I've been listening to my friends' record for the last week. It's a record that's been worked on for the last year. It's from a band you probably never heard of, even though they're connected (down to the point of recording) with many a band that receives praise and glory through the news feed of this very site and others. It's not important to tell you who they are, but to tell you their current story and where I'm going to go with it. I, and a few people I have shown a few songs to, think the music is pretty damn good to good to pretty epic. I think it's a solid release, and at the most minimalist of output with the final product, it at least deserves to get heard by how many people can hear it. Then again, that's the goal of all music ever created, right?
There's no management, no label, no hype, no viral campaign, no six month outlook and no plans for a "spring tour" in the works. The only publicity the band has is a bio/press release I told them a year ago that I would write when they started working on the record. It is in fact an album, that when mastered at the end of the week, will be in a state of limbo. It was all funded out of the pockets of the three people who helped create the music. In this business, whether you are the one creating the music, pushing the music (management, publicists, booking agents) or writing about it (press outlets and Tumblr blogs galore!), it is all a "labor of love" with no job stability, 401K or guarantee of climbing the corporate rung based on a set output.
As someone who almost dropped out of it all, only to be blessed by a hand to pull me back in within a matter of days, I consider myself lucky and humble to be a part of a special minority of "people who actually give a shit" and still fuel their "labor of love" with a passion not lost in the muck of the day-in and day-out. I mean, I never thought I'd be happy filling out spreadsheets and taking inventory - but I also have a turntable on my desk - so fuck you society! I finally won!
Tonight ol' Nassiff texted me and asked me to read his response to Kevin Devine's Kickstarter campaign. While Devine didn't get an Amanda Palmer response just yet, he certainly won over my heart just by reading his statement about the project this morning. As someone who respects the hell out of Devine already, Nassiff also brought those sentiments home with his column tonight.
That being said, I still have my convictions about Kickstarter as a whole, and they are convictions I brought up with Nassiff over the phone after reading his column:
1) "The Whole 'DIY' Argument": You want to do something you love, well, fucking work for it. Nobody likes a fucking trust fund kid in the world of punk rock, but a kid who thinks he's so "punk rock" and "DIY" is just equally as annoying. That said, the only reason I have a laptop is because I had cancer as a kid, and I used scholarship money later given to me as a "survivor" to purchase one. It sometimes bothers me and still seems a bit shady. I mean, money to be able to purchase a laptop that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise, or money towards cancer research to save lives. I know it's a ridiculous stretch of an example, but I'm trying to make a hyperbolic statement that every system is abused, and that everyone is going to cry "Why not me?!" like a child...always and forever until we're all rich with gold mansions and rocket cars. Coming from someone who has always busted his ass while people around him just "get things," I get it. I've lived that feeling of frustration many times, and probably will still experience numerous times over until I'm six feet under. It's why we'll always argue about free healthcare and why some people can't get food stamps with next to no income and others making a good five figures beat the system. Deal with it. Sometimes it's not the system, it's the assholes who have access to it. Maybe I shouldn't hate Kickstarter for my "work for it dude!" attitude, I should just hate those assholes.
2) "Incentives": Here's the biggest gripe I have with Kickstarter. The linear notes, phone calls and little prissy things that super fans eat up for a couple of extra dollars. Is it necessary to whore your work out like that? An extra 7", a show in your hometown (that's probably just going to be plotted on the next tour) and even a test pressing are all tangible, not insane incentives to have fans get more "bang for their buck" as they say. (Do people still say that?) Anyway, I just think there's a fine line between "investing" money in a project and getting a return of something so low. Why not just sign all the Kickstarter funded bundles? Are you that big that your signature is worth a couple of extra dollars? Would you charge me that if I came up to you after a show? Why charge me that now? And by far, my biggest complaint is the "thank you" section that some pay for. I've been "thanked" in a few releases this past year. Most of the time, I didn't even know. It's a special moment when you go, "Oh shit. Cool. But did I do anything?" I certainly didn't pay $5 for it. To me, it just sort of bastardizes the whole system.
The truth is, in the last decade of change throughout the industry, the old ways are finally crumbling. There used to be four big shots, and now there are three. No one gives a shit about last year's American Idol, X Factor or America's Got an Hour to Kill Because Worked Sucked at My Dead End Job or whatever "talent" show is making some phone company a lot of money. There are smart people in this industry that still care about music and know how to help people make money. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. I'm lucky enough to have met and known a few in my time, but they are a minority in the overly saturated market or "music business by the books" graduates. I get that Kickstarter could be a step in the right direction in helping bands like my aforementioned friends get their music to the masses because enough people believe it should exist on some tangible level in a business where most consumers would rather just steal it because that sort of consumerism has become the norm.
With progressions this past week with Bandcamp, it's a sign that Kickstarter is not the only means to a new business end in this industry. I'm just saying that the entire system of "crowd-sourcing" as it is deemed needs some work from the users and rewarders of the program itself. We're living in a time of great ideas and expansion. Don't become greedy like our corporate relics. Let's be fair, and show the next generation that this one killed the dinosaurs and finally learned from their mistakes.
The final day of one long weekend. I had awoken soar and spent from a long Saturday. It was worthwhile to stay out a bit later to see Sainthood Reps, La Dispute and Regents tear apart the new Holy Mountain venue in Austin. Given the extra hour, I just couldn't make it to Retox, which I'm highly bummed about missing. With a little sleep, I headed back to the park for one final day of glory. Between Fang Island, The Promise Ring, Japandroids and Fucked Up - there was a lot of rock and fun to be had.
