Category: Live Reviews


This is the second installment of  the “My Year In Lists” feature, which will culminate next week with my picks for the Top Albums of 2010.

As I was readying this feature, I was a little bummed to see that I went to less shows in 2010 than I did last year. With my finances not as strong as they once were (Thanks, life!),  I had to be a little more selective about what I saw. I missed a few great shows (Interpol, Wolf Parade, Sonic Youth/Warpaint ACL Aftershow), but I did manage to see some absolutely incredible sets from many great bands, wheter it was the first time I experienced them or if they were repeats. Without further ado, here is the list of shows I attended this year. All pictures were snapped by me unless otherwise noted. Enjoy!

Spoon: January 21, Waterloo Records

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Schwarzbach)

Girls: January 29, The Parish

Four Tet: February 20, Mohawk

(Photo Credit: Domino Records)

The Clientele: March 1, Mohawk

SXSW: March 16-20, Various Locations

The Antlers:


Lou Barlow:


Broken Bells:


The Black Angels:


Demolished Thoughts (Thurston Moore, J. Mascis, et. al)


Free Energy:


Fucked Up:


Japandroids:


Let’s Wrestle:

Lost in The Trees:


The Love Language:


The Morning Benders:


Oh No Ono:


Phantogram:


Real Estate:

Rural Alberta Advantage:


Titus Andronicus:


Wye Oak:

Camera Obscura: April 9, Emo’s

(Photo Credit: Camera Obscura’s MySpace)

Old 97’s: April 14, Stubb’s

Psych Fest 3: April 23-25, Mohawk

Warpaint:


The Raveonettes:


The Tallest Man On Earth: May 2, Stubb’s Indoor


Shearwater: May 7, The Parish

Josh Ritter: June 14, Waterloo Records


Islands: July 6, The Parish

Active Child:

Titus Andronicus: September 1, Emo’s


Pixies: September 21, Austin Music Hall


The Tallest Man On Earth: September 18, Antone’s


The Drums: September 25, ND


Mates of State: October 8, Mohawk

(Photo Credit: Mates of State’s MySpace)

Sleigh Bells: October 9, Beauty Bar

(Photo Credit: John Pesina, Austin 360; Who’s that sexy guy in front with the glasses?)

The Futureheads: October 12, Emo’s


Old 97’s: October 13, Waterloo Records


Caribou: October 14, La Zona Rosa


Los Campesinos!: October 23, La Zona Rosa

Fun Fun Fun Fest: November 5-7, Waterloo Park

Weird Al:


The Hold Steady:


The Antlers:


Best Coast:


Toro Y Moi:


Future Islands: November 12, Mohawk

(Photo Credit: Future Islands MySpace, Josh Sisk)

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Last week was an insanely busy one for me. On top of all the papers, work, and other things that keep me away from my blog, I was busy going to shows. I went to five between the 7th and the 14th. The first two, a free Mates of State show at Mohawk and a $10 Sleigh Bells performance at the Beauty Bar (which will likely be the only time I get to see them for that cheap), were solely done for my own enjoyment, and to remind myself that I can enjoy a show outside of a critical mindset.  Then last Tuesday I saw The Futureheads at Emo’s and Caribou at La Zona Rosa on Thursday for PopMatters. The reviews have been sent to my editors and will hopefully be up in the next week. In between those two shows, I managed to catch an in-store set by the Old 97’s at Waterloo Records, where they played a bunch of material off of their recently released The Grand Theater: Volume 1. Suffice it to say, times are extremely demanding, but I will do my best to try and update this blog at least once a week from here on out, with the hope that that is the bare minimum. In the mean time, enjoy the pictures from The Futureheads, Old 97’s, and Caribou gigs!

The Futureheads:


Old 97’s:


Caribou:


For a band that lost a guitarist only a week into their massive US tour, The Drums were an energetic, charismatic and entertaining bunch when they played ND on Saturday. It’s as if Adam Kessler’s departure hadn’t phased them at all. This of course, is not true. Lead singer Jonathan Pierce has repeatedly explained to the media that the group was “devastated” upon learning that Kessler wanted out of The Drums. However, the fact that they performed with the same energy and showmanship that has come to define them showed that they were not about to let a personnel change jeopardize their music’s impact on a sold out crowd.

