South by Southwest 2011 Music recap, Part I: The Headliners

“There’s music everywhere you go, all the time, which is just a beautiful thing.”

The 25th anniversary edition of the South by Southwest Music Conference & Festival went down in Austin, Texas this month and it was one to remember. The festival once again featured everything from semi-secret shows by arena-level headliners to all the latest “buzz” bands, to ’80s favorites looking to make a comeback. This wide mix of talent is exactly what makes SXSW so unique. With somewhere around 2,000 bands playing at roughly 200 venues over five nights, it was pretty much heaven on Earth for live music junkies.

The festival keeps growing in attendance every year, so the urban chaos factor has been increasing too, leading NPR to describe the massive city-wide party as seeming like “one big crowded bar.” It did have that vibe at times, but isn’t that kind of fun? Indeed, it is. Traffic often did look like a nightmare (you gotta have a bike, people) and there were a couple unruly incidents this year. But if you’re a party professional, there’s really nowhere you can have a better time, not to mention being able to mix business with pleasure if you’re a music industry pro. It’s the influx of party amateurs that threatens to mess up a good thing.

Two incidents exemplified this: the gate crashing at Auditorium Shores when the free show by the Strokes on Thursday had filled to its 20,000 capacity, and the mini-riot that took place at the Beauty Bar on Saturday night after it had filled to capacity for Death From Above 1979, who were billed only as “special guest.” But there’s just no excuse for such behavior. There’s only, like, 200 other shows going on at any given time; if your first choice is filled to capacity, then go see someone else, This is why planning is key – you always want to have two or three potential choices in any given time slot, because you never know when your top show will either be at capacity or across town from where you’ve wound up and don’t really care to travel to at that moment.

Bringing or renting a bike is key. A bike also allows you to zip back and forth to have maximum flexibility to see your most preferred shows. It’s simple Vulcan logic. The other great thing about having so many choices is that SXSW can mean so many different things to so many different music fans. It’s all out there, as every genre is represented. You can focus on one or sample them all like the massive musical buffet that SXSW is. If you’re not having a great time, you’re just not trying. Here follows one Gen-X rock ‘n’ roller’s musical menu, broken down into headliners, other evening showcases and day parties.

The Headliners

Foo Fighters, Stubb’s BBQ

SXSW Music has traditionally run from Wednesday through Saturday. But this year they decided to add some showcases on Tuesday evening as well. Yet there seemed to be something missing compared to the past two years. There was no blank spot in the Friday night lineup at Stubbs BBQ for a semi-secret arena level headliner (which turned out to be Metallica in 2009 and Muse in 2010.)

But then something stood out on the Tuesday schedule for SXSW Film – the world premiere of The Foo Fighters’ new rockumentary “Back and Forth” at the Paramount Theater, with the program stating that Music badges were good for admission to the screening. Then word came down through a local music blog’s Facebook page early on Tuesday – a Stubbs employee said the the Foo Fighters would be playing a “secret” show at Stubbs that night. Was it invite-only, or would which badges would gain admittance? This was unclear. But applying Vulcan logic, it was easy to conjure a likely scenario – if you attended the film, you would get into the show at Stubbs, because wouldn’t it just make sense to play the show for the people who were big enough fans to attend the film premiere?


Read the rest after the jump...

Indie artists to record John Prine tribute

The eclectic individuals over at Consequence of Sound let us know that OhBoy Records will be releasing a John Prine tribute album on June 22. Acts on tap for Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs Of John include Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, My Morning Jacket and The Avett Brothers.

Here’s the tracklist:

01. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver – Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow)
02. Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band – Wedding Day In Funeralville
03. My Morning Jacket – All The Best
04. Josh Ritter – Mexican Home
05. Lambchop – Six O’Clock News
06. Justin Townes Earle – Far From Me
07. The Avett Brothers – Spanish Pipedream
08. Old Crow Medicine Show – Angel From Montgomery
09. Sara Watkins – The Late John Garfield Blues
10. Drive-By Truckers – Daddy’s Little Pumpkin
11. Deer Tick featuring Liz Isenberg – Unwed Fathers
12. Those Darlins – Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian

I guess I’m not too surprised that nobody is covering the cheesy, yet hysterical “Dear Abby.” I remember both of my parents enjoying Prine when I was growing up, and this was the only song that made an impression on me. I avoided him until I got older when I suddenly decided to spend some time with more of his songs. What can I say? “Illegal Smile,” “Sweet Revenge,” “Down By The Side Of The Road” — so many good ones.

