Sunday, March 19, 2006

SXSW turns CSI

Posted By on Sun, Mar 19, 2006 at 12:15 PM

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.

Kansas City's Piney Gir rocks it Casio-style in the UK

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.

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