I got to the park early to catch what I thought was Fang Island's set moved up, but instead I got to see UME, an Austin based rock outfit that tore up the early afternoon. There's been a lot of buzz about this band not only around town, but nationally as well. There's a noise-garage feel to the three piece that just washes over you. To sum it up bluntly: It's Courtney Love with class and style.
After wandering for water, some friends and I made it front and center for Fang Island, who even in the blistering sun, put on an intense live show, even tossing a free vinyl out to the crowd. Whether or not you feel like Fang Island shifted their sound drastically, added more vocals, personal complaints I've heard, etc. - you still have to love these guys. I don't think Major is a step back, it's just a different spin added to the party mix.
Okay, so I wanted to see A Place to Bury Strangers, but I decided to go hangout with Sainthood Reps and La Dispute before the guys left to hit the road. I walked up on Liturgy, who, I just don't get it. It was awful. Everyone around me thought it was awful. I'm not sure what I was watching. It sounded like a backing track to some dilapidated haunted house ride. Am I missing the praise here?
The guys in La Dispute put on an intense show. I know that I know the guys, so you can spew all over my bias, but it's great to see them getting the recognition they're getting, and I'm excited for their slot on the upcoming Hot Water Music tour. They never disappoint. I hung out a bit afterwards, met Alex Garcia-Rivera of Give Up the Ghost, talked a bit about how it used to be and how it is now, and then I ventured out to watched Japandroids. Unfortunately the bright setting sun was killing a bit of my enjoyment as it was coming down directly behind the black stage, but the set was great nonetheless. It was one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at the black stage as well with just as much dust being stirred up as there was during some of the weekend's more heavier acts.
Long live rock and roll in any form.
So here's the deal. I'll be completely upfront and honest about my actions before The Promise Ring. Maybe it was because we were front and center having to begrudgingly sit through Deerhoof (and before you smirk back, I like Melt-Banana), but my friends and I got pretty hammered. So when The Promise Ring took the stage and opened with "Size of Your Life," it was college again when I discovered the band, and I was again drunk and being emotional about a girl sitting and listening to Wood/Water. If that's not nostalgia, I don't know what is. It was a great time, and an even greater set list to back it up.
I was sobering up during Lagwagon's set. While the band wasn't a major notch in my teenage CD holster like NOFX, New Found Glory, No Use For a Name or The Vandals were, there's something about that sound that brought me back. I think that's a powerful thing when looking back at your timeline of music discovery, that a specific sound can do that to you. It was a set full of laughs and punk rock and for a minute I thought I had to get up at seven the next morning to catch the bus.
I ended my weekend with Fucked Up's phenomenal set. Apparently the band played in Japan the night before, so to have the set they had was mind blowing. This is my fourth time seeing the band, and I'm sad to see them hang it up. Of all of punk rock's frontmen that should be remembered, a lot of praise should be given to Damian Abraham. He gets in that crowd and just gives off the most inviting and positive vibes any I've ever seen out of any punk band. After quite a weekend, this couldn't have been a better way to end it.
Thank you to Transmission Entertainment for having me again this year. This is my Christmas. It never gets old and is always full of surprises.
I have so much to spill out about Saturday, and yet I'm still quite speechless as to what happened that night. I saw Dustin Harkins walking out of the pit caked in sweat and dirt. He's trying to figure out what he just witnessed. Myself? I'm walking away shaking my head, "Holy fuck. Holy fuck. That was unreal. Holy fuck." Reunions can be a time of nostalgia and fun, or sometimes a band comes back and just denounces the last decade of punk rock they helped build. Refused said they wanted to "do it right" this time around, and if you witnessed what I saw Saturday night, or any of the shows earlier this year, you know that's a fucking understatement.
Let me backtrack through the day first, and then I'll ramble about Refused's set more. I got to the park to catch the last few Joyce Manor songs, but I already had a beer in hand and was ready for Red Fang. Yes, during the epic part of "Wires," I did take a couple of shots of whiskey from my buddy's flask. Even though I was beading in sweat from the sun sitting directly over the black stage, I couldn't control my head banging and early afternoon air guitar.
I was front and center with a lot of friends for Braid's set. I missed their club set the night before since I was seeing the Tell All Your Friends tour (no complaining, it was awesome, and I will get to that in this week's 'Consequential Apathy' column). I'm really glad the guys are back, playing the classics and making music again. I wasn't the biggest Hot Water Music fan growing up, so this is my HWM reunion. So many fist pumps while belting out those beautiful choruses.
I was catching up with a friend while Why? was playing, but it sounded great. I'm not sure there's ever been a Why? show I've been to that's been disappointing though…
I caught a couple of Surfer Blood songs. Went well with the early evening weather, but I ended up watching Wyatt Cenac and David Cross right after. Both sets were great, but I thought Cenac was more solid than Cross in the end.
I headed back to the black stage to hangout before Refused's set. Not much knowledge on Seaweed (see, I don't know everything) but with talk going around, I knew I had to catch them. It didn't disappoint. Kind of scratching my head wondering why this band was not part of my teenage years actually. Great set. I caught most of Youth of Today from the stage. Not my style of hardcore, but the band certainly put on an energetic show. While Youth of Today is not only an influence to Refused, the Swedish outfit also toured with Youth of Toady's vocalist, Ray Cappo, other band Shelter. Saturday night, both bands gave shout-outs to the other.
