TV On the Radio. Saturday, March 17, at VooDoo Lounge
Review by Megan Metzger
This year, I decided to forgo getting up at the buttcrack o' dawn to partake in St. Pat's Day revelry and pretended like it was any other day, mostly because I was saving myself for that night's festivites: TV on the Radio at the VooDoo Lounge in Harrah's Casino.
I'd never been to the VooDoo. I've just seen it on television during late-night runs of Harrah's American Idol-like karaoke throwdown, Lucky Break. The venue's a great size, with a floor surrounded on either side by a long bar and little tables. Flat-screen TVs hover above each bar, advertising crab legs and Toby Keith's I Heart This Bar and Grill. Overlooking the floor is a balcony with plush chairs and couches, so one could watch the rock in comfort.
We arrived early and bellied up to the bar, where the male 'tenders were engaging in a little cocktail bottle tossin'.
"Oh yeah, they do flair bartending here," my friend Dave said.
I ordered a Red Bull and vodka, which unbeknownst to me, was not how that drink is ordered.
"How 'bout I make you a vodka and Red Bull?" the bartender snapped as he flung a bottle of Jack Daniels in air. He didn't catch it.
We settled on a spot to catch the opener, California hip-hoppers Subtle.
Also known as one-half of 13 & God, a collaboration with German electric indie-rockers the Notwist, Subtle used drums, electric cello, keys, an MPC, and a guy alternating between sax and cornet to create eclectic, cerebral hip-hop. Subtle's MC Doseone, who looked like a member of the Revolution, entertained with a whip-smart flow, corny jokes and a love of props that rivaled Carrot Top. He even gave a shout out to Tech N9ne.
Subtle was an acquired taste, and I dug the fuck out of them.
After their 45 minutes were up, the floor started to fill in anticipation of the headliners. The hipsters you'd expect to see were in full force, as were many green-clad kids drinking Bud Lights and showing off their giant shamrock baubles. It was a surprising and sweet mix.
TV on the Radio began their 90 minute set with "The Wrong Way," the opening track off 2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes.
Lead singer Tunde Adepimbe writhed and swayed as he sang TVotR's usually politically charged and dystopic lyrics, accompanied on vocals by guitarist Kyp Malone, who resembles an austere but absent-minded professor with his mammoth beard and tweed blazer.
The band continued to comb through Desperate Youth, as well as last year's Return to Cookie Mountain, including "Wolf Like Me," which has been receiving airplay on 96.5 the Buzz, which could explain why so many people came to the show.
TVotR's delivery was passionate and precise and held the crowd's attention captive right up until the closing number, "Staring at the Sun," Desperate Youth's standout track.
The show lasted about an hour-and-a-half, and it was refreshing to see such an uncompromising, original band play at a venue like the VooDoo. With the club opening its doors to local acts like the Roman Numerals and the Republic Tigers, and upcoming concerts from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Kings of Leon and Jet, the VooDoo could fast become the best mid-sized venue in Kansas City.
We could do without the flair bartending, though.
I'm back home now, but my head's still in Austin. One of the coolest moments of the whole trip was seeing Ad Astra Per Aspera play the back patio of a divey Latino bar east of I-35, which forms a clear and definite boundary between commercially rich downtown Austin and the poor part of east Austin. So that's where the punks had their fun, naturally.
It was great to see a bunch of Lawrence people at the show, including KJHK music director Melissa Knudsen and asst director for the station, Derek Zarda, who at SX to attend panels on college radio and rep KJ. They were also handing out copies of a really good local compilation CD called Farm Fresh Sounds. You can download the whole damn thing on KJ's Web site: scroll to the bottom. (Or click here to begin the download.) Also in attendance was Kelly Corcoran, one of the owners of Love Garden. Verrr cool guy.
It was the most laid-back show I'd been to. After two nights and a day of partying with the crowds on 6th St, my run in with the relaxed, cheerful Lawrence kids was good for my soul. I shot some video of the Ad Astra performance and talked to the drummer, Kurt Lane, afterwards.
