Tag Archives: the walkmen

Top 40 Albums of 2012 (20-1)

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A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my Top 40 Albums of 2012 (check it out here).  The first half of the list is always easier to compile than the final 20.  With this, the top half of the list, I find myself swapping albums from one spot to the next, trying to refine my list to the perfect order. Of course, this “perfect order” is never truly found. On one day I’d much rather listen to my number 17 than my number 5 and vice versa. I can promise you, all of these albums are fantastic.  In order to come up with a definitive order, I took into account the overall significance of an album, not just which has the best collection of songs, but which is the perfect album – the themes, the order of the songs, the cultural significance. Within those parameters, I had no doubt what would be the number one album of 2012. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

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The Walkmen “Heaven”

The Walkmen

“Heaven”

[Fat Possum / Bella Union; 2012]

Rating: 8.8

Despite what NBC’s Olympic coverage would like you to believe, some of the most amazing feats performed during the 30th Olympiad have been in the Skeet Shooting competitions.  Vincent Hancock’s super human performance, hitting 148 out of 150, was only challenged by Kim Rhodes eliminating 99 of her 100 clay pigeons on the female side. Both were record-setting and unprecedented, yet I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be so close to perfection, with only one or two mis-steps in the way.  You can’t blame them – as humans we are far from infallible.  Even the greatest of athletes can have a moment of weakness (take the once indomitable Michael Phelps for example).

The same can be said for great musicians. Even the best artists have had their failed albums – Neil Young had “Everybody’s Rockin,” The Ramones had “Halfway to Sanity,” and Bob Dylan had “Down in the Groove.” So when I first listened to The Walkmen’s latest “Heaven,” I decided it must be the band’s first mediocre album. After an extraordinary series of five excellent albums (some may argue against “A Hundred Miles Off,” but they’ve probably never listened to it), I was okay with “Heaven” not continuing in the long line of instant classics.

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Top 40 Albums of 2010 (25-11)

25. Fresh & Onlys

“Play It Strange”

[In the Red; 2010]

Last year I purchased Fresh & Only’s self-titled album and thought they were just another garage band from San Francisco (don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing).  Boy was I wrong. With their 2010 release “Play It Strange”, Tim Cohen and his band of merry-makers have proven that with a little clean up and an emphasis on a 60s vibe, they are a band to be reckoned with.  The songs are still youthful in spirit but they’ve gained a maturity with the addition of production that clears the air surrounding their surfer guitars and Cohen’s mumbling baritone.  While other retro-outfits try to mimic a multitude of classic songs (Black Lips), Fresh & Onlys have made an album of songs that are completely original despite the fact that you swear you’ve heard them before on the local oldies station.

24. Male Bonding

“Nothing Hurts”

[SubPop; 2010]

It’s been a while since Sub-Pop has released an album filled with so many fast, fuzzy, frenetic songs (could it have been the early 90s?).  Whatever the case, the combination of Male Bonding and SubPop is a match made in heaven.  Male Bonding provide the label with that energetic noise that defined SubPop so long ago, and in return the label cleans the band’s grubby little punk songs up a bit.  Don’t worry – the production isn’t heavy handed, but just enough to allow the listener to enjoy the rowdy 2-minute romps without having to strain.   And “Nothing Hurts” isn’t all punk clamor all the time.  After bouncing your head around for 24 minutes like a bobblehead, the band provides a nice cool down with the final track “Worse To Come”.

23.  The Books

“The Way Out”

[Temporary Residence; 2010]

Usually with sampled music, there is a disconnect because humanity isn’t evident. We may take delight in the composition of the audio clips and the beats, but the enjoyment doesn’t go much beyond that.  This is not true with “The Way Out”.  On the album, The Books take samples of characters who either connect with the listener or expose their own weaknesses. Whether it be a little boy expressing his violent tendencies, a lonely man leaving a desperate phone message to a woman, or a creepy old man retelling the story of lil Hip-Hop.  Several tracks use the sounds of a man speaking about the self-help program auto-genics, and even though I think they are used for the purpose of humor, I’ve found myself on several listens actually slipping “deeper and deeper” into a meditative state.  And just when you think everything makes sense and that the music is really speaking to you, the band will throw in a joke like “The average human being only uses 5% of their brain. The other 95% is for…food.”  And in an instant, you feel like a fool for having such a deep connection to their tomfoolery.  There’s nothing quite like an album that mocks you, the listener.

22. The Roots

“How I Got Over”

[Def Jam; 2010]

A month ago I wrote of The Roots: “I worried that Jimmy Fallon had ruined The Roots like he’s done over the years to so many SNL skits and movies.  Then I heard their 2010 release ‘How I Got Over’ and it all made sense. By playing nightly within the confines of a show that no one watches, the band was able to continue honing their craft through a medium that also provided them with the chance to meet a variety of artists. These two elements are evident on ‘How I Got Over’, where track after track features another guest appearance to go alongside the bands compelling jams.  The difference with The Roots approach to the collective-style album is that there is never a question whose album this is: the band firmly has its fingerprints deeply pressed into every nook and cranny of ‘How I Got Over’.   When The Monsters of Folk softly sing an opening prayer on ‘Dear God 2.0’, ?uest Love’s pin-point drumming responds like a voice from beyond; when John Legend soulfully croons on ‘The Fire’, Kamal Gray’s constant pulse on the piano is the fuel that keeps the flame burning; when the sample of Joanna Newsom’s ‘The Book of Right On’ appears on ‘Right On’, Black Thought plays the perfect anti-thesis to her distinctive voice,  punctuating his point right on cue.”

21. Vampire Weekend

“Contra”

[XL; 2010]

Earlier this year I wrote of this album: “When I first heard the title for Vampire Weekend’s latest release, ‘Contra’, I prepared myself for disappointment.  An album named after the greatest video game ever? No chance of being good (okay, I’m pretty sure the Columbia graduates were referencing the counterrevolutionary guerrilla group, but stay with me here…). Fortunately, I was wrong.  Not only is ‘Contra’ excellent, but it shares the same attributes that made ‘Contra’ a classic NES video game. What made ‘Contra’ such an essential Nintendo hit was how it moved from the side-scrolling levels that take place in exotic locations to a 3-D first person approach, with Bill Rizer and Lance Bean battling aliens and robots while running up a confined, futuristic hallway, laser barriers and all. The balance between these two environments is what makes the game so memorable and replayable. Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” followed the Konami video game’s formula to a T.  The familiar tropical/classical/ska sound is still there, but amidst the bongos and African inspired melodies the band throws in a more futuristic approach. Every song features technological touches (sampling, drum machine, auto-tuner) but these modern sounds are added in sparingly, providing a refreshing new twist to the jumpy Vampire Weekend sound we grew to love a few years ago. Basically, it’s bringing a soundscape from out of this world to the jungle – the premise to ‘Contra’!”