Here's to community.
I'm not a huge Wavves fan, but it wasn't a bad set, a little boring. It was the first time seeing The Sword, and the band was spot on, riff after riff. Again, not a band I frequent, but a solid show. As I scratched my head wondering why Youth of Today wasn't a direct support to the band that owes them praise, I began to question myself. Why couldn't bands like Wavves and The Sword be direct support? It's all punk and metal just their own. Hell, they should have had a DJ before for that matter.
I was standing behind the stage with one of my best friends and Jason Bartell and Marc St. Sauveur of Fang Island watching the band get set-up. What was ironic about the situation was that a punk band who ended in a basement in Virginia was now having their rig set-up by someone else. I think of what they said about having things "perfect." As bands move out of the basements and into bigger audiences, they hire techs and tour managers to make sure things go off more "perfect." They want the way they sound to expand into a spot on performance. As you get bigger in this industry, your expectations grow as well. So again, I was standing there fighting my teenage standards with my elder knowledge.
I could feel this year of nostalgia coming to an end as my mind was racing in anticipation.
I watched the first two songs from behind, witnessing David Sandström just annihilate his kit. I could see so much going on from behind the amps that I pushed my way back out front. For the next hour I was blown away. Saying everything was "perfect" is just being at a loss for words. Hearing "The new beat!" belted out live, the drums on "The Deadly Rhythm," and the chants during "Rather Be Dead," it was all overwhelming. When the violin sample kicked in before "Tannhäuser / Derivè," I felt goosebumps. Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén said many things on stage Saturday night, but there was an admittance to being young and angry, and that through everything, just do something. As the last chants of "Boredom won't get me tonight," rang through the crowd, I've put my formidable teenage years behind me for the moment and now realize that the future can be whatever I want it to.
It's that time of year again. Remember when Ace Ventura says, "SUUPE PER BOWL TIME!" in part of his dialogue? Replace that with "Fun Fun Fun Fest," and that's how I feel about the seventh annual festival here in Austin. This is my Austin City Limits. The festival, albeit for larger acts like last night's RUN DMC reunion and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros closing out Sunday, is not about packing in large acts to sell tickets, Transmission Entertainment has been very vocal about booking who they want to book. Watching Against Me! then a bit of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and then X performing one of punk's staples, Los Angeles, this is about the outer sweet brine of punk, hip-hop, indie and comedies niche audiences - and it works.
We got to the park early to check out Tia Carrera based on Wayne's World alone. (I know, different spelling.) While the gorgeous front woman of Crucial Taunt was not on stage, a three piece, loud jam session was a hell of a way to start the day of heavy acts to follow. I was able to catch Fidlar who impressed me with their sharp style of punk rock. They're not gritty enough for No Idea enthusiast, but have more swagger than the nu-pop punk gambit. Definitely an act many of you on this site should give a listen to. A band that is clearly a sharp, clean cut.
After catching a bit of Mustard Pimp, I thought I was running behind to see Torche, but ended up seeing the tail end of Kvelertak. Swedish metal that sounds like it was put together in the swamps of the South. Torche was next, and didn't disappoint. It's a shame this band isn't bigger. Tight rock and roll with amazing signatures and lush tones. Torche is great on record, and even I admit I should give the band more spins once and a while, but seeing them live is something else, and reminder of the word "underrated."
I'm not sure what I can say about Cursive that I haven't already. Each time I see them, their songs bloom new life. If you've never seen Cursive, go see them. If you've already seen Cursive, still go see them again. I caught the tail end of Napalm Death, but it didn't come close to the poise, technicality and intensity of Converge. It's a band that gives their all, and Jacob Bannon controls the crowd every time I see them. There is a reason Converge has earned their legacy, and if you've seen them live in any capacity, you know why.
I caught a few Tomahawk songs, but headed to meet up with Dustin Harkins and we met up with my other friend who was catching the end of El Ten Eleven. Then, out of nowhere, Val Kilmer, either acting in Doors-esque flashback of drunken swagger or just plain drunk, performed with The Black Lips as a special performance, which was just a filming for the upcoming Terrance Malick project. Entertaining, but the worst Refused reunion set ever.
I ended up missing Earth, which I'm still sitting here bumming about, but I did catch Against Me!. Tight, loud, abrasive and one of the biggest crowds of the day (even more so than the headliner X). Laura Jane Grace's voice towers over the Black Stage attendees, and really shows Against Me!'s music will not slow down anytime soon. My friend wanted to catch Bun B, so we left the set a few songs early and ended up catching the end of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Here's the thing, this is not my cup of tea by a long shot, but for a live show, it was pretty damn good. I didn't stick around for Bun B and headed to X.
I will say this about X's set. Considering how old the band is and the time when Los Angeles came out, they still rocked out those songs and vocalist Exene Cervenk had a ton of energy. The album and performance still held up after all these years. For those who saw Against Me! directly before, I hope you stayed around to see where the blend of punk rock, blues and rockabilly blended to create one of punk's most heralded records.
I will say this about the RUN DMC performance: it was shorter than expected, but still a blast. I got emotional twice last night. Once when Exene Cervenk gave a shoutout to not only Austin, but New Orleans as well, and when it was announced by Rev Run that it was Jam Master Jay's kids on stage spinning the ones and twos. The group played all the hits, everyone had a blast, I even danced a bit to "Tricky," and all and all it was a great time.
