Noise: The Guardian’s new music blog

March 24, 2006

Tapes ‘N Horses ‘N Ladyhawks ‘N more

Weekend’s here and I’m hoping to keep it hail-free this time around. There are some heated hip-hop shows this weekend: Ghostface with M1 from Dead Prez at Mezzanine tonight and that massive Andre Nickatina and Equipto at Studio Z Saturday. Arab Strap are strapping the groovy boys on tonight and tomorrow at Cafe du Nord — with much excitement about His Name Is Alive. I’m psyched to see Islands with Metric at the Fillmore (along with the Strokes and Eagles of Death Metal at the Concourse) — and that’s all tonight. My ears are already starting to smart.

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Whoa, it’s Band of Horses.
Credit: Robin Laananen

And Sub Pop breakout beasts Band of Horses are playing with Earlimart tonight at the Independent (and if you miss them, the Horseys also play a free show at Amoeba Music in SF on — fooled ya — April 1, 2 p.m.). Remember these guys from onetime Bay Area indie rock band Carissa’s Wierd? Very wierd how what comes around goes around — and gets reincarnated as equine musicmakers. Nice beards, dudes. Couldn’t bother to shave, could you? S’OK — I didn’t either!

And then it’s open season on Noise Pop starting Monday. Yeehaw.

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Whoa, it’s Tapes ‘N Tapes at Cafe du Nord

Last night I went to du Nord to see Minneapolis band Tapes ‘N Tapes play their hearts out and praise SF (and diss LA, complaining about the dreary cold down south — we got lucky, I think). They rocked, all over the place — still forming their sound, no doubt. Twas a strong one.

OBLIGATORY MP3-RELATED QUASI-NEWS TIDBIT

Your pals at Jagjaguwar (www.jagjaguwar.com) e-mailed, ever so personally, to say they signed Vancouver band Ladyhawk, who are touring with Magnolia Electric Co. Wasn’t that also the title of a cheesy Mists of Avon Ladies-style fantasy flick in the ’80s? Anyway, said band’s self-titled CD/LP debut is due June 6.

The label writes that the band’s album is "a stomping and sweaty ride through the Vancouver streets that they all know well, as viewed from the seats of a bruised and doorless Astro Van. In this ride, you can’t help but feel that you will fall out and you will fall down, and your joints will all be sore at the end of the trip. Ladyhawk’s core is bracing rock. Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night is the hailstorm on the hood of the Replacement’s Let It Be, while distorted guitars invoke the thread and swerve of Silkworm and Dinosaur Jr."

I write that the ’90s are back and there’s nothing you can about it. Except to bury your combat boots in a small hole in the backyard and then pile dog manure gathered from Dolores Park trash cans all over it. It — the ’90s, that is — will probably still come back — but at least you tried.

If you embrace the grunge revivalism, listen to the MP3 for "The Dugout" from Ladyhawk’s debut at www.scjag.com/mp3/jag/dugout.mp3

March 23, 2006

NOISE: SXSW, fantasy softball, part 3

OK, I swear, this is it. Enough SXSW, already. We gotta move on. So let’s get it out of our system, down on blog, and tricycle out to greener, sunnier pastures.

First off, the homo-happenin’ Ark may not have as good a name as their fellow Malmo, Sweden, rockers Quit Your Dayjob, but they managed to evoke the gods of candy-colored pop-rock good times not witnessed since Andrew WK headlined Bottom of the Hill. These guys work hard for their money. So hard for it, honey.

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Manic vocalist Salo was shaking that sheckel-maker, telling the SXSW sloggers they embodied his song title, "Rock City Wankers," and leading the crowd in a chant of "Tonight, one of us is gonna die young." Someday the sassy singer is gonna be a "Father of a Son," indeed — as long as those white hot pants don’t cramp his style. "It’s Saturday and no one wants to hear any more music!" he yelled, echoing the thoughts of so many wandering Austin like zombies with a blood hangover. This superfun Emo’s IV day showcase with the Gossip, Wooden Wand, and the Giraffes was one of my faves at SXSW.

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Most sighted celebrity, according to Akimbo (who I bunked down with in the Alternative Tentacles flophouse, a.k.a. George Chen’s Super 8 motel room): J. Mascis. "He was everywhere."

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Not J. Mascis’s ass

Oh look, wait, that’s Andy Gill in the middle, doing a crotch-block dance move, with fellow Gang of Four member Dave Allen and Peaches. This party happened earlier in the week at a smoke-filled, Camel-sponsored V2/Dim Mak thing. Weirdest moment: Peaches shakes a Dos Equis and hands it to Gill to spray on the audience, and he, looking befuddled, opens the can and pours it all over her CDs.