20. Julian Lynch

“Mare”

[Olde English Spelling Bee; 2010]

In a glowing review from earlier this year I wrote: “Déjà vu is such a strange phenomenon. Is it just a series of circumstances that remind us of a past experience? Or is it a result of daily routines where it’s inevitable that events are bound to repeat themselves?  Or could it truly be that memories are timeless, that they float aimlessly through our mind, seeping in from the past, present, and future, creating a psychic horizon where there is no end or beginning? Whatever the case, Julian Lynch’s ‘Mare’ is auditory déjà vu, bringing you back to memories that never existed.  Something about Julian’s ambient psych-jazz resembles music you’ve heard before (maybe as a child, maybe on the ‘Finding Forester soundtrack’, or maybe in a dream).   The songs on ‘Mare’ exist in some way within our psyche, a collection of vivid arrangements that whisk you from one memory to another, then vanish just as you find yourself nuzzling up to the warm feelings that arise. You would swear that ‘Mare’ is a used record store discovery from the 1970s. At the same time, I think you would be hard pressed to find an artist in the 70s accomplishing what Lynch does with this album, an atmosphere from another place, another time.  At the risk of sounding cliche – it’s otherworldly while still being grounded in everything you know (or knew in another life).”

19. The Walkmen

“Lisbon”

[Fat Possom; 2010]

I don’t get how they do it. Essentially, every Walkmen album is based off the same three elements: a reverberating guitar, lyrics of heartbreak, and Hamilton Leithhauser’s incredible vocals (probably my favorite voice out there today).  Yet with each album, they are able to create something distinctive from other releases, although I can’t quite place how they are different. If you were to shuffle all of their songs, it would be difficult to find any major disparity between the songs. But when the songs are separated by album and placed among their peers, they suddenly become something more. “Bows + Arrows” feels like  a night in New York City, “A Hundred Miles Off” resembles Dylan when he first went electric, “You and Me” hearkens back to the 1950s age of courting, and with “Lisbon” the music somehow transports you to a romanticized Portugal where the sun always shines, even when you’ve just been dumped down in the Chiado.

18. Surfer Blood

“Astrocoast”

[Kanine; 2010]

An excerpt from my Summer Albums list: “Don’t let the youth of Surfer Blood fool you; these kids understand the power held within their six-strings.  The guitars of Thomas Fekete and John Paul Pitts complement each other in the same way I imagine it may sound like if Doug Marsh and Dick Dale joined forces.  The band succeeds at blending the surfer guitar licks of old with distorted riffs reminiscent of Pavement.  Back in March, I’d been listening to ‘Astrocoast’ two weeks leading up to SXSW, but when I actually saw them perform, all thoughts of it simply being a happy rock album were erased.  Watching the guitar work of these Florida youths had me in awe.  At first glance, ‘Astrocoast’ is simply fun, but if you delve deeper there is a darker beast brooding beneath the surface; a creature that craves to devour your pop sensibilities and digest them whole.”

17. Sufjan Stevens

“Age of ADZ”

[Asthmatic Kitty; 2010]

From a review this fall: “The songs on ‘Age of ADZ’ remind me of a lot of the literature of Kurt Vonnegut, a strange declaration, I’m sure.  Vonnegut is often referenced as a ‘science fiction’ author, but this label doesn’t sit well with me.  Yes, Vonnegut often wrote of time travel, aliens, and life on other planets, but it’s not done in the same way a Phillip K. Dick or a Ray Bradbury would approach it.  He isn’t writing of these places and events to entertain nor is he trying to convey them with realism. Instead, he’s using them as a vehicle for conveying a larger message about humanity.  The songs on ‘ADZ’ are done in such an over-the-top space-age motif that it’s difficult to take them serious, which in the end is the point. On surface it’s an album of robot take-over and the arrival of Judgment Day, but any able-minded person knows that Sufjan is talking about the demons within his soul, battling it out, not of UFOs and killer volcanoes.”

16. Laura Veirs

“July Flame”

[Bella Union/Raven Marching Band; 2010]

Some would like you to believe that the best album by a female singer/songwriter in 2010 was by Joanna Newsom, but they’d be wrong.  That honor goes to Laura Veirs and her highly underrated “July Flame”. Veirs could easily depend on her more intimate tracks that showcase her and her guitar executing the songstress routine, but she understands that to keep the listener engaged you have to switch things up, and each song takes her unassuming voice from one northwest terrain to the next. “I Can See Your Tracks” resembles a jaunt through Fleet Foxes territories, “Little Deschutes” takes her depressingly down to the water’s edge, and “Summer is Champion” transports us down memory lane to the days when The Decemberists were still entertaining. And she does takes you through all of these fabulous faunas within one 13 track CD. Beat that Joanna.

15. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

“Before Today”

[4AD; 2010]

I can still vividly remember the first time I listened to “Before Today”.  I was alone in Iowa City, driving around aimlessly, trying to find the venue where Lightning Bolt was playing that night. Frustration is usually the emotion associated with the sensation of being lost, but instead Ariel Pink’s drugged out mix had me giggling to myself as I passed one strange street after the next. Was this guy for real? It wasn’t just simply a band trying to sound retro, it was a sound completely pulled from the 70s.  Plus, the lyrics were over-the-top and completely self-aware.    Yet, this isn’t a comedy album. In fact, “Before Today” features 12 of the most memorable pop songs you’ll hear in 2010 (or in 1978). Now, I can’t help but imagine Iowa Hawkeye football players Johnson Koulianos and Nate Robinson sharing a joint while listening to Ariel Pink’s “Before Today”.  Oh, the crazy drug-town that is Iowa City, Iowa.

14. Quest For Fire

“Lights From Paradise”

[Tee Pee; 2010]

Quest For Fire is not a stoner rock band, despite what you may have heard. I struggle to believe that pot-heads can even keep up with this epic shoe-gaze-psych-fuzz.  Stick to your simple Pink Floyd because “Lights From Paradise” may cause flashbacks. The opening track is called “The Greatest Hits By God” but the album might as well share this title because these songs will take you to a higher level of understanding of the world that surround us.  The grungy guitars would suggest that this is an angry rock album, but Chad Ross’s calming voice shrouds you with positive energy, all held within the distant distortion. “Lights From Paradise” is tranquil and heavy, all at the same time. If anything, this music makes you feel stoned without any drug intake required (plus, there are no munchies).

