Thanks to The Yellow Stereo for sharing this.
I used to think that people who wore earplugs at shows should just stay home. Not anymore. I should have known when earplugs were being handed out at the door of the My Bloody Valentine show last night that they were meant to be used. I have never, never been to a louder show (and that includes an ear-blistering Dinasaur Jr. show in the early 90s). MBV ripped into about a 15 minute sonic rush at the end of their set, during which people close to the stage reported heat coming from the speakers (which were massive) and I could literally feel air blowing through my hair like the Memorex man. It was an amazing show, I have no regrets, but my ears are ringing with no signs of stopping.
Nerve has a new feature on the forty sexiest frontwomen in rock. I have to say, I have a guilty love of things like this. It’s like Magnet Magazine collided with People.
Apparently Nerve will have a corresponding article on sexy lead men, for those who are interested.
Apparently, the Ft. Worth Ballet theatre has decided to cut expenses by cutting out their orchestra and playing pre-recorded music for the upcoming performance of Cleopatra. Perhaps worse, they’re not letting the public know there will be a recording in the pit. Pretty disappointing stuff.
My second full day at SXSW was if anything better than my first. I aspire to go to this thing until I am too old to decently be allowed through the doors. God knows I’m already older than most of the beard sprouting indie kids there now. Except, perhaps, at the Echo and the Bunnymen show…
Viva Voce (Mohawk)–I found earlier work by these guys a letdown, but their live show has turned me around. I look forward to their new release. These guys are from Portland, and they sound like it–although they originate from the south, I’m led to believe. Very melodious, femme-fronted guitar pop. Good feelings all around.
Peelander z (Mohawk)–This is the craziest show I’ve seen in a long time. These Japanese freaks may or may not be good musicians, but they are excellent entertainers. They got the crowd so pumped that the next act was almost forgotten. Human Bowling, bassists hanging upside-down from the rafters, broken engrish, what’s not to like?
Camera Obscura (Mohawk)–After the wildness of Peelander Z, the crowd and that stage filled with pasty, self-aware white folks. Camera Obscura has put out some of my favorite music in the past handfull of years, so I was pretty excited. While they sounded pretty good, they also seemed exhausted–it was their third show at SXSW and Scotland she was calling. I loved it anyway, and will buy their newest upon release.
Akron Family (Waterloo Park)–Did I really know what these guys sounded like? Too jammy for my taste. Left as soon as the hippies started to dance.
Steve Burns (Central Pres. Church)–This was interesting: Burns and band seated up on the alter, with a screen behind them playing an oddly moralistic tale involving a puppet. The songs were a soundtrack the the movie, and the movie was a sort of “choose your own adventure.” The audience was given laser pointers, and between songs they were instructed to choose by pointing which course they wanted events to take. (Save a Kitten? or Recreational Drug Use?) The concept was good, even if the movie was slightly absurd, ending with an excellent Galaxie 500 cover. This guy has talent coming out of his ears.
Marnie Stern (Central Pres.)–Biggest letdown of SXSW. This really sucked. To be fair, apparently her drummer made advances on her the night before (“he wanted to have sex with my vagina,” she told us, cross behind her) and she dismissed him from the band. So, she loaded herself up with alcohol and a supporting cast of Austinites who proceeded to jam incompetently. I had to leave…
Echo and the Bunnymen (Rusty Spurs)–This was the show I had planned to see all day, but when we got there were were told badges only. That’s why we went to see Marnie in the first place. Luckily, she sucked, we left, and when we checked back by Rusty Spurs they let us slide in with elevated seating behind the sound board! This club is about the size of a large apartment, and Echo is one of my all time heroes. Call me old, but when they broke into “Back of Love,” “The Cutter,” and other sing-alongs I almost wept. Ian’s voice is still strong as hell and the band is a bunch of reliable professionals by now. Highlight–near the end, they covered Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Made my entire weekend.
It even made up for the most excruciating moment of the weekend. Unable to get into the venue at Stubbs to see PJ Harvey, we were able to eat there. As I was ignoring my moral qualms about BBQ, I could hear barely her through the walls, but couldn’t see her. One of my serious heroes, that one.
I’m exhausted, and trying to catch up on my work, but I’m already talking about making hotel reservations next year.
