sxsw 2009, day 4 (the wooden birds (2x), peelander z, joe pug, lou barlow, say hi, rosebuds, ra ra riot)

March 22nd, 2009

The ridiculousness winds to an end…

I started the day at the Artz Rib House with some jumbo beef ribs. Delicious stuff.

After that I headed to Okay Mountain, an art space in what appears to be an old service garage, to see the Wooden Birds. Okay Mountain was throwing a pretty cool party there. Bands playing out of the garage out onto the gravel parking lot. A few dozen people were hanging out and watching the music.

The Wooden Birds, if you haven’t heard of them, are Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set, Michael Bell of Lymbyc Systym and a few others. Their sound is very reminiscent of AmAnSet–which is great because I love that band. They played a really great set. The mix was just about perfect–particularly impressive because there was only a PA for the vocals; the guitars and bass were amplified only by their amps and the drums were unamplified. The band was tight, as were the harmony vocals; the voices mixed well together, too. They performed mostly tunes off of their forthcoming album as well as one AmAnSet tune, “Aaron and Maria”.

Great stuff here. I’m really glad I went to see them.

Blueblood (myspace) were playing when I got to Jackalope. I wasn’t a fan of their bluesy rock, so I headed over to the Mohawk.

Peelander Z (myspace) was who was performing there. They’re a Japanese punk band. Honestly the music is crap, but if you take it as performance art, it’s interesting. They have all sorts of antics–the bass player was wearing a giant monster costume when I arrived, for instance. A rotating cast of costumes was to be seen throughout their set. They also did things like invite audience members to play their instruments, go into the audience themselves, crowd surf, do some human bowling (pictured), and have the audience chant song lyrics such as “mad tiger”. It was quite an experience.

Some kids were giving out free hugs. Did you get one?

Death to Anders (myspace) was up when I got back to Jackalope. They play distinctively-voiced rock, but with some quirks to it. I wasn’t particularly into their set.

If you’ve been paying attention, know I like Joe Pug (myspace). I’ve had him on KZSU and loved his live show. Here he played a short set–just four songs–to a sparse crowd, but I was struck once again how good Pug’s songs are. He played a couple new songs–like “Bury Me Far From My Uniform”–and a couple old ones–he finished with “I Do my Father’s Drugs”. The set wasn’t long enough, but I loved the performance.

After Pug, I went over to the Hometapes party to see Peter Broderick, but they were running more than a full band behind, so I took off. I wasn’t too distraught because I got to see him recently.

My evening schedule was simple: go to the Barsuk/ Merge showcase and stay there.

Wooden Birds were up after I got there. I hadn’t intended to see them twice–when I saw them in the afternoon, I thought I might not be able to get into the showcase. Seeing them twice in a seven hour time frame didn’t diminish how good it was. They put on a similar set and it was similarly great. My notes for the show also include the phrase “rad as f*ck”.

Next, Lou Barlow (myspace) performed with Imaad Wasif (myspace). The two performed on guitars, Barlow on acoustic and Wasif on both acoustic and electric. Only Barlow sang. Sound-wise, it was what you’d expect from that: it sounded like acoustic Sebadoh tracks (or acoustic Lou Barlow solo tracks). They performed Barlow solo tracks and at least one Folk Implosion song–which included Wasif. There was some intricate guitar work and I love Barlow’s voice, but I came away feeling a bit lukewarm about this set.

Say Hi (myspace) was next. I had heard some of their songs but I wasn’t overly familiar with their stuff. This three-piece plays pretty straightforward but rousing indie pop/ rock songs with some nice interlocking melodic lines on the guitar and bass. They played the entirety of their latest (and Barsuk debut), Oohs and Aahs and then one older song (“Northwestern Girls”, I believe). The whole band played well, but the drummer was particularly into it. Overall I liked their set and I would have bought their CD if they’d kept their merch out until later in the show.

Up next was the Rosebuds (myspace). They’re a four-piece that performs synthy indie pop. The sound also leans on their male/ female vocal dynamic. Without an album to promote, they were free to play what they wanted and it seemed, a lot of crowd-pleasers. They played well, though, personally, I don’t see the attraction of their music.