13. Kanye West

“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare”

[Def Jam, Rock-A-Fella; 2010]

I almost feel like I have to try explaining why “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare” isn’t in my top ten, or in the number one spot for that matter. It seems like every major music list is naming it the top album of 2010 (SPIN, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc).  Let me first say that there are some great songs here: “POWER”, “Dark Fantasy”, “All of the Lights”, “Monster”, “So Apalled”, “Runaway”, “Blame Game”, “Lost in the World”. The fact that I just named seven kick-ass songs out of ten should say something about how solid this album is from start to finish. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself singing “All of the lights!” while shopping for groceries or “This shit’s ridiculous!” while cleaning my room. At times I get annoyed by how much these songs have rubbed their stamp into my brain like a comic strip on silly putty. There is no denying that Kanye has a gift for memorable choruses and rhymes.  BUT, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare” is not the earth-shattering album that some have suggested. It’s not the in-depth psycho-analysis of a crazy man. The only thing insane about Kanye is that he’s insanely rich.  And honestly, if you want an album of a man who is lost and depressed, check out Sufjan Steven’s “Age of ADZ”, but then again, it won’t be nearly as fun or memorable as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare”.

12. Swans

“My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky”

[Young God; 2010]

At first I was afraid of Swans; I was petrified. I read a few positive reviews of “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky” and decided to check it out. After listening to two songs I turned it off. I didn’t get it. Why was this band considered to be legendary?  Then a few weeks later, while talking on the phone with fellow BDWPS contributor SongsSuck, he asked if I’d listened to “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky” yet. After getting off the phone, feeling like a fool, I downloaded the album and sat down to give it a good, honest listen. This time I wasn’t bored with the opening track “No Words/No Thoughts”; it literally pained me to listen to the echoing church bells, the ominous organs, and the black metal crackling of the guitars.  I once again turned off the music; his name is SongsSuck for a reason. Then, only a few weeks ago, as I drove across the desolate plains of Kansas, something came over me. In that moment, that chaos that scared me months earlier seemed oddly intriguing.  I quickly found The Swans on my iPod and commenced listening to what goes down as one of the most captivating hours of music I’ve ever experienced.  Once the shroud of noise dissipates, Swans front man Michael Gira emerges with a pummeling series of doom- sludge-dirges, and then they suddenly come to a stop to allow room for the occasional brooding ballad. I guess SongsSucks may like songs after all.

11. The Tallest Man On Earth

“The Wild Hunt”
[Dead Oceans; 2010]

For Christmas my mom gave me Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series Vol. 9”, and I’ve been listening to the two disc collection of early recordings a lot the past few weeks.  I’ve always preferred the bootleg releases of Dylan because they are so raw – the guitars squeak, the tape recorder occasionally slips into a muffled state, Bob’s voice cracks and he even forgets words.  It’s as real as Bob as his music get. The Tallest Man On Earth’s “The Wild Hunt” gives me the same feeling of simplicity.  His grisly voice speaks honestly, out in the open without any back-up singers or basslines to interrupt.   The guitar thumps and crackles as Kristian Matsson nimbly fingerpicks and madly strums from one song to the next.  There is no need to polish what Matsson has on “The Wild Hunt”: 10 great folk songs that will have your full attention from start to finish. But while Bob Dylan wrote propaganda songs about the ills of the world, Matsson simply writes great songs about what’s right.

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Top 100 Tracks of 2010 (75-51)

 

75. “Doubt”

The Corin Tucker Band

I always thought Carrie Brownstein was the more punk rock of the ladies in Sleater Kinney. I always thought she had the fire, the anger, and the edge that counteracted Corrin Tucker’s more feminine approach. I was wrong. So wrong.

 

74. “Stranded”

The Walkmen

I’m a sucker for trumpets, especially when they sound this damn dreamy.

73. “Theme From ‘Cheers””

Titus Andronicus

Looking back on my year, one memory that stands out the most is when me and BDWPS contributer PtheStudP visited Cheers in downtown Boston.  After a two-hour marathon at a beer festival, our tour guide Steph led us to Cheers where her friend Justin was bartending.  What I thought was going to a quick tourist visit turned into hours of drunken splendor. Soon the variety of beers and shots somehow turned into a night of boisterous chanting of  “U-S-A!”, “Lord-By-ron!”, and “Tom Arn-old!”  This song brings me back to that night, not necessarily because of the reference to Cheers in the title, but the chorus that could have easily been one of our chants that night: “So let’s get fucked up, and let’s pretend we’re all okay, and if you’ve got something you can’t live with, save it for another day. Save it for another day.”

72. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

The National

After carrying The National’s Matt Berninger to Ohio, I’d like that same swarm of bees to visit Jim Tressel’s house.

71. “Tame On the Prowl”

The Medications

In most cases, my adoration of The Medications stems from trying to untangle the vine of intertwined guitar licks in each song.  “Tame On the Prowl” continues this tradition, but also features a melody that will quickly wrap around your Hippocampus.

70. “Whores; The Movie”

El-P

Not only is “Whores; The Movie” a stellar song, but it would also make a great movie (preferably in 3-D).

69. “Leave You Forever”

Cloud Nothings

I could never leave this song forever.

68. “Apartment Wrestling”

Maximum Balloon (featuring David Byrne)

If you’ve ever wondered what TV On the Radio would sound like if they joined forces with The Talking Heads, it’s as amazing as you expected.

67. “Grief Point”

Destroyer

This is not really a song, rather an audio-short-film, or an audio-psycho analysis, or maybe just the ramblings of a confused artist. Whatever the case, this eight minute insight into the mind of Dan Bejar and his view of music at this point in his career is fascinating.  Earlier this year, Bejar discussed ending his recording career altogether (fortunately he didn’t with a new album coming out soon), and this B-side to his “Archer on the Beach” EP captures him in the midst of this confusion of what role his music plays in both his life and his listeners.  Plus, I just like the imagery of “picnic baskets filled with blood”.  Call me a hopeless romantic!

66. “Fresh Hex”

Tobacco (featuring Beck)

“Maniac Meat” is such a fun fucking album and on “Fresh Hex” Beck joins the party, giving the album his own fresh take on their energetic sound.

65. “Pop Culture (revisited)”

The Ponys

The Ponys originally formed in Chicago back in 2001, and one of their earliest songs was “Pop Culture”.  For whatever reason, this song never made it onto a major record, only being heard during live performance.  I can still remember them playing this song when I first saw them live four years ago.  But in 2010, with the release of their song EP “Deathbed Plus 4″, “Pop Culture (revisited)” was finally released from captivity, and it sounds as lively as ever.

64. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”

Frightened Rabbit

Water has always represented rebirth, and on “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” singer Scott Hutchison swims not only for a renewal, but also to feel alive again.

