Friday, December 31, 2010

Free City, Part Two

Something weird is happening: I feel great. After being out of work for so long, even a temp gig shelving books at the university co-op feels immensely validating. Plus everybody else who works there, seemingly, is a musician. I was terrified all week that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with my new schedule and all of my plans for Free Week would go down the tubes. Quite the opposite! I'm energized! I'm feeling more confident than I have in ages, and if you though I was obnoxious before... well, just you wait! I was also overjoyed to see that somebody finally ripped my band in the comments section after I'd been fishing for it for like three straight months. With a legitimate factual argument! Even my haters are feeling my influence.

Look, I know exactly how hard it is to be in a good band. I've been trying since I was 12. No luck so far. I'm not critical because I think I have all the answers. It's because I know how much work is involved. A better understanding of that might lead to musicians in Austin working more closely together. Part of that is being honest to ourselves and each other about everything we can do to improve.

I'm going to keep updating both this and Part One as news of more shows trickles in. If you're playing somewhere this week and it's free... you know what to do.

Beauty Bar: A Sky Jet Black, Pink Sugar, Knifight, Young Girls
Beerland: Creamers, Cruddy, Reicide
Mohawk inside: One Hundred Flowers, Invisible Inks, Burgess Meredith, Golden Beach
Emo's inside: Woodgrain, We'll Go Machete, Watching the Moon, Come and Take It, Half Mile Fox Fur
Parish: STEREO IS A LIE, Motel Aviv, New Roman Times, Final Exam
Red 7: Crew 54, Riders Against the Storm, Kill City, The Means

Spot of Trailer Space Records wrote a few weeks ago that people should come see The Creamers at his place before they were playing Beerland three times every month. The man speaks truth. I should really buy something at his store now that I have a job; we've been going there for free music and spending no money for a whole year. In any event, they're a happy sloppy punk band with incredibly short songs and that indefinable chemistry that happens sometimes between musicians who aren't great at their instruments but have a shared love for what they're doing and no self-consciousness about it. We'll Go Machete, the more aggressive side of Paul from The Gary, aren't much for range but their intricately designed jackhammering layers of drums and guitar demonstrate ably that you can be forceful and sophisticated at the same time. STEREO IS A LIE have a fashionable yet elusive ability to be delicately pretty and really, really, really loud at the same time. I never forget to put their name in all caps! Would it be redundant to call an actual Englishman (leader Glynn Wedgewood) an Anglophile? Seems as if it would, but Manchester Invasion melodies and shoegaze volume levels have maintained their appeal on both sides of the Atlantic. I'd say more but I'm working on a feature on them for later in the month, stay tuned. Their debut LP Monolathe drops in February. Or how about some hip-hop? Crew 54 (out of Killeen, but with many Austin ties) have two strong-voiced MC's who mainly flow in tandem backed by a skilled live band who throw in funk, jazzy solos, and a touch of hard rock. Authentic rap that innovates on stage is uncommon. Seriously, why don't more rappers tour with pocket rhythm sections and really good horn soloists? Who would be against that?

However... Although I've been as hard on them as any band in Austin, I have nothing but best wishes for Love at 20... their leader Mike gets it when it comes to press (as in there's no such thing as the bad kind), and he promotes like he means it. I have seen them compared to Muse a lot recently, and I think that's weird... sure, the high, dramatic vocals (the band's best feature) I can see, but stylistically the rest of the band couldn't be further removed from Muse's harsh acid-metal guitar and bass shredding. They're more mainstream arena rock... Weezer, KoL. I wish people would learn to listen past the singer when it comes to making comparisons. I think Love at 20 need to move their focus away from polishing their recordings until they gleam and work on their live arrangements. I will keep tabs and let you know when they nail it down.