I’d seen Matthew Caws of Nada Surf earlier in the night and around this time saw M. Ward and Britt Daniel of Spoon–looks like these artists came out to support their labels, which is pretty cool.

Ra Ra Riot (myspace) ended the night and, for those in attendance, South by Southwest 2009. Ra Ra Riot performed their bass-driven, orchestrated rock as a six-piece–standard rock instruments plus violin and cello. The set was lively and they played well.

So that’s the end of South by Southwest, at least for this fan.

sxsw 2009, day 3 (flatstock, mumford & sons, oh no oh my, rural alberta advantage, fanfarlo, low anthem, chiwoniso, laura marling, deer tick)

March 21st, 2009

After ridiculous consumption of bands on day 2, I took it a bit easier yesterday.

I started the day at Flatstock 20. It’s a traveling expo that features hand screen posters and shirts. It travels to various festivals–I last saw it at Bumbershoot a few years back. I walked around with wide-eyes and I wanted to open my wallet at just about every booth. The quality of work by the artists displayed this year is pretty amazing. If you like limited edition show posters at all, I’d swing by the convention center sometime through Sunday and check it out.

Music-wise I started the day at the Flamingo Cantina (and the Under the Radar party) for Mumford & Sons. I’d listened to their songs on myspace before and seen their black cab session but I honestly wasn’t too impressed. This show certainly changed my impression of them. They played a great and upbeat set filled with four-part harmonied, lively folk songs along the lines of Johnny Flynn. The guitar player had a bass drum and a tambourine on foot pedals that kept the band driving along. He was accompanied by electric banjo, keyboards and keyboards. This set was a nice pleasant surprise and a good way to start the day.

Next up, I headed to the Creekside Lounge. Ferraby Lionheart (mypsace) was playing to about a dozen people when I got there. I stopped and listened to him for a while. He plays with a band usually, he said, but he was playing solo with a guitar and harmonic this day. He’s got decent chops and songs but I found them to be undistinguished.

Oh No Oh My (myspace)–Now Without Exclamation Points™–were up next. They’re sort of a known quantity for me–they’re fun and put on good shows and I always enjoy them. It’s not life-changing but that’s alright by me. This show was no different. They played a number of tunes off of their latest release, the DMITRIJ DMITRIJ EP as well as some of my older favorites, like “I Have No Sister”. Also, I always think it’s really cute when band member’s parents are in the audience. (“Dad, get me some water! Gawd!”[1])

After the Rural Alberta Advantage (myspace) killed it at Central Presbyterian on Thursday, I had to drag my friend[2] who had missed that show to see them. It was hot and the sun beat down on the back lot of Homeslice Pizza when we got there. Their set was shorter but overall pretty similar to the previous day, with the exception of “In the Summertime” which they added to this set. It was not quite the revelation that their church show was–how could it be–but they still put on a great set.

Both before and after the RAA at Homeslice, San Francisco’s Still Flyin’ (myspace) played. I felt that, with a lot of people on the stage and a high energy and upbeat vibe, they were headed in the right direction, but I didn’t like their songs.

After hanging out with friends for a while, I got back to the music with Fanfarlo (myspace) at–you guessed it–Central Presbyterian. Having not gone to that venue at all last year, I found myself there a lot for good bands and great acoustics. Starting with “I am a Pilot” and ending with “Harold T. Wilkins”, the set was short but great. Last year already Fanfarlo had worked up some nice instrumentation to their songs, but it’s gotten even better, with the standard rock instruments being tastefully augmented by trumpet, violin, clarinet and melodica.

There were two bands next at Central Presby. Both were the Low Anthem (myspace). One was loud and rocked out. They appeared for about two songs. The other was very subdued, gorgeous and highly soporific. It was also ethereal at times, with bowed glockenspiel adding to an interesting sonority. Despite running on little sleep already, I liked this latter version of the Low Anthem quite a bit. I had only heard things about them before–I hadn’t really heard any of their stuff–but I’ll definitely have to check more now.

I skipped down Congress to Copa for Zimbabwean Chiwoniso (myspace). With a much more diverse crowd than the average SxSW show and Zimbabwean flags waving in the audience, it seemed like a good audience for this singer and mbira player. Quick aside: her mbira was a standard wooden one but it was mounted in a round metal can of sorts and had a pick-up. I hadn’t seen one like this before. She put on a pretty short set–four or five songs, but with two sing-alongs where she’d teach the audience a part and then sing and play on top of it, it was a lively and participatory show. She’s a masterful mbira player and writes nice songs.