I could care less if you buy this album, but I do think John Prine deserves more recognition from the younger generations.

  

Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk


RIYL: Hem, The Weepies, Bittersweets

The term “super group” is bandied about all too frequently, often arousing great expectations that are rarely fulfilled. The door to disappointment is left wide open; participants hedge when it comes to contributing their best songs or find their creativity stifled when compromising to serve to other egos. Yet while it’s rare to witness the second coming of an all-star outfit like Blind Faith or Crosby Stills and Nash, a blending of big names inevitably cranks up the curiosity factor regardless.

On the other hand, a summit session involving lo-fi provocateurs M Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Jim James (AKA Yim Yames) might be greeted with some hint of suspicion, given the fact none of them is known for emphatic exposition. Surprisingly then, this, their first recorded collaboration, comes across as significantly more inviting and accessible than just about anything these individuals have managed on their own. While the name of the conglomerate indicates a tongue planted firmly in cheek, the songs themselves are straightforward and sincere. What’s more, given the fact that the songwriting is shared collectively and that all the instrumentation is doled out between them, the set is surprisingly consistent, showing equal input from all four contributors. And though most of the music is on the mellow side, the melodies make an emphatic impression – from the folkie sing-along of “Man Named Truth” and the gentle caress of “Magic Marker” and “His Master’s Voice,” to the breezy country sway of “The Right Place” and the steady ascent of “Whole Lotta Losin’” and “Ahead of the Curve.” They’ve done their ongoing outfits proud, while making what may well be the best album of their collective careers. (Shangri-La 2009)

Monsters of Folk MySpace page

  

Your favorite band sucks: bands and artists the Bullz-Eye music writers just “don’t get”

Every music lover has been there – in front of the television or a set of speakers, listening for the first time to the work of a critically revered artist whose songs are supposed to change the way you look at the world…only to come away wondering what all the hype was about. For the iconoclastic among us, these moments are opportunities to prove what independent thinkers we are; for everyone else – a group that often appears to include virtually every name-brand music critic on the planet – they’re opportunities to turn off your ears, nod your head, and smile. What kind of self-respecting music writer doesn’t love the music of Bruce Springsteen? U2? Elvis Costello? A total hack, right?

Your favorite band sucks Maybe. Or maybe we tend to forget that one of the most wonderful things about art is the utterly objective way we respond to it. One establishment’s treasure can be one lonely listener’s source of constant befuddlement, consternation or outright rage – and with that in mind, your Bullz-Eye Music staff put its heads together and drew up a list of all the bands and artists we’re supposed to love…but don’t. Each of the writers who contributed to this piece is speaking solely for himself, and you’re sure to disagree with some of the names mentioned here – and, of course, that’s sort of the point. But enough of our introductory babble – let’s break down some critical idols!

The Doors
“…don’t even think about describing their sound as “timeless”; you’ll be hard pressed to find music as trapped in time as these peyote-fueled dirges, and no one summed up the life and legacy of Jim Morrison – whose death was as brilliant a career move as you’ll ever see – better than Denis Leary: ‘I’m drunk, I’m nobody. I’m drunk, I’m famous. I’m drunk, I’m fucking dead.'”

Bruce Springsteen
“Perhaps Jello Biafra put it best when he referred to Bruce Springsteen as ‘Bob Dylan for jocks.’ But I can sum up what I dislike about the majority of the Boss in one word: Glockenspiel.”

Pink Floyd
“If you’re 14 and discovering pot, Pink Floyd’s a must. Hell, Dark Side of the Moon is practically a gateway drug in and of itself. If you’re out of high school and still into ’em, you’ve got a problem.”

Conor Oberst
“…his songs are duller than a steak knife in a prison cafeteria. I’ve tried repeatedly to ‘get’ Oberst’s work, but each time, I come away further convinced that his music is an elaborate prank hatched by the editors of Pitchfork.”

To read the rest of the bands Bullz-Eye doesn’t get, click here.