Identity. It's what separates your brand from everyone else. There are so many festivals every year that host the same bands and the same line-up to pull in tickets and expensive beer. That's not to say their acts aren't justified, but the thing that should bring you in is the chance to see something no one else is going to see that year. There is a reason Fun Fun Fun Fest is my favorite festival to attend - I know what I'm getting into is special. While the festival has grown to host some big name acts (some who have played the larger festival circuits years earlier), the intimacy of the festival is worth noting in its identity. Crowds aren't ridiculous, stages are set to a sort of "genre specific" line-up and even with a barricade, you feel close. Sure, there's always going to be some minor problems and climate issues, but what festival doesn't have those. This is certainly the biggest year for the festival, but they still have proved there's something special in the vein of Pitchfork or FYF. My third year in a row, and I will be returning next year because I have confidence each year will be a blast. I look forward to SXSW because the amount of friends in the industry I get to see at one time. I look forward more to Fun Fun Fun Fest because the amount of amazing music stacked in a similar three day execution.
Saturday's Fun Fun Fun Fest looked like a scene from a Southern version of Mad Max filled with crust punks, hipsters, cops and every style under the sun wearing bandanas. Due to the lack of moisture from this summer and a cold front moving in this weekend, the wind kept the open sky's Sun cooler, but it also stirred up the ground for many of us attendees. Considering Friday's Danzig debacle, it didn't put many in a good mood, but most of us - myself included - made sure to make the best of it. I tied my LSU 'chief up in anticipation of the "Game of Field Goals" and walked around looking like I was ready for the pit most of the day.
After starting my day with a couple of songs form Austin's Thieves, I sat down for an interview with Cave In for a project I'm working on and then headed to Touche Amore. (side story: I was suffering three straight days of lack of sleep, during the interview, I reached back to grab my water bottle and lost balance out of the crappy chair I was sitting on and fell straight over. *facepalm*) I caught the last couple of songs as Jeremy Bohlm acceded the stage and screamed out the final words of the band's set without a mic - trying to shout over an even louder crowd shouting back in unison. It proved that Touche Amore is not only one of the best up and coming hardcore bands, they're also the biggest one at the moment.
B L A C K I E was moved to from the blue stage to the black stage on Saturday, and was a quite a show right before seeing Deathgrips. The Houston based rapper came out donning only his boxers and screamed his way through one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. It was like if hip-hop and harsh noise had this ridiculous love child. Then Deathgrips took the stage and was as good as I would have expected it to be. Finally seeing Zach Hill's drumming in person was amazing. Hill is the real deal, and his beats sat behind the fury and energy of MC Ride and it was awesome to be right up front for it.
After some lunch, I caught the end of The Joy Formidable's set, and it was the walk-up surprise of the weekend. It was powerful and the band's sound filled out from the stage all the way to the back of the hill where I was standing waiting for tUnE-yArDs - completely lush and full. The next time they're in town, I'm going to go catch the full show.
tUnE-yArDs released one of my favorite albums this year, considering I wasn't a big fan of Merrill Garbus' last album under the moniker. Out in the height of Saturday's sun, with the wind finally calming down and the dust settling for a bit, Garbus stole my heart with perfect rhythm. The set had a few minor sound difficulties toward the beginning, but once those were resolved, the set was strong - and I'm happy it ended with "My Country," one of my favorite songs this year.
Now that I had quite a smile on my face, I was ready to grow it even bigger and add a few laughs. I headed to catch Turquoise Jeep. For those of you scratching your heads about this, just watch this. Now, a joke's a joke and I'm sure I should have been watching some other more "hip and important" band, but Turquoise Jeep was one of the best sets of the weekend. They didn't just come out and half-ass it. The group put on a show worthy of any real hip-hop act. In fact, I'm selling them short by even saying that.
I caught the end of Paint It Black's powerful set. Dan Yemin was intense, as he stood against the barricade while swarms of people were shouting along with him with an intense pit going on behind them. With acts such as Ceremony and Trash Talk proving how powerful hardcore can be once again, Paint it Black showed they can still be as powerful ten years later.
I ended my Saturday in loud fashion. One of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, I finally got to see Cave In, and it didn't disappoint. I went as far as getting close and not wearing my earplugs. (How badass, right?) The band tore through mostly White Silence's heavy hitters - a complaint that could be heard after the set from some kids standing next to me - but they still killed it and lived up to my expectations. White Silence sits second to Until Your Heart Stops personally and is one of my favorite albums this year. Color me thankful for being able to see those songs live since Cave In doesn't tour so much.
I didn't know what to expect from Hot Snakes, besides the fact that I heard they crank it up to eleven. The angular punk band (reminiscent of a louder Gang of Four) drove their guitars through their entire catalog and did not disappoint the crowd or myself. Hot Snakes' hooks were (and always have been) subtle and layered under their grander garage sound coming from the stage. I'm glad I got a chance to see the show.
I caught about 30 minutes of Spoon's set. Great performance and even better choices of songs. After seeing Cave In back-to-back with Hot Snakes, it just didn't hold my attention (which is saying a lot, because I love Spoon). I headed downtown to meet up with Pianos Become the Teeth to head to an aftershow. After finishing watching the "game of the century," we headed to Red 7 for Boris, Tera Melos and Russian Circles.