I stopped back at the Central Presbyterian to see a bit of Laura Marling (myspace). I saw her back in September when she toured with Johnny Flynn and liked that set, but this one didn’t do it for me as much. Playing as a two piece–with Marcus from Mumford & Sons playing backup guitar, mandolin, percussion and whatnot–it just sort of flowed from one song to the next without much to distinguish itself.

I headed over to the Habana Bar Backyard after that. Tim Easton (myspace) was on when I got there and played for quite a bit. He and his band sort play in that Drive By Truckers-like southern rock/ country rock vein. I really disliked this set. I found it to be bland and I thought it didn’t bring anything to the table.

After that, though, I got to see Deer Tick (myspace). Having seen them only briefly (last year at SxSW, I was happy to see them again. Last year’s set was acoustic whereas this one was electric–except when the upright bass made an appearance–and they’d also moved from being a 3 piece to a 4 piece, adding a second guitarist. John McCauley has really studied the old time rockabilly/ country sound, as is obvious from his songs and his choice of equipment, including his Fender Mustang guitar. They put on a lively and upbeat show. I was sort of expecting–and wanting–more of the acoustic sound I heard last year–but it was still a pretty good set.

Only one day left! Holy cow!.

Check out more of my day 3 photos online.

[1] This quote is fictional.

[2] By the third song of Rural Alberta Advantage, this friend turned to me and said, ‘I hope they’re selling CDs.’

sxsw 2009, day 2 (french miami, red verse, two sheds, tallest man on earth, the wrens, avett brothers, passion pit, le switch, j tillman, eli paperboy reed, rural alberta advantage, a classic education, sgt dunbar and his hobo banned, ohbijou, my latest novel)

March 20th, 2009

Wow. What a day. 16 bands (I think I can count), including a few fantastic ones.

I started the day at The Bay Bridged’s Bay Area Takeover at the Beauty Bar with French Miami. I’ve talked about these SF locals plenty before. They put on a solid set. They were tight and put a lot of energy into their set.

The Red Verse were up next. They were pretty standard indie rock with a bit of jangle to them.

Two Sheds (myspace) came up next. I love these guys, but I hadn’t actually seen them in a while.

They started off with “Good Intentions”, their excellent track on the latest Bay Bridged comp and they ended with “It’s Hard”, my favorite track by them and a long time song obsession. A great set by this band. I left thinking that I shouldn’t forget that this band is incredible.

I went around the corner to Red 7 to see Tallest Man on Earth. I’ve listened to his Shallow Grave possibly more than any other album this year so far. He put on a short but great set with clear, nuanced vocals and rapid, precise guitar work.

After that I took a break. By “take a break”, I mean stand out in the midday sun in a long line while hearing the sound bleed from a dozen different bands in a dozen venues. Not that I’m complaining.

When I finally got into the Brooklynvegan/ Paste show at the Radio Room, the Wrens (myspace) were about to go on on the outside stage. It was hot and crowded out there, but the guys put on a really great show. The whole band was going for it, but Kevin Whelan, the bass player was all in–he was yelling out in the crowd, climbing up onto amps, and throwing his bass into the air. I couldn’t believe someone was going all in for a 3pm show. When the closing notes of their closing number, “Hopeless”, rang out, the audience cheered like few I’d heard at SxSW so far.

North Carolinians the Avett Brothers (myspace–pronounced “AY vett”, it seems–were up next. I’ve been quite liking their Second Gleam EP and the other things of theirs I’ve heard. I’d also heard they put on a great show. I’d heard correctly. The two brothers, Seth and Scott, seem like they are foils of sorts. Their voices match pretty well, but Scott, who plays drums and banjo and sings, has a hard edge on his vocals and playing, a bit of a punk edge. Seth, who plays guitar and sings has a bit of softer edge. In performance both are high energy and engaging. Also, the upright bass and cello both added nicely into the mix. Great show.

Passion Pit was up next. I don’t want to like “Sleepyhead” but it is catchy; I decided to stay for a bit and check them out. I didn’t find their set very engaging. They played decently and it got some people moving, but the music felt a little lackluster and their banter/ stage presence fell flat.