 

63. “You Must Be Out of Your Mind”

The Magnetic Fields

This past year I’ve had to learn how to forgive others, and also tried to gain forgiveness for those I’ve hurt.  In both cases this isn’t the easiest of tasks.  As the person who was wronged, there is some agitation with the idea that by simply saying “I’m sorry” that everything goes back to the way they were. They don’t and they never will. But as the person asking for forgiveness, you can’t “simply press rewind” and things will be they way they once were no matter how bad you would like them to.  Stephin Merritt’s snarky lyrics take on the persona of the one burned, and his stance can be either an anthem for moving on or a eulogy for a relationship (depending one what side of the forgiveness fault-line you stand).

 

62. “Waterfall”

Fresh & Onlys

The Fresh & Onlys are time travelers, but instead of going to the past, they’ve come to us from the 60s, bringing with them a sound that has been long forgotten. Amazingly, a song like “Waterfall” grows out of the oldies, yet sounds like nothing else on the radio.  This is the type of song that would lead Marty McFly to say, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your grandparents loved it.”

 

61. “Below the Hurricane”

Blitzen Trapper

At first this seems like a beautiful little folk song, but halfway through the band kicks it up a notch with Doobie Brother’s persona that is sweetened with a couple drops of harmonica.

60. “I Learned the Hard Way”

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

The only thing I don’t like about this song is the fact that she never defines exactly what this guy did to turn her into such a bitter old maid.

 

59. “Mr. Peterson”

Perfume Genius

This eerie song tells the story of a teacher, Mr. Peterson, leaving a note on a student’s paper telling them to meet him at a certain time and place. For some reason, the narrator meets up with the teacher, smokes weed with him, and possibly has sex with him (although this event is only inferred).  When the teacher goes on to kill himself, the narrator doesn’t necessarily hold a grudge toward him. Instead, the speaker hopes that Mr. Peterson can find a place where he’s wanted, even if that place be hell.

So yeah, this songs kinda depressing.

 

58. “Moves”

The New Pornographers

After their lackluster 2007 release “Challengers”, I’d kinda written The New Pornographers off.  It just seemed like their sound had run its course and had no where else to go.  But on their latest release, “Together”, the band has found new ways to eek a little more life out of their collective, especially on a song like “Moves” that amps up their classic sound with a driving orchestral addition.

57.  “Suffering Season”

Woods

I made the mistake this summer of defining Woods as the next Neil Young. The falsetto vocals do conjure up images of Sir Neil, but a song like “Suffering Season” shows the band is influenced by many other voices of the past (possibly the Mamas and the Papas?).

56. “Girlfriend”

Ty Segall

In just two minutes, Ty Segall will have you singing along.  That has to be some type of record.

55. “Favourite Food”

Tokyo Police Club

Getting old stinks, a point this song pounds into the ground.  Not only have I had to face the facts that I’m no longer young, but my parent’s aging has become apparent, a notion that scares me.  When the lyrics say “cause it’s sweet getting old” followed by “Let the hospital be your home”, I can’t help but feel that Tokyo Police Club are being morbidly ironic. I would like to believe that there is some hope hidden within the metaphors of this riveting song, but I can’t seem to find them.

54. “Written in Reverse”

Spoon

With all that screaming and punching of piano keys, something must have really pissed Britt Daniels off. But unlike the Incredible Hulk, you’ll like Britt when he’s angry.

53. “Relief”

Sam Amidon

I really should start listening to some R Kelly.  A couple of years ago I couldn’t quit listening to Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s cover of R. Kelly’s “The Word’s Greatest”.   This year Sam Amidon, who is known for his modern interpretations of classic folk songs, switched his routine by taking R. Kelly’s “Relief” and giving it a more classic ambience. On second thought, I’ll just stick to people covering R. Kelly.

52. “POWER”

Kanye West

Even though it’s the third track on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, “POWER” is the introduction to the Shakespearan tale found on this album.  In it, Kanye portrays a man dealing with the struggles of being in power. At times he seems arrogant and aloof, but near the end of the song the listener begins hearing a man realizing that the one thing he doesn’t have power over is himself.  By the time the outro arrives, the speaker is standing on a ledge envisioning himself jumping, saying, “This would be a beautiful death”.

Oh, and did I mention it samples King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”?

51. “He Would Have Laughed”

Deerhunter

A lot of great musicians died in 2010 (Captain Beefheart, Ronnie James Dio, Mark Linkous), but the most devastating loss in my view was the death of Jay Reatard simply because Jay had so much left to create, so must potential.  Being friends with Jay, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox wrote “He Would Have Laughed” in dedication to the lost genius.  I’m not sure if the song is necessarily about Jay with its abstract lyrics, although there is something there within the lyrics “Where do all my friends go?” and “What did you want to be?”.  I think the connection to Jay’s life is found within the music its self, with the slow progression that eventually goes into a euphoric swell, but then, just like Jay’s life, the song just suddenly stops. Fuck.

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6. Road Trip 2008, Day 4 (continued): Brew Masters and Boy Bands


“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.”
Carl Sandburg

Since I needed caffeine to ease my aching head, we decided to seek out a coffee shop. Driving around Bozeman, I finally settled on Rockford Coffee, an upscale joint on the edge of town. Once inside the pristine cafe, we ordered breakfast burritos and one steaming hot mocha. We sat on the patio and talked about, what else, music. We began discussing how we each discovered rock and roll; I’m not sure how the topic came up. I explained to him that I hated butt-rock growing up. I loathed everything that I knew as rock: the bad hair, the make-up, the spandex, and the thinly veiled lyrics about sex.

“So what did you like then?” Paul asked.

“Eh, I guess R and B. In 7th and 8th grade, some friends and I sang in a quartet. We’d always perform Boys II Men and stuff like that.”

“Whoa, wait a sec. You were in a boy band?” Paul chuckled.

“No, we were just stupid kids. We’d sing at like the fair and shit.”

“Did you do dance moves? Have costumes?”

I moved on with my story, knowing if I didn’t Paul would obsess over my boy band days. My musical outlook changed on a frigid January day. I went snowboarding with my friend Mike Edmondson. He had these generic plastic “snow boards” with weak velcro straps. We’d ride Joe Hoye Hill, which usually resulted in us rolling down to the icy river. After a day of boarding and crashing, we went back to my house to warm up. Inside, my brother Nick had the “Singles” soundtrack playing on the stereo. I walked in and couldn’t believe my ears. It didn’t sound like rock, yet it wasn’t R and B. The guitar made strange bleeps and squawks over the rumblings of a tom drum. Then the smooth voice began singing, comparing love to a waterfall as the guitar emulated water cascading over a ledge. By the time the chorus kicked in with a charging riff, I asked my brother who we were listening to: Jimi Hendrix. At the time, I had never heard of Hendrix, and I actually thought he was some new artist since most of the “Singles” soundtrack contained up and coming grunge bands. A few weeks later I bought “Jimi Hendrix: Smash Hits” – the album that changed me forever.

