Getting out of Austin was a lot harder than getting in. After eating a Schlotzsky's sandwich (important side note: Schlotzsky's, a Texas chain, claims to be "home of the original sandwich." This is written without trademark signs, so there's no way to tell that their "original sandwich" is actually a sandwich they made up themselves with Italian meats and olives on sourdough; it's not the orginal Earl-of-Sandwich-two-hunks-of-bread-and-mutton-with-mayo sandwich. The slogan's misleading, but it's not a lie, however, because they call this original sandwich of theirs "The Original." So Schlotzsky's does indeed have the Original sandwich, but it's not the original), I strolled down to the departure gate to find that my flight from Austin to Dallas had been cancelled due to...I don't know. They didn't tell me, and I never asked, because knowledge hurts sometimes, people, it hurts.
Music editors often have to think quickly on their feet, and I had to decide whether to wait for the one employee at the ticket counter to tell me what to do or jump over the counter and beat the information out of her. I'd gotten some practice in the thinking-on-feet exercise from the Austin bartenders, who seem so indifferent as to whether you tip them that you have to decide quickly how much to leave, if anything at all. Every fucking person who receives tips in Austin has a fucking tip jar somewhere near them, and they have been instructed upon pain of death not to pay any attention as to whether you drop anything in the jar. This makes drinker-bartender relations nearly impossible. In Kansas City, our bartenders wisely keep their tips safely stowed back with the liquor. Also adding to the dilemma in Austin is that the servers & bartenders there have not adapted, by means of natural selection, to the brutalities of dealing with scads upon scads of South By Southwest barhoppers. It's my theory that when they finally do evolve, not only will they become more docile, they will develop hard, armor-like plating down their backs and begin foraging for their dinners in the upper parts of trees. Only then will drink + dollar = bonhomie in Austin, Texas.
So, after, like, all that happened, and after I called some friends who I knew were about to drive back to KC, I was handed a flight itinerary for the following day (today), that put me on a flight out of DFW in Dallas, through Chicago, then finally home, a process that would kill an entire extra day. Bo-o-ring. They then herded me and the other unlucky passengers, including an incredibly smartly dressed cadre of festival goers returning to various parts of Great Britain (I wanted to have sex with all of them because I'm an Anglophile-chappist, but travel delays always render me impotent) onto a bus bound for Dallas. I called my friends and told them I wouldn't need a ride and had to apologize profusely because they were already almost to the airport. There was no room in their car anyway, and I was told that if I rode with them, I would have to lie across their laps and service them orally and manually the entire ride home, at the same time allowing them to play hide the salami with any and all of my orifices, too, so it was really a lucky break. Those "friends," by the way, have a dog named Mr. Ruggles. Look into it.
Most inconvenient of all is that my iPod battery was not dead, but half-dead, and I have a fear of making extensive use of half-dead things, which is why I usually turn down propositions from senior citizens. I listened to a little of the new Field Music album and some Highway 61 Revisited, but mostly I watched the rain and the slow traffic and worried about the British people. Oddly, one of the Brits — a Scotsman, actually — was named Harper. He had tight, tapered jeans, a trucker hat and long hair and said he was the editor of Clash magazine. I resisted the urge to schmooze, though, because at that point I felt like talking about the music industry would make me begin to bleed from my ass.
Many hours later, I was at a hotel somewhere in the vast, soulless suburban sprawl of Dallas. A Bennigan's was within walking distance, so I went down for a little surf 'n' turf and murdered a steak and a family of shrimp and several Harp lagers while thick-necked hicks attempted to prolong their weekends before going back to their jobs driving pickups and working on their sunglasses-shaped facial tanlines. The jukebox played the most atrocious selection of '90s music, including several hits each from Matchbox 20 and Aerosmith. While in the bathroom, I distinctly remember hearing the part in "Amazing" where Steven Tyler scats beebie dop'n' beebie dop a weebap bow. If there's ever been a sure sign that Western Civilization is fated to destroy itself in the next millennia, it's that such a song ever sold more than 300 records.