The Drums are a band that walk the fine line between endearing and saccharine, both in terms of their music and their antics onstage. It’s obvious that Pierce’s lyrical influences lie with the sentimental, heart-on-sleeves bands that made it acceptable for sensitive guys to make music back in the early and mid-80’s. He sang his songs of love, longing, and heartbreak by the beach with a faux-British accent, and his onstage movements mirrored those of a Smiths-era Morrissey in their tweeness and Ian Curtis in their spontaneity. His swagger ran the gamut from pretending to drag off of a cigarette during the excellent “Let’s Go Surfing” to his robot like arm movements at the beginning of “Best Friend.” In the hands of other groups, these sorts of antics could come off as posturing or trying too hard to emulate the bands of yesteryear.

However, for all of their theatrics, it was not hard to tell that The Drums were sincere about what they were doing. The band’s cuteness was endearing, and the fact that they have to the tunes to back up their onstage presence only made the performance that much more memorable.

Replacement guitarist Tom Haslow fit right in, and he ably played all of Kessler’s lines without fuss. This allowed songs such as “Make You Mine,” ‘Forever and Ever, Amen,” and “Submarine” to keep their depth and their hooks, something the band has no shortage of. Throughout their set, they did not mention their departed guitarist once, instead choosing to focus on ensuring that the crowd bounced along to their blend of new wave and beach pop. By the time the band took their final bow at the end of set closer (and future prom slow-dance anthem) “Down By the Water,” there were no longer any concerns about whether Kessler’s departure would have any negative impact on The Drums’ sound or performance.

The Drums:


On Tuesday, I went to cover the Pixies first of two night stand at Austin Music Hall for PopMatters. I have since written the review (spoiler: it was a really good show) and it will hopefully appear on the website sometime in the coming weeks. One of the perks of being a member of the press was that I had access to the photo pit for a very short (as in three songs) part of the band’s set. As such, me and my basic DSLR were able to get some great shots before the flashlights told us to move along. These are the best of the bunch. Enjoy!

-Ryan

Pixies:

Back in May, Kristian Matsson, more commonly known as The Tallest Man On Earth, played Stubb’s indoor stage to a sold out audience. Though Norah Jones playing outside kept him from doing a full sound check, he turned in a great performance with nothing more than his raw, Dylanesque voice and a few guitars. A mere four and a half months later, Matsson returned to Austin Saturday with a little more leg room at Antone’s. Despite the change of venue, and a little nervousness on his part, Matsson once again proved why he’s Sweden’s ambassador of folk, as his amount of energy, talent and sheer songwriting skills were once again on display.

Wisconsinites S. Carey started the night with a set of mostly low key indie folk that ran the gamut from forgettable to showing signs that the group has promise. Band leader Sean Carey is best known for his role as a percussionist in Bon Iver. However, his group prefers to take a more atmospheric and ambient approach to the genre, with piano and intricate guitars dominating the mix the majority of the time. This seemed to be the group’s biggest weakness, as the majority of their songs seemed to blend together. However, the songs that utilized drums and a more rhythmic force, such as the very impressive outro to “Mothers,” got the crowd fired up and rightly so. After several songs that seemed to drone on, it was a nice change of pace to hear Carey beat the hell out of his floor tom. Sadly, these moments were few and far between, and it ultimately made for a set that I couldn’t help but feel only lukewarm about.

In stark contrast to his moniker, The Tallest Man On Earth is a relatively shy, soft spoken person. Matsson’s banter with the audience expressed a sort of timidness that is natural when playing a place as big as Antone’s for the first time, and he would often apologize to the crowd while tuning. However, the minute he began plucking his guitar, he became a completely different person. He had a commanding stage presence while playing his songs, as his strained croak echoed throughout the room and he manically moved around the stage while still managing to hit every note on his guitar. It’s this sort of enthusiasm and energy that defines both his music and his live show, and it was easy to tell that he was putting everything he had into his performance.

All of the best songs from Matsson’s 2008 debut Shallow Grave and this year’s The Wild Hunt were present and accounted for, including a couple of tracks from his recently released EP Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird. From the vivid imagery of “I Won’t Be Found” to the declaratory lines of love found in “King of Spain,” Matsson played them all with aplomb and a sense of sheer fire confidence that many singer-songwriters could only wish for. His set sounded great too, thanks to the improved acoustics of Antone’s and his ability to actually do a sound check. Songs like “The Wild Hunt” and “Pistol Dreams” sounded full and warm, and that ambiance was felt throughout the room.