The song that changed everything:

 

"Here's Ozzy!"

 

Paul said he always liked rock music growing up, most of which being the classic rock he heard on the radio while tending his dad’s fields. The problem was that he couldn’t let his parents know that he enjoyed rock and metal. His parents were fervently religious and saw rock music as one of the devil’s gateways. Since they would confiscate and dispose of his tapes and CDs, Paul began hiding his Black Sabbath and Neil Young around the old farm house: a hole in the wall, behind the book case, or under a ceiling tile.

As Paul told me his story, I wondered if the evil spirits of Ozzy and Tony Iommi still haunt the walls of the Peterson household. He told me he’d give me a tour of all his hiding spots when we stayed with his parents in a couple weeks. I looked forward to finally seeing where he grew up, although I feared what his parents might think of me.

We sat talking for a couple hours, which is kind of amazing considering we had spent the entirety of the past three days together. Afterwards, we made a stop at a gas station to refuel, get ice, and restock our water supply. Paul went to the restroom to finish what he started behind the dumpster, so I roamed around the beer cooler, examining the six packs from local breweries. Most of the beers were made in Montana, including one called Salmon Fly Honey Rye. Earlier in our trip, driving through Iowa, Paul pondered why brew masters didn’t experiment with Rye, and here was proof that someone had. I looked at the label to see what brewery it came from and found that it came from Madison River Brewing Company in Belgrade, Montana (a brewery I had somehow missed in my pre-trip research).

 

Now I'll begin my search for a pumper-nickel beer.

 

When Paul re-emerged relieved, I rushed over to tell him about my rye discovery. He held the bottle of beer in his hand like he had just unearthed the Holy Grail. Back in the car, he checked the atlas to see that Belgrade was only 10 miles west of Bozeman. Our afternoon plans were set.

Since it was too early to start drinking, we decided to waste some time roaming around downtown Bozeman. Tons of little shops lined Main Street, although most were of little interest. We finally made a stop at Cactus Records and perused the aisles. I couldn’t find anything because the place had CDs organized by very distinct genres: new wave, punk rock, hard rock, jazz, blues, swing, country, bluegrass, etc. I wondered if Beck’s albums were located together, or if “Midnight Vultures” sat in the dance area while “Sea Change” lay in the alterna-country section. It almost seemed like the store owner wanted to show off how many genres of music he knew. I’m still trying to figure out the difference between indie rock, alterna rock, and modern rock.

Empty handed, we returned to the car and began driving aimlessly . We had a couple hours to kill until the Bozeman Brewing Company opened. As we rolled by a park, Paul had the great idea that we should go take a nap. Neither of us slept well in the VFW parking lot, and I still hadn’t caught up on the sleep lost in Spearfish. We parked the car, ate some ham sandwiches, and headed out into the sprawl of green grass with pillows under our arms. I found a nice shady area away from the road and laid down.

 

"Never mind the homeless guy sleeping by your presents."

 

I fell asleep quite easily and remained in dreamland for a couple hours. Eventually, I awoke to the sounds of children laughing. I lifted my head to see a birthday party in progress just 20 feet from my resting place. I wondered what the parents thought about the two homeless dudes sleeping in close proximity to their little girl’s party. As I walked back to the car, Paul appeared from behind a tree; it looked like the festivities woke both of us from our slumber.

Back in the Element, the clock read four o’clock – drinking time. At the Bozeman Brewing Company, two dirty gray mutts greeted us with wagging tails. After a quick scruff of their hair, we made our way toward the brewery. The dogs wanted more loving, so they decided to follow us all the way to the doorway of the brewery, which just so happened to be propped open. Paul tried shooing the pups away, but they saw his arm movements as a gesture of play. No matter what we did, the little mutts remained on our tails.

With no other choice, we entered the brewery with the two dogs in tow. I walked up to the bar, trying to act like I didn’t notice the animals running around the brewery sniffing patrons. The female bartender scowled when she saw the canines terrorizing the brewery. She came from behind the bar and began chasing the puppies around tables and couches. She couldn’t corral the both of them and finally seemed to give up, marching outside and disappearing for a few minutes.

Paul and I exchanged guilty looks as our invited guests meandered over and at our feet, tongues flapping, tails wagging. She returned with a disheveled, shirtless man who looked like he just finished smoking a bowl. Visually flustered, he called the dogs names and they both ran to greet him. As he walked out, a dog in each arm, he apologized to the bartender. She glared at him as he left, and then turned her evil eye to Paul and me, still waiting for our beer.

“Uh, sorry about that,” Paul said sheepishly. She didn’t seem amused. We ordered our beers and took a seat as far away from the bar as we could. I had decent Amber while Paul drank an excellent Irish Red. We talked about student teaching for a while, with Paul sharing some of his experiences from the spring. I gave him advice, which is always weird. I never thought I’d give anyone advice – a task synonymous with being old and wise.

For our second round I had a Belgian Whit and Paul had the Plum Street Porter. The porter was definitely a standout with its chocolaty aroma and strong coffee undertones. It even had a little bit of a plum taste to it, a hint of sweet fruit freshness. At the time, we thought this was intentional due to the “plum” name, but after doing some research, the beer is actually named after the northeast area of Bozeman. The website mentions nothing about the purple fruit, leading me to believe that our beer tasting abilities may still need a little work.

 

We also enjoy the chicken flavor in Chick-O-Sticks.

 

As much as we were enjoying the Bozone beers, Paul couldn’t quit mentioning the rye beer from Madison River. We decided the time had arrived to venture to Belgrade. Paul apologized one more time about the dogs, she scowled once more, and we headed west. The Madison River Brewery was located in the back corner of a large warehouse, alongside a mechanic shop. Inside, the bar had a cozy log cabin vibe.

Paul of course started off with the Honey Rye, while I ordered the Irresistible Amber Ale. The rye tasted like nothing I’d ever had before, with a hint of spicy rye blended superbly with the malt and honey sweetness. I was surprised by the beer’s light and refreshing finish. I guess I expected a rye beer to be dark, like rye bread.

“Why don’t more breweries make rye beers?” I asked the bartender.

He grinned and replied,” because it’s hard as hell to do well. Rye has a pungent flavor in beer, so you have to be very careful with the amount you use. I try to go about 15%.”

Obviously, this guy knew his stuff. I finally took a sip from my Irresistible Amber Ale and instantly knew where the name came from. The beer went down smooth with a multitude of flavors swirling around my mouth: nutty, chocolaty, biscuity…it all seemed too familiar.