Gettin' multimedia on your ass after the jump.
Well, Kansas City, I hope you're enjoying your weekend. Holy fuck, it's St. Patrick's Day! I'd forgotten. You're probably already out drinking. Pace yourself. Westport revelers should head down to the big blowout at the Record Bar. If you like feel good soul music, get there around 3, for the Diplomats of Solid Sound — they got horns, keys, nice suits, and insanely beautiful female singers. The local U2 tribute band Rattle and Hum takes the stage at 8 p.m. It's the third time they've played the RB, and I've heard they sound remarkably like the real deal.
It's Saturday, about noon, and the "PVOUTDOORS" stage across the parking lot from my hotel has begun allowing bad alternative rock bands to torment everyone on the east side of the downtown Omni. "Let them eat cake!" I say, standing in the window wearing the complimentary bathrobe I found in the closet. I know I must be a freakish site to passers below, this bathrobe having been designed to be so ugly and ill-fitting that no guest would ever want to steal it.
Wait, what is this, a novel? No, this is your connection to SXSW, so I'll quit fucking around. Yesterday, because I started late, I only saw four bands, but I enjoyed them all: Ad Astra Per Aspera, the High Dials, the Hard Lessons">Hard Lessons and the River City Tanlines. I didn't push myself to see any big shows. By this time of the festival — actually, this began happening on Thursday — if you want to see a band with any modicum of popularity/buzz/hype/whatever, you gotta get there an hour or two early and wait in line, even if you have a badge. It's even hard to get food here, and half or more of the ranks of the service industry here is pissed off by the tourists.
So it was with great relish that I enjoyed the brilliant psychedelic pop band the High Dials from Montreal, in a well-air-conditioned, off-the-way club around 6 p.m. yesterday. The music isn't obscure or trendy or experimental, like you might expect from a Montreal band you've never heard of. It's just upbeat, pretty and comforting, with great hooks and sweet two-part harmonies between singer/guitarist Trevor Anderson and keyboardist Eric Dougherty. The club looked set up to be a sleek, fancy-cocktails, DJs and blow place, but I had no complaints about the band's sound. They nailed it, but no one was there to see it besides me and a few appreciative others. That is, except the kids from KC's Anvil Chorus, who I had bumped into outside and roped into coming to the show. It wasn't hard, actually, because they heard the band practicing out on some hippie ranch. They were all watching the Stooges' in-store at Waterloo records or something, which was probably great, but, ah well.
When I get back, I'll post some audio/video of Ad Astra and the Hard Lessons, who, by the way, are coming to the Brick on Tuesday, April 3 (you'll have to be there, because, man, they rock like a monkey). Now I must hang up my hideous robe, perform my ablutions and don the raiment of SXSW concertgoer. Unto the breach!
I might as well hang it up. Our Village Voice SXSW group blog rocks. It's on the Dallas Observer's site, here. I could contribute to it, but I'm having some computer woes. So, for now, I'm just going to throw some pictures atcha.
That redhead is Piney Gir. Her real name is Angela. She was born in KC, but she lives and makes quirky, country-tinged pop in the UK.
Locals the Hearers filled the Parish with dark, layered acoustical jams at the Anodyne Showcase.
After the Hearers, the Architects ripped the club in half. Really — I've seen a bunch of Architects shows, and today, they were ON.
I had to kill a bitch. No, actually, a bartender carting supplies to the bar spilled a bottle of Bloody Mary mix. It stank.
Anodyne's newest signee, the Meat Puppets, put on a reunion show to a packed, enthusiastic house. The place smelled like ketchup because of the incident mentioned above.
I waited in line for an hour to see awesome North Carolina rock band the Reigning Sound. It was totally worth it. After their set, they turned around and became the backup band for comeback sensation Mary Weiss, who, 40 years ago, was in the classic girl band the Shangri-Las. That one-two punch of the Reigning Sound and Mary Weiss (whose voice is downright soothing) was the best thing I've seen so far. It doesn't get much better than classic, soulful American rock 'n' roll from the South.
