Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free Design

For Hours and Ours, Prawn, The Inbeds
21st Street Co-Op, 7/17

Last weekend felt intensely like a time travel experience for your narrator, as the social agenda for each evening moved through present, past, and future in turn. Friday night was a pretty typical one for me these days, seeing cool local bands at a dive bar for a $5 cover and splitting a PBR with Anna C. Saturday we went to a cooperative near the UT campus to see For Hours and Ours, and it was a flashback that just kept going. I lived in the co-op system at UC Berkeley for several years, and the makeshift stage and DIY architecture at the 21st Street Co-Op felt more than familiar.

As a rock & roll historian I'm an essentially conservative person, valuing continuity over constant change. It was soothing to see that the aimless Texas college kids of the 2010's live and behave in almost precisely the same way that their counterparts in late-90's Northern California did in their time. The major differences are that cigarette smoking is less ubiquitous (thankfully) and adherence to mobile phones has sharply increased. This does not seem to have improved communication skills any. I tried to ask one enthusiastic young would-be critic in a The Gary t-shirt what his other favorite local bands were, as we lost patience with the Inbeds at the same point during their set. He seemed disappointed that both Anna and I were indeed quite familiar with the music of Silkworm, and had no further insights or recommendations to offer.

I suppose I take for granted how different the musical landscape is for those under 21 in Austin. It goes some way towards explaining the outpouring of movement and support for the mediocre first two bands at the co-op party. The Leaf Routines, an ad hoc assembly of members of touring band Prawn and friends, assailed the senses with a whorl of open-tuned guitar chords and imperceptibly varied screaming. Fun for those involved, I guess, but it somewhat diminished the impact when Prawn themselves took the stage two acts later with a more refined presentation of the same band concept. Locals The Inbeds began strongly with a half-assed but amusing rap cover and then a nicely lunging original tune that boasted some really fresh emo-rockabilly lead guitar playing. Then for every song after that they got faster, sloppier, and more unpleasant.

For Hours and Ours are several stages ahead in their development. Their songs were sharply recognizable even from drum hooks, chanted vocals from the entranced crowd, and snippets of trumpet melody. Unfortunately these were just about the only things that could be consistently heard during their set as a rowdy audience poured up on to the stage and trampled over the band's guitar and bass patchcords. It was momentarily exciting to see people swinging from the exposed ceiling rafters, but ultimately the show was spoiled by the insistence of a few entitled jerks to put the spotlight wholly on themselves instead of the band's music.

It's hard to critique FHAO fairly given that their guitars weren't plugged in for the bulk of the show. I will see them again. I don't go to see a lot of hardcore or postpunk acts because I don't care for live music that promotes violence and aggression without solutions. For Hours and Hours are the exact opposite of that. It was reminiscent of Fugazi the way trumpeter Brendan stopped songs to encourage listeners not to hurt each other... speaking of continuity. The irony is bitter indeed that selfish behavior derailed a band whose message is unflaggingly inclusive and optimistic.

I can remember going to and playing in countless similarly chaotic shows in my college days. Sunday night, though, I had an experience that put me back on the more purposeful path I try to adhere to nowadays. I know I've written about Zorch a ton lately, but there's a good reason for that. This blog is supposed to be all about Austin bands finding creative, community-based methods of getting their work heard, and there's no one I'm aware of doing it better than Zac and Sam. This weekend local musicians, recording engineers, artists, and filmmakers all gathered in the front yard of their southside HQ to get crazy with stencils and spray paint. At the end of the night, the band had 250 unique works of art to wrap around their demo and sell to Canadians at a tidy profit. Creating merchandise in this manner isn't just cheaper than ordering digipaks out of a catalog. It also strengthens the connection between band and fans. You can do everything alone... but why would you?

The week in free shows: I've been meaning to see Literature for some time now. Tonight (Tuesday) may finally be the night. They are at Trailer Space, with Planets also appearing. That's all I have this week in the free category, but I'm excited for this show at the U.S. Art Authority on Saturday with A Giant Dog and Pataphysics. It's six bucks... if you wear a bathing suit. Sounds like Eeyore's Birthday except indoors and with lively garage bands instead of tedious reggae. I have a ridiculous straw hat I plan to wear.

1 comment:

  1. Your reviews are pretty one-sided. You let it show too much that you're a guitarist and it seems that you think all bands (if they have a guitar) should be centered around your instrument. I should remind you that some of history's best songwriters weren't really that great at guitar. I say you should either play or write because you're blurring in the lines in a bad way.