American Idol 2009 – Jason’s Episode 25 Recap

March 31, 2009

I haven’t read Gordon’s post yet, because I did not want to risk tainting my opinions.  And without further ado, here is my recap of tonight’s performances.

Anoop Desai – If I could have given Anoop any advice last week (which I did, but he apparently can’t hear me shouting at the television), it would have been this: “Never listen to Randy Jackson’s advice!  Ever!”  Anoop unwisely listens to Randy and tries another upbeat R&B song after two weeks of strong ballad performances, and he completely blows it.  Performing Usher’s “Caught Up,” Anoop mangles every second of this song.  When Usher sings it, the song has a recognizable groove and melody.  When Anoop sings it, it becomes the aural equivalent of chocolate pudding, a sloppy, formless mess of unpleasant goo.

Megan Joy – Megan takes a shot at Lauryn Hill’s cover of Bob Marley tune “Turn The Light Down Low.”  And forgive me, but it is actually her most accomplished vocal by a mile.  Take that with a grain of salt, though, because it was still pretty bad.  Megan looks awkward on stage, her forced vibrato and vowel-stretching pronunciation are difficult to stomach, and she sounds a little like Gwen Stefani.  That’s not a compliment, because Gwen Stefani can’t sing either.  I agree with the judges that her personality is disappearing, and, as a result, what was one of her better vocals ends up being flat and boring.

Danny Gokey – I did not think it was possible to sing in a more nasally fashion than the lead singer of Rascal Flatts, but Danny does so in his interpretation of “What Hurts The Most.”  The verses are particularly nasally, but when Gokey hits the chorus and really belts it out, he sounds decent.  This seems to be a pattern for Danny: mediocre verse followed by powerhouse chorus.  Meh.

Allison Iraheta – Oh, Allison!  Why?  You were on such a great streak with all of your previous performances, but you really tied a heavy weight around your neck with this song choice and proceeded to sink to the bottom.  Allison’s voice has excellent tone, but this was an awful song for her particular voice, and she could be in big trouble.  The judges ripped on her for her fashion choice and had little else to say.  Hey, douchebags, this is not “America’s Next Top Model,” it’s “America’s Next Top Karaoke Singer!”  Get it straight!

Scott MacIntyre – “Just The Way You Are” sung by Scott sounds awful on paper, and before the performance began, I thought I was about to see Scott’s final bow on the Idol stage.  But, holy shit, this really worked for him!  He’s still not a great singer, but he pulled off some fairly nuanced vocal work here, and the song did nothing but highlight his greatest strengths.  A surprise from Scott!

Matt Giraud – Desperate to avoid the bottom three after last week’s shocker, Matt decides to sing “You Found Me” by The Fray.  From the first hurried note, Matt imbues the entire song with a really unpleasant whiny growl, his attempt at “rock,” apparently.  He’s flat for the whole performance, and he was only able to pull it together for the brief falsetto note.  Trip home for Matt?  Maybe so.

Lil Rounds - “I Surrender” by Celine Dion.  I’ll start with the second half of the song and repeat what I’ve always said about Lil: nothing but tuneless shouting/screaming.  Now, the first half of the song is where Lil really proves something.  She proves that when she’s actually trying to sing softly without screaming at the top of her lungs, she in absolutely no way compares to the “diva” contestants of seasons past, like Melinda Doolittle or Jennifer Hudson.  She has no bottom end (well, okay, she’s definitely got one of those), and it showed tonight.

Adam Lambert – Adam sings “Play That Funky Music,” and he brings his special brand of crazy to it.  I’m not wild about his vocals this week, but what makes Adam stand apart from the crowd is his absolute fearlessness.  Sure, it was over the top, theatrical, and corny, but dammit, it was entertaining as hell!  Adam is going far.

Kris Allen – Look, I don’t like Kris Allen.  He has never been anything but boring, and his weird monkey mouth faces that he makes while singing are really hard to watch.  However, Kris blew it out of the water tonight with the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.”  This is an unimpeachably cool song, and Kris actually brought a new and interesting flavor to it.  This is the first time that he has appeared as anything other than a whiny boy band imitator, and although I hate to say it, Kris was the best of the night.

So there we have it.  Overall this was a pretty rough week for most of the Idols, with a few surprises thrown into the mix.  I believe that the bottom three tomorrow will be Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds, and Matt Giraud.  It’s a tough call between Anoop and Matt, but I’m going to say Matt goes home.