My pals Shannon and Matt of Drama Club Records had the in to a party hosted by (I think) Purevolume.com. The drinks were free and the people there were not too disgustingly hip. In fact, some of the kids, having been out all day in the sun, were, well, a bit disgusting.
South by Southwest is massive. It starts early with free day parties hosted by independent labels, magazines, publicity houses, blogs, brothels (not really, but should be) and the like. Music blasts out open windows and doorways and sounds from street corners all around 6th Street, just north of the Colorado River in downtown Austin. The streets are a pageantry of music industry scenesters and tourists and local buskers. Logos plaster everything.
But I don't have time to dissect the festival; I gotta be at a show in half an hour. I got into town around 5 p.m. yesterday and slid into the torrent of rock and roll and Lone Star beer, starting out at 9 at the Merge Records showcase at Antone's with Imperial Teen, a biggish-in-the-'90s alternative pop band from San Francisco. Sounded kinda like the Breeders, but with high male lead vocals. Factoid: The band was founded by former Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum. Thanks, Allmusic.com.
I scampered across the festival area, intending to rendezvous with the boys from KC's Drama Club Records, who were at Stubb's to see hot British singer Lily Allen, but I ran into our pals Be/Non, partying with Megan Hamilton of OxBlood Records (also KC). The band was originally going to play the Anodyne Records (yep, local) showcase today. But within the past two weeks the band's relationship with Anodyne fell apart. They were down to play a different show today, but it too got canceled. Fortunately, they played a few cities on the way down, so the trip wasn't a total loss.
After a few drinks in back of the Jackelope, which was like KC headquarters last year — good burgers and a smoking patio — I parted company to go check out a Scottish band called The Twilight Sad, whom I'd heard online and really dug. When I told Be/Non guitarist Adam Stotts who I was going to see, he laughed in my face. Not because he thought the band was lame, or anything, it's just that when you're at an indie music festival and you say "I'm going to see a band called The Twilight Sad. They're from Scotland," it's so perfectly obscure that it sounds like you're making it up to be satirical.
Seriously, the Twilight Sad is from Scotland.
But this obscure track paid off because the Sad rocked. The singer has the thickest brogue since Malcolm Middleton of Arab Strap but twice the vocal power. Like a minstrel boy come back from war, he keens precise, cutting, sad lyrics while his bandmates (guitar, bass and drums) create tidal surges of noise. It's almost like the singer and the drummer are from some highland drum regiment — one sings the stories, the other bashes out a marching beat. Meanwhile the bass and guitar, laden to the hilt with effects, bash out undulating, dynamic and melodic sound.
PB&J at the other Zona Rosa.
When they were over, the line into Stubb's was a block long, so I beat a path southwest to La Zona Rosa for the Swedish pop buzz band Peter, Bjorn & John, authors of Writer's Block, one of my favorite albums of last year (it just came out in the states, but I got the import 'cause I'm a bitch). They've definitely caught on, because the place was packed full of non-hipsters, which is great, but some indie-rock fratboys deemed it appropriate and fun to yell out requests for the band's two popular songs ("Amsterdam," and "Young Folks"). It's like, Dude, you know they're gonna play 'em when they're good and ready -- shut the hell up. I don't know, maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine.
Anyway, the band was great: tight, powerful and majestic. "Majestic" could even describe the quality of their pop songwriting, which makes for great at-home listening and for a wildly dynamic live show. They're just so fuckin' good. And I have a feeling I'll be listening to them years down the road.
Got a full day today and gotta get started on it. Hold things down in KC for me.
The ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has returned to our sleepy metropolis. You remember, they were here once before and called upon the talents of local artist Stretch to build a sculpture for the home of fireman Steven Johnson. Well, this time, it was no sculptor they enlisted to add color to the proceedings but rather local glam-punk band the Rich Boys.