I'm safely away from that now, enjoying the soothing roar of turbine jets carrying me away from the weirdness and warmth of my home state. I realize there wasn't much of anything of musical interest in this entry, and I promise that when I get back, I'll devote myself to assiduously covering all developments in the lives of the Get Up Kids. So, check in here at least one more time later this week before writing me off as an indulgent, obscene fraud and forbidding your children access to my fount of pain — er, knowledge — ever again.
Sunday Morning: I'm in my hotel, wearing a free t-shirt some publicist gave me that promotes a documentary about the Warped Tour, I think, called Wake Up Screaming. I didn't tip the guy at the overpriced snack bar downstairs, and as a direct karmic result, I spilled an entire cup of breakfast burrito salsa in my lap. But, hey, this shirt is comfortable.
Aw, shit, you want to hear about music, don't you? In that case, let me suggest you stop by Robert Moore's blog on the KCUR 89.3 Web site. That guy went to a ton of cool national shows and did some great write ups. Hell, I didn't even know he could write. Hats off.
As for my part, I missed KC bands the Dark Circles and Vedera, both of whom played early shows yesterday. But I did hook up with a hometown girl who's making quite a splash on the UK indie scene. Her name is Piney Gir. That's her stage name, anyway. Her real name is Angela Penhaligon. She used to work at Bloomsday Books, and she liked Fric & Frac. Even though she was born and raised around Kansas City, SXSW was her first performance in America. I missed her show because the schedule for her event got flipped around, but I got to chat with her and see her sing with a fun little band called the Research at some off-the-map UK label party. It was weird to see a band without visible tattoos — we're talking entire arms, nothing but soft, unmarked flesh. I hadn't realized how obsessed with tattooing American rockers are. In England, meanwhile, they're in love with quirk, hence Piney and the Research. They had a singer who sat on a stool balancing a cheap Casio in his lap, on which he pounded out awkward but nonetheless melodic sounds, while a chick bassist and chick drummer held down the low end. That guy was probably one of the more interesting instrumentalists I saw all weekend. The music was bright and sugary, but he reamed some tortured sounds out of his Casio. Normally, all three members sing, but the drummer lost her voice, so Piney stepped in with lyrics printed on napkins — and did a damn fine job, too.
Later that day, I caught Last of the V8s again at a venue way south of downtown, on an outside stage facing a main thoroughfare. They were even wilder than the day before. Ryan Mattes pulled off his shirt early in the show and shook his belly with both hands at the small crowd. Later, he drop his pants, too, to reveal a skimpy pair of Zebra-striped underpants. At one point, guitarist Jay Z climbed onto the shoulders of bassist Chico Thunder while Mattes wallowed upside down on the ground at their feet, half out of his pants. It was sort of like a human statuary — Cirque du Soleil, Kansas City punk style.
I got back down to Antone's to see Lawrence band White Whale (www.myspace.com/whitewhalemusic). This band is already signed to Merge Records, the prestigious North Carolina indie label, presumably because singer Matt Suggs has put out a couple solo records plus a couple with his old band, Butterglory, and Merge, evidently, loves him. I like White Whale's songs, but I've seen them three times and haven't been blown away by their live show. Being brand new, they've only played a dozen or so shows, so they have plenty of time to refine, to bring their scattered sound to a focused whole — but I'm worried that Suggs' gentle, whispery, almost effete voice won't be able to guide WW's massive, sonically ambitious ship ashore (to borrow his own lyric from "What's an Ocean For?") when it comes to live shows.
I have a little more to report, but I have to clean up all the syringes and crack pipes and wake up the male stripper who passed out in my bathroom (and his mom, too) and check out of the hotel or they'll charge me a hundred bucks or something. Look for my final SXSW wrap-up in my column this week's Pitch. Sorry, that's a lame ending to this entry, but I've got a crime scene on my hands here, people.
