get too far down that road, I do want to mention that you can still buy tickets to attend the 2nd weekend with me AND/OR there are still tickets to many of the official ACL Late Night Shows.

The first thing you should do is look at the festival's FAQ and see what they won't let you bring inside. Most of them are logical things that you wouldn't bring but there are a couple of tricky ones that a lot of people miss, 'no aerosol sunblock' for instance.

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Informatin video via YouTube

So, I'd say before you start packing things up you should think about how mobile you plan on being. If you want to jump from stage to stage throughout the day, you're probably going to only want a very small bag with essentials and/or some cargo shorts. Normally, I absolutely REFUSE to wear cargo shorts but for a festival, I'll make an exception. When it comes to festivals, I'm more focused on function than fashion but I'm also 31 so, there's that. So, for you essentials types the list is pretty brief:

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet Naps
  • Sunscreen
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Empty Refillable Water Bottle
  • $20-$40/day for food

All, or most of what I listed could easily be carried in pockets or on your person. I know that many of you are going to try to make the case for sandals. Hold the fucking phone cowboy. I know that comfortable sandals exist but you know what else exists? Thousands of people in a field walking every direction at once all over your, now broken, toes. Those Birkenstocks are much less comfortable when they're filled with pools of your own blood. Also, don't forget that the sunscreen can't be aerosol and don't buy the cheap brands. I bought cheap sunscreen one year and spent most of the day weeping as it poured into my eyes. Not cool y'all!

If, like me, you've realized how futile it is to try to move from stage to stage the first thing you're going to want is a nice foldable chair. The one that I bring is pretty basic but I'm always envious of the people whose chairs have canopies to protect them from the sun and/or rain. I've also seen some next-level shit that involves attachable umbrellas. If you have a group of people, it's a good idea to bring a combination of blankets and chairs. Figure out which end of the park has the most bands you want to see and setup camp near the front of the chair zone. Once you've setup camp, you can pretty much abandon your camp and people won't fuck with your shit. I'm not saying you should leave your iPad sitting on your blanket but usually if you let your neighbors know what's up you can keep an eye out for each other.

If you're staying fairly stationary, you want to bring all of the essentials above but you should also consider:

  • Change of Socks
  • Tissues
  • Toilet Paper
  • Mints/Gum
  • Advil/Aspirin etc
  • Empty Ziploc Bags
  • Empty Trash Bags
  • Personal-Size Umbrella
  • Emergency Poncho
  • Ear-plugs
  • Phone Charger
  • Phone Charging Case
  • Small Flashlight
  • Travel First-Aid Kit
  • Moisturizing Lotion

You might also consider buying yourself some galoshes. They sell them at Academy pretty cheaply but I'm sure you can find them at lots of places. You may find some of the things on this longer list odd but these suggestions come from years of experience at music festivals. You may not know why you're packing an empty Ziploc bag but at the point that you need it, think of me.

For me, it's always difficult to choose the correct bag to bring. I prefer messenger bags because they have a lower-profile so you can navigate a crowd more easily. It's also less of a production to take the bag off and on. Lastly, this is a bit paranoid but I don't like the idea of people getting into my backpack behind me. So, when I'm stationary in the crowd I move the messenger back in front of me or I rest it on my feet.

I'm sure there are some things that I missed, if history is any indicator I'll be revising this post a hundred times before Friday. You should also be taking Vitamin C right now. Build up your immune system, rest and hydrate now because once the fest gets going, you'll be wearing your body down.

Listen to this Spotify Playlist of Austin City Limits 2013 Artists.

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