While the mentions of Dylan will always be something that Matsson has to deal with, he can take comfort in knowing that he is among an elite group of artists that have successfully transcended the comparison by simply letting the music do the talking. His set spoke volumes to the sold out crowd at Antone’s, and it is likely that Austin will be eagerly awaiting his return.

The Tallest Man On Earth:

S. Carey:


Last week, I got the chance to see Islands play at The Parish with two great opening bands, Steel Phantoms and Active Child. My review for the show should be up on PopMatters within the week, so be on the look out for it! Until then, enjoy the photos.

Steel Phantoms:

Active Child:

Islands:


May was a very exciting month for me. School finally ended, I was able to get out of the corporate grocery store that had come to be the bane of my existence, I’ve moved into a new place, and I got to see three incredible shows. While I did not have my camera in hand when I saw Minus the Bear at La Zona Rosa May 16, I got some pretty good shots at when seeing The Tallest Man On Earth, at Stubb’s on May 2, and Shearwater, at The Parish on May 7. I reviewed both of those shows for PopMatters (follow the links on the respective artists), and I finally have found time to edit the pictures I took. Enjoy!

Nurses:


The Tallest Man On Earth:


Hospital Ships:


Wye Oak:


Shearwater:


Austin Psych Fest 3: Day 1

The Austin Psych Fest is a three-day festival dedicated to psychedelic music and visual art culture. This year’s installment features several great bands including the Raveonettes, Warpaint, Pure Ecstasy, Pink Mountaintops, and one the main festival sponsers, Austin’s own Black Angels. For each day, I will post a short of review and picture of  some of the different bands that I saw.

While it may have been the shortest day in terms of the number of acts and overall duration, Friday proved to be a stellar opening to this year’s Psych Fest. The outside stage featured three great acts, each bringing something unique with them. Despite the fact that it was a warm night, one could easily found themselves lost in what was being played.

Ringo Deathstarr:


Austin mainstay Ringo Deathstarr got things off to a loud start with their set. The group favored to play their more straightforward rock without any regard for volume levels. However, they played with enough precision and skill to make the noise levels a part of the overall effect. The washes of distortion and reverb tended to drown out the vocals, as is the case with many bands in the noise rock genre. While nothing spectacular, the band played an energetic set that left many in the crowd satisfied, and reaching for the closest pair of ear plugs.

Warpaint:


The word “beautiful” is the most fitting adjective to describe Warpaint’s performance. The Los Angeles band completely bowled over the crowd with sheer talent and the power of their songs. Their music is at once vital and delicate, with intricate guitar work and lush vocals taking the forefront. Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman both have heavenly voices, when the other members of the band join in to harmonize, it makes for an otherworldly experience. Some of the standouts from their set included the guitar and vocals-only “Billie Holiday” and the stunning “Elephants.” The former had bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa putting down their instruments to sing with Kokal and Wayman, while the latter combined a gorgeous guitar riff and Kokal’s voice to an astonishing effect. It was easily one of the sets I have seen by any band, and that says a lot for a band that only has one EP to their name.

The Raveonettes:


Making their first appearance in Austin in two years, The Raveonettes finished Friday night on a high note by playing an extremely loud and energetic set. The recent volcano eruption in Iceland kept the rest of the band back in Denmark, so only main band members Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo were able to perform. Despite this, they made the most of their situation by playing to their strengths, namely their harmonizing and instrumental hooks. Both took turns playing guitar and bass, while Foo provided the percussion for several of the songs. It was a brash performance in all the best ways, and the excited crowd was all too happy to sing along. Even without a full backing band, the Raveonettes still were able to give a memorable performace, one that was well worth the two year wait for fans and newcomers alike.

The Old 97’s are all about quality. They are a band in every sense of the word, with each member playing a vital role in their sound. Lead singer/guitarist Rhett Miller is a gifted lyricist who’s tales of love found, lost, and everything in between are stories to which almost anyone can relate. Bassist Murry Hammond is a great singer and songwriter in his own right, choosing subjects similar to Miller, and when the two come together and harmonize, it is a thing of beauty. Lead guitarist Ken Bethea is easily one of the most overlooked guitarists today, as his playing gives the songs their drive and many of their hooks. Lastly, drummer Philip Peeples rounds things out with his solid drumming.