“This tastes a lot like a Fat Tire!” I announced to Paul.

The bartender, who was ease dropping, smiled and said,” Great, that’s kinda what I was going for with the amber.”

What “I was going for”? Were we talking to the mastermind behind these amazing beers? “You’re the brew master?” I asked.

“Yep. I don’t brew the beers anymore, they’re just my recipes. I come in and work once in a while just to check the quality of the latest batch.”

He seemed excited by my reading of his Amber. I took another sipb and knew my first assessment had been correct. It featured all the qualities of a Fat Tire but didn’t have any aftertaste. Could I have actually found an amber beer superior to Fat Tire? I continued drinking the Irresistible Amber and felt both joy and remorse in finding a new favorite beer. “This is the best amber I’ve ever tasted,” I announced.

“Thanks!,” he grinned. “Here, let me give you guys a taste of some of our other beers.” Since there is a state law limiting patrons to three beer at Montana breweries, he began pouring us samplers of everything he had on tap. By evening’s end we tasted eight different beers, with all of them being just as delicious as the amber and rye (although Paul didn’t like the oatmeal stout). As we went through each beer, he’d give us a quick run-down of what he was aiming for with each. It felt like Inside the Brewers Studio, and I was James Lipton. He explained that the hefeweisen had a hint of banana flavor, a quality common with Bavarian wheats. The pale ale, his favorite, might have been the best pale ale of the trip with a unique citrus meets hops combination.

 

 

"After a distinguished career as a field grain, divine intervention stepped in when you took your biggest role as an exquisite amber ale. How does it feel to be the sweet nectar of the Gods?"

 

While enjoying all of the man’s creations, we told him about our brewery road trip. A guy at the end of the bar overheard us and joined our group, enthralled by our journey. The brew master recommended some breweries we should check out, including a little joint in Pinedale, Wyoming called Bottom’s Up. The barfly asked us about our itinerary for the next few days, and Paul explained that we planned to climb Lone Peak. Paul asked about the Montana Woman’s advice to climb up the back side.

“She told you what? I’ve never heard of anyone climbing the backside of Lone Peak. Just drive south from here on 191 to the face of the mountain; it’s a beautiful drive,” he replied.

 

My version of souvenirs.

 

The brew master pulled out an atlas and showed me where we should enter Lone Peak. I wrote down the directions on a napkin. We decided we’d better get going with the sun starting to set. On the way out, I spotted a cooler filled with six packs and decided I needed to make a few more purchases before leaving. When I brought a couple sixers to the counter, he told me they were six dollars.

The barfly interjected,”Six dollars? I thought your six-packs were $7.50?”

“Um…we’re having an unadvertised sale today,” the brew master responded with a smile on his face. Paul decided to also take advantage of the “sale”, buying a couple six packs and a t-shirt.

We said our goodbyes, and they wished us luck on our journey. The brew master seemed to enjoy our company; I guess it doesn’t hurt that we gushed over every beer he offered. And it wasn’t like we were just kissing his ass: his beers were all distinctive, delicious, and satisfying.

Pulling out of Belgrade, Paul told me I would want to exit onto highway 84.

“But the guy at the bar said to take 191 to get to Lone Peak,” I protested.

“I still think we should try climbing the backside. That lady said it was a beautiful climb with waterfalls and stuff,” Paul explained.

“You’re still trusting that weirdo’s advice? Those guys both said it would be stupid to go that way.”

“Dude, she’s a Montana woman who has lived here for 25 years. She should know,” Paul said.

I was feeling too good from all the brews to argue with him. If he wanted to try the path less traveled, I was game. Heading down highway 84, we took in the majestic scenery while enjoying The Walkmen’s “A Hundred Miles Off”.

We listened to “Another One Goes By” as the sunset on another great day gone by:

When we came around one hilly curve, we found a picturesque scene before us with the real Madison River weaving through the valley, leading to the mountains in the distance. People all around us were enjoying their 4th of July weekend, kayaking, white water rafting, and fly fishing. We pulled over and walked down to the water’s edge, soaking up the natural beauty around us. I looked up at the cloudy blue sky and finally understood why this was called “Big Sky Country”.

We decided we needed to find a camping spot soon and got back on the road. 84 turned into 287, leading us through McCalister. Eventually we passed through Ennis, and I couldn’t help but notice all the saloons that lined the street. I wanted to stop, but I noticed none of them had the swinging doors often associated with saloons, so we drove on.

Finally, we came upon an inlet with a sign reading “Fish Hatchery”. We decided this could be considered public land, and made way up the gravel road. Eventually, we stopped next to a roadside tree, seeing it as a perfect cover for our fire – we still needed to cook supper. We set up camp quickly as the last glimpses of the sun peaked through the clouds, sending shafts toward the mountain peak we’d climb in the morning.

 

"Field of Dreams" has nothing on Montana.

 

Paul started a fire, then set a giant can of baked beans next to the red hot ashes. He explained their sentimental value. “I’ve had this can of beans for like five years. I’ve been saving it for when we finally took a road trip.” I don’t know if beans age like a fine wine, but my hunger at that point wasn’t going to be picky. To celebrate another successful day on the road, Paul pulled out a couple cigars. The combination of the aged beans and cigars brought back a memory from college, and I began telling Paul all about it.

As a 19 year old, I didn’t drink even though some of my friends did. With nothing to do in small town Iowa, we would head over to the “great” lakes region on Wednesdays to attend college night at a bar called The Marquee. Before we’d head out, my buddies would get shit faced while I smoked cigars, occasionally inhaling the black smoke to get just a hint of the buzz my friends were enjoying.

One of these nights, our driver disappeared from the bar (he either got kicked out or left with a girl) and my friend David Nitchals and I were left without a way back to Estherville. David talked Brian Bandow, a guy from our town, into driving us. Since he drove a little S-10 pick-up, I had to ride the 20 mile trek in the back. They made a quick beer run for the ride home (real safe), so I went in and bought a pack of “fancy” cigars, with each of the three stogies encased in test tubes.

Back on the road, I couldn’t get the cigar lit with the wind blowing me all around the trail bed. I was already in one of my moods, feeling sorry for myself and wondering what I would do with my life. At that point, I had no clue, attending community college just to push back the task of actually making a career choice. I looked down at my test tube cigars and decided I would smoke them when I did something with my life. I would smoke one when I got married, one when I had my first child, and one when I bought my first house. At that time, I had no idea what I wanted from life, so these three things seemed like the goals a person is supposed to have.

 

My test-tube babies.