Actually, it was the construction company, owned by the father of Rich Boys guitarist Carl Redcorn, who booked the band to play. The targeted house, a 900-square-foot shack in the Northland near North Chouteau Tfwy., was being demolished to be "made over" as a 5,000-square-foot dream home by soul-patched he-man Ty Pennington and crew.
The original plan was to have the Boys play on the wreckage of the old house, but when clubs editor and Heartbeat City columnist Megan Metzger (who, for the record, was the one who'd heard about this) arrived at a quarter to nine last night, the band was set up in the back of a giant flatbed truck, floodlights all around, near the site of the new home.
The scene was very building-site, with enormous trucks roaring around and scads of construction workers and TV people in matching blue shirts and white hard hats standing around to watch the band. Despite a staticky mic cord and the fact that they were contained, like zoo animals, in an aluminum cage six feet off the ground, the Rich Boys wailed through about 40 minutes of crunchy, sassy rock and roll. They chewed up and spit out anthems like "I Gotta Go" and "I Wanna Be Your Man." The lyrics to the show-closer, "Corporate Whore," were fortuitously inaudible in the wind: Look so fake/Look so good/Corporate whore, I couldn't ask for more.
No celebrities were sighted, but it was a fun — and surreal — show. That's too bad, because I would've totally groupied out if Ty's old Trading Spaces pal Paige Davis had been there -- corporate whore, I couldn't ask for more. Indeed.
Our friends from Warrensburg, Super Black Market, have recorded a tasty Misfits cover for an upcoming compilation CD out of Seattle. Sorry, all I know about the comp is that it's out of Seattle. I got the MP3 from a secret source. We'll call him Raoul and say that he's a poor Mexican fisherman who dabbles in pirated music and shops at the Price Chopper on Roe.
I haven't heard the original version of the song, "Cough/Cool," but apparently it was the Misfits' first-ever release. All I know is I'm in a shitty mood and this song makes me feel a little better. Here it is. Unless you're a personal friend of the band, you won't hear it anywhere else until that mysterious comp comes out. Dig it after the jump.
Reach's Hollapalooza, feat. Reach, Trek Life, Oddisee, Kev Brown. Sunday, March 11 at the Peanut.
Review by Nadia Pflaum
So you know when I wrote that thing about Reach's Hollapalooza? And I barely mentioned the guys he'd be performing with last night at the Peanut? Because I didn't know who the hell they were? Well ... let's just say that now I know. And I'm impressed.
And if what they were saying was true, so were they. But we'll get to that.
The Peanut was packed, but the managers had closed the second floor, forcing the crowd to get cozy downstairs. After Reach's quality set, a skinny black dude named Trek Life took the mic and said something along the lines of, "Wow. I'm not used to performing for folks that look like me. Not judging or anything, but, I'm used to playing for people who have to brush their hair. Not people who might have to pick their hair." (Note: Quotes here are from memory only. A memory obscured by a cocktail or seven.) Trek was from Maryland so he was shouting out the University of Maryland Terrapins before launching into a couple songs that were heavy on the call-and-response, which annoys me sometimes. Can I please just be lazy and watch you, the performer? Did I really pay five bucks to scream unintelligible lyrics into the air?
Anyway, next up was Oddisee, whose real name, according to his MySpace page, is Amir Mohamed. He introduced himself as "high Sudanese" and wore a turquoise LRG shirt and dunks. He performed a song that was titled Gentrification, a word that to many people just means "Here comes a really boring conversation." But he prefaced it by saying, "I'm a reporter. I like to report on the things that I see in my neighborhood. The East Coast isn't that different from the Midwest, I know some of the things happening there are happening here. I'd like to hear about some of the things happening in your neighborhoods, too."
The song killed me. "Mom and Pops store replaced by couture/ A Starbucks here, a Starbucks there/ how much coffee you need? My God it's unfair/ They move away from the 'burbs to escape the monotony/ And bring along with 'em they pilates and pottery/ ...My city don't look the same, what a shame, it's tragic."
