South By Southwest

SXSW Review: The Arkells, March 15, Belmont

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

The Arkells are pretty big in Canada. I know this because they recently played the Sound Academy, which must be some sort of beacon that signifies they have made it. I have never really examined them because of their crappy band name. It’s a stupid reason, but I also judge a book by its thickness so I’m probably a dumb ass to some extent. Either way, as part of my #occupybelmont night at SXSW, I was able to see and hear these Hamilton upstarts for the first time.

While I found Arkell’s brand of gang chorus meets middle class story telling aggro rock isn’t my type of music, I can see how they appeal to the masses. First off, they have all the moves of a good live band. The three guitarists attack the stage with relentless aggression, taking turns going from the back of the stage to the front of the crowd either with their voices or their guitars. The timing of these surges was quite impressive as well, making it like they are doing synchronized moves. They also play with nice swagger and confidence. They EXPECT the audience to answer to their calls, and expect them to sing along. It exudes a certain amount of cool. I can definitely see this appealing to a certain demographic of people, most likely they drink 50s and have tattoos and a backwards hat.

The Arkells also seem to be dabbling in the Titus Andronicus/Hold Steady vibe, where lead singer Max Kerman almost preaches some middle class spewings over aggressive rock. He’s pretty good at it, but I’m not quite sure the message is quite there. Maybe I don’t identify with sayings like punch it out punch it in. The band seemed quite eager to let the crowd know they are from Hamilton as they mentioned it several times. Not quite sure if most people in the crowd know where that is, but it was kind of endearing.

I can see why the band has become popular in such a short period of time. Their honest to good blue collar rock doesn’t really come up too often in the hipper than thou Canadian indie scene so there’s definitely a market for it. I like my music to be a little more melodic (with a synthesizer, perhaps) but I did appreciate their cover of Spoon’s The Way We Get By

The Arkell’s Michigan Left is out in the states on April 10th.

SXSW Review: FEAR, March 15, Red 7 Patio

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

On Thursday, March 15, a certain aging, gruff voiced rocker with a penchant for denim vests treated a crowd of diehard fans to some of his best known songs. No, no, not that guy from Jersey, though I hear he did alright for himself that night as well. No, I’m talking about Lee Ving, frontman for early ’80s punk legends FEAR. While they aren’t quite at the level that Bruce is, as I said there were quite a few fans there eager to hear old chestnuts like “Let’s Have A War” and “I Don’t Care About You.” And truth be told, they did sound pretty good. Well, to me anyways. Apparently the band couldn’t really hear much at all onstage, leading to Ving angrily berating the sound man and telling him since 2 of the monitors don’t work, he needs to turn the other two “way the fuck up.” Look, Lee, I get that you’re all punk and stuff. You’ve got a certain image to portray, and I get that you’re angry. But unless the sound guy was being a dick to you, maybe you need to chill out a bit. Maybe he was a dick though, so it’s really not my place to say.

Speaking of attitudes though, guitarist Dave Stark seemed kind of moody and annoyed throughout their set. Maybe it was the number of cameras in the crowd, which frankly, could be pretty annoying. Maybe he really didn’t want to be playing SXSW in general. Maybe the show just started too late and he wanted to go to sleep.

SXSW Review: Temper Trap, March 15, Stubb’s

Posted on by Paul in Everything, South By Southwest | 3 Comments

The Temper Trap

South By Southwest is generally regarded as a place to check out what’s new and exciting in the world of music. And not to toot our own horn or anything, but the Panic Manual did just that two years ago and caught  Temper Trap at the Cedar Street Courtyard. So why were we back to check them out again? Well, for one thing, I didn’t see them two years ago, so in a way they were new to me. I mean, I know that one song, but otherwise, I’ve never really paid them much mind, so this was the perfect opportunity to delve a bit deeper. And frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed. Which is not to say that these guys were terrible or anything.  They’re a talented bunch of guys and singer Dougy Mandagi definitely has a powerful voice (although at times, he veered slightly towards reminding me of this guy), but for whatever reason, they just didn’t resonate for me.  There were definitely those in the crowd who were digging it though, and it was nice to hear “Sweet Disposition” but for me, these guys didn’t quite live up to all the hype.

One thing about their show I would like to comment on is drums.  No, not The Drums, although they would be playing Stubb’s the night after this.  No, what I’m referring to is Mandagi’s use of drums and other auxiliary percussive instruments on stage.  As I watched Mandagi do his thing with the drums (I don’t think he pulled out the whole water on the drumhead trick this evening), I was reminded of two other shows I had seen over the previous  couple of days – Royal Teeth and Django Django.  Both bands made extensive use of extra drums and percussion throughout their sets, as does Temper Trap.  I found that with Django Django, it worked perfectly with what they do, yet with Royal Teeth, a young band who otherwise impressed with their energy and charisma, I found that the whole “everybody drum now” aesthetic took me out of the performance for a minute and had me wondering if it’s now become a cliched trope of indie rock.  Oh,Arcade Fire, what hath you wrought?  Or was it the Blue Man Group who started this trend?  For that matter, does it even count as a trend or is it just what bands do now?   I suppose Temper Trap gets a pass on this because they’ve been doing it long enough, but I feel like this whole thing is becoming a bit played out.  We need something new – maybe a band where everybody stops mid-song and does a kazoo break.  Yeah, maybe that would be cool. Temper Trap, you should totally try this at your next show.  You’re welcome.

SXSW Review: Say Hi, March 15, Red Eyed Fly

Posted on by Paul in Everything, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

As Say Hi`s Eric Elbogen took the stage at Red Eyed Fly, he introduced himself with, “I’m called Say Hi.”  And I have to say, it sounded kind of odd.  I realize that solo acts with band names are nothing new and that Say Hi has essentially always been Elbogen on record with the live band taking various formations, but I’ve got to say, if you’re actually performing solo, why not just say, “Hi, I’m Eric.”  I don’t really want to harp on this issue … but I will.  And besides, he started it by changing his band name once already, going from the (to me anyways) far more interesting Say Hi To Your Mom to simply Say Hi.  I really do think it was a better band name.  In fact, adding some variation of “To Your Mom” could likely improve the names of many of the other performers here at SXSW this year.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a few examples:

Clap Your Hands Say Hi To Your Mom

And So I Watch Your Mom From Afar

Of Monsters And Your Mom

This will Destroy Your Mom

Uncle Bad Touch To Your Mom

DC Pierson Your Mom

 … and the list really could go on and on.  See? It could totally make any name better. But OK, maybe that’s beside the point. What is the point? Well, I suppose it’s that Elbogen is a talented songwriter no matter what he calls himself or what configuration his band takes. I still think Say Hi To Your Mom is the better band name though …