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I didn’t get to catch nearly as many SXSW panels as I wanted to, but the ones I did were incisive and low on bull dookie.

Best quips from the conference panel “Rolling Down the River: Revenue Streams Artists Should Know About”: International Artist Agency’s Stephen Brush on album sales: “Fuck the record. It helps. But at the end of the day, you’re building the audience one day at a time.” JSR Merchandising’s Brad Hudson on merch: “In the 26 years I’ve been doing this, the black T-shirt has been the staple. A lot of artists come up with great ideas but you’ll find the majority of the revenue coming from that T-shirt. Three T-shirts and a hoodie.”

Most Guardian-friendly soundbyte from Damian Kulash of OK Go at the surprisingly well-attended “Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World” panel: “It’s easy to say ‘Everyone vote!’ onstage. It’s hard to say, ‘There’s a media consolidation problem in this country, especially if you’re trying to get your single on Clear Channel station.”

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Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, Steve Earle, and Jenny Toomey at the "Ten Things You Can Do to Change the World" panel. Earle: "How many Republicans are here?"

Word had it that the city of Austin was cracking down on singer-songwriter and former Kurt Cobain squeeze (and focus of mad Courtney jealousy) Mary Lou Lord, according to Austinist. She called them to say that the cops shut her down for busking in the street "citing a new law banning "amplification."

Yeesh, this after attending and playing on Sixth Street during SXSW for 11 fucking years. Anyway, she managed to hold this spot next to a late-night convenience store, across the posh, supposedly haunted Driscoll Hotel. Her pal Jason and his gorgeous falsetto deserve to be snapped up by some lucky label.

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SF’s Boyskout got the rock out at a Lava Lounge Patio show with IMA, Faceless Werewolves, Knife Skills, Happy Flowers, Skullening, and Die! Die! Die! Tight.

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The lady — namely Lady Sovereign — looks scary. Here she is at La Zona Rosa. (After losing my way to the Anti- Hoot with Billy Bragg and Jolie Holland, I managed to catch her, as well as Bauhaus-soundalikes She Wants Revenge and the snarksome We Are Scientists down the street at Fox and Hound.) LS’s beats were harsh, and the vibe was, yes, brattay. (She likes to throw down…that microphone.)

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Ghostface made a Wu-Tang face right after the Lady — very fun. GK commanded the stage, the crowd went nuts over the Wu tunes, and I appreciated the sound of gunfire that gently segued between the songs. Whoo.

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The official SXSW-closer softball game/barbecue was called for rain. But hadn’t we had enough white bread by then?

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March 22, 2006

Noise: SXSW, too many bands

Dennis Cabuco of the Guardian and Harold Ray Live in Concert!, signing in for a final SXSW posting. I had a blast during the final days of SXSW, so here’s a quick account of my wanderings through Austin, Texas:

Friday afternoon

The North Loop Block Party took place in North Austin with three stages set up in parking lots between vintage shops, a record store, and a kink boutique. I had a few beers with friends and saw the following bands:

The Time Flys — I see these guys often, but they definitely have tightened up since the time we all got drunk for a Cereal Factory show together.

The Cuts — I also see these guys often. Gotta say, they still remind me a lot of the Cars. Yeah, I could see these guys and the Time Flys in SF, but there were a lot of other good bands (whose names I didn’t get) at the block party as well, and with three stages, there was no wait between bands. The audience was composed of nice, well-dressed people. I took some time out to check out all the cool shops and relax from the frantic urgency of seeing bands downtown.

The Nice Boys — I didn’t know they were from Portland, and I didn’t know that one of the guys was in the Exploding Hearts either.

Dazzling King Solomon — This band has a couple of members from the Nervous Exits. Awesome ’60s rock. Crunchy.

I had lunch at Stubbs where I saw We Are Scientists, a threepiece that sounds a lot like the Killers.

Friday night

Ponderosa Stomp — I went to the Continental Club, which was packed, to see Barbara Lynn tearing it up on guitar, playing a leftie strat. She is amazing player, and sings with a soul-stirring voice. I was very moved by her performance. Afterward, I saw Eddie Bo. I say again, Eddie Bo! No, he didn’t do “Check Your Bucket” or “the Thang”, perhaps because they didn’t have the original band to do it, but it was cool to hear him backed bt Little Band of Gold anyway. Archie Bell came up to school us on how to do the “Tighten Up”, which I never know how to do.