Good night!


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 25 (3/31/09)

March 31, 2009

Idol LogoDown to nine, but my favorites are still in the hunt. Adam seems to have a decent-sized fanbase, but I still suspect that Allison does not. Can either of them withstand the power of the Gokey machine long enough to make a real run at it? He’s consistently ranked high by Dial Idol but I don’t feel like he’s earned that yet. Maybe he will tonight. Or maybe the hype will fade. It certainly has for other contestants in the past.

Live blogging and spoilers below the fold once the show starts at 7:00 Central.

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“In the Year 2525,” Cleopatra 2525, and Jack of All Trades

March 30, 2009

For reasons that are awesome but that I can’t tell you about yet, I was reminded the other day of the short-lived but jaw-droppingly wonderful late-’90s TV show, Cleopatra 2525.

If the year in the title sounds familiar, it’s because it is taken from Zager & Evans’ dystopian, misanthropic, Luddite, environmental-apocalyptic sixties anthem, “In the Year 2525.” The song was a huge hit in 1969, endures on oldies radio, and has been covered several times, but not everyone loves it. In a column about bad music based around submissions from readers, David Barry notes “VIOLENT hatred for this song.”

in_the_year_2525

That Zager & Evans allowed a variation on “In the Year 2525″ to be used as the theme to Cleopatra 2525 is one of the most glorious sellouts in the history of music. The very-much tongue-in-cheek show was about a stripper from our time who is put into suspended animation following complications arising from a boob job and wakes up in the title year. Taking Zager & Evans’ “message” song and turning it into the theme for a science-fiction show about three hot chicks who kick ass was a stroke of trashy genius.

Cleopatra 2525 was paired with Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades in a syndication package as the Back2Back Action Hour. Jack of All Trades has the most relentlessly catchy theme song in the history of TV–the Rembrandts’ song in Friends may come close, but you’ll feel a lot less guilty getting the Jack of All Trades theme stuck in your head all day since it’s based on the Marine Hymn and not some pussy ’90s easy-listening shit.

This song was nominated for an Emmy!

I should add that Campbell’s co-star, Angela Dotchin, is about the prettiest darned thing I’ve ever seen and she was charming as all get-out on the show. Pity she hasn’t had much of a career after Jack. Get on it, movie and TV making people!


Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (II)

March 29, 2009

The anchor of The Gaslight Anthem’s excellent album, The ’59 Sound, is its second and title track, wherein our narrator reflects upon the too-young death of a friend and wonders what the experience of dying is like:

Did you hear the ’59 sound coming through on Grandmama’s radio?

Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?

Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?

Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

It’s rousing, heartfelt, and heartbreaking, and captures in one cutting sentence the cruel injustice of this world we all live in:

Young boys/young girls–ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.

If this was a just world, “The ’59 Sound” would already be considered a classic, and I have enough faith in flawed mankind to believe that someday it will be.

Like “The ’59 Sound,” the song, The ’59 Sound, the album, is bathed deeply in nostalgia. The obvious model is Bruce Springsteen, whose sound and songwriting are consciously mimicked and whose songs are referenced–it’s a concept album that takes place within “Spirit in the Night.” Here, Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger constantly play on the radio, with an anachronistic visit from August and Everything After-era Counting Crows:

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis.

(No, you don’t. That bitch is crazy.)

Also on the eternally-playing radio are Miles Davis, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding, although those references are less successful because the album doesn’t reflect their sound like it does its classic-rock touchstones.

The ’59 Sound‘s proper listening environment is blaring from the eight-track of the old white Lincoln Continental parked twenty feet away from a late-night beach bonfire, where you listen as you drink a Schlitz. And then again twenty years later, as it plays on the stereo while you and your friends are sitting around the living room reminiscing about that night.

Four Stars

“The ’59 Sound”

(Jason’s review of The ’59 Sound is here. I consciously didn’t read it after he sold me on it so that I could formulate my own thoughts. I hope I haven’t subconsciously plagiarized it.)


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 24 (3/26/09)

March 26, 2009

Idol LogoGood evening and welcome to this week’s results show.  Do you think Paula will talk about what’s under her skirt again? We can only hope.

Below, I’ll live-blog what did happen. In this space, I’ll detail what should happen and what I think will happen.