 

After telling my story, Paul took the beans off the fire and opened them up. Inside laid a mushy cream, resembling refried beans more than baked beans. I had one bite and was done while Paul gobbled up the gruel. Looking up at the pink and purple mountain sky, I thought about those three goals, set 10 years ago and still unattained. If I had a wife and kids, would I be sitting here in Montana? If I had a house would I be able to afford to take this trip or even leave the place unattended for two months? My life priorities had changed a lot since that night in Bandow’s truck bed. I watched the mountain sky change colors before my eyes, and smiled. No, I hadn’t smoked any of those cigars, still encased in their glass tubes, lying in a night stand back in San Antonio. And at that moment, I took comfort in knowing that.

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SXSW 2007

“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re too old to go to South by Southwest.  People back home in Midland think we are crazy because we once drove 400 miles to see Rod Stewart, but we absolutely adore his music.  If it’s something you love, don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying it.”

old lady at hotel in Waco talking to us over a continental breakfast of Fruity Pebbles

Using the same categories as last year and a few new ones, my best of SXSW list triumphantly returns! I also got all high tech and fancy, allowing you to click on the artists’ names to check out their music while reading this drivel.

BEST OVERALL BAND

Times New Viking

When I heard TNV’s CD I enjoyed the charming, low-fi pop punk sound but it didn’t go further beyond that.  This opinion changed once setting foot in the Exodus last Friday night, as the trio unrelentingly pounded their way through two minute songs as chaos broke out in the audience.  Before I knew it, Paul and I were amidst the insanity, bouncing through the throng of fans as the band passionately performed.  It may have been the day long free beer binge, or the free energy drink chugged down only an hour earlier, but Times New Viking brought the best out the both of us.  Amy Phillips, a blogger at Pitchforkmedia.com, even mentioned us dozen or so fans at the front of the stage saying: “Ohio’s Times New Viking recently signed to Matador, but they already have a committed fan base. There was quite a bit of slam-dancing and general hysteria in the first few rows of the crowd as the trio slammed out high-energy, melodic noise-punk, and keyboardist Beth Murphy pumping her fist in the air and showing off her luxurious armpit hair. By the time their Matador debut is out, that excitement will probably have spread far enough to fill up a room.” She even included this picture, that features Paul and I with our mouths gaping in excitement:

I understand the lo-fi recording style gives an album an authentic, recorded in a garage sound, but when your band sounds this much better live, aren’t you doing your music fans outside of Ohio a disservice?  Hopefully Matador can clean these kids up (they can shave her pits while they’re at it) and send them out to take over the world.

WORST OVERALL BAND

Todosantos

I wanted to like this band; I really did.  I talked to one of them while waiting for the restroom and he told me about how they moved from Venezuela to New York in hopes of making it big.  He told me all about them recently making connections, and when asked what they sounded like by another guy in line he responded, “It’s hard to describe, you’ll have to see it for yourself.” He was a friendly guy and peaked my interest with his band description.

As the band set up I became even more excited when Paul pointed out a cute blond girl with a keytar strapped around her neck.  A Venezuelan band with a keytar player: could they NOT be good?

Well, the answer is yes.  They were miserable. So bad that we had to leave due to Paul’s inability to stop laughing.  Think early 90s dance music minus any semblance of melody.  Poor kids.

BEST SOLO ARTIST

Bill Callahan

As Saturday unfolded, I slowly became more and more sick with a chest cold. By six o’clock I was not in the mood to see anymore bands and took a nap in the car while Paul went off to see the Kill Rock Stars showcase.  Two hours later I awoke, slightly refreshed, and ventured back out onto the streets ofAustin alone.  A few blocks up the street I came upon a Presbyterian church where Smog front man Bill Callaghan was performing a solo gig.  As I entered the church he was just beginning his first song, with a violinist at his side and Joanna Newsome tucked behind the piano (you know I love!).  Since the church was completely filled, I squeezed into a space in the back pew and soon found myself absorbed by Bill’s croaking, baritone voice and vibrant guitar.  I’m not a big fan of the whole church thing, but this venue provided the most ambient, soothing sound of the week.  The guy next to me soon entered into some type of Zen like state, several people sped out during songs with their faces drench in tears, and a few left their pews and sat in the aisle up front.  I sat cursing the fact that Paul was missing possibly the best show of the week, when lo and behold, St. Paul appeared in the doorway.  Once the song was finished he motioned that he was going up front and I followed him as we sat at the feet of Bill like little Sunday School kids waiting for the weekly children’s message.  He even played “Cold Blooded Old Times”, a shared favorite by Paul and me.

WORST SOLO ARTIST

Yacht

This douche isn’t really worth discussing.  He pushed play on his computer and proceeded dancing around a la Napoleon Dynamite while singing karaoke style.  At first it was funny in a “He’s making an ass of himself” kind of way, but when the dancing act continued throughout the remainder of the show I had to side with Paul that he was just plain miserable.

BEST BAND DISCOVERED

Old Time Relijun

Paul played me their CD on the long drive south, and I enjoyed what I heard.  It was bluesy, howling, folk rock with a twang.  I agreed to go see them with Paul thinking of it as a nice littler filler before going to the big shows in the night ahead.  I completely underestimated what I was about to see, with the raucous band bounding about the stage fervently as singer Arrington de Dionyso  spit out lyrics in a voice resembling David Byrne.  Imagine a southern gospel blues band being possessed by demons hopped up on crack and Pop Rocks: it’s that good.

BEST SOLO ARTIST DISCOVERED

Marisa Nadler

Paul has recently been on a metal binge, gobbling up any new metal bands he can find.  I, not being so much the metal fan, found myself sitting at several less than stellar shows (Oxbow just scared me). One of said shows contained Zoroaster and Boris.  Sandwiched between these two acts was Marissa Nadler, a Massachusetts folk artist preoccupied with death.  Her voice matched her ghost-like appearance, performing like a spirit in an Edgar Allan Poe poem.  While Paul roamed to the other stage inside to see more metal, I sat cross-legged amidst drunken metal heads and listened to her tales of gloom.

BIGGEST LET-DOWN

Boris

I’ve been hearing about this band for a while now from several people but had yet to actually hear them.  Some say they are Japanese Metal, others Japanese Psychedelic Rock, while even others will claim they are a Japanese Jam Band.  I guess one thing they all agree on is that they are Japanese. Whatever the case, I anticipated what was about to be seen on stage as they set up a giant gong.  Once the waif of a guitar player, who Paul claimed was amazing, took the stage, Boris commenced playing a 45 minute set.  Within this set they played one song…one 45 minute song.  It was neither metal, nor psychedelic, nor even jam band for that matter: Boris was just boring.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Walkmen

I’ve been digging on the new Walkmen album big time over the past few weeks but feared what they may sound like live.  On their albums singer Hamilton Leithauser’s voice sounds like a hybrid of Bob Dylan and Roger Daltry, a perfect combination.  I didn’t know how this would translate on the stage, but I soon found I was foolish for being a doubter.  He sounded BETTER than he does on album.  He’s also a true rockstar, spending a night in jail during the week at SXSW this year.