Kev Brown came on after that, in a tee that read "Make Music," and was wowed by the enthusiasm in the room. Sidewalk popper J-Wiz was in the front row, along with up-and-coming producers and lyricists like Neth, Dutch Newman and Godson and proven veterans like Approach. Reach knew all the words to Kev's songs. Kev said they'd come from shows in Chicago that were empty and wack, and that Kansas City was showing them love like they hadn't yet seen on tour.
Sounds like the East Coast scene is gonna be hearing about us.
Here's some shows we couldn't squeeze into the music section this week:
Actors & Actresses, the Stella Link and Hundred Years' War at the Grand Emporium. I've been hearing buzz about Hundred Years War, a new metal band started by guys who don't really do metal. It seems they won a round of Kilroy Wars or something. Could this be a local instance of hipster-approved metal a la Mastodon? Hey OK.
The Gaslights, the Expassionates and the Stranger at Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club.
Hey, you guys gotta go welcome the Gaslights back from their tour de Belgium. From the dispatches we got from them while they were away, they're bound to have some crazy stories.
The Mutual Musicians' Foundation is having an open house today from 2 to 5 p.m. Snacks will be served. Jazz will be played. Hopes and prayers (and alms, alms for the poor?) will be raised that the Foundation will jam on.
Underoath, with Taking Back Sunday. Wednesday, March 7, at the Uptown Theater.
Review by Crystal Wiebe
Traditionally, I've considered myself a rock and roll proletariat, one of the people who prefers to (barely) see the band from the vantage point of the sweaty masses. Looking down at those moist, panting faces from the side balcony of the Uptown Theater last night, I realized how much nicer it is to be a VIP and regretted that a Pitch hoodie isn't enough to gain me the same access (and complimentary beverages) every time I rock out. Which isn't to say I wouldn't have enjoyed the show — particularly the Underoath portion — had I, too, been relegated to the stinky, hot hell below.
The crew I was runnin' with headed upstairs just as Armor for Sleep left the stage. The smell of a fishy dinner that permeated the band dining area we passed through on our way to the balcony reminded me that Underoath is from Florida. My BF's big into them, so I tolerate the band's hardcore screaming when he decides to play it around me. I figured I'd seen the best of Underoath when we saw its singing drummer, Aaron Gillespie, play with his side project the Almost recently. But when all six members of Underoath cranked up the loud last night, I was unexpectedly moved.
Officially, half of Underoath are singers, but twiggy frontman Spencer Chamberlain does the most wailing. And somehow, even when his screams are garbled, whatever pain, frustration or hope ("pull yourself together, man") that he's communicating comes out true. This is a rare thing in a genre full of aggressive emotion that too easily turns cliche. Sonically, Underoath's music is about as grind heavy as it gets, except except when Gillespie chimes in from behind his drumkit with a particularly melodic chorus. Chris Dudley's keyboard work aids in the accessibility factor, also. But even when the songs last night were chaotic, there seemed to be something unseen that the musicians — and capacity crowd — held onto.
The band, which took a moment to thank "Him" toward the end of the set, credits Jesus for its prowess. I don't know about that, but I do know Taking Back Sunday (just who are they taking that day back from, by the way?) didn't have a prayer of following up with the same caliber of rock. Not even during the songs I like ("Liar," "Ghost Man On Third") did I feel as compelled to watch TBS, although the musicianship was competent and it was kind of cool when singer Adam Lazzara broke into some Justin Timberlake.
Compared to the rawness that came before it, TBS just seemed...tame. If I'd been on the floor, I might have just walked out, like I did the first time I saw TBS in Washington, D.C., back in '03. I can see what appeals to people about the pretty band, though, and, in fact, I myself dig the recorded music. It's just that live, with Lazzara doing mic tricks (the worst of which is when he bends over to pick it up off the ground in slow motion), all the sweet angst feels like artifice.
Another kid watching from the crow's nest was smart enough to bring a camera. I just had a notebook. And a worthless Pitchhoodie.
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