Who Should Go Home

  1. Megan Joy. Please, please, stop the madness. I don’t think I fully understood the meaning of the judges when they said “cruise ship” until I saw Megan’s performance last night, which made me flash back to when I was a kid watching “The Love Boat.” The saddest part? It wasn’t even her worst performance! Please, America, send her home.
  2. Michael Sarver. An amateurish performance again highlights that there just isn’t any there there. Michael should give it up and make a few extra bucks singing for tips at the neighborhood beer joint on weekends.
  3. Scott MacIntyre. While he finally exhibited some taste this week, and it was an improved performance, the dude just can’t sing. I know I’ve written that a thousand times, but that’s the big issue with Scott and that’s why I keep writing it.

Who Will Go Home

  1. Michael Sarver. Although he’s no worse than Megan–probably better actually–the judges have been pimping Megan until this week. Sarver’s been getting banged on for two weeks, and I think that’s the difference. Tonight, he goes.
  2. Megan Joy. Her bizarre performance last night will put her in the bottom three for the first time.
  3. Scott MacIntyre. He will also make his debut in the bottom three, as the other guys (excluding Michael Sarver) gave good performances last night. I bet a lot of his one-time voters are defecting to other guys, and quickly.

Live nude blogging and spoilers below the fold after the show starts at 7:00 Central.

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Recommended Upcoming Show – Governours – 03.27.2009 & 03.28.2009

March 26, 2009

Brooklyn singer-songwriter Bill Bartholomew and his new band Governours, formed in late 2008 with drummer Tito Ladd and bassist John Phipps, will be rolling through Austin for a couple of dates this weekend.  As evidenced by his 2008 solo EP World On A Wire, Bartholomew’s mostly acoustic-fueled folk pop is driven by strong songwriting, wordy lyrical constructs, and an ear for hooks.

On the album-opening title track, the listener is greeted with thumping drums, high hat taps, simple piano stabs, and acoustic strums, followed by Bartholomew’s pleasant vocals.  It’s a deceptively simple sounding pop tune, but Bartholomew adds in a few well-placed vocal quirks and some unusual arrangement switch ups that help the song build in emotion and power without ever losing it’s defining sweetness.  He repeats many of these tricks with even greater success on standout track “Bright Eyed, Blurry, and Blue.”  The song is propelled by its bouncy rhythm and powerhouse chorus.  Mid-album track “Arsenal” finds Bartholomew in a Dylan-esque mood, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar.  The song is reminiscent of some of the leading indie folk troubadours of today, bringing to mind acts like Elvis Perkins and The Tallest Man On Earth. “There Are No More Numbers” and closer “American Anthem” (presumably not named for the awful 1986 Mitch Gaylord film) show Bartholomew’s rock ‘n’ roll side, the latter even ending with some blistering electric guitar work.  Overall, the short EP is a breezy walk through some seriously infectious pop, and by the close of the record, I found myself not wanting it to be over.

From what I’ve heard, Governours seem to embrace both Bartholomew’s softer acoustic side and the harder rock edge heard on a few of the EP tracks.   Governours will be playing at two different locations this weekend, so stop by and give them a listen if you’re looking for some good music to compliment what will hopefully be a beautiful and cool Austin springtime weekend.  Locations and times listed below.

Friday, 3/27/09
Clementine Coffee Bar
2200 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722
9:30 pm

Saturday, 3/28/09
Thunderbird Coffee
1401 W. Koenig Lane
Austin, TX 78756
8:00 pm


American Idol 2009 – Jason’s Episode 23 Recap

March 26, 2009

Idol LogoWelcome to my recap of last night’s episode of AI.  I will avoid ranting about how much the judges suck, because it is quite obvious at this point.  I should also title this post “Jason Disagrees With Just About Everything That Gordon Wrote Last Night,” and you’ll soon see why.  Here we go!

Matt Giraud:  Singing “Let’s Get It On,” Matt does pretty well with it.  There’s nothing incredibly special about the performance, but it’s decent.  However, I couldn’t help but think through the whole thing, “Jack Black was more entertaining when he sang this at the end of ‘High Fidelity.’”

Kris Allen:  The faces this guy makes when singing make it incredibly hard to watch him.  What’s wrong with his mouth?  Kris’s vocals are the same white-bread, soulless snoozefest that we always see from him.  On a purely technical level, he sang the song well, but on an entertainment level, he put me right on the Bore Train to Snoozeville.