Since their first album, “Hitchhike To Rhome,” came out in 1994, the Dallas based band has churned out album after album of start to finish alt-country goodness, including 1997’s “Too Far to Care,” 2001’s “Satellite Rides,” and 2008’s “Blame It On Gravity” just to name a few. When you’re a band who has been on a fifteen year win streak in terms of releasing quality albums, having a reputation as a stellar live act can only solidify your fan base and gain you new followers. The Old 97’s have never had a problem with this, as their must-see shows have been part of their appeal from the start. Their performance at Stubb’s on April 14, a benefit show for the Hill Country Conservancy and a kick off for Austin’s “Earth Week” festivities, easily proved why they are one of the best bands from Texas.

Recently converted Austinite Ben Kweller got things off to a great start by delivering an energetic and fun set with little more than just a guitar, the occasional trip to the piano, and his voice. Judging by his performance, one would never guess that he was recovering from a bad case of food poisoning. He only played two songs from his newest album, the country tinged “Changing Horses,” opting for the poppier sound of his older albums with songs like “How It Should Be (Sha Sha),” “Sundress,” and “Falling.” The much buzzed about Austin folk singer Amy Cook joined Kweller on stage for a couple songs, her sweet voice complementing him on “Lizzy.” Cook then proceeded to play a song of her own, the pleasant “Hotel Light” before Kweller took the reins again. Throughout his set, Kweller played with a sense of enthusiasm that was nothing short of infectious. He was happy to be playing, and grateful that he felt well enough to perform.  His set closed with crowd favorite “Penny On A Train Track,” a great ending to a strong set.

When the Old 97’s finally took the stage, they were greeted with an almost rapturous amount of applause, a testament to their loyal and devoted fan base. From the opening notes of  the excellent “Won’t Be Home,” off 2004’s “Drag It Up,” the band ripped through their 90-minute set with an energy that stayed consistent throughout. Miller sang with the same sense of urgency he does on record, the nervous/jealous tone of songs like “Dance With Me” was perfectly conveyed through his vocal performance. Bethea’s guitar sounded wiry and vital, and was played with finesse and skill, while Hammond and Peeples each turned in strong performances with their instruments. Hammond turned in several strong vocal performances too, his heartbreaking ballad “Color of A Lonely Heart Is Blue” being one of the night’s highlights. There was a lot of movement around the stage from Miller, Hammond, and Bethea, as they were into the music they were playing, and were intent on putting on a show. Few bands have the same kind of energy on stage that they do, and even fewer sound great while doing it.

The mix of songs in their set covered their entire career. Songs like “Doreen,” “Stoned” and “Over the Cliff” represented their earlier, more twangy days when country played a heavier influence in their music. Songs from “Too Far to Care,” such as “Barrier Reef,” “Just Like California,” and “Big Brown Eyes,” were played with the same intensity that marked a shift in the band to a more pop-rock oriented sound while maintaining their country earnestness and charm. This trend continued on each of their subsequent albums, and the band played many songs from them, including “Rollerskate Skinny,” “Smokers,” “No Baby I,” and “Question.” While many great songs were absent on this night, almost everyone in the crowd was singing right along to what was being played, a testament to the quality of the group’s work.

After announcing that they were going to be recording their new album in Austin, The Old 97’s finished their set, as always, with their most famous song, the barn-burning “Timebomb.” The opening notes sent the crowd into a frenzy, and everyone sang along with heart and passion. It finished the night on a high note, and marked another successful outing for the Old 97’s. While the band’s members may have reached middle age, they still have the same energy and dedication that has helped them win fans for almost 2o years. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Amy Cook:

Ben Kweller:

Old 97’s:


In my final installment of my SXSW post extravaganza, I am reviewing the MOG Party that was held at the Mohawk. More pictures from this show, as well as the Brooklyn Vegan Day Party, will be posted sometime in the near future.

The abnormally cold Austin weather did not stop hundreds of people from lining up outside of the Mohawk on the last day of South by Southwest, as the free party hosted by the social media music site MOG was one of the most hotly anticipated day parties of the festival. Headlined by the Black Keys, the MOG Party featured a very heavy and diverse lineup, and was well worth enduring the bitingly cold winds and overcast skies.

