SXSW Redux

Just a quick retrospective on South By Southwest 2010:

Even with a badge, I found it was hard to get into some of the bigger shows if you didn’t get there early enough.

I would say that this year there were a few big name bands, and a zillion unsigned bands/bands on small indie labels. The thing is, is that there are so many bands that you can pretty much just pick and choose whatever interests you regardless of the what the “big shows” are supposed to be. There were a large amount of bands from foreign countries, which I though was cool…many from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Japan etc. Also I ran into plenty of other people in bands i knew who were playing “unofficial” South By southwest shows as well as some very good “street corner bands.”

Many people have complained that it has gotten too big and too corporate, but I felt like the grass roots stuff is still there if you’re looking for it and for me it was a great opportunity to see bands from all over the world I had never heard of that I might never have got a chance to see otherwise. Also usually when I hear that an event has gotten too big, I know that it’s something i’m going to be interested in(too corporate and it just becomes a pop art experience.) I’m not one looking to preserve some cozy “down home” sort of atmosphere in a community.

Moving on, I suppose it’s subjective and everyone has different tastes…but some bands that I thought were cool/interesting were:

Judgement Day (a three piece “string metal” band from Oakland that played a couple free shows just on the street)
http://www.stringmetal.com

Kings Go Forth (from Milwaukee)
http://www.kingsgoforth.com/

Crystal Antlers
http://www.crystalantlers.com

The Magic Wands
http://www.myspace.com/themagicwands

Casiokids (from Norway)
http://www.myspace.com/casiokids

Ben + Vesper (New Jersey?)
http://www.benandvesper.com

But looking through the schedule, there were tons of bands, and one could find pretty much find any type of music they were looking for. Most of the memorable bands I saw weren’t on my schedule and just ones that I sort of stumbled across while walking around…so in my experience there is still plenty of opportunity for newer music to be discovered there.

It’s rare for me to experience new music, as I never check out new bands and pretty much live in a 1960’s time warp
as far as music and movies…rarely venturing out past the anything from the late 70’s…the exceptions being nostalgic stuff from my childhood and adolescence back when I used to live halfway in the present.

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Never a lightning rod salesman around when you need one

Saturday afternoon, after grabbing a turkey burger from Johnny Rockets at Fashion Square in Scottsdale, I cruised over to Tempe to distribute promotional materials and stumbled into the gigantic arts and crafts festival on Mill ave…which reminded me of South By Southwest except with less hipsters and more old folks. Still, I love going to these and wish the arts and crafts festival went on every weekend even though that would just cheapen the coin of the realm and less people would go. It always seems like the artifacts one could pick up at these types of events could lead to some cliche
horror movie haunting along the lines of the clock in “Amityville 1992: It’s About Time” Speaking of which, Megan Ward was so hot in that! Whatever happened to her? Many of my most romantic sexual fantasies from the 90’s involved her and that scene where she is seduced by her own reflection. As a further digression, I had a talking PeeWee Herman doll when I was a kid..the one where you pull the string and PeeWee says one of his catch phrases like “I know you are but what am I” etc. And I swear that occasionally that thing would just somehow talk on its own, which scared the shit out of me. It creeped me out so much that I made my mom hide it in the
closet.

The night at Casey Moore’s brought to town a metaphoric carnival of sorts, with various sideshows of drama, suspense, bearded ladies, merry go rounds and mirror mazes(sorry I have been reading Something Wicked this Way Comes and have these things on the brain.) I drank more than usual, so I wasn’t myself. Yes, I’m a lightweight, and two full classes of wine gets me more inebriated than I need to be and sets me off into full on mischief mode. I was trying to protect a super drunk girl who epitomizes female perfection from some really ugly, wack and disgusting guys…although it sort of turned out the girl didn’t want to be protected and was semi-enthusiastic about said dudes….which triggered a sort of “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” moment where I’m Dr. Miles J. Bennell and just discover by way of passionless kiss that someone near and dear has been replaced by a pod. Anyhow, as I’ve mentioned I’m reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which, aside from being a great book title, sounds a lot like the type of prediction I’m likely mutter to myself at the start of each day. The last time I saw the film version starring Jason Robards was when it initially played a plethora of times on HBO back in 1984. It terrified me as a small boy, but for some reason I could never resist watching it whenever it came on, usually in the mornings. It affected me deeply..and “the most beautiful woman in the world” as an evil temptress sequences may have contributed to my misogyny later in life(as well as induced some premature stirrings of sexuality down there.) I remembered how frighteningly traumatizing the movie was for me, and so I never saw it again even when I got older…but I think I’m ready now.

I bought a snazzy black denim jacket from American Apparel, which fits right in with my new phase of only wearing combinations of the colors “black and white”

Gold Man Sakas

So I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advanced copy of Jonathan Sakas‘(pronounced like “say kuss”) debut album “Albatross.”He had previously released an EP “Death of the Iceman.” Jonathan has been around in the Phoenix music scene for years, and I recall seeing one of his bands play at Plaid in late 2006 era. He has only recently began to break out and make a name for himself.

Being somewhat of a minimalist, I knew immediately that I would like Jonathan Sakas’ “Albatross” when I saw that he used “one word” song titles for each track(Grapes, Oysters, Striker, etc) The songs themselves are not minimalist but rather extremely well polished, proficiently performed, professionally produced quasi-masterpieces.