Scott MacIntyre:  Wow, this was a mess!  Scott has such a plain, unremarkable voice, and he was nowhere near able to do justice to “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  He sounded like an elementary school music teacher.  It was bad.  I like Scott, though.  I’m glad that he made a good joke about his clothes (“Vote for the pink pants!”), because whoever dressed him should be shot.

Megan Joy (what happened to Corkrey?):  I was disappointed to hear that Megan was singing Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In my Life.”  Anyone who has watched Idol in past seasons knows by now that the judges will destroy you if you even attempt a Stevie Wonder or Whitney Houston song.  That’s not to say Megan didn’t deserve what she got.  Megan sounds kind of like a retarded person trying to sing like Tony Bennett.  However, I still don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.

Anoop Desai:  Riding high off of last week’s near perfect performance, Anoop chooses to sing Smokey’s “Ooh Baby, Baby” with mixed results.  The majority of the song works pretty well for him, but there are specific parts where his voice sounds thin and reedy when he tries to hit some of the higher notes that the song requires.  He just doesn’t have the vocal range and power to pull it off.  It was good, but not great.  Still, it’s amazing that this is the same guy who brought us the howlingly awful “My Prerogative” a few weeks ago.

Michael Sarver:  Good lord, Michael Sarver’s performance of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” has put even Megan to shame with its awfulness.  He can’t keep up with the rhythm, and he sounds exactly as bad as he did last week.  Back to the oil rigs!

Lil Rounds:  Gordon must have been listening to a completely different performance than me, because all I heard when Lil Rounds did “Heat Wave” was tuneless shouting.  Just making your voice loud is not singing.  In a category should have been a cake walk for Lil, she instead crashed and burned.

Adam Lambert:  This kid’s a genius.  He went all out crazy last week on Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” so everyone tuned in to see what kind of ridiculously weird interpretation of a Motown song he would do.  Instead, he cleans up his look into a classic Elvis style and plays it straight, singing an incredibly restrained version of “The Tracks Of My Tears.”  He knows how to work the competition, that’s for sure.  No one else came close to him last night.

Danny Gokey: So Smokey Robinson tells you to sing along with the backup singers on “Get Ready.”  Then, after the clip is over, Ryan says, “Let’s see if Danny took Smokey’s advice.”  No, he did not, basically giving Smokey Robinson a huge slap in the face on national television.  Good work, Danny!  Danny sang okay, had fun with it, but his goofy, awkward dancing took away from the performance for me.  Something tells me that Danny Gokey is David Archuleta’s creepy older brother.  Plus, he dissed Smokey!

Allison Iraheta: Allison’s choice of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” was a great one.  I still think that her performance of that Heart song was her shining moment, but she did really well with this one, earning some much-deserved praise from the judges and solidifying her place in the top 9 (hopefully).

So who’s going home this week?

The bottom three will be Scott MacIntyre, Michael Sarver, and Lil Rounds, with Michael getting the boot.

You know I’m right.


American Idol Power Rankings: 3/24/09

March 26, 2009

Idol LogoThe best are still the best and the worst are still the worst, but there’s a lot of shifting this week as the middle sorts itself out.

Once again, I’ll post my rankings, followed by Former Housemate Mike’s rankings to provide a different perspective because I’m fair and balanced like Fox News.