So, I have a blog, I’m at SXSW, so what to do but blog about sxsw? First, let me me just say, this has to be one of the world’s greatest parties. This is my second time here, and if anything it’s gotten better. It seems like every bar–and there are hundreds–is hosting some new it-band from Finland or Denton or LA or Louisianna. It’s hard to see a bad show. The hardest part is choosing.
So far, I’ve seen:
Blind Pilot (Club DeVille)–The main guy has a lovely voice, and the songs are catchy, but it’s a little too vanilla for my taste.
Langhorne Slim (Club DeVille)–Fun Shit. The songs are of a predictable structre and the lyrics are pretty much phoned in, but the enthusiasm makes up for a lot.
Woods (Emo’s)–Led by a nerdish castrata, these guys put off some pretty good basic pop noise.
Wavves (Emo’s)–One of the best shows yet. Simple adolescend garagy punk pop. Prolly gonna have to get their album.
King Khan and the Shrines (Emo’s)–A really impressive show. “Khan” has a voice like Screamin Jay Hawkins, and the show puts a spell on you indeed, with the semi-voodoo theme and the dancing blonde. Like Stax resurrected.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Emo’s)–Good, sorta britpop sounding. Pure at heart doesn’t even begin to say it. These guys just left the chess club. Really strong songs.
Crystal Stilts (Emo’s)–I think these guys sorta let themselves down. The crowd didn’t help, but the show fell flat. Lead singer is like Ian Curtis if he were a Brady. To quote Ana “they had the goods, but they just didn’t bring it.”
Time to go…music to hear…
Last night I decided to test to see if I could really hear the difference between the original recording and a CD burned from an MP3 copy. My test track was the first movement of Sibelius’ violin concerto played by Cho Liang Lin conducted by Salonen. It’s a very transparent disc. I ripped it first at 320 kbs using EAC with LAME. On my system, which is pretty good (Rega Apollo, Creek 5350SE, Von Schweicker Mk2 speakers; for the dollar inclined, we’re talking about 5k), I could not reliably tell the copy from the original when my wife, irritated at the request, put me through a blind test. When I ripped it at 256kbs using the same method, however, I could hear the difference immediately and the 256 sounded much less transparent. To me, at least, 256 is just not good enough, at least on my home system.
Granted, this is not so scientific, but it was blind. I plan to do more tests in the future, if my wife will humor me. I’d be interested in testing 320 with other discs. It should be said, though, that very few places offer 320kbs downloads for sale. Amazon’s downloads are at the inadequate 256, and emusic and others are even worse. More evidence, for me at least, that buying mp3s is not an option right now.
My recent radio silence has been in part due to the fact that I seem to be incessantly busy with refereeing articles, grading papers, writing letters and evaluating applications of various sorts. But that is not all. Many of my previous posts have been inspired by the best of recent indie music, but in the new year I have let that interest lag considerably. Instead, I have become obsessed with the “classical” tradition in music–to the point that I have taken up piano once again and have been studying music as though I were back in school. Unfortunately, I’m simply not educated enough to write very informatively about much of this music.
I can, however, sing the praises of a book that has reignited my interest in numerous composers and periods of music history: Jan Swafford’s Vintage Guide to Classical Music. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It takes one through a tour of Western Music through the early notes of Perotin and Machaut through the minimalists such as Reich and Glass. Its principle structure involves a chronological series of composer biographies, with a section recommending “beginning points” for each composer. Meanwhile, important concepts and trends in the tradition (polyphony, atonality, the sonata form, etc.) are explained in lucid sections running parallel to appropriate composers. While not entirely uncritical, Swafford almost always leaves the reader excited to hear pieces from each composer with an eye towards their ineluctable place in the grand Western tradition. It ends with a glossary and a nice list of pieces that should be part of an inclusive historical library.
So, while I’ve been reading other things as well, it is Swafford’s book that has won my heart recently. Check it out!
It’s not just a metaphor anymore. The company responsible for setting Beatles tunes to pan flutes in order to hypnotize Gap shoppers is going under. I, for one, find this encouraging. Now, if only Michael Bolton and Kenny G would go bankrupt, this economy would have hit the crap trifecta!