It was a good day for Kansas City on St. Patrick's Day down here in Austin. Maybe all that pretending to be Irish back home gave us all a wee bit of luck. The day started off, for me, at the Anodyne/Cheap Lullaby showcase at the Parish, where, at the crack of noon, Be/Non commanded the stage. With the Architects' Adam Phillips its temporary drummer, the band sounded precise and mechanical as singer-guitarist Brodie Rush led his group over a half-hour set of freaky, Zappa-meets-Krautrock, proggy strangeness.
Because it was early, the crowd was comprised of mostly KC folks plus a few off the street, which was a shame, because unlike so many other more successful bands at SXSW, Be/Non is actually doing something original. I fantasize about one day sitting my daughter (who has yet to be born) down on our leather couch, going into our walk-in entertainment center, rooting around through my polished marble record filing cabinets, pulling out that great Be/Non double LP from 2011, putting it on the hi-fi and blowing my little trendily named child (Pomegranate? Acorn? Samantha?) away.
After lunch at the Mekong River across the street, where the service was atrocious and riddled with infighting (sounds like a band), the Architects went onstage at the Parish to an encouragingly larger crowd, including a family of four — two boys, mom and pop — all of whom had mohawks. The Architects played fierce and sounded good but didn't seem too happy with the set afterward, but they had driven into town overnight to arrive at 9 that morning, so that was probably the reason.
After that, it was time to walk up to 7th and Red River for an extra-special treat: Last of the V8s at the Headhunter. It turns out that the Ramalamas, the band that grew out of the V8s' breaking up in '03, have disbanded because singer Damon Jeffers didn't want to put life on hold for touring. So original V8s Jay Zastoupil, Chico Thunder and Kriss Ward re-recruited Ryan Maddis and are picking up where the Ramalas picked up where the V8s had left off. And that may sound convoluted, but there's nothing about the V8s' sound that isn't simple, hellacious and loud.
We walked in to the small, cannibal-island-themed bar to find the V8s already roaring on the corner stage. Maddis was on fire. I'd been told before the show by a longtime fan of the band that the mad frontman would either piss someone off and get in a fight, hurt himself or break something. The likelihood of all three happening seemed fairly high throughout the show, but then I noticed something about the band. It's kind of a poetic, spontaneous dance they do, a secret choreography, whereby no matter how small the stage, no matter how apeshit Ryan goes, the members never accidentally collide. Ryan might throw his arm around Chico's neck and lean in and headbang, or, hell, Jay Z might mount Chico's shoulders and rattle off a solo. But ne'er do the tuning peg and forehead or microphone and skull meet.
But what does happen is a sight to behold. Maddis got progressively madder throughout the show, threading the microphone up through his open-chested black shirt and wrapping it around his body, tangled in it like a virtual umbilical cord. At one point, he ended up on his back with his head hanging off the stage. Be/Non's Ben Ruth was there and stuck out his foot, touching the sole of his shoe to Ryan's forehead. Ryan grabbed Ben's leg and soon was doing a slow backward somersault off the stage. The band, meanwhile, kept going, churning out slab after slab of old-school, MC5-influenced dirty rawk. It was beautiful. I nearly cried — seriously — in part because I will never, never, ever be as cool as any one member of the Last of the V8s, and also because this band's very existence in a market driven by the most poisonous, bullshit trends is poignant in itself. Seeing them play live is like watching a band of Comanche warriors go to battle for the last time — majestic and tragic.
But I don't mean to sound dire about the V8s' future. They'll be playing shows at home in KC in the coming weeks, and maybe they'll go on tour and cut a record. This is a band we should be fucking thankful for. You can't put a price on rock that pure.
WORD OF THE DAY
"La quinta" — n. Spanish. "Next to Denny's."