I headed over to the Aquarium Drunkard/ My Old Kentucky Blog show at Peckerheads next. Le Switch (mypsace) was up. They played pretty standard indie rock. They have the normal guitar, bass, drums, keyboards but they add trumpet/ violin. They had fun on stage, but their music didn’t do it for me.

After the problems hearing J Tillman (myspace) yesterday, I was glad to have the chance to see him again. Despite a somewhat chatty crowd, I could hear him much better and he played a great, gorgeous set filled with some of my favorites like “Jesse’s Not a Sleeper”, “Crooked Roof”, and “Seven States Across”.

Quick anecdote: during the first song, one of the sound guys carried an amp onto the stage and Tillman said, to people’s shock, “get the fuck off my stage”. Then he went into a few minute monologue–in the middle of the song, I remind you–about how that was something his friend John Roderick said to him once and how he’d vowed to say that to someone else.

Eli Paperboy Reed (and the True Loves) was up next. Coming on stage with short-sleeve button-up shirt tucked into his pants and a crisp hair cut, he very much looked the part of, well, not a soul singer. But his voice is something else entirely. While not approaching the greats (Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson), he does have a good set of pipes.

He seems to have studied the old bands, though, and has some of those conventions down: the band starting and then a drawn out introduction of the singer by one of the band members. And he also introduced the band members, each with a solo, during a musical vamp. It was a good set–his band was tight and Reed is a good showman.

I then headed over to Central Presbyterian for the Rural Alberta Advantage (myspace).

But, first, San Francisco’s Girls were up when I got there. They played a set with jangle rock and 70s rock influences all over it. The audience was receptive, but I don’t get it myself.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that I love Hometowns, the Rural Alberta Advantage’s album–it was my third favorite album of 2008 in fact. Given that they haven’t toured the US, I was pretty excited to finally see them. With Nils on guitar, keyboards and lead vocals, Amy on keys, glockenspiel, percussion and harmony vocals and Paul on drums, the band looked small in the expansive church.

They seemed a bit nervous and the tempo dragged in the first song, but they settled in pretty quickly and played an incredible set. (My notes for this concert say “holy crap that was great.”) They were personable between songs and during them Nils and company played with drive and energy. You could feel the audience being won over by them.

During the second to last song, the band walked out into the audience and finished the song. Then they did a song–their “goodbye song”–completely acoustic in the middle of the main aisle and the whole audience hushed to listen. The end effect was stunning.

Bologna, Italy’s A Classic Education (myspace) played a set at Rusty Spurs after that. A six piece with standard rock instruments plus violin, they played a decent set of indie pop with some twee moments. They started and ended well, but I felt the set waned in the middle.

I’d heard about Sgt. Dunbar and his Hobo Banned and wanted to check them out. They played a set to a sit-down audience at Esther’s Follies. With eight people on smallish stage playing a million instruments–including guitar, trumpet, fluegelhorn, French horn, baritone horn, banjo, banjo-uke, bass, guitar, saxophone, accordion, musical saw, violin and more–they were constantly bumping into each other. Everyone played multiple instruments so it was a bit confusing if you were trying to keep track of who was playing what.

They mixed rowdy songs–making me think of Port O’brien–with more nuanced ones well. They, too, played the last song without amplification, out in front of the stage. It was a good set, but not tremendous.

I rushed across town to the Ranch for the Bella Union showcase. Ohbijou (myspace) was up first. I liked their set in October at the Hemlock and they delivered again. With subdued, gorgeous songs and beautiful harmonies, this band isn’t going to rouse anyone out of bed, but it was pretty enjoyable nevertheless.

Who plays a set at SxSW that’s shorter than their allotted time? No one, right? Everyone’s scraping to play one extra song. Except My Latest Novel (myspace). I enjoyed their album Wolves but hadn’t hard much from them since. I was pretty excited when I saw them on the schedule for this showcase. The mix was a little light on the vocals so it was a bit hard to make out, but they played a good set of Scottish-style indie pop with a little of the build-decay that bands like Arcade Fire are known for.

I think I can go home now–I’ve seen a lot of great stuff. Two more days left, though.