A variety of synthesizers and other electronic instruments are made use of, with some guitar sounds thrown in here and there. My favorite track on the album is the first song “Striker,” which is peppy and catchy, as in will be sure to catch your attention. The other potential hits are “Porridge,” the third song and also “Marie” which has an excellent keyboard intro that seems to scream “instant pop phenomenon.” Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so, as “Marie” was selected to be on the new Zia Records Compilation CD slated to come out in the near future. That’s quite a testament to the quality of the jam, given that there are a zillion established Phoenix bands and “Albatross” hasn’t even been released yet.

There tends to be a stigma in Phoenix against acts that appear to take their music seriously. People look at you as if to say “Who does this guy think he is? Why doesn’t he have his shirt off and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in his hand like the rest of us?” It’s part of the ‘white trash chic’ mentality that plagues much of the Southwest. The reality is that Phoenix as a whole probably doesn’t take itself seriously enough. Jonathan Sakas represents just the kind of 21st century artistry this town desperately needs.

If Jonathan keeps at it and doesn’t get distracted by ordinary life prospects or seduced by constraining relationships, I foresee a future of national tours, sold out amphitheaters, New Times music awards, indie label deals and all around success. When Jonathan Sakas starts to hit the big time, remember you heard it here first.

Jonathan Sakas “Albatross” Album Release Party
Friday, Apr 2 8:00p to 11:00p
at Phoenicia Association, Phoenix, AZ

have you compared it to intellivision?

So on Saturday I saw The Like(who were great) and Minus the Bear then Casio Kids and a few other bands. Nothing too eventful…spent quite a bit of time at the Beauty Bar late in the evening, mostly just standing around looking creepy since I didn’t know anyone…although I did run into Elisa and some other people I recognized from Phoenix. And I think I said something to Elisa like “you look great did you just break up with a boyfriend or something? girls always look great after they break up with a boyfriend” which she didn’t know whether to take as a compliment or not.

Sunday the festival was mostly over. I caught a screening of “The Lost Boys” at the Alamo theater. Right before it they had an old commercial for the Intellivision video game system from the early 80’s. The people in the audience were laughing, but I remember what a great console it was. At a birthday party as a kid I watched some older relatives play an epic game of “Tron Deadly Discs” getting further than anyone I’d ever seen, all the way to those guys with the wands who kill you instantly.

Lost Boys was great, but it made me kind of sad not just because of the death of Corey Haim, but because I had just watched the movie recently on a lovely first date with a girl who most likely didn’t think our dates were as lovely as I did. I remember I told her that “The Lost Boys” was sort of a modern day story of peter pan, but with vampires, which she said she never knew that or thought about it that way.

My last night in Austin was awful, since I made the mistake of eating at Stubbs BBQ and got food poisoning and so I ended up spending the entire evening vomiting my brains out. I feel better today though. Man, I am so glad to be out of Austin. Seriously, I never want to go to Texas again.

in like flynn

So I got to see Neon Indian last night, which was great. It was crowded though and smokey so I left after a few songs. Man. people in Austin LOVE to smoke cigs. They are all so oblivious about it too. They are just like “hey I’m Texas! Fuck y’all. Eat my smoke!” It’s annoying because inhaling all their carbon monoxide wreaks havoc on my sinuses and makes me all mucousy.

So, as I was walking down 7th street toward the Beauty Bar, who did I run into but my old friend and roommate Abe from Treasure Mammal…who I lived with at Del Rio in Fall 2003. He was in town playing some shows. He asked me if I was playing, but I told him I was just here promoting stuff.

Also something amazing happened on Friday night I was strolling around 6th street in tourist hell…and I saw a dude that looked just like someone I knew back in the day…guitarist Dan Flynn. So texted Mark Schoenecker and told him there was a Flynn doppelganger at South By Southwest…and he was like “That’s Him!”

So I went up to him, and we bro’d out for a bit. Turns out he was here with his band “Kings Go Forth” to play a bunch of shows. They are playing at The Galaxy Room tonight so I have to remember to go. One time when we were kids he went to school with a girl that I liked…so I told Flynn to make up this story about how he and I were at a party together and that “some fresh girl was on my tip” in order to make her jealous or create the illusion that I was likable to the opposite sex. BUT what ended up happening is when he told her that in the cafeteria she was like “Brandon! I fucking hate that kid.” And she tried to get people to kick my ass…but they didn’t because one of the guys’ girlfriends went to MY school and she lived by me so I gave her a ride home everyday. True story.

Finally, last night the most outlandish thing happened: It was late at night, around 2 or , and I was watching drunk broads come out of the bar and eyeballing them…when a sober girl came up to me and said “what’s up”. So I said hi, and then she was like “Are you from Phoenix?” and I was like “yeah.”
She said she’s seen me around a lot, especially at Casey Moore’s! She thanked me for making the trip all the way out here and we high fived…which is as close as I got to a make out session last night as I wasn’t in the mood to bottom feed or settle because that just gives you buyer’s remorse later and makes you want to cry in the shower.

Today is cold as balls! and windy too

one little two little three little indians

So internet access has been super sparse….but I promise an extensive recap of this entire trip when I get back on Monday. I’m going to see metric tonight, neon indian and the crystal antlers…a band that I only remember because they posted an craigslist a couple years ago that their van had been stolen with all their gear in it, and i think they had a Farfisa. Austin seems to get rowdy at night as i have seen a few fights…but it’s mostly out of town bros and such. The locals are friendly and laid back. I’m using one of those public computers so I feel like with each tap of a key a zillion microbes are attaching themselves to my fingers. Must wash hands. These last few entries have been planet gay, but I promise some proper narcissistic ramblings shall be forthcoming.