I think I should leave my thoughts on Boris to what my friend said to me: "I really like this. This is the best thrash I've heard in some time." Boris brings the heavy, and being as it was only my second time seeing them, they still held my attention and kept me rocking my head back and forth throughout their set. I still haven't sat down with the my advance of New Album yet, but I'm sure it'll be as heavy as the back catalog the packed venue was waiting for on Saturday night.
It was the first time seeing Tera Melos as a three piece, and they made it work. I also love the fact that the guys not only mix their sets up, but they also change-up the execution of each song every time I see them play. Tera Melos is one of the most interesting bands out there right now on tape, but they're even more interesting and fun to follow live. One of my favorite acts to catch every time.
Russian Circles melted my face yet again. Albeit, it was the same set from the night before, but it goes to show just how good the band is seeing live. Like I said in Friday's review, this is the strongest I've seen them yet and will definitely be catching them every time they come through.
After becoming deaf and rocking hard through the night, it was time for some sleep and quite a Sunday ahead….
Sunday's forecast called for rain. After the dust storm of the day before, I would willingly let it pour down upon me. Plus, how cool would it be if Slayer started shredding in the pouring down rain to end the weekend! But alas, only a slight shower (if you can even call it that) happened all day. In an unfortunate turn of events though, the day started with Pianos Become the Teeth getting their van broken into at my apartment complex while they were staying with me for the weekend. Luckily none of their gear or merch was stolen and just replaceable electronics (except a camera Michael York's grandfather passed down to him), so please support the guys and go see them while they're out on tour with Touche Amore and Seahaven right now.
I happened to get that news while starting my day with Lemuria. A good set and a band worth checking out, but nothing really grabbed me otherwise. Up next Le Butcherettes took to the stage (Omar Rodriguez Lopez playing bass) and got the energy flowing in me. Every time I see Teresa Suaréz (Teri Gender Bender), I melt. While the set Sunday was the tamest I've ever seen her, she still brought a lot of energy and turned a lot of heads in the way she exorcises feelings buried in her music. Le Butcherettes is a band that you have to experience beyond headphones and car stereos.
After lunch, I caught Ceremony's amazing set. I don't listen to Ceremony on a regular basis, but I like what they've done and as the second time seeing them this year, I will say this: bands like Ceremony are necessary in hardcore. There is a force, a way about the band - this charisma - that you don't see in a lot of hardcore today. There's this anger but at the same time it's very playful and inclusive to whoever is around. There's not enough good things I can say about a Ceremony set. Just go see this band if you get the chance.
After an interview with Russian Circles, I went and caught my friend Doug Mellard perform on the yellow stage. One of Mellard's things for the day was stage-diving and crowdsurfing while he told one-liners. It was pretty funny, and some of his new jokes were gold. If you get a chance to check out his stand-up - even online - do it.
After that it was time for the man himself: TedLeo! If there's a person in the "punk" scene (for which I think he even transcends that in some way) that never disappoints me in the swagger of his stage show, his tweets and thoughts on rock and roll and politics and just one of those guys you wish was your cool uncle - it's this guy. All day, tweets were coming in from the festival and Leo supposedly had a surprise for everyone. After an already great set, Leo made one more Danzig joke and walked off stage to change into the Dark Lord himself. The band gave the crowd what they had come for on Friday night: The Misfits. Though it wasn't the real thing, it may have been better, and the best performance of the weekend. Leo was even modest about his surprise set on twitter saying that they played those songs because they loved those songs. Bravo Ted. Bravo.
I caught about half of Del the Funky Homosapien's set. It might have been the best hip-hop set I saw all weekend, though my friend said Childish Gambino was amazing - I was at Cave In. I then headed over to see HUM. Next to Cave In, this was highly anticipated. Though the band didn't play "Isle of the Cheetah" (my favorite HUM track), they were still loud, lush and beautiful against the cloudy sky and backdrop of downtown. There could be no other perfect mood to see what I saw that night. Though I may never get a chance to see the band again, the set well met my expectations.
I got to catch the last 30 minutes of Henry Rollins' stand-up. I was bummed I didn't get to meet him all weekend, but his set was both inspiring and hilarious. To me, Rollins is the epitome of how you should always take the open-mindedness of punk rock with you and never close off your sense of humor that only will grow with it. I ended up missing Trash Talk which bummed me out (the new EP is killer), but Slayer was all I expected it to be. It was theatrical. It was loud. It was fast. It was angry. God bless the dad that had his kid on his shoulders holding out the devil horns! Father of the year!
Til next year...
all photos courtesy of Sara Strick
Ted Leo and the Pharmacist
Ted Leo and his band performing some Misfits songs to make up for Friday night
Idols are not infallible. They can die like the rest of us. Danzig did just that for a lot of people Friday night as the headliner on the Black Stage of this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. Set to perform the "Danzig Legacy" set (containing equal amounts his solo career, Samhain and Misfits songs with guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein), the act bombed hard. 45 minutes late, horrible performance and bottles and booing heard all around. I didn't witness any of this, but my social network feeds and complaints through Fun Fun Fun Fest's Facebook page said enough.
I'm getting ahead of myself here. I started the day seeing Defeater play to a decent size crowd for how early their time slot was on the first day. Early or not, the band didn't disappoint in the least. Empty Days and Sleepless Nights is one of the hardcore albums you have to hear this year, and cuts from Travels sounded just as fresh if not more powerful.