Check out more photos from day 2.

SxSW 2009, day 1 (theresa andersson, marching band, deastro, phenomal handclap band, j tillman, horse feathers, thao, morning benders, keenan bell, blk jks, camera obscura)

March 19th, 2009

I arrived at the IODA party at Emo’s Annex right as Theresa Andersson (myspace) was being announced. This was immediately followed by a set of technical issues. Theresa’s resulting set was only a few songs long, but she made the most of it, putting on a lively set that got people dancing. I once again found her looping impressive and ridiculous. I can understand if her music’s not for everyone but this performance put a smile on my face.

Marching Band (myspace) was on next. This Swedish band put on a fun set of indie pop, though it wasn’t particularly distinguished. I was a bit distracted during their set so I may want to give them another try.

Detroit’s Deastro was next. They put on a set of dancey rock. The singer put in a good amount of energy. In the end, though, their music wasn’t for me.

I caught a few songs by the latest buzz band the Phenomenal Handclap Band next. They had eight people on stage–two keyboards (one keyboardist doubling on vocals), two singers, bass, two guitar, and drums. They were funky and had lots of people into them–and lots of people at the venue just to see them, it seemed. They wear their 70s funky rock influences on their sleeve and I think I would like them more if I liked their influences more.

I rushed over to the Mohawk to see J Tillman (myspace) and I shouldn’t have. Not that Tillman didn’t play well, but the first part of his set on the inside stage overlapped with thrashy and loud Young Widows outside and the sound bleed ruined the fragile intimacy of Tillman. He tried to make the most of it, turning up his guitar and joking “Who am I playing with here?” Once the set outside finished and I could hear Tillman’s set a little better, it was gorgeous. Still, the environment kept it from approaching the amazing set of his I saw at last year’s SxSW.

I left the Mohawk and was headed to 6th Street to see Joe Pug play when I heard a familiar sound at Club Deville. It was Horse Feathers. I took a detour immediately. It turned out to be the Bitch Magazine party. This version of the Horse Feathers was playing as a four piece. It was the three same people I saw in October–Justin on guitar plus a violinist and a cellist–but they added a fourth here on banjo, violin and percussion. I really liked this line-up. It was gorgeous and beautiful, just as the last time I saw them, but the arrangements were also a bit more fleshed out and the percussion on the last track added a little oomph.

After the Horse Feathers set, I ran into some friends there and decided to stay for a little bit of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (myspace). She’s an SF local these days, but I haven’t seen them before. What I saw of her set was upbeat, a bit dancey and included jazz, rock and other influences. She put in a good amount of energy–she even joked about being out of shape and needing more stamina between songs–but the music didn’t do it for me.

While I was at a Texas Music Office function at Saengerrunde, I caught a song by Hayes Carll. It was solid Americana. I wish I’d been able to stay for more.

In the evening I headed to Hearya’s party at the Paradise. The first band up when I got there was the Morning Benders (myspace). They played a solid set, but the sound was pretty atrocious. For me, standing midway back in the venue, the sound was marred by both a bad mix–it was very bass heavy, had little guitars or keyboards–and by the stone walls which reflected the sound badly. I’m an unabashed fan of the Benders and I feel like this wouldn’t have been a good introduction to the band.

Keenan Bell was up next. He performs a brand of hip-hop that seems to be for the–*cough* white–indie kids. Backed by a band that mixed samples and live instrumentation, it was like an indie band with an MC. It really got the crowd moving. The mix was worked a lot better for this band, thankfully. I’ll have to take another listen to his recorded stuff, but I think it may be something I enjoy live but don’t listen to the records of.

South Africans Blk Jks (myspace) were up after a long break due to problems with amps and guitars. During the break venue had DJs between sets and not the indie rock DJs types–the loud club DJ types. Some people enjoyed this but it got old for me.

Anyway, the band went on and did a set of songs that mixed rock, funk and African influences. I found the songs where they displayed more of the African influences, like “Lakeside”, were my favorites. Their set was fun, but the music didn’t do a lot for me overall. I think I’d really like to like Blk Jks more than I do.