OK Go — I watched most of their set on the big screen from outside of the Dirty Dog. It was at capacity, and they weren’t letting anyone else in. If only the industry dorks drinking by the window would leave so the fans could get in. They were oblivious to the amazing show taking place right behind them. I got in just before the last song and the “encore,” the "Million Ways" dance. If you wanna know what that is, you can watch the video on the OK Go website.

On my way up to the Fox and Hound to see Animal Collective, I took Fourth Street, which was blocked off for a St. Patty’s spring-break meat-market hoedown — a block party packed with homogenous, drunken college folks. The good that came of that jaunt: I found out Brandi Carlile was playing at Cedar St. Courtyard, an outdoor patio with good sound. I’ll get back to that.

I made it to the Fox and Hound, which had a long line for Animal Collective. I was still in line when they started their set. The first number lasted about 10 minutes and went nowhere. It was the kind of music I’d hear at a club — a beat, some record scratching, and no discernable melody. I just couldn’t get into it, so I took off in the middle of their second song, out to seek something with melody and harmony.

I fought the St. Patty’s revelers once more to get to the patio where Carlile was playing. She was getting a lot of praise from a pop music station in Austin, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. With a new album just out, she kicks off her first major tour with SXSW in Austin, and if the crowd was any indication of the response she’ll get on tour, it will be a success. It took a while to get the sound worked out as the crowd grew anxious, but we were rewarded with a professional show, and the sound was the best anywhere that evening. She did a couple of songs with a cello player. The bass and guitar players are twins. Brandi is a natural on stage and sings with a sweet sincerity that you can’t help but love. Her songs have universal themes with broad appeal, and it’s a pleasure to watch her perform.

When I left the Courtyard at about 2:00 a.m., the college crew had disappeared, leaving only the canopies, bad leprechaun decorations, and plastic cups littering the street. I walked along Sixth Street to find that the spring-breakers had spilled out to mix with the SXSW crowd, and it was mayhem. People were yelling into their cell phones looking for parties. I witnessed some groping, some drama, and a girl sporting red flashing LEDs on her nips, highlighting her 38D bustline. She should meet up with the guy who had a scrolling LED belt buckle.

Saturday afternoon

I went to Cream Vintage for a show in their back parking lot. The fans were undaunted by the rain as petite blonde Annie Kramer played her set. She was joined by A FirJu Well, who backed her up for a few songs. We sang along to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” as the PA cut out because of the rain. If the Grateful Dead kept playing ’60s stuff throughout their career, they might’ve sounded like this. These guys obviously hang out and play music all the time — they were so comfortable backing others and improvising through technical difficulties.

Saturday night

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I got to Zona Rosa to see Morningwood midset, and they were excellent. See them live if you get a chance. I was convinced to stay and see the Stills by a fan named Rene. She gave me a quick rundown on the band’s background and their songs as they played. They had great energy, keyboards, harmonies, and danceable songs. I couldn’t tell what was old or new, but I liked it all. Emily from Metric made an appearance to do a new song with them, which she had just learned in their tour bus on the way fom Canada.

I took a cab over to the Continental Club to see Andre Williams. It was nice to see him, but most of the good tunes, like "Rib Tips," are practically instumentals. For this, the band makes all the difference. The Continental Club was packed, and it had a party atmosphere, but the music was nothing like what I heard on the recordings. I know Williams is also a good keyboardist, so I was disappointed that he didn’t strut his stuff on organ. I left after about five songs and took a cab back to Red River Road.

I ran into my new friend Rene while at at Emo’s Annex to see a fun indie band called I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. One song, “Your Worst Is the Best” reminded me a bit of Death Cab for Cutie. I went to the Velvet Spade for a drink and to say hi to the Nervous Exits (whom I had missed at 10 p.m.). I went upstairs to see the stage where my band played our first SXSW two years ago. They had a tent around the outdoor patio this time. I heard some good R&B and looked up to see a guy who looked like he should be in a ’70s rock band singing and shaking his head while hammering a Hammond XB2 and a Fender Rhodes. John and the drummer Van make up the Black Diamond Heavies from Nashville belting out some heavy blues rock with no guitarist!

