Fab ‘Fro on Yuck’s Drummer

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Overheard at SxSW Night 1

“How was Duran Duran?”

“They were hungry…like the wolf.”

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The Return of Pixies

Less than a week from now, Pixies will return to the Aragon Ballroom.  It’s not clear which band member needs the money this time around, but it is clear that Chicago Pixies fans had enough pent up demand to merit adding a third show.

Now when you listen to albums released in 1989, you are transported — back to wearing cutoff jean shorts with black tights, when old men were Presidents, Norm’s ass was always firmly planted on a Cheers barstool, and phones had cords.  Here’s what we were listening to in 1989:

The Replacements – Don’t Tell A Soul

2 Live Crew – As Nasty As They Wanna Be

Indigo Girls – Indigo Girls

Madonna – Like A Prayer

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

Richard Marx – Repeat Offender (Really??? His agents couldn’t have had some foresight on that one?)

Nirvana – Bleach

Don Henley – The End of The Innocence

Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World

Soundgarden – Louder than Love

Pixies – Doolittle

With the exception of Bleach, maybe, there’s not a single piece of work above other than Doolittle that doesn’t seem dated and entirely of its time, regardless of how good it is.

Doolittle now seems at once legendary and fresh.  If it dropped today, music bloggers would lose their collective shit (and wake up from their Animal Collective induced stupors, pun intended) to fall all over this album.  It’s got the lo-fi noise pop (Dead), the spacey, airy model dirge (Silver), and devastatingly crushing bookends (Debaser, Gouge Away).  In between are the art-pop hooks that the Flaming Lips always wanted to write, but had to build stage cinema around to provide relevance for instead (sorry Lips fans).

Needless to say, I’m excited. You’ll see me on Friday at the Aragon standing in my chinos, shirt pulled off clean.

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SXSW 2009: Hits and Misses

What I liked so much I purchased it there or immediately upon returning:

Blind Pilot

The Bird and the Bee (see Standouts)

Justin Townes Earle (see Triumphs)



What I liked:

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

Thao With the Get Down Stay Down

The Ettes (see Standouts)

Gringo Star (see Triumphs)

What disappointed:

The Hold Steady‘s growing number of idiot fans.

Amanda Palmer performing in a church (and very subdued by Amanda Palmer standards).

Thinking I liked +/- based on “Steal the Blueprints” but struggling through a whole set to determine they are ultimate dude geek rock – technically tight and amazing, but very low on evoking emotions.

Missing Glasvegas because they were late and we were heading to a panel.  Then the panel was an hour late because Quincy Jonesnamedropping keynote ran over by an hour.  I guess if you’re Quincy Jones you actually do have two hours worth of names to drop.

Missing Grizzly Bear performing in a church (especially after NPR’s twitter informed my they played their haunting cover of the Crystals’ “He Hit Me”).

Artists I unfortunately missed because they were playing opposite sets I didn’t want to miss: John Wesley Harding, PJ Harvey, Shearwater, St. Vincent, Crystal Stilts, King Khan & the Shrines, Black Lips, the Wrens, Red Red Meat, the Thermals

Artists I unfortunately missed because of flat out poor planning or tough logistics: the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Peggy Sue, Devo, Echo and the Bunnymen, Ra Ra Riot, the Airborne Toxic Event, the Annuals, the Hard Lessons, Exene Cervenka, Camera Obscura, The Proclaimers (no not really) Daniel Johnston (ok that was because it was Saturday at 1am and I just couldn’t stand up any longer) and dozens of others

Artists I deliberately missed in order to avoid the inevitable shitshow: Metallica, Kanye West

The misses are hard to complain about when your trip starts like this:


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SXSW 2009: Trials and Triumphs

Note: wherever possible I have linked to the artists’ SXSW pages, which contain free MP3s.

Is there any place other than SXSW where you see both hipsters and frat boys pumping fists to the Hold Steady on one night and hipsters and frat boys pumping fists to French nouveau-disco princess Yelle the next night?

The Hold Steady at the Mohawk patio on Friday night:


Setlist on stage

I have no good video from Yelle at Emo’s, but picture a younger, cooler Celine Dion wrapped in a gold lame minidress, flailing her long limbs non-stop and shouting “Are you ready to get craaaaazyyyy, Austeeeeeen!!!!”  Ah, bien sur.