  1. Adam Lambert. As I wrote yesterday in my show recap, it’s becoming more and more clear that Adam is a major talent. He’s easily the most electrifying contestant since Fantasia, and switching up his act this week to soulful crooner, and then delivering the goods in a major way, was a masterstroke.
  2. Allison Iraheta. The judges had to give her the money slot and pimp her majorly in their comments in order to keep her alive after she wrongly ended up in the bottom three last week. While I’m not wild about show manipulation, if they’re going to do it, she provides a good reason. She’s been great most of the time, and when she’s fallen short, she’s merely been very good. Why she isn’t clicking with the larger public, I don’t know, but I hope they start to take notice.
  3. Anoop Desai. In two weeks, Anoop has, as Simon said, jumped from zero to hero, transforming himself from a mediocre novelty act into an ace balladeer. He’s going to need to demonstrate that he can handle a broader range of material to stay this high in the rankings. Can he pull it off? He’s developing very quickly–one suspects that no one but Scott MacIntyre is practicing harder–so it’s quite possible that he can.
  4. Kris Allen. I don’t see myself ever buying a Kris Allen record, but he has been consistently good, which makes him the best of what I’m starting to think of as “the bland boys”–Kris, Matt, and Danny. He tries new things, and he seems to have an excellent sense of where his niche is and what his fans want.
  5. Matt Giraud jumps Danny Gokey this week with his surprisingly excellent rendition of “Let’s Get it On.” Matt’s been way over the top in his performances, but last night’s vocal was controlled and soulful. Was it a fluke, or a sign that Matt is maturing as a singer? Time will tell.
  6. Danny Gokey. While Danny obviously has the raw talent to become an excellent singer, he keeps making errors in judgment, including ignoring Smokey Robinson’s advice to the detriment of his performance last night. Danny is a music director–is it an ego problem where he can’t imagine that someone may know more than he does? Whatever it is, it’s stopping  him from being in the top ranks of this competition, which is where someone with his talent should be. He’s got a big fan base, but I think people are going to start catching on if he doesn’t improve pretty quickly.
  7. Lil Rounds. While Lil’s performances are enjoyable individually, as a body of work it just isn’t very interesting. Because of this I’m dropping her in the ranks even though I liked her last night. She needs to stretch, and successfully, very soon or she’ll be gone no matter how many times the judges pimp her as a great singer and a front-runner.
  8. Scott MacIntyre. He just doesn’t have it as a singer. After each performance, the judges say they know he can sing better. What evidence do they have of this? I haven’t heard much.
  9. Michael Sarver. Michael Sarver has no identity, at least not one that’s very interesting. He’s tanked the last two weeks, and I don’t think he’s going to get another chance.
  10. Megan Joy provides me with no joy at all. I dislike her voice, and her campy performances, unlike Adam’s, are accidental. I don’t even think she’s as good looking as everyone says, although she certainly is an attractive young woman. It’s a shame that she has a slot when so many worthier contenders didn’t get one. Like Anoop, she was a novelty act. Unlike Anoop, she still is and I don’t think the act is intentional.

Former Housemate Mike’s Power Rankings

  1. Allison Iraheta. Tore it up yet again. Her vocals and presence are SO strong. I don’t think anyone is close to her yet, so I really don’t understand the voters. Only the second best of the night, because of a shocking upswing.
  2. Matt Giraud. I really like Matt’s chances if he continues like this. Third best of the night, and still getting better. Excellent arrangement, great vocals and performance, just solid overall.
  3. Adam Lambert. Dammit. I still kinda hate him, but it was the best performance of the night. Of the season. Probably in years. Dammit. Got to give him credit, he was heartfelt, his vocals and arrangement were classy, tight, occasionally other-worldly. And he didn’t ever appear indulgent. It’s like a guy in the NBA who averages 40 points over three games, but he scored 10 in each of the first two and 100 in the third. That’s how huge this was, and it forces me to give him a big bump in ranking.
  4. Danny Gokey. Not a mind-blowing performance but solid enough for him to move ahead of 3 serious slumpers this week. Really tight vocals, liked his energy. Not a big fan overall, but he’s definitely hungry.
  5. Megan Joy. Oh, Megan. Are you insane or adorable? Are you a genius or a freak? I don’t know, but, regardless, this week was hard to watch. Her, ahem, “choregraphy” leaves something to be desired to say the least — but I still find it oddly charming. I still admire her originality, and most of this group is terrible, so 5 it is. I also think she might lose this week, but a couple of guys probably bailed her out.
  6. Michael Sarver. Big drop for Michael this week. He really struggled vocally, and is starting to be a one-trick pony. Still admire his charm and sincerity, but he needs to step it up. Also, his critique comments were on point last week, but he might be in trouble this week because he was an excuse machine like Alexis and Lil last week.
  7. Scott MacIntyre. A drop for Scott, too. I almost want to call for a mercy kill on Scott. He seemed so lost and frantic, almost terrified last night. I don’t think he has a chance of winning, and I’m starting to think that we should all just let him go start his contemporary Christian career, which will
    likely be very successful.
  8. Anoop Desai. Regressed a bit this week, as he seemed to try to recapture last week’s magic but just didn’t seem to have the same substance. It was like he did a bad impersonation of himself. Seemed very awkward and very boring through most, though it did get better toward the end. I think there are a few horses in the race to go home this week, but, for my money, I’d take Anoop, with Scott to place.
  9. Lil Rounds. I give her two more weeks, but she doesn’t deserve it. Seen this SO many times. Bad impersonation of great singers of her genre. Terrible song choice, arrangement. Yelled a lot. Top to bottom forgettable.
  10. Kris Allen. Widened the gap this week between him and Adam on the “Want Him Dead” scale. He is cheesy, flat, and generic. He yells more than Lil. The David Cook yell at the end was insulting to David Cook (How sad is that?). And why is he playing the guitar? You can’t hear it, all it does is give him an avenue to be a more awkward Dave Matthews (What?). He might as well get a wooden cut-out guitar like Jimmy Ray. Yet he won’t lose because people eat up crap like this with a spoon. This guy sucks.