Yesterday was a long day's journey into rock for the Wayward Son. I'm at
I'd like to run down everything I did yesterday, from hearing Billy Bragg contend with traffic noise and a New Orleans brass band, to the Drive By Truckers comparing playing with acoustic guitars to having protected sex (and then fucking us all hardcore with an amazing set), to Morrissey ripping off his shirt and tossing it into the crowd. But I've got to be downtown in an hour to catch Be/Non kickoff the Anodyne Records showcase at the Parish.
I'm a little afraid to leave my hotel room this morning, though, because when my alarm went off, I was greeted with the voices of celebrating disc jockeys, already drunk, down at some Irish pub in the vicinity of 6th Street. Today will be nothing short of insane. I hear they're sodomizing people who don't wear green.
But I will survive, because there are plenty of people here from Kansas City whom I can use for human shields should the shit hit the fan, including KCUR's Robert Moore; John Ferguson and John Bersuch from Bacon Shoe; our own clubs editor, Lorna Perry (who's got a mean rock kick, I tell ya); Mac Lethal; and the Architects (who are Navy Seals when it comes to this sort of thing).
Kansas City's Burly Q Girly Crew (www.myspace.com/burlyqgirlycrew) is also here, and with a new friend, no less. But more on that later.
The rock waits for no man.
There is no textbook for the art of the rock video. Few successful artists have made it through their careers without producing one or two or perhaps entire collections of absurdly stupid videos. In fact, some of the biggest stars have produced the worst music videos. For instance, Lionel Richie has to be the king of bad videos. First, there's "Dancing on the Ceiling," which fails because Lionel Richie was not meant to rise above eye-level. Then, there's the one where he's a teacher with a (naturally) gorgeous blind student who ends up molding his head out of clay.
Call bad videos "legion," for they are many. It's the reason VH1 Classic is the best channel on cable. It's the reason Trent Reznor is absolutely obsessed with his image. I'm going to digress here, but it'll be worth it. Lately, not one but TWO Midwestern newsweeklies have offended Mr. Trent by publishing less-than-complimentary (but not insulting by any means) articles on the dude. First, there was our story that speculated whether Trent has beefed up by means of steroids (if you click this link, please ignore the cowboy — we're working on that). The story was pure, loving satire — merely a clever means by which to set his career achievements (and, admittedly, failures) against his current tour. But do you know what it got us, dear friends? It got our photo pass for the show REVOKED.
Next, there was a story the Riverfront Times in St. Louis ran that dropped a link to an early Trent video that featured him looking proudly ridiculous in a New Wave cover band. Within a few days, the video was removed from the Internet, no doubt by Trent's image police, who are even now focusing their laser-sighted censor gun on the back of my neck just below the haiRRGGHGHGHG
Ha, just kidding.
What I really want to talk about is Vedera. You may remember this Kansas City band as "Veda." Well, it's Vedera now, because a shitty California group called Veda threatened to sue our Veda, or something like that. Californians, sheesh. So, Vedera's reasonably hot right now, even though they've been on tour for a couple of centuries and haven't played in town much. They're still pimping their debut LP, The Weight of an Empty Room, which came out about halfway through last year. And, more importantly, singer Kristen May is as gorgeous and fiery as ever — even more so, for having received her share of road weariness and rock and roll battle scars.
It's too bad, then, that Vedera's first music video has to be so nutty. I recently dialed up their Myspace page to see when the young band was playing SXSW, and I was greeted by a free screening of the video for their big single, "The Falling Kind." At first, I was excited. After all, I love videos — and this was the first professional-quality video I'd seen by a local band in a long, long time.
But after I sat through it, half-gazing, half-gawking at the inch-tall image on my browser window, I was left with mixed feelings. For one, they put Kristen in a straightjacket, and -- as if that weren't enough — employed jerky, stop-motion effects to make her stagger about with awkward, abrupt movements, AND — to add to the infamy — duplicated her image so that as many as three or four little Kristens were stumbling about at once in the same blown-out concrete building (see picture).