Free Energy


Philadelphia’s Free Energy don’t take much to subtlety. They are a band that unashamedly plays music filled with hooks, sing along choruses, lyrics about youth and having  good time, and enough guitar solos to make one think they were made for corporate radio. However, as evidenced by their live performance, they differentiate themselves from bands of those ilk by giving off the sense that they actually believe in what they are playing. This was caught the eye of LCD Soundsystem front man and DFA Records owner James Murphy, who helped the band produce their debut, “Stuck On Nothing.” The band has a sort of vibe about them that is nothing short of infectious, with some excellent songs to back up their stage presence. They played several cuts off their album, each song being just as solid as the last, including “Free Energy” and “Dream City.” Their nods to the anthem like sounds of classic rock served them well, as the band gave a performance that demonstrated that there is nothing wrong with paying homage to the past if you’re doing it right and having fun at the same time.

Demolished Thoughts

Seeing Thurston Moore on stage without a guitar is one thing.  Hearing him nearly rip his vocal chords out by covering early 80’s hardcore and punk songs is quite another. Such is part of the intrigue that surrounds Demolished Thoughts, a collaboration between the Sonic Youth front man and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The two were joined on stage by longtime Sonic Youth producer Don Fleming, Fucked Up bassist Jonah Falco (who took the spot of original group member Andrew W.K.), and drummer Awesome Allison of Awesome Color. The result was a 35 minute set in which the band tore through 25 songs, none lasting longer than two minutes. The songs were fast and furious, with Moore reading the lyrics off a stapled packet of paper. Rants against the music industry, government, and any form of authority dominated the lyrical content. “I HATE KIDS,”  Moore yelled out to begin to one song, which immediately segwayed into a cry of “I HATE SPORTS!” to begin the next one. Several times, he referred to songs by number, simply saying “This is song seven.” With Mascis and the rest of the band thrashing their instruments as if they were being chased by a train, it all made for a very unique set, and something that will linger in the mind of show goers for years to come.

Broken Bells

Judging by Broken Bells performance at the MOG Party, one might find it hard to believe that The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse had less than ten shows under their built. Of course, the fact that they put on a great set was not entirely surprising, as both are seasoned veterans who possess enough talent to make almost anything look easy. With a full backing band behind them, they played a total of nine cuts from their self-titled debut with precision and aplomb. Broken Bells sound a lot like something that Mercer might play with The Shins, but that didn’t matter. Songs such as “The High Road” and “Vaporize” stand well on their own, and the rest of the songs were of equal quality. Mercer’s voice sounded nice and full, and each of the backing guitarists and keys players sounded tight, all of it being brought together by Danger Mouse’s drumming. This set was proof positive that Broken Bells are more than just a side project.

The Antlers


On their second album, “Hospice,” The Antlers created something that was nothing short of a tour de force of emotion and catharsis. Many of the albums best moments were also their quietest, with front man Peter Silberman singing with a delicate and nervous urgency that contributed to the overall feel of that particular moment. The band has also gained a reputation on their live performances. The claims were easily warranted by the band’s four song set, which left many people simply stunned. Much like cross-town companions TV on the Radio, The Antlers completely change the way they play their songs in a live setting. Gone was much of the empty space and ambient noises that filled “Hospice,” replaced with more guitar and keys intensive arrangements. Silberman’s voice sounded just as graceful and energetic as it did on the album, showcasing that he is an immensely talented vocalist. To see songs like “Sylvia,” “Wake,” and “Two” in a new light was an almost transcendent experience, and one that felt like something truly special.

Real Estate


Of the many bands that have revived the beach rock sound in the last year, New Jersey’s Real Estate are among the best of them. Their self-titled debut features sunny guitars, great vocal hooks, and a laid back vibe that makes one long for the coast. The songs are catchy and memorable, and played with a sense of precision and grace. The band translate this energy well to their live show. While they are relatively relaxed on stage, the energy that is present in their music does more than enough to get the crowd into their performance. Lead singer Martin Courtney has a nice, full voice that resonates well with the music being played, and the band sounded as tight as they do on their self-titled debut. The most impressive song of their overall solid set was “Fake Blues,” it’s simple guitar riffs and vocal melody possessing transportation powers that make you feel as though you’re sitting on a beach watching the band as opposed to being packed in a crowded indoor stage area. While what Real Estate is doing may not be anything new, they have taken the best of their influences to make something that is truly their own.