After that I dashed over to Central Presbyterian for Camera Obscura (myspace). In a pristine church, the hipster masses crowded the pews and sat in the aisles. Camera Obscura put on a good set and the acoustics of the venue were gorgeous, though the mix did lose things like the harmony vocals entirely. They were certainly one of the more polished bands I saw in the day. They debuted some new tunes and the effect of that and waning after a long day in the sun made for a fairly high attrition rate during their set. All in all, though, they put on a good set in a gorgeous venue.

So that’s day one of SxSW. Stay tuned tomorrow for more coverage.

heading to sxsw

March 17th, 2009

at SxSW last year

I’m leaving for SxSW. All of my coverage through at least Sunday will be SxSW related. There won’t be any of my weekly features during that time, including this week’s ticket on sales and song obsessions.

I’ll be writing daily recaps here, but I’ll be using twitter once again to update throughout the day on great shows, bands to check out, etc. Follow me at twitter if you want to get those updates.

If you’d like to contact me, I will have access to emails/ comments, but my response may be a little slow, so please be patient.

numero group’s latest gem: Downriver Revival

March 16th, 2009

Every time an album with religious themes is reviewed, it seems the writer feels the need to clarify his personal position on religion. Reviews of the bitches-and-hos varieties of rap–do they clarify their position on bitches and hos? Regardless, I figure that there’s good music inspired by faith and good music inspired by secular themes.

Everything that Numero puts out is great, but Local Customs: Downriver Revival has to be one of my favorites yet. With a mix of gospel, soul, rock and funk, this album collects recordings between 1967 and 1981 that Felton Williams made in his basement in Ecorse, Michigan–Detroit’s down-river neighbor. Initially they were issued on Williams’ Solid Rock, Cass, Compose, and Revival labels.

The collection is solid throughout, but among the highlights have to be the four tracks from Shirley Ann Lee. They’re all drenched with great vocals and they alternate between frantic, rousing, uptempo numbers and slower ballads. Then there’s the old-school-gospel-like-you-see-in-the-movies of the Gospel Supremes’ “Sinner Man.” There’s lo-fi, home-recording-like songs like the selections from Coleman Family and The Revelations. The compilations winds this way and that, through soul and jazz, funk and rock before ending with a full gospel choir.

Shirley Ann Lee – There’s a Light (mp3)

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Pilgrim Wonders – He Never Failed (mp3)

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The 24 track compilation would probably be worth the price by itself, but it also includes a DVD with 200 sound recordings (demos, sermons, rehearsals, outtakes, etc) and a documentary about putting the collection together.

Buy Downriver Revival from Numero Group or Amazon.

Irish music isn’t all U2, Chieftains and Pogues: 14 great traditional Irish tunes for St. Paddy’s Day

March 16th, 2009

I have nothing against the Pogues or U2 or the Dropkick Murphys[1]. Black 47 was probably my first exposure to “Celtic” music. But there’s always something around St. Paddy’s[2] Day, where I start cringing: there’s a lot of great Irish music that people don’t get

Before we get into this too much, I’ll admit I have my tendencies: I love reels and hornpipes; I love fiddle and uilleann pipes. I’ve tried to balance those tendencies out with some vocal songs and slower songs.

I’ll post this a day early so you have a day to get into it. The zip file of all these tunes is at the bottom.

14 great traditional Irish tunes for St. Paddy’s Day 2009

  1. “The Salamanca/ Trim the Velvet”
    The Salamanca is my favorite Irish reel. It’s just a great tune. And this live version has so much energy to it.
    Seamus Connolly & Brenden Mulvihill – The Salamanca/ Trim the Velvet (mp3)

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  2. “Jolly Beggar/ Reel”
    The Jolly Beggar[3] is best known as a reel and this version eventually goes into that, but it starts with the song. Planxty is one of the groups that popularized the Irish bouzouki and the bouzouki work on this song is great.
    Planxty – The Jolly Beggar/ Reel (mp3)

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  3. “Walsh’s Polkas”
    Polkas aren’t just for Polish music. Patrick Street is made of up some hard hitters in the traditional Irish world–they’re still playing, too, I believe. You’d recognize one of their songs (“Music for Found Harmonium” is used at the end of Napoleon Dynamite), so here’s another one.
    Patrick Street – Walsh’s Polkas (mp3)