Mais bien sur, SXSW revels in its diversity and the wide variety of musical options offered by nearly 1900 artists over four days.  The intoxicating effect of stumbling on a great band by accident is matched only by the joy of unexpected reactions as the crowd basks in the experience and by the dedication of bands playing their hearts out under challenging conditions.

Some of my favorite of these instances follow:

We were crammed like sardines into the Yard Dog Gallery’s tiny tented back alley for the Bloodshot Records day party on Friday (perhaps not coincidentally, this was also one of the few places this year with free beer).


Commemorative cup contained delicious free beer

Justin Townes Earle, armed with his guitar and his harmonica/banjo/mandolin player, was entertaining us with his retro rockabilly.  (This guy could star in a wrong side of the tracks version of Pleasantville.)  As he turned to the quiet, gorgeous ballad “Someday I’ll Be Forgiven For This” from his terrific 2009 release Midnight at the Movies, the din from the free-beer crowd became annoying.  A very large dude in front of me, sporting sunglasses with skulls and black nail polish, clearly wanted to hear the sweet tune and shot some nasty looks that went ignored.  Finally, he asked the offenders to quiet down or take it to the alley.  He was promptly invited by the offenders to “suck a bag of dicks” before they retreated.

Since we could barely hear or see that set at Yard Dog, on Saturday night we rushed over to catch him at the second to last set of the official showcases.  This time, we were not disappointed.  But it can be a long stretch for these artists:

Before the next song, Earle informed us that his accompaniest had literally woken up an hour before their set, to which he replied “Hey, it’s fucking South By”.  Also awesome: Earle’s guitar neck has his full name inlaid in mother-of-pearl.

On Friday night, Atlanta’s Gringo Star was called away from dinner to step in for the Blakes (whose absence was never explained).  After their set, I couldn’t have been happier about it.  These guys are very entertaining live, playing Kinks-esque catchy numbers while switching instruments, making animated expressions and sharing mics like it was the second British invasion. [Note: this band is not to be confused with Ringo Deathstarr, also playing at SXSW.]

At the Home Slice Pizza day party on Saturday, Canadian new waver Gentleman Reg, playing the tiny side stage filling in between main acts, expanded his set from 15 minutes to nearly 40 minutes as a result of two mishaps.  First, Deer Tick failed to show up (apparently the bass player showed right before the set, saying their singer’s voice was shot).  No problem, said Home Slice, the Uglysuit will start a bit earlier.  Unfortunately they broke the key off in their (awesome) trailer:


Poor Gentleman Reg had only prepared a short set.  As the Uglysuit struggled to get set up, Gentleman Reg informed the crowd, “If you were here for our first set, you may want to go to the restroom or grab some coffee, because we have to start over again now.”

Mais bien sur, since this is SXSW, instead of getting angry, the crowd responded generously.  A woman with a tambourine and a maraca brought another crowd member out to perform an impromptu dance number that had the crowd clapping and the band smiling ear to ear (they even invited her to play at their official showcase).  Finally, mercifully, Gentleman Reg was allowed to quit and the Uglysuit’s long, building, and expansive guitar-driven songs meshed perfectly with the warm breezes and bright sunshine of the Austin afternoon. (Unfortunately I have no video of these guys, who were the hairiest band I saw and banged their heads like they were Metallica instead of updated Skynard.)

Earlier on Saturday, witness the struggle that comes when Scots meet the Texas sun, courtesy of We Were Promised Jetpacks:

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SXSW 2009: Standouts and Stumpers

Note: wherever possible I’ve linked to the artists’ SXSW pages, including free MP3s.

When you see at least 10 bands a day, the music begins to meld together into one big blob of beats and wails.  So the quality of the performance can end up being the distinguishing factor – for better or worse.

The biggest stumper: School of the Seven Bells.  Presumably it was their Secret Machines connection that earned their spot on the roster, because it sure wasn’t their performance.  This may or may not be (appropriately) “Half Asleep” — all six songs they played sounded the same.