BEST VENUE

Poke-E-Jo’s

It has become a yearly tradition for us to see Frog Eyes perform at SXSW.  With only a day left of shows, we decided to try making it to Poke-E-Jo’s in time to catch our beloved Frog Eyes.

The paper said it was on 5th street, which meant it wasn’t very far away from 6th streeet, at least in our eyes.  What soon followed was a 20 block walk up 5th street with me bitching about not getting a bus the entire way.  When we finally found Poke-E-Jo’s, we felt like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail. The stage was set up at the end of a sand volleyball court with picnic tables dispersed throughout the area.  Since the show was free and located so far from the SXSW hub-bub of downtown, the majority in attendance were Austinites out looking for free happy hour beer and some good music.  This gave the show a more relaxed, down-home feel.  With free Shiner beer a flowing, we sat and enjoyed yet another great set by Frog Eyes.  They sounded better than ever, although singer Carey Mercer didn’t seem to be hopped up on speed like usual.  I guess it’s okay to sacrifice showmanship for sound quality.  When they were finished the Absolutely Kosher party was over, yet the bartenders continued filling our cups with Shiner.  Before we knew it, some friendly Austinites were loading us into their car and taking us to see Public Enemy, which leads me too…

WORST VENUE

Dew Music Festival Town Lake Stage

SXSW always caters to the locals, offering free shows for the entire family to come enjoy.  This is where the Town Lake Stage comes into play, an outdoor stadium-type stage at a park near downtown. When we arrived at Public Enemy we were surrounded by families pushing strollers and drunken frat boys screaming “Flava Flav!!!”  We quickly approached the stage, but soon found we couldn’t even get close to Chuck D and the gang.  We stayed for handful of songs, and finally left due to disappointment.  The whole point of SXSW is seeing great bands in smaller venues.  Seeing a band in a stadium or festival setting is just not satisfying anymore.  There’s no connection there; there’s no feeling that anything could happen next.  It’s so protected with guard rails and bouncers.  If I want to watch Flava Flav on a screen, I’ll flip to VH1 for one of their many “Flavor of Love” marathons.  Does that make me a snobby ass? So be it.

BEST LOOK ALIKE

This is very random, but I thought the new guitarist for the Rosebuds looked like my JV basketball coach Jared Cecil, who I fondly remember making us run marathons everyday in practice.  Maybe I just have Cecil on the brain since he coached his girls’ basketball team to a State Title a week ago.

BEST OVERALL SHOW

Frenchkiss Records Showcase

The show began with a guaranteed great performance by The Fatal Flying Guillotines.  At a show in an abandoned Mexican church a few years earlier, we saw them play wearing Girl Scout uniforms while spitting on and kicking audience members mercilessly.  By the end of the show a girl attacked one of the guitarists, beating him with her purse.  After the beat down he approached the mike saying, “I’m sorry we’re not Franz Ferdinand” and then spit at her friends as they broke into another song. As expected, they were chased out the back door of the church.

FFG didn’t disappoint this year, continuing their habit of spitting, jumping up on speakers, and leaning onto the crowd randomly in a psychological game of trust.  At various points one of the guys would attempt to walk on people’s shoulders and heads without warning, as if he was Christ walking on water.  As you’d expect, most people would cave under the pressure of a man walking upon their heads.  At various points, one of the members would just stop playing, and glare with piercing eyes at a random person in the audience. Then suddenly he would dive at said person and attempt to reach them as if he wanted blood.  Eventually he’d return to the stage and find someone else to glare at.  At one point one of the more timid guitar players said, “Come on now, you promised no fights tonight.”  I’m guessing what we saw at the Mexican church wasn’t a one time occurrence.  Believe me; everyone in the bar’s attention was fully upon the band, knowing if they lost focus they’d get a lugie or foot to the head.  I loved every tension filled minute of it.

Next up was Thunderbirds are Now!, a safer, poppier, more user friendly Les Savy Fav.  They put on a great show also, although lacking in the lugie department.  What made the show even more interesting was The Fatal Flying Guilloteens attempting to throw bottles at the band or trying to disconnect their equipment.  Thunderbirds played composed and seemed to find humor in the drunken Guillotines. They were finally forced to put up police tape in hopes of stopping the ruckus, which of course just heightened the violence.  The Thunderbirds were more than just a performance piece though; I will definitely be buying some of their music very soon.

The final act of the night was the most anticipated of the week, Les Savy Fav.  I’ve read about Harrington’s crazy behavior during shows, including a tryst with mud wrestlers and kissing random audience members, but had yet to see the crazed maniac in person.  Before starting, FrenchKiss Record’s head man, Seth Jabour, pointed out that it was next to impossible to one up The Fatal Flying Guillotines, but I felt he said this as a challenge to Harrington, who didn’t disappoint.

Harrington started the show in jeans and a pink polo shirt, undressed to completely nude, tucked his junk a la “Silence of the Lambs”, and finally put on a full body spandex jumper with Speedos over top. He then donned a pleather coat, shades, and a graduation cap.

By the end of the show he would be nude again at one point, and would finish the show wearing only red Speedos, a hilarious, cringe inducing sight considering he’s an overweight, red headed bald man with a mad scientist beard.

Other crazy antics: he crawled along the curtain rod on one side of the stage, almost ripping the curtain down.

Later he ran across the bar making one of the frat boy looking bartenders sing a song.

He spilled beer all over himself and then abducted a man from the crowd, rode him like a horse while singing a ditty.

And finally, in a move I’ve never seen before, he stuck the mic in his Speedos and thrust it in an adoring fans face who screamed the lyrics into his crotch.  (No pictures of this for obvious reasons)

My favorite part of all though had to be when he sat down on the monitor speaker and began caressing Paul’s beard, singing to him.  Classic.  Watch the shitty quality video in my heroes section that someone put up on YouTube.  About a minute and fifteen seconds he leans down out of the shot to feel Paul’s face.  A fat naked man petting Paul: most hilarious SXSW moment ever.

I could keep going on and on and on.  Most freaked out, shock inducing, laugh out loud, pump my fist concert experience ever.  Unfortunately, this was the first show we saw all week, making most of the remainder of the week a let down.  Anytime a singer jumped into the crowd I got douche chills knowing he wouldn’t commit and stick his balls in someone’s face. What a shame.

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