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  4. “Floating Crwobar/ McGlinchey’s/ the Almost Reel”
    Lunasa is one exciting band, both live and on record. It’s probably my favorite of the current crop. Their guitar and bass rhythm section adds a backbone to their solid melody instruments. Here’s the song that got me hooked on them.
    Lunasa – Floating Crowbar/ McGlinchey’s/ The Almost Reel (mp3)

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  5. “The Dawn/ Music in the Glen”
    Leo Rowsome is credited with keeping the uilleann pipes alive in a time when there wasn’t a lot of interest in them. He was also a heck of a player, as you can tell in this tune. It takes a lot of control to go into the upper register of the pipes and he just seems to fly through third octave while playing the regulators at the same time.
    Leo Rowsome – The Dawn/ Music in the Glen (mp3)

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  6. “Peggy’s Nettles/ Butlers of Glen Avenue/ Mountain Top”
    Danu’s another current band that’s doing well with the traditional material. Interesting arrangements and good players are key to their sound. This one does particularly well switching between the three reels.
    Danu – Peggy’s Nettles/ Glen Avenue/ Mountain Top (mp3)

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  7. “The Banks”
    78s were pretty important in the continuation of traditional Irish fiddle music. People often cite the 78s of fiddlers like Michael Coleman as inspirations and sources for songs. This track comes off of a collection of Irish fiddle tunes from old 78s.
    Louis E. Quinn & James O’Beirne – The Banks (mp3)

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  8. “Flags of Dublin/ Wind that Shakes the Barley”
    Seamus Ennis was an ethnomusicologist, song collector, and uileann piper. He a particularly loose and fluid–open, as its called–style on the pipes. While he’s not technically perfect, he’s a joy to listen to.
    Seamus Ennis – Flags of Dublin/ Wind that Shakes the Barley (mp3)

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  9. “Stick to the Craytur” (aka the “Humours of Whiskey”)
    I absolutely love this drinking song. It’s clever and it’s got a good narrative arc. It’s got a great tune and a nice lilt to it.
    The Green Fields of America – Stick to the Craythur (mp3)

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  10. “Roll out the Barrel/ Lafferty’s/ House of Hammil”
    I love the bow work and the sliding, driving Sligo fiddle style style on this one.
    Kevin Burke & Dale Russ – Roll out the Barrel/ Lafferty’s/ House of Hammil (mp3)

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  11. “Banks of Red Roses”
    I’ll be the first to admit that this song isn’t slick or pretty, but that’s sort of what I like about it. This is an old ballad.
    De Dannan – Banks of Red Roses (mp3)

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  12. “The Blackbird”
    The Bothy Band may be my favorite traditional Irish band and it’s in no small part due to Paddy Keenan being their piper. He’s the best uilleann piper alive, in my opinion. This shows off his virtuosic control of the instrument. The full band comes in later.
    The Bothy Band – the Blackbird (mp3)

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  13. “Sunnyside”
    Niall and Cillian Vallely are two talented brothers. Cillian is the piper–he’s also in Lunasa. Niall plays the Irish concertina. Here’s a nice duet of the two
    Niall & Cillian Vallely – Sunnyside (mp3)

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  14. “Colonel Fraser”
    Jerry O’Sullivan comes to uilleann piping from Scottish piping, where there’s often more emphasis on precision and it shows here. Colonel Fraser is a wonderful hornpipe and here it’s delivered perfectly, not a note out of place.
    Jerry O’Sullivan – Colonel Fraser (mp3)

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Ipickmynose 2009 Irish Mix (zip file, mediafire)

[1] I do, however, have something against the Chieftains. They play watered down versions of traditional songs for the PBS crowd.

[2] Paddy is a much more common version of the name in Ireland than Patty, so I’m going with Paddy.

[3] I don’t endorse the thematic matter of this song.

elvis perkins in dearland @ cafe du nord (photos, review, etc.)

March 15th, 2009

It’s midnight and the stage may well be shaking. Guitars, bass, and brass instruments are crowding the stage and a guy with an old-school marching bass drum hanging from his shoulders is hopping around while wailing on it. The band and crowd are into it.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland (myspace)–the full band version of Elvis Perkins–played the Cafe du Nord on Wednesday night. Tim Eriksen, both solo and as ‘Tim Erikson’s Shape Note Extravaganza’ opened.