It looks like Mike may have spent a little less time on the ol’ crack pipe this week, but I don’t understand the Kris Allen hating, liking Megan Joy, or giving any kind of love to Michael Sarver.


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 23 (3/25/09)

March 25, 2009

Idol LogoWelcome to Motown week!

The girls are dropping like flies, and I don’t think any of them can win this thing, although I’m praying that people start to recognize how good Allison is–other blogs I’ve checked out all seem to rave about her, but she has yet to connect with regular viewers. I find her shyness and quirkiness when not singing endearing, but maybe it’s not coming across that way to the rest of the country. Maybe people expect confidence at all times. I’m not sure what it is.

Both Scott MacIntyre and Michael Sarver need good weeks. People are starting to notice that Scott does the same thing over and over again, plus doesn’t sing all that well, and Michael had a bad week last week and a voting base that does not appear to be as strong as I would have predicted before the top thirteen started. We’ll see if either of them improve.

And I’m dying to see what Adam Lambert does next. Someone in the comments at another blog (don’t recall where) suggested Adam do “Sexual Healing,” which I thought was a hilarious idea.

Live blog and spoilers below the fold once the show begins at 7:00 Central.

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100 Best Indie Rock Albums. Something Fun to Bitch About

March 24, 2009

Amazon’s ChordStrike blog features its editors’ picks of the 100 best indie rock albums of all time. Number one? Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand, a great album that should by no means be ranked above Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation (#12) or the Replacements’ Let It Be (#32–that’s a joke, right?).

At least Slanted & Enchanted, Exile in Guyville, and Surfer Rosa get some respect.

A commenter rightly takes them to the woodshed for not including anything by Joy Division or Big Star. Those omissions pretty much render this list stupid as any kind of legitimate ranking, but the list at least gives me some good suggestions for things to buy once the economy settles down and I start buying things again. Although I hesitate to make purchases based on the recommendation of people who think Bright Eyes’ Lifted is the 21st best indie rock album of all time, or Beulah’s filler-laden When Your Heartstrings Break is number 37.

And where the hell is Southern Rock Opera?

The list is here if you’re looking for something fun to bitch about. (And really, who isn’t?)


SXSW Notes – 2009

March 22, 2009

I didn’t see and do as much at this year’s South by Southwest festival as I would have liked, but that would be the case if I had all the time and money in the world. I didn’t buy a wristband this year, so I was mostly limited to SXSW free shows, Texas Rock Fest shows, and Red Gorilla Music shows, which was just fine.

The reason I rarely write live reviews is that I don’t like to be too analytical and take notes, mental or otherwise, while watching a show–I prefer to just enjoy the moment. I enjoyed so many moments over the past few days that I can’t possibly remember them all, so these comments will be brief and I know that there are some worthy acts that I saw but haven’t covered.

The best thing I saw on Thursday was Phil Marshall at Spill. As with many shows over the weekend, technical problems cropped up, but they didn’t significantly detract from a good set. I hate to call Phil a singer-songwriter, although he is, because he’s got an accessible sound that the term “singer-songwriter” tends not to conjure in people’s heads. His YouTube availability is limited, so the pasted video is live, solo, and acoustic. I saw him play with his band, and electric. The video captures the spirit pretty well anyway. If you’re interested in more, I direct you to his MySpace page.

Phil Marshall – “Gravity”

Friday I saw a lot of acts, but none of them really registered except for Austin’s own New Disaster, a good metal band with a terrible name. I’d seen them before at the short-lived-but-missed Rock City Ice House, but it was great to see them in the close confines of Headhunters with their devoted fan base and, I would assume, some out-of-towners who got a swift kick to the eardrums.

There is no video worth embedding so I am again forced to point you to MySpace. Note to aspiring musicians: Kindly make it easier for me and others like me to give you a good review and encourage people to listen to your music. Approximately zero people are going to click on the link to your MySpace page, but plenty will click on an embedded video. Thank you.