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I left on my way to Stubbs to see the Pretenders, but was distracted by some good music coming from Club DeVille. The doorperson told me it was the Cribs. I walked up to the stage and ended up staying for their whole set, riveted by their performance. Hailing from England, this threepiece reminds me of the Jam and early Green Day. It’s refreshing to see a young band so into their music. They were also tight and well-rehearsed. The guitarist knocked over his Orange amp during their final song, the drummer knocked over his set, and the bassist left his amp oin to feedback as they exited the stage. I missed the Pretenders, but heard it was a great show.

My last hoorah was the super-exclusive, invite only, no-getting-in-without-a-special-pass, Vice Magazine Party, attended by hundreds. I arrived at the Blue Genie in East Austin just in time to see Wolfmother, who were amazing. Where do they get all that energy after playing (at least) four shows at SXSW? I stood right in front of the keyboard player to watch him use all his effects, which were duct-taped to the top of his XB-2, which of course had to be duct-taped to the stand for all that dancing around. This show was way loud, and they ended with the keyboard player leaving his rig sideways, effects looping with his amp on.

Probably the coolest people I met there were Sara Liss from Now magazine http://www.nowtoronto.com/minisites/sxsw/2006/
and her friend Melanie. We compared notes of our SXSW experiences while we sipped mixed drinks made with Phillips vanilla whiskey. Wierd! Yummy though.

My last, last hoorah was Fuzz club for a pcyched out 60’s night at Beerland on Sunday night where the Mojo Filters played a tight set.

Sunday evening, I saw a much more subdued Austin, catching its breath from the biggest party of the year. Besides SXSW, there were also roller derbies and a rodeo. This is the most hectic week Austin experiences, and I’m sure a lot of the natives are glad it’s over. It was raining as a thunderstorm pulled in, but still relatively warm. I will miss Austin and will likely come back next year.

With an overwhelming number of bands playing at the same time, it was inevitable that I would not get to see everyone I wanted to see, so here’s a partial list of other bands I wish I saw:

The Noisettes
Mates of State
Of Montreal
Metric
Film School
Allen Toussaint
Rock and Roll Soldiers
Persephone’s Bees
DMBQ
Seventeen Evergreen
The Nervous Exits
Gris Gris
Drunk Horse
Morrisey
the Pretenders
the Charlatans

Thanks, Amy for being such a gracious host, and for taking me to the best Mexican restaurant in Austin.

NOISE: SXSW, the final fantasy, part 2

SXSW — oh, that old thing? That was sooo…last Saturday. Before it fades from memory, only to be replaced by the latest whiskey bar, here are a few more toasts.

On Friday, we swung by the Band of Gold (featuring Archie Bell, DJ Fontana, and Barbara Lynn) but drove on by Club De Ville, daunted by the early line-formations. We saw the chalk outlines of a very long wait and checked in on Bettye LaVette at La Zona Rosa to see she cancelled. Oh well, Fatcat Records, Pawtracks, Bubblecore, and Motormouthmedia.com hosted an avant-art-hippie-core hoedown right down the street at Fox and Hound, featuring the Mutts, Tom Brosseau, and headliners Animal Collective. That brought out the girls with dyed black hair in tiered skirts and, natch, the boys with beards. I was wondering where they all were. Great merch table, by the way — a righteous free CD with every purchase.

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The lady-centric First Nation disappointed with their low energy musicmaking, but man, Storsveit Nix Noltes from Reykjavik, Iceland, worked those accordions, trumpets, cellos with lovely Eastern European folksong abandon. "Dance, dance!" yelped the cellist leader. We hear and try to obey — but the beards are screwed on too tightly. I hate when that happens.

Earlier Friday eve, I stepped into Yard Dogs, near Club De Ville, to glimpse the finale of the Bloodshot Records party. Nice music-related folk art inside, including Mekon Jon Langford’s faux-weathered works in tribute to Hank Williams and other country and American idols and icons (he was throwing down an opening the next night), and Jad Fair’s whimsical, colorful ink and paint pieces. "Folk" art here means art by music folk or about music folk — got it? Get it. The best buy had to be Rev. Howard Finster’s wood cutouts of musical legends (I know I was tempted by a Merle Haggard piece with very defined teeth).

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Stepped into Ba Da Bing/Leaf’s showcase at Blender Balcony at the Ritz (just had to fight the lines for Brakes, the Kooks, Editors, KT Tunstall, and the Feeling for the Blender Bar space at street level). Early on, Utrillo Kushner of Comets on Fire played songs in the key of "solo project" alongside Garrett Goddard of the Cuts on drums. Dig the ironic Magnum PI shirt!