Even with the opening act billed as it was, I was a bit surprised to see and hear a Sacred Harp group on stage. I’ve talked about Sacred Harp before and I even recognized one of the people on stage from the Berkeley’s Sacred Harp singing that I sang at. The group was good and the crown was receptive.

Everyone but Eriksen left after a few songs and he performed a few more only on fiddle, banjo and vocals. He had a really good grasp on the old-timey music and style. I really enjoyed his short set.

Elvis Perkins and his band went on stage after a lengthy break–one that, honestly, made be a bit antsy in its length. But when the band entered the stage and started to play some of its new songs, sounding good, I relaxed. It’s a big band: Elvis covered guitar and vocals; there was also a bassist, drummer, keyboardist/ trombonist/ guitarist and a trumpet player that joined the band for a few songs.

The front part of the set, the band played new songs. Elvis Perkins in Dearland with its New Orleans brass and rock tendencies, is quite different from the sparse songwriting of Ash Wednesday. I certainly like the new album, though the jury is still out on where it stacks up on a larger scale. In any case, the songs came across well live and the band was full of energy. A highlight from the early part of the set was was the slow New Orleans dirge of “I’ll be Arriving”, performed with the drummer crouched on the floor, banging a marching a drum and shaking bells.

Near the end of their set, they started to throw in songs that aren’t on the new album. One that Perkins introduced as “a song you may recognize” was “Ash Wednesday”. They did two J.P. Reese-penned Sacred Harp songs,
“Weeping Pilgrim”–which Perkins recently recorded a version of–and “Weeping Mary”, I believe. They finished up their set with perhaps their best known song, “While You Were Sleeping.”

Encores are a bit of a ruse and we know it. After minutes of clapping, the audience was slowly dying down when Elvis came back out. He did a request, “123 Goodbye” solo before bringing band back on to do a rousing version of “Doomsday”, which is where we began our story here.

song obsession friday! (for the week ending March 13)

March 13th, 2009

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
the Welcome Wagon – But for You Who Fear My Name (mp3) (buy)

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I’m not quite sure where this one came from. I heard it a few weeks ago and then didn’t think much of it, but during my show on Tuesday I thought to play it. Since then, I’ve been hitting the repeat a lot.

From the Vito of Vito’s Ordination Song comes this Sufjan-produced track. It’s got a real old-time hymn quality to it, a timeless melody. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Sufjan’s version of the actual old-time song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Fantastic Something – And I Love Her (mp3) (buy)

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With all the information available at our fingertips from wikipages to sound files it’s getting more and more difficult to make completely uninformed impulse purchases. Remember those days when you’d flip through bins and pull out something because of the label or the cover or the band picture? Well here’s a great example – this dead-on 60’s orch-pop ripoff was completely unknown to me at the time but once I hit song #3 on this ep a lasting obsession began.

Bound Stems – Taking Tips from the Gallery Gang (mp3) (buy)

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Nadja – Stays Demons (mp3) (buy)

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.tape.’s glitchy sample pop

March 12th, 2009

Tape and Light, 2nd Effort
Tape and Light, 2nd Effort by Status Frustration

I have a good memory for bands. I’m not bragging; just saying it like it is. It’s a burden sometimes, actually. Say you meet a friend of a friend at a party and she’s in a band. Of course I’ve heard your stuff, you say. And then there’s this awkward pause where the ‘it’s good stuff’ should go and she realizes that you don’t like her band. It’d be easier if I just didn’t remember the band. Or if I was good at lying.

My friend sent me some .tape.–“dot tape dot” according to the CD spine, or “punto tape punto” according to the myspace URL–tracks back in 2002. They were good but sort of got lost in the shuffle over the next years. I hadn’t heard about them or seen anything about them since until his album came in to KZSU a little bit ago.

Not for playing at a party or dancing to; this is music that’s more suitable to listening to on headphones while the scenery rolls by on a train. It’s glitchy, sometimes quite atmospheric sample pop and it’ll probably draw comparisons to Four Tet or the Books. It’s quite pretty.

.tape. – Rosa Luxemburger (mp3)

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.tape. – Rounded Tree (mp3)

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The album, Tomavistas: Selected Rarities 2002-2007, which came out last year, is available from insound.