The best show I saw by someone I’d never heard of was from Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, one of those bands I’d read about that I’ve never checked out. Guess I ought to. He was the first act I saw on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Mohawk, and the vibe was perfect for the exhausted crowd of music lovers. Once again, there isn’t any video to embed that’s worth a damn, so it feels a bit pointless to write much more. Would you music-making folk please work with me here?

The Vivian Girls were a disappointment. I’m not a big fan to begin with–I can enjoy a song on its own but the production on the material I’ve heard makes it all blend together and wear on the eardrums in a hurry when played consecutively. I was hoping that the live environment would be different, and to an extent, it was, and I liked a few of their songs. But when the technical difficulties hit, unlike several other bands who went through the same thing, they just (implicitly) said “fuck it” and left the stage. I had invited Jason, who couldn’t make it for reasons too hilarious to mention here, and I’m glad he didn’t make the drive. It’s a long haul for him and, as he’s a fan, I’m sure he would have been much more disappointed than I was.

I know the Vivian Girls have videos I could embed but I’m going to demonstrate that I can be just as petty as they were and not bother. You can search this blog for Vivian Girls if interested, although I can’t imagine anyone actually doing that after the sales pitch I just gave.

I really needed a nap at this point, but was talked into sticking around for Japan’s Peelander-Z, who are as much performance artists as musicians. The music is sort of a cross between the Ramones and Motörhead, only devoted to topics like steak, mad tigers, and ninja high schools. It makes more sense to simply embed a video than to try to describe the thing in my current exhausted state, so here you go. Me and the Z like our steak the same way (medium rare!).

Peelander-Z -”S.T.E.A.K.”

I finally got my much-needed nap and headed back downtown for more. I was waiting for my crew to tell me where they were, so I wandered into Spill to kill some time because I knew it was free. Glad I did, as I caught Baton Rouge’s We Landed on the Moon! Lead singer Jessica (don’t know her last name) has a great rock voice and stage presence. No studio recordings available, but here’s a pretty good live one.

We Landed on the Moon! – “Rabbit Hole”

Hoping they come to Austin again soon.

For Aspiring Musicians: How to Make a Video for Zero Dollars

  1. Rip song to .WAV file.
  2. Open Windows Movie Maker.
  3. Drag song file into Windows Movie Maker.
  4. Scan album cover art.
  5. Drag cover art scan into Windows Movie Maker.
  6. Save.
  7. Upload to YouTube.

Provided as a public service by On Deaf Ears.

I had to leave We Landed on the Moon! a bit before their set was over to meet up with some friends at the Texas Rock Fest stage. Much as I didn’t want to leave, I’m glad I did because I caught the last couple of songs by Austin’s One-Eyed Doll. Woo-eee! If the rest of the set was half as good as the part I saw, this is an act to watch with one, two, three, or however many eyes you happen to have. Singer and guitarist Kimberly Freeman fronts a tight band loaded with dark metal awesomeness. They’re playing again tonight, their last Austin gig for over a month, so if I’ve got anything left in the tank and can drum up some company, I’m going to go. (I probably don’t have anything left in the tank.)

One-Eyed Doll – “I Love My Little Bus”

The weekend ended about as good as is possible compliments of Marcy Playground, both recommended and attended by my brother. Good call. I only knew them from their one hit, “Sex and Candy,” but it would be wrong to judge them because radio programmers decided not to play other songs. Leader John Wozniak has a wonderful, full-bodied, alt-rock voice perfectly suited to the band’s melodic material, and it was augmented ably by Cedar Street’s tremendous sound system. The band’s cult following was there in force, and, if possible, seemed to be having an even better time than I was. As tired as I was at 2:00 AM Sunday morning when the show was over, I would have stuck around for another hour if they’d been willing and able to play it.

The encore began with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” My eyes should have rolled, because the poor song has been covered to death, but the performance was so good that it made me remember why I loved the song before I got sick of it. Their final number was a heartfelt tribute to our troops overseas, a reminder that there are brave people out there making my hedonistic weekend enjoying First Amendment-protected music in a free country possible. Perfect.

Marcy Playground – “Poppies”

And then I went home and slept for a long time.


The Song That’s Been Stuck In My Head All Day: Soulsavers – “Revival”

March 21, 2009

Featuring Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees.


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