I shared my find with a coworker, Pitch Calendar Editor Annie Fischer, to whom I turn regarding ALL matters of taste, and here is the email discussion that ensued:
>>> "Jason Harper" 3/14/2006 8:47:36 PM >>>
crush- or ridicule worthy? (the video midway down the screen)
>>> Annie Fischer 3/15/2006 10:22 AM >>>
Ohmygod I don't know but either way we HAVE to mention that's the post-makeover Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club!
OK, I've watched it all now and I think it's pretty bad. Straightjackets never ever need to be used in anything pop-culture related again.
>>> Jason Harper 3/15/2006 10:43:21 AM >>>
Also, they look like kids. The wardrobe person managed to fit Kristen in clothes that not only make her look short but downright stubby.
>>> Annie Fischer 3/15/2006 10:44 AM >>>
I hoped that was just myspace distortion!
>>> Jason Harper 3/15/2006 10:45 AM >>>
Or maybe she really does have no feet. I never thought to look before.
Well, folks, the good news is that Kristen May does have feet. Feet, toes, ankles — the whole enchilada. I hope that she'll use them wisely, and, when it comes time to shoot another video, she'll use her feet to walk to the office of a good director.
A friend of mine, who is Myspace friends with the Lawrence sci-fi/glam/punk/transvestite group Vibralux received this Myspace bulletin from the group shortly after tornadic winds swept through the band's hometown:
Due the tornado that hit Lawrence early Sunday morning, the Vibralux tour van has been demolished. Heavy winds from as many as three tornados tore down several trees and broke out store windows Lawrence, KS and were responsible for the accident.
The tree limb, which refused to answer any questions regarding the incident, was torn away from a neighbor's yard by heavy winds and hit the van right down the middle, rendering the van undrivable and unfixable. Sources say the limb may face charges of criminal negligence and vandalism. Until authorities can asses the damages and cost of replacement. Driving tours have been put on hold.
Stay tuned for an update later this week.
In the meantime, anyone have a spare van =)
Plastic Bitches News Team.
Lead Bitch Mercury Mad's messages are always fun to read. However, what strikes me about this update is the distinct phallic imagery in the story of the destruction of Vibralux's van. A gargantuan tree branch smashing into a nice, boxy van spells one thing: dildo violence, as demonstrated in the picture illustrating this post.
To see the shlong-wielding Mercury Mad in action, head to the Sleeper Cellar (519 W. 39th Ter) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, for an all-up-in-your-shit basement show featuring Merc's DJ duo Generic X plus local faves the Ssion and hot, mohawked out-of-town freakychicks Scream Club. The Cellar is a two-story, red apartment building on the street one block south of 39th and a block and a half west of Broadway. Appropriately for this night at least, guests must enter through the back door.
You heard it here first. According to a leaked email, Jeff Fortier, a Lawrence man and big-time booking agent, has contacted the Record Bar requesting that his "entourage" be added to the guest list for Friday night's Sonic Spectrum anniversary show. What's interesting is who's in Fortier's entourage, and we've heard it's going to be members of the Strokes and Eagles of Death Metal (the Uptown March 10).
With a great local lineup including Anvil Chorus, Ad Astra Per Aspera, White Whale and Doris Henson, this could be a legendary night. I just hope it's not like the time when a Lawrence kid allegedly punched Strokes singer Julian Casablancas in the face outside the Eighth Street Tap Room for dissing on Nirvana several years ago. This time, they can deride Frances Bean's dad all they want. But if any of those punks hates on Doris, they ass is going down.
Space constraints in this week's issue prevented the Wayward Son from going into much detail about all that Robert Moore is doing for KC music, so here's my chance to say what didn't make the old-school newsprint edition. Though he regularly does live in-studio sessions with area bands on his radio show, Sonic Spectrum, Moore's week-to-week playlists contain only a minority of local spins, which could lead one to believe that he doesn't really have his ear to the ground as far as the scene goes.
