Wednesday, September 1, 2010

News, Notes and Stray Opinions

I can be a bit of a straight-line thinker and I'm aware of it. I like routines, schedules, algorithms. I guess that this is an unusual personality type for a music writer, let alone a musician. Rock shows are unpredictable everywhere, but Austin gigs are particularly loose. Who knows if all the bands listed are going to show up? The cover can change between the time you leave your house and when you get to the door. And the next time I go to a show where the opening band really starts playing at the announced hour, it will be the first.

I try to cope as best I can, ill-suited as I am to making adjustments. Sometimes I forget that a blog is by definition informal and that "thinking out loud" is, in fact, encouraged. If I stay as busy I have been these past few weeks, I'm going to need to get used to the occasional unstructured, random, bullet-points blog post. And I am indeed busy, finishing up the first issue of the Big Western Flavor print 'zine (all-new interviews with The Gary, The Sour Notes, La Snacks, and more, out by the end of the month) and getting nearer than ever before to my long-held goal of being simultaneously in three gigging bands, playing guitar in one, drums in another, and bass in a third.

Quickly, then, some record notes and some stray show comments. A Giant Dog has a new 7" out; you can get it at Trailer Space and elsewhere. Anna and I love their shows and they have a sound particularly well-suited for 45's. Avant-rock supergroup Mostly Dead have a new full-length out. I'm still sorting out my own opinions of Don't Shoot the Messenger but I think this one of those bands that appeals especially to other musicians, with a finely-arranged and rococo blend of instruments. If you like loopy technical stuff, don't wait for my review, go check it out for yourself. Buzzy Spoon-benders TV Torso have their new EP Status Quo Vadis available for free download. I haven't been able to make it more than halfway through yet, but go see if you can do better. Also news: The local trio that used to be The Night are now trading under the name Day Vs. Night. Update your bookmarks.

Anna and I went to shows the last two weekends as we always do but nothing really caught our ears. We wanted to like Bike Problems because their lyrics are funny and their female drummer is excellent but the totally motionless, expression-free performance by their guitar player at Carousel Lounge really creeped us out. Saying that The No No No Hopes suck is sort of beside the point since (I think) they're trying to be a sucky punk band. As such they were unmemorable. I wasn't particularly affected by the choices for Matador's Casual Victim Pile compilation one way or another, but the more of the bands on the roster I see live, the more I side with the many, many local musicians who are angry about being excluded.

We caught Followed By Static at Trailer Space last Friday and were unmoved. Another group of yelling, droning dudes, with a keyboard player so sluggish they could replace him with a roll of tape. Their part-time cellist Randall Holt is more interesting, and substantially more melodic, by himself.

I'm speaking only for myself here, but School of Liars (Friday at The Parlor) are finally on to something. The first time I saw them they were an OK, but indistinct country-rock quartet. The second time they were a dissonant guitar trio and pretty far from OK. They have a more involved drummer now, and bassist Jeremy Holmsley is contributing as a second songwriter and lead singer. In short, they've gone from being a project to being a real band, and I'm happy for them. Not least mercurial leader Jon Keenan, who seems relieved to have such an enthusiastic rhythm section. School of Liars deserve some credit for hanging in there and working on developing their own sound. They're not world-beaters yet but they are entertaining and multi-dimensional, which you couldn't say about them before.

Anna C. didn't feel School of Liars had come as far as I did. Perhaps she was disturbed by the fact that they brought up a pretty lady to play tambourine on a couple of songs. As a feminist and a pretty badass guitar player, Anna really doesn't like it when guy bands use women as props. The full story: The girl in question is in the process of becoming School of Liars' full-time keyboard player but she doesn't have all her parts down yet. The guys brought her on stage at the show so she could feel involved and get used to performing. Good luck to her, but I hope they don't completely lose the element of Holmsley playing the keys with his right hand while tapping out basslines with his left. That is fun to watch!

It's a good week for free shows. In Austin, when is it not? The Eastern Sea is playing at the Cactus Cafe Thursday night. Then at Emo's on Saturday you've got a pretty sterling all-local lineup featuring She Sir, Ringo Deathstarr, and The White White Lights.

One of the things that keeps coming up in my conversations with local musicians is the subject of house shows. Where are they? Why is it so hard to put them on in Austin? Bands have a tendency to get into their own little cliques here. Musicians are seldom natural networkers. So if you live in a house where shows take place (or you would like them to), please let me know.

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