After taking care of some business and getting some food, I went to see Doomriders. In the heat of the mid-afternoon sun, the band impressed me by somehow being brutally loud, yet finely intricate in their playing and sound. A lot of times a band can be forceful with the wall of frequency coming from the stage, but you don't hear the delicacy and subtly of the playing. Doomriders won me over with pulling that feat off.
I watched some of Black Milk's set (band was great, MC not so much) and a bit of jam from Ocote Soul Sound to mix my day of music up. Then a friend asked me to participate in one of his comedy acts on the Yellow Stage and I graciously/hesitantly accepted the offer. If you were there, yes, that was me on stage trying to keep my composure. After two years, this year I was finally part of the festival. The New Movement comedy improv is a great place in Austin, and a regular show to see when you can make it out.
I watched a bit of The Thermals (they were okay), and then Ty Segall caught my attention with some heavy licks and gritty vocals. Black Joe Lewis was impressive as always with the big band and Joe Lewis' incredible guitar playing. Thee Oh Sees was a nice surprise while waiting for Russian Circles. The band are a crazy monster of sound and rock. So much happening at once, you get lost in it - in a good way.
Russian Circles took to the stage right as the sun was setting and it couldn't have been any more perfect. Beginning with some earlier cuts, right as it went to dusk, the band brought out one of the tightest shows I've ever seen them play. Absolutely heavy and engaging, my neck is soar from so much headbanging. To think the guys played the stage mid-afternoon two years ago, they proved they were more than worthy to fill their later time slot this year. Can't wait to see them again tonight.
I'm not the biggest diehard Murder City Devils fan. I know their music. I know their worth. Seeing them plow through a ferocious set struck that same chord in the back of my head: respect your elders, some of them can still put on a better show than you years later. The grimey guitar licks, the haunting keys and punk swagger of Spencer Moody was more than enough to "end" my evening.
Instead of being disappointed by Danzig, I waited for Public Enemy. Only got to see two songs, and the vocals were really hard to hear in the mix, but definitely not hugely disappointing. The band still brought a lot of energy and the crowd fed off of it.
I left early to see Pianos Become the Teeth and Touche Amore at an aftershow. Pianos were great. I kept thinking they exhibit a lot of what you saw in later Funeral Diner records (the post-builds, energy, tight knit song-writing as opposed to the chaotic screamo style of some). The place went absolute ape-shit when Touche Amore came on. For the entire set kids were climbing and screaming on top of each other. It looks as though the band aren't going anywhere for a while, and it was great to see the show without a barricade between them like I will see today.
So, I think back to that episode of Doug, where him and Skeeter get left at the diner on the way to The Beets concert, only to be given a ride to the show and given backstage passes and then they met the band.
Long story short, the Descendents showed up at the diner I took my friend to after the show.
I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm capping off the great weekend before I tell you about a great Sunday of acts. While I was waiting around to catch Junius, I caught Crew 54, a hip hop group with a full band that eased me into the afternoon with a great early set. I then headed to catch the first half of Magic Kids, who were a pleasant surprise past any sort of hipster hype. After some relaxing opening sets, it was time to get my face melted by Junius, who were the deafening definition of rock for the morning. As bold as a sharpie, the band blasted through 30 minutes as a grand early opener for the black stage's main act, Mastodon, later that night.
I've been a big fan of Margot and the Nuclear So and So's since being given The Dust of Retreat some years back. Buzzard is a stellar record this year, and their live show is as good. Solid emotion and rock, Margot still sit as an underrated band amongst the flavored hype of many acts on the same orange stage all weekend.
I headed back to the black stage to catch Kylesa, who absolutely tore through their set flawlessly. Another metal act from the South gaining momentum, their set Sunday afternoon under the high sun stamped a seal of approval for shredders across the parking lot the stage sat on. Halfway through their set though, I bounced for some of the complete opposite, and went to catch Mariachi el Bronx's flawless set of salsa and tejano spice placed perfectly in front of the sun behind them. Playing on a stage that was actually a wrestling ring, the band pulled quite a satisfied crowd for the afternoon.
After taking a break for some drinks and food, I was able to see the last few songs by Kaki King, who absolutely lives up to her talent on record live, and then watched Jean Grae put on another flawless set of the day with her blend of hip-hop and R&B.
So after seeing two lovely talented ladies, where should I go next? Sludge! Before catching Floor, I was unaware of the band's past (much like The Gories), but it doesn't matter, they had me hooked for their entire set. Absolutely entrancing and heavy. Following with even more heavy, the "Mariachi" band from earlier turned back into the heavy hitters they are with a rowdy set by The Bronx. Though some have complained The Bronx have lost a bit of their edge on later records, I'd say they've never looked nastier.
Even with technical difficulties, P.O.S. held a packed crowd through and through, and though I left after a few songs since I was seeing the Doomtree tour this coming Sunday, my friend who stayed said he held the crowd on every word. Why did I leave early? To catch Snapcase's final reunion show. While Snapcase on record always sounded just a bit muddled amongst their talent, they absolutely killed it live. I'm not sure if it was the mix, but it sounded not only like the band haven't slacked from not being around for some years, but they never skipped a beat and sounded sharper than before.
After brutality, my next logical aura had to be in the presence of Deerhunter, the next in my anticipated sets of the evening. While they killed with "Desire Lines," "Revival," and "Nothing Ever Happened," the sound out the P.A. sounded just a bit murdered and ruined the experience just a tad. But past that, the band still pulled off a great set of songs and easily places them still high up on the pedestal for artists making great music today.