Barbarella: Day vs. Night, Bubbleface, The Bell Riots, Half Mile Fox Fur, The Gary
Beauty Bar: Neon Cobra, Snake Handler, Emily Warfield & The Cosmic Bats, paperthreat, Warplanes
Beerland: Easy Tiger, St. Philistine, The Bubbles, American Sharks
Emo's inside: A Giant Dog, Shapes Have Fangs, ELVIS, Rayon Beach, Fleshlights
Emo's outside: Quiet Company, The Boxing Lesson, Smoke & Feathers, My Education, Red Leaves
Mohawk inside: Vagabond Collective
Parish: Freshmillions, Focus Group, Sphynx
Red 7 outside: The Gary, Artificial Heart, The Midgetmen, Beautiful Supermachines, Blue Kabuki

Wow. I mean, wow. Forget about that one festival and that other festival. This is one of the single greatest menus of music I've ever seen available on a single night in Austin. Every single one of these shows would be worth going to. There's at least one band I adore playing each one except the Beerland show, and people have been pitching The Bubbles pretty hard to me. I've got to catch up with them. Not tonight, though, I have to be at Barbarella, where of course I've booked my first ever Austin show on an evening where there are ridiculously great bands playing everywhere else for free. It makes me feel inferior. Not quite as much as when Sam from Zorch, the best drummer I know, showed up at the first-ever Bell Riots show to watch me screw up all over the place, but pretty awful. So let's see. ELVIS are part no wave, part performance art, with a must-see frontman who's like a queer Iggy Pop. He marks his territory. paperthreat are a rapidly rising electro-rock-pop quartet whose diverse instrumentation is complemented by really original, smart lyrics and friendly, self-effacing stage presence. A Giant Dog are a sex-and-blues institution, the impossibly desirable and confident Sabrina Ellis rampaging about wearing next to nothing at all, belting with improbable force given her petite size, while her (also cute, in a boy way) bandmates dirty up old rockabilly and R&B grooves they ought to be too young to know about. In addition to being one of the most unfailingly entertaining live bands in town, A Giant Dog also does a great job scouting Austin bands and setting up good shows. Red Leaves got their lineup and their sound together this year and went from a band we disliked to one we're crazy about. Arty rock with a real creative drummer and bassist who never pop up in the obvious places, co-leaders David (dah-VEED) and Singer can both sing really movingly alone... but even more so when they harmonize. Quiet Company are a band I don't particularly enjoy seeing myself, but I recognize how hard they work giving their audiences a good time at their shows. If you're in a band in Austin you should pay attention to how they maintain a community among their listeners; there's nobody better at it. Freshmillions and Focus Group are both crazy rock-instruments-crossbred-with-samples bands, but in totally different styles. Freshmillions are digi-funk; Focus Group twitchy but driving post-fusion. They're both way better live than recorded (thus far) so get on that.

However... So I should probably warn you about my band. We're not very good yet. We might never be good. That's why we only play free shows and we apologize to our friends with delicious homemade snacks. Anna C. has never played in a band before, and neither has our keyboard player Mike. I put down the bass to learn drums because, well, I always wanted to be the drummer in a band. Also, whenever I try and play bass along with Anna playing guitar, I become impatient and demanding and obnoxious. I would rather she and I be on an equal footing than show off how good I am on bass. (Not that good.) You know how I talk about different goals for different bands often? Well, our goal is to have fun, learn from one another, support everyone's ideas (everybody in the band writes songs and sings at least a bit of lead), and make records that have crazy running prog-rock storylines about fantasy Communist superheroes and limb-stealing alien/government conspiracies. Are we tight? Hell no. Are we very good, by my standards? Not even close. Am I learning a lot and building important relationships and maybe easing into a little tiny bit less of a perfectionist control freak? Yes, I am! So go ahead and hate on my band. In order to hate us first you have to listen to us!


  1. the bubbles are great if you say, enjoy the strokes

  2. I hate that STEREO IS A LIE is in all caps. Hurts my eyes, but they do please my ears. That is my suggestion for Tuesday, to see them at The Parish. Wednesday, I suggest to you and all 5 of your readers (JK Dude!) that you all go to Mohawk on Wednesday night for a rare chance to see my favorite Austin band not named The Sword, Maneja Beto. Trust me, they are one of the most original bands you will ever get a chance to listen to. They alsp play on Friday night at Beauty Bar.