Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Regime

J. Wesley Haynes Trio
Hole in the Wall, 12/29

Anna and I only managed to step in for a handful of songs by J. Wesley Haynes Trio tonight, but it was an important show for me to go to, and also to write about. I never want to pass up a chance to give these guys some attention. They're wonderful players, and I think they (with others) serve a specific role for developing music fans in Austin. You don't necessarily have to know the composers of "Eighty-One," or how to count in 5/4, to dig the kind of jazz they're playing. I think every music fan should listen to more jazz... appreciating it really involves a different level of concentration.

When I play "The Sims 3" and I have a little person in the Music Business career path, I'm always amused by how having them study music theory extensively makes them become irritable when another Sim puts pop music on the radio. You don't have to learn theory for your opinion to matter... but once you've learned how to listen in an educated way, nothing really quite sounds the same again. Anna C. gives me grief all the time for ruining her ability to enjoy all the riot grrl and nu-metal bands she admired as a teenager. You know me: I apologize for nothing.

It's cool to watch people instantly recognize a theme JWHT drop for indie kids -- like "Hey" by the Pixies -- and follow along as the band first states the familiar melodies, then embellishes and extemporizes around them. Although familiar with all the material I saw Wesley (keys), Willy (upright bass), and Matt (drums) play tonight (and their guest trumpet player), this show had a different vibe to it. The band was playing with some pretty involved computer projections behind them. I'm of two minds about using video when a band is playing. On one hand, I argue all the time that better shows require a visual element of some kind. It can be the band members moving, or backup dancers. One night at Bubbleface's noise residency we saw a "band" with two guys, one of whom did all the singing and playing while the other stood perfectly still wearing a silly costume. That was pretty great. But if a band is just doing video for lack of a better idea, it can distract from their music.

As an instrumental, improv group that's going to appeal to a lot of listeners with related interests in bright shiny objects, J. Wesley Haynes Trio can use the visuals. But it has to be the right stuff. Just showing the "Twin Peaks" credits when they do their version of the Angelo Badalamenti theme is a bit too on the nose. I wonder what the right visual signature is to match their marriage of timeless uptown cool and modern hipster irreverence. "Mad Men" episodes in 8-bit?

While we were walking back to our car we saw a very terrible singer/guitarist playing to an entirely empty Mellow Mushroom. Anna said she felt sorry for the guy. I wasn't so sure. You can never assume that people are just going to show up. Most musicians who end up playing for no one deserve it.

I'm going to try and write more frequent show posts in this style. It's part of an adjustment I have to make as my schedule goes from being completely open to somewhat less so. With Free Week coming up, there's no lack of awesome bands who deserve my attention and less good ones who might value my candor. Becoming a notorious local music writer on no budget was too easy. I'm ramping up the difficulty level for 2011! If I can ride Anna's bike 45 minutes to my temp job, work eight hours of physical labor, ride back, rehearse, see a band, wash the dishes, write a review, cook dinner, and pack a lunch for tomorrow while still fitting in five to six hours of sleep, the least you can do is try to make it to some more local shows. Perhaps Wednesday at Barbarella!

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