Born and raised in LA (the dude went to Hollywood High), Robert used to work in the industry, doing promotions for IRS Records and A&R at Virgin before getting out — because we all know what those folks is — and moving to Kansas City. He's still got hella connections, though, and he's using those to try and help some of his favorite bands get in through the transom at labels where he knows people. Lately, he's been trying to help Ad Astra Per Aspera, the Roman Numerals, American Catastrophe and namelessnumberheadman each get a leg up. He feels that there are definitely more bands in town worthy of a record deal, but not all of them have shown him their tits yet. (Kidding.)
Seriously, though, the guy's got over 200 regional acts signed up as friends on his Myspace page -- keep in mind, however, that he says yes to any local group that requests him as a friend, so not all bear his personal stamp of approval. One band that does, though, is definitely namelessnum...aw hell...NNHM, which is the band that recorded the instrumental "Sonic Spectrum Theme" that kicks off the second hour of Robert's show each Saturday. That band also played the first show of the new Sonic Spectrum Presents series at the Record Bar on March 1.
It seemed like NNHM had been in hiding. Its last show was in November of '05, one of only 16 shows it played the entire year. The trio did, however, stock up its site with mp3s, including an entire EP of cover songs, two of them by Doris Henson and Minus Story.
When I got to the Record Bar that Wednesday night, NNHM was unloading its equipment onto the sidewalk. Inside, the club's long-ago-booked touring performer Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor and Carly Simon) was still goin' to Carolina in his mind, so I hung outside with 'headman. The band's three members — Andrew Sallee, Chuck Whittington and Jason Lewis — are rare birds. Exuding politeness every time I meet them, these innocent-seeming nerds look like they could be in a buddy movie about junior physicists who create a buxom brunette out of subatomic particles. Luckily, rather than sitting around searching for the secret Kelly LeBrock recipe, however, they devote their time to making soaring, catchy, experimental, electronics-heavy pop. The folks who'd come to see Taylor didn't seem to know that (or care), though, as they cleared out of the club after Sweet Baby Ben's last melancholy croon.
It took NNHM about 45 minutes to set up its elaborate array of keyboards, drums, pedal steel, guitars and more keyboards. By then, it was nearly midnight, and the room was sparse except for at the bar, where a dozen or so drunken oafs were blabbing loudly. Admittedly, the NNHM show had been scheduled somewhat last-minute, but I expected way more people would show up, considering how infrequently this band plays — and especially since the word was spread that the band would be playing brand-new songs. School night for the indie crowd, I guess.
They opened with a quiet number, with Andrew on acoustic and vocals, which I'd never seen before. He's usually stationed at the drums -- sometimes singing, keeping a beat and playing a keyboard all at once -- or else sitting prayerfully at the pedal steel. The song fluttered on the edge of Americana, then drowned in a keyboard wash, and Andrew went back to his drums to begin smashing out "Every Fiber," off NNHM's 2004 masterpiece Your Voice Repeating, an album which Death Cab For Cutie still can't touch.
Sadly, due to lack of a decent audience, the gig turned into a practice session for namelessnumberheadman. At a better show, the crowd would have massed at the front, begging to get blown away, and applauding even when the songs blended seamlessly into one another. But at times, applause was awkwardly withheld at the ends of songs, even as band members shifted instruments. There were only a few tables of people paying attention, plus one random guy who set up a single chair defiantly in the middle of the dance floor. I don't mean to paint a too dour picture, though — the show was definitely nothing for the R. Bar or the R. Moore to regret having booked (after all, I enjoyed it, and I'm the one who matters, right?) — because NNHM sounded great and proved that it can still write compelling songs. Somebody needs to help get this group signed.
Oh, wait — that's already covered.
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