I know, they are beautiful women, so they don’t need to do much other than stand there, right?  Not so…witness the drummer for the Ettes:

I know, but the Ettes are playing pure rawk! and not Cocteau Twins meets Chemical Brothers electronica.  Electronica acts don’t need to push it like rockers, right?  Not so…witness Starfucker:

Or the Bird and the Bee:

Hell, even kids and dogs were putting on a better show:

On a side note, the Bird and the Bee was my favorite randomly caught show.  They weren’t listed on the original South by San Jose day party list, and while cutting over from Home Slice to grab a coffee, I saw the lovely blues and whites of their dresses and heard their sweet girly-pop and fortunately caught the last half of their set (including what I’d like to see go down in the girl-pop hall of fame: “Be My Fucking Boyfriend”).

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Obama’s answer to Rudy/Palin mocking of Constitution

From the Washington Post:

It was in St. Paul last week that Palin drew raucous cheers when she delivered this put-down of Obama: “Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

Obama had a few problems with that.

“First of all, you don’t even get to read them their rights until you catch ’em,” Obama said here, drawing laughs from 1,500 supporters in a high school gymnasium. “They should spend more time trying to catch Osama bin Laden and we can worry about the next steps later.”

If the plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks are in the government’s sights, Obama went on, they should be targeted and killed.

“My position has always been clear: If you’ve got a terrorist, take him out,” Obama said. “Anybody who was involved in 9/11, take ’em out.”

But Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade, said captured suspects deserve to file writs of habeus corpus.

Calling it “the foundation of Anglo-American law,” he said the principle “says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ And say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.'”

The safeguard is essential, Obama continued, “because we don’t always have the right person.”

“We don’t always catch the right person,” he said. “We may think it’s Mohammed the terrorist, but it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You might think it’s Barack the bomb-thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president.”

Obama turned back to Palin’s comment, although he said he was not sure whether Palin or Rudy Giuliani said it.

“The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism. It’s because that’s who we are. That’s what we’re protecting,” Obama said, his voice growing louder and the crowd rising to its feet to cheer. “Don’t mock the Constitution. Don’t make fun of it. Don’t suggest that it’s not American to abide by what the founding fathers set up. It’s worked pretty well for over 200 years.”

He finished with a dismissive comment about his opponents.

“These people.”

I have two thoughts on why this unfortunately may not work on McCain voters. 1) I suspect that there is a sentiment that goes sort of like this: “Mohammed the cab driver shouldn’t be allowed in this country either.” What these people forget is that it’s likely that their great- grandfathers Patrick and/or Luigi the handsom cab drivers experienced the same resentment. 2) The McCain campaign deserves strategic points for realizing that having Palinmania blanket the news (both good and bad coverage) keeps intelligent responses like this out of the spotlight.

However, the McCain campaign loses those point and many more for this:

WCSH Interviewer: “Again you say you’re sure she has the experience to but can you give me one example? What experience does she have in the field of national security?”

McCain: “Energy. She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States.”

Wait…what?!?!?! Watch below, and be amazed:

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New Favorite Site

I’m way late to the game on this, but Fail Blog is my New Favorite Site:


Readers send in pictures of epic failures, when good intentions get undermined by neglect, stupidity or oversights — brought to you by the LOLCats team.

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DNC Cable News Coverage

If the Democrats lose this election, I’m pointing a finger at cable news networks. In the last 2 minutes of coverage on CNN, from the 70,000 people in the stadium, they panned to Rosario Dawson, Wilmer Valderrama, Matthew Modine, and a pair of men in turbans.

This is not going to convert the white rural male vote.

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Obama/McCain Tax Cuts/Hikes

I try not to be too political in this space, but I’m glad to see a fair amount of balanced (or at least investigative rather than speculative) pieces being written about the issues dominating the upcoming presidential elections.

This past week the New York Times ran a long, but very interesting piece on the economic policy proposals of the Obama campaign and Obama’s approach to tax policy in general. It’s very worth reading. I imagine that anyone other than the closest followers of the campaigns will learn something.

As a follow up, here’s where you can calculate how the Obama or McCain tax policy proposals would impact your taxes. You might be surprised.

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