To say The Hold Steady came out blazing is to say a bullet doesn't fire out of a gun fast enough. Craig Finn was a cross between a maniac and priest as the band indulged their stage presence into a crowd of pumping fist for a commanding set. If it wasn't for the huge closing act for the evening, The Hold Steady would have looked like an amazing closer for the weekend, but it was just short of watching the history that would be next.
Now, everyone knows the love this site gives to the new school of punk and pop-punk these days, but how many of you know about the Descendents, their legacy and more importantly, their sound. Before pop-punk was even a sub genre, the band were playing a new blend of '80s hardcore that was closer to the likes of Minor Threat and later So Cal skate punk than the macho-political message of most East and West coast hardcore. While the band has never officially broken up, even releasing Cool to Be You in 2004, this was their first show in almost a decade. It was incredible. It was the most action the indie stage had seen all weekend as kids both old and young were going absolutely ape shit to a blazing set list that covered the band's discography (not every song) beginning to end. On the band's encore, they cannoned with "All," payed homage to the band they replaced with a cover of "Uncontrollable Urge," and Tim McGrath (who appears on Stephen Egerton's great solo album this year) took to the stage and then the crowd to end the evening with the band for the closing "Bikeage."
To all the haters talking about any sort of "slack" in this year's line-up, you obviously never had a history lesson in what makes your music the way it is today. In fact, Fun Fun Fun Fest proved their worth as the best festival not only in Texas, but why others out of state say "in the U.S." There were numerous acts that were a "one time only" and other great newcomers to discover throughout the day. The stages are cut into niches, but the entire day is one big mixtape and podcast to see so many great acts. In fact, the only drawback is only being able to catch half sets because there's so many anticipated acts to see.
Contrary to what Milo Aukerman wants you to believe, nothing sucks after this weekend.
[edit: the Sun was killing my shitty camera all day. Apologies]
Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
Mariachi el Bronx
The Hold Steady
courtesy Transmission Entertainment "found on the ground"
Last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest was overcast with clouds and horrible weather. Through it all, it still came out to be a great weekend of acts against the horrible background.
This year? Gorgeous weather and not a cloud in the sky. So what better way to start my day than with Black Congress - my new favorite band. I've heard Black Congress before, and was anticipating the band's set, but they absolutely killed it. (To the point where the power went out halfway through their third song.) For those of you looking for a new punk/post-hardcore outfit in the vein of Some Girls and These Arms Are Snakes, look no further. Heavy, bold and creative.
After taking care of some business (photo pass, finalize interviews, etc.), I headed to catch my friend Ben (Butcher Bear and Charlie) perform his set. Definitely one of the best local DJs in Austin, Ben has a great selection of music in all of his sets, some selections I've discovered through him.
After my interview with Davey Von Bohlen of Cap'n Jazz (also of The Promise Ring/Maritime), I grabbed some sweet migas and a beer. Buzzing on both, I thought I missed Devin the Dude, but was pleasantly surprised to catch the second half of his set. "the Dude" already has a great catalog of hip-hop, but also put on a great show with his back-up MCs and crew. Then came the biggest disappointment of the day: Slick Rick. Anticipating a great set from one of the pioneers of hip-hop (and riding high after Devin the Dude's set), Rick came out to rapping with his hand and his pocket and just sort of, well, standing there as he "spoke" his way through The Adventures of..., making it the most disappointing set of the day.
I was going to make my way to catch Monotonix, but I ran into some friends who said the sound was more than horrible and couldn't see anything because the band were playing on the ground. So after another cold one, I caught some of Os Mutantes' blistering set of harmony and happiness as the setting sun reflecting perfectly off the stage and bright timbre of a set.
Waiting for my friends to perform in the New Movement Comedy Group, a great local improv, I caught The first half of The Gories set. While this is one band who I am unaware of their legacy, I truly enjoyed the part of the set I saw. Straight faced and mixed with heavy bass and snarling vocals, the songs seemed to ride the line of punk and the early garage rock days. I'm going to be looking more into this band in the future.
If you don't know who Cap'n Jazz is or were, then you need to get yourself a bit of a history lesson. If Rites of Spring were short lived well before the early '90s screamo/post-hardcore movement, then Cap'n Jazz is the prologue to Jawbreaker, Texas is the Reason and Davey's band after Jazz, The Promise Ring. Only one release and a handful of 7"'s and covers, the band reunited for some shows this year, and played their final set of the reunion Saturday night. Though sharp, Tim Kinsella still sounds like he is a teenager, belting out his naive emotions against the grain of his brother's drumming. Tim was not without sharing the crowd's enthusiasm as he connected to the fans, literally by stretching his mic stand to the front row across the photo pit, and later making his way (twice) to roll across the top of old and new school fans.
After a great set, I headed for my second most anticipated (funny how the acts were back to back) set of the day: The Vandals. Hitler Bad, Vandals Good is still one of my favorite records of all time, and I haven't seen The Vandals play since I was 16. What an amazing set list! Every song I wanted to hear, and when I thought guitarist Warren Fitzgerald was going to end the set with "I Have a Date," he sang out an hilarious version of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" which left me laughing so hard it had me feeling youthful once again.
