SXSW

SXSW 2006

This week Jim and Greg bring Austin to Chicago. The rock critics have returned from the SXSW Music Festival to tell you about some of the best new music you'll be hearing about in the year to come.

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SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Featured Songs

  1. The Dresden Dolls, Modern Moonlight, Yes Virginia…, Roadrunner, 2006
  2. Art Brut, Formed a Band, Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Fierce Panda, 2004
  3. The Black Angels, Black Grease, Passover, Light in the Attic, 2006
  4. The Black Angels, Young Men Dead, Passover, Light in the Attic, 2006
  5. Serena Maneesh, Drain Cosmetics, Serena Maneesh, Honey Milk, 2005
  6. Little-T and One Track Mike, Shaniqua, Fome is Dape, Lava/Atlantic, 2001
  7. Tim Fite, No Good Here, Gone Ain't Gone, Anti, 2005
  8. Love is All, Make Out Fall Out Make Up, Nine Times That Same Song, What's Your Rupture?, 2006
  9. Rhys Chatham, Die Donnergötter, Chatham: Die Donnergötter (The Thundergods), Homestead, 1987
  10. Grady, Ride Like Hell, Y.U. So Shady, N/A, 2004
  11. White Whale, Nine Good Fingers, WWI, Merge, 2006

Footnotes

sxsw.com SXSW Festival dresdendolls.com The Dresden Dolls' homepage artbrut.org Art Brut's homepage blogspot.com Sound Opinions at SXSW '06 pitchforkmedia.com Pitchfork windishagency.com The Windish Agency boomkat.com Spank Rock's discography metrochicago.com The Metro (Chicago club) beastieboys.com The Beastie Boys' homepage metacritic.com Awesome; I Fucking Shot That! theblackangels.com The Black Angels' homepage velvetunderground.com Velvet Underground's homepage austinconventioncenter.com The Austin Convention Center allmusic.com Serena Maneesh allmusic.com My Bloody Valentine wikipedia.org What's a shoegazer? serena-maneesh.com Serena Maneesh timfite.com Tim Fite's homepage outkast.com Outkast's homepage epitaph.com About ‘Gone Ain’t Gone' allmusic.com Lydia Lunch allmusic.com Rhys Chatham cpcaustin.org Austin's Central Presbyterian Church shadygrady.net Grady's homepage allmusic.com YU So Shady myspace.com White Whale mergerecords.com Merge Records thegetupkids.com The Get Up Kids allmusic.com Nick Drake pinkfloyd.com Pink Floyd's homepage elephant6.com Elephant 6 Collective's homepage allmusic.com Apples in Stereo allmusic.com Neutral Milk Hotel guardian.co.uk Why Murdoch bought MySpace thestrokes.com The Strokes' homepage katahdinsedge.com Katahdin's Edge homepage arcticmonkeys.com The Arctic Monkeys' homepage metacritic.com Whatever People Say I Am…