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The Ba Da Bing showcase closed with a rare show by London’s Th’ Faith Healers, one of my pre-grunge post-punk faves from back in the early ’90s day. Thrilling. Regained faith. Was healed. Went home and fondled the flannel.

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Another awesome, somewhat unappreciated aspect of the SXSW music conference (which Guardian contributor Kurt Wolff had to remind me about): Flatstock Poster Convention, usually held simultaneously on the groundfloor of the Austin Convention Center. The denizens of one booth silkscreened T-shirts as you waited, and most artists also designed a poster for the exhibit. Drool over the splashy graphics. Be pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. Reach for your wallet. Shield your precious new piece of art from the rain.

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Philadelphia’s Pushmepullyou Design boss lady Eleanor Grosch; www.pushmepullyoudesign.com

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Boss Construction from Nashville, TN; www.bossconstruct.com

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Matt Daly of the Bird Machine, Inc., Chicago; www.thebirdmachine.com

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The Decoder Ring Design Concern, Austin, TX; www.thedecoderring.com

NOISE: Go Bats

Who drunkenly referred to New Zealand band the Bats as the "Hobbit’s Go-Betweens?" Were they cracked out on ethereal pop?

Judge for yourself when the Bats attempt to cement last year’s comeback long-player, At the National Grid, in your consciousness — with, of course, a tour. They stop at Amoeba Music, SF today at 6 p.m. for a free show, then wing over to Rickshaw Stop at 8 p.m. (then on to the Starry Plough March 23). Essential for NZ popsters — you know who you are. You love the guano.

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March 20, 2006

NOISE: SXSW, the final days, part 1

So much has happened and so little blogging has gotten done. Could there be a connection? Yep. So here’s a little more on SXSW, the final days, revolving around what photos I could take before my camera died a horrible death –like all the other electronic devices around me.

The Nice Boys from Portland, Ore., tapped a fun Cheap Trick/Faces vein of pure ’70s-era gold. Rawk at the Birdman Records Showcase.

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Power rock with extreme volume and lots of melody — all from a lil’ ole threepiece called the Evangelicals. Very fun — and worth checking into when not studying Bay Area DJ Mike Relm’s DVD scratch technique next door at the Blind Pig.

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Shows at houses, record stores, boutiques, garages — one thing you gotta love about SXSW is the way the entire city seems filled with music. Music is oozing out of every corner of its mouth, dripping sloppily all over its chin and into its crotch. And it doesn’t care! (Though of course it does care, deeply, about music) These shows were strictly for locals on South First Street — I came to see Palaxy Tracks.

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Ran into John Vanderslice, who only wanted to talk about how much he wanted to get back to SF after touring Europe with Death Cab for Cuties (where they were treated, if not like kings, then well-regarded "court jesters," he chuckled). He performed with Matt from Nada Surf and Rocky Votolato, fellow Barsuk artists, at End of the Ear, a cool vinyl store on South First.

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Palaxy Track’s guitar player’s other project, Octopus Project, headlined in the backyard of Bella Blue boutique nearby. Boys in tights and hot pants played basketball in the driveway.

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The music just couldn’t stop — it didn’t matter if you couldn’t play an instrument and just wanted to play 7-inches on your battery-powered turntables. "Sit and spin" takes on yet another meaning.

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March 18, 2006

NOISE: SXSW’s Peach-y keen naked ladies

Stealth "special" appearances by Jane’s Addiction/Perry Farrell, Norah Jones, and Flaming Lips? Those SXSW events were one-upped by a spontaneous session of the itty bitty titty club (and prominent potbelly chapter) when Peaches teamed with Dave Allen of Gang of Four for a DJ set at Friday night’s V2/Dim Mak party, charmingly titled "Clusterfuck." That was sort of the vibe as Peaches and Allen spun Suicide-like beats, hard-edge dance numbers, and the Rezillos — the most screwy aspect was all the endless Camel advertising/product placement going on. (And what was with all the cigarette giveaways at this year’s fest?)

In any case, I confess I like Mistress P’s style: She basically yelled at the crowd, ordered them to dance, and then jumped into the audience and moshed into me. It was like bouncing into a big, fluffy cinnamon bun — Peaches smells just fine! And that’s enough to make anyone dance.

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Later a slew of burlesque dancers got onstage and shook it like a Polaroid land camera. Entertaining — too bad it seemed to drive half the crowd away. Maybe Suicide Girl-style go-go schtick’s moment has passed. Or perhaps the culture vultures would have stuck around if the ladies stripped and threw Camels… Now that would be a sight to see.

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