There's been eight or nine other times where I was supposed to witness GWAR. For one reason or another, I did not make it to the set. I was not missing this one. I want to say one thing about GWAR and their shenanigans though. It is a violently, masochistic display of brutality that sets back the progress of America in every way and should not be seen by small children or those with easily week stomachs. Oh, wait. I totally forgot. They killed Sarah Palin halfway through their set. Nevermind my last statement - EVERYONE should witness a GWAR show. It's hilarious and doesn't even matter if you've never heard a single song by the band. It's not about that - this is about pure entertainment, and I left the set more than satisfied. Warning though: Do not get close for the set if you do not want your clothes ruined. Tons of kids were coming out of the pit in newly tie dyed shirts.
While Bad Religion was running a bit behind, I left to check out a few songs by MGMT, who sounded great, but who's live show was just a bit boring. After catching a handful of songs by Bad Religion, I jumped ship to Mohawk to catch Joan of Arc, who put on a great performance to end the day.
Fun Fun Fun Fest has shaped up to be another exciting weekend so far, and today I'm anticipating sets by Deerhunter, The Hold Steady, Snapcase, The Bronx and P.O.S. - among a few others. Oh, and there's this punk bands someone told me to check out called the Descendents. I guess I'll give them a shot. Why not?
Though I have had the honor to cover the likes of South by Southwest, Warped Tour and Austin City Limits this year, there has been no festival more anticipated by yours truly than this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. Last year I was graciously accepted to cover the two day festival in downtown Austin, and was invited to come back this year.
This year's line-up is incredible. (Seriously, I don't understand the people bitching amongst the social webs this year.) Besides great acts like The Hold Steady, The Dirty Projectors, Deerhunter, Man Man, GWAR, Devin the Dude, P.O.S. and Slick Rick performing The Adventures of Slick Rick..., there are reunion sets by Cap N Jazz, Snapcase, Suicidal Tendencies - and as of last week - Devo has been replaced by the Descendents. It is their first U.S. show in some time.
This year, Transmission Entertainment decided to extend the festival by a day - well, an evening if you will. Friday held a little "kick-off" party featuring a pretty "fun" time. Why wouldn't it have been? It was only headlined by Weird Al Yankovic! You can sit there and talk all these reunions, but Friday night's headliner was truly a nostalgic flashback to simpler times.
Kicking things off was a local Queen cover band, Magnifico. A solid performance of songs (of course ending in "Bohemian Rhapsody"), the banter between the set list was quite hilarious, and proved to be a much entertaining way to officially kick off the weekend.
Still checking out the grounds, I headed back to catch the very end of Todd Barry's stand-up set. His dry humor brought even more laughs before The Apples in Stereo's pop-tinged set. Sonically crisp, the band put on a solid set. A bit before the end of the set, I headed to see what exactly the Arc Attack: Tesla Coil Live Show was about. Ends up, it was a live jam session that fed through a giant tesla coil. Pretty cool idea, but I was also a bit bored after one song of the one trick pony.
Chris Hardwick was a perfect opener for Weird Al, as his set was absolutely hilarious and put not only me, but the whole crowd in a happy mood before ol' Al took the stage. When he finally did, it was a rush of comedy and throwback to the days of my Weird Al cassette tapes and UHF. The set was filled with costume changes, stellar comedic performances and great videos between said costume changes. In fact, the best part about the videos were the clips of Weird Al being referenced in the media and in other television shows and movies - sometimes in a positive light and sometimes in a negative, but all lighthearted and fun. After a two hour set, I couldn't have felt more alive and ready for this weekend's festival.
This year I took on less interviews to take on more coverage...but I got to get going and prepare for my interview today with some band called Shmap'n Shmazz? I heard they're influential or something...
Predictable. That's what many will call my list. It's either a rundown of the best of the best of the scene, or a cop-out that screams, "Look at me. I grew up on the same music as you."
Well, both are probably true, but the list is the most truthful. It's as honest as an inverted nose on Pinocchio. It is a break down of my personality. It is a breakdown of gateway drugs that have led me to so much music throughout ten years. I think, "Wow! Has it really been ten fucking years?!"
When we were approached with this idea by Steve Henderson (who rocks this website constantly), I was in between myself. I looked at all the big lists and said, "I smell bullshit. Are we trying to prove ourselves as writers, or are we trying to earn credibility?" What were the best albums, if everyone went through the decade on a different fix? Some of the albums that made my list became my favorite album after years of revisits. Isn't that the judge? The key? What did you come back to time and again?
So, I said fuck it. What does music really mean? What albums defined a generation? What albums hold a ring inside the aging tree? What album will be forever carbon dated?
That predictable list was just that. It is ten albums that did all the above. Sure, Brand New's third album is miles past its second, but the impact of the second on my life, and so many others is far outweighed. Relationship of Command is a staple not only upon the post-hardcore scene, but it is a confident stride that blasted out of a dying breed. It may outweigh the choice of every other critic/publications number one choice of Kid A across the board - at least in my eyes.
No, my top ten was thought out. So much so, that the bottom 11-25 I posted ranges my influences more perfectly to a razor's edge. Of the ten, those are the notches in my decade's vinyl. Those are part of memories in my life, and doors throughout my iPod that I might not have discovered.
Music is a funny thing for many of us, and the glue that binds all of us. A great friend once said, "Music is cool...sometimes."
That ten is my sometimes.
love and respect.
P.S. - White hoodies are made in bulk, who says that's not me...