South By Southwest

SXSW Quicky Ricky Reviews: VV Brown, BRMC, Neon Indian

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BRMC, SXSW, March 19, Cedar Courtyard

Austin – As much as I’d like to write long drawn out reviews for these three acts, I will be the first to admit that my memories of these shows are slowly fading and it’s best to just get’em out there.

Neon Indian, Red 7, March 17
One of the most hyped bands coming into SXSW, Neon Indian is riding the wave of 2009 album Psychic Chasm into Austin hoping to capitalize even more on the chillwave phenomenon. Much to my surprise, he actually has a band. I was really expecting some guy with a synth and a few thing-a-ma-jigs. The live sound definitely changed the dynamics a bit as it suddenly became an electro rock show. However, the soundcheck dude probably forgot to test the microphone’s volume vs the guitars as Alan Palomo’s vocals were frequently drowned out by the instruments around him. Although a bit raw, there’s definitely good potential for a good live show as the music is definitely more energetic then on the album. Palomo’s got an interesting stage act as he basically clenches the mic really hard, stares really intensely into space and bops up and down while singing. Kinda like when someone is karaoking really hard.

VV Brown, March 18, Latitude
Great show by British singer songwriter who is also in Toronto March 30th at the Wrongbar. Playing to a packed house at the British Embassy, VV Brown displayed her vast array of talents singing songs off her excellent album Travelling Like the Light. Not stopping there, the charismatic singer also did a cover of Drake’s Best I Ever Had and a reggae dub version (citing her influences) of Crying Blood, all while wearing a hat she claimed to have taken from a military officer. A rousing retro pop closerShark in the Water had people moving and put people in a great mood for the rest of the night. Highly Recommended.

BRMC, March 19, Cedar Courtyard
I’ve been a fan of BRMC for a long, long time. Probably since you were a kid. I remember back when me and Vik were kids, Vik really liked the BRMC Palm logo and even thought about tattooing his arm with it. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen BRMC and since then they’ve changed their drummer (bye bye Jago) and adopted a more bluesy low key sound. Since I was a fan of their rock n roll stuff, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the band since their transformation. Sticking to the roots, the both front vocalists stuck to their leather jacket look despite the fact that it was probably 25 degrees centigrade outside. Some might call it stupid, some may call it commitment to the art. There’s quite a fine line. With two acoustic guitars, BRMC played selected songs from all their albums, including the new one – Beat The Devils Tattoo . I believe they played Love Burns and Shuffle Your Feet among others. It’d be easy to complain about the songs they didn’t play (Love Spreads, Weapon of Choice, US Government..) but given the 35 minute constraint and the urge for the band to reestablish a relationship with their fan base after the disastrous The Effects of 333 album, I’d say BRMC are back on the right track and we are all going to be just fine.

SXSW review: Audra Mae, March 19, Victoria room at Driskill

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Audra Mae, SXSW, March 19

Austin, TX – Victoria room is a quaint sitting room in the historic Driskill hotel on 6th and Brazos, where LBJ loved to stay. Compare to the rest of the hotel, its furnishings are sparse and, contrary to the insane streams of hot bodies (I don’t mean it in the beauty sense), the population of the room was sporadic when I strode in. Having misunderstood that Vandaveer plays at an amphitheater across the river and not 5 min from our hotel, I did what every Asian person would – stayed back and ate spicy beef donair kebab. 3 hours later when I arrived at Victoria room, everyone was sitting on the floor as if they too had consumed way too much for their feeble legs. There was a serenading cowboy, homosexual couples, (I was also thinking brokeback mountain), and old freaky photographers. I did a double take – last I checked I wasn’t in Toronto and it wasn’t the gay pride parade outside. But then a girl from Oklahoma took the stage and my fears were allayed. I didn’t immediately feel better, however. Audra‘s brand motto should be bible-belt blues. The River, her opener, was the song that first caught my ear. When listening I recommend just pretending you heard it on Finnish radio station or something. And then see if you can match that melody to these:

I’m going down to the river alone; don’t tell mama and daddy I’m gone. And if they cry when I don’t come home, just lie and tell’em I’m funnin’. Whoa to get out of my eyes, into the river wide I’m runnin’. And I can’t swim, but it’s alright. ‘Cause all my sin will drag me down even if I could.

So if it’s not clear already, the songs about a young girl who will commit suicide because she is now ostracized for sleeping with someone. Tough stuff. Or maybe I just have a thing for pessimism? Her next songs dealt with the mystery of life and lost of innocence (I made lightning in a bottle but i forgot the recipe). The gig could totally benefit from a missing mic – she does not lack volume or range, and the amps made her sound scratchy, unnecessarily coarse at times, which I’m sure she’s anything but. The songs are also more to my taste when they’re sung without drum beats or other distractions. There was also a wooting guy who seems to want to harmonize each high note. But besides that she was quite brilliant. It was a short set and she wrapped up with a Beegees cover and Happiest Lamb, another satirical piece about infidelity. Gotta wonder where she got the inspiration from. Listen to a few of her numbers when you have time – just make sure your universal translator is set to off.

SXSW Reviews: Scissor Sisters, March 20, Stubbs

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Scissor Sisters, SXSW, March 20, Stubbs

Austin – I’ll be honest and say that most of the Panic Manual was pretty pissed off Saturday night. We all had our rsvps for the Perez Hilton party and that was pretty much the only thing on our schedule that night. However, poor planning (by Perez’s people), late start time and an unwillingness to wait in the freezing weather for a few hours forced us to leave the lineup for the party in search of something else. We were all cold and bitter I was really looking forward to seeing Snoop Dogg (no idea why) for the first time and also seeing VV Brown and Marina and the Diamonds again. The sudden and unexpected change of plans forced us to reevaluate our plans and try to make something out of nothing. A 26 of Irish Whiskey later, the PM crew was ready to rock and looking to close off SXSW with a nice fun show. Luckily, the crowd at Stubbs was rather sparse and we made it into see Scissor Sisters

I don’t think Scissor Sisters really need an introduction, but they are a glammy disco queer dance band from New York City. You might recognize their songs Take Your Mama and I Don’t Feel Like Dancin. Neglecting the freezing weather, the band came out casually dressed and delivered a pretty good party show. The Scissor Sisters are about good times and with some killer bass, nice synth grooves and playful interactions/dance moves between Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, they definitely whipped up the crowd in a fun frenzy. I don’t care what your attitude is towards semi mainstream music, but when a song as ridiculously catchy as I Don’t Feel Like Dancin comes on, you are moving your body…too bad this song also stays in your head for hours afterwards.

The band drew material from their previous two albums, as well as introduced the crowd to some new songs, all of which were received with enthusiasm. I haven’t really listened to their second cd – Ta Dah very much so I can’t tell you which songs were new and which ones were off that album. They did play a stellar version of Tits on the Radio, which was the song that garnered my attention to the band way back in 2003-2004.

Overall, Scissor Sisters was a good consolation prize for missing Perez’s party. Heading in, I knew they were going to put on a good fun show, and that’s exactly what they did.

SXSW Review: The Antlers, March 19, Galaxy Room Backyard

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The Antlers, Phoenix, Toronto, ON

Austin – This is the fourth time we’ve reviewed The Antlers on the Panic Manual, so it’s quite possible to say we like them quite a bit. Friday night was a great source of frustration for me, as once again, I was foiled in my attempt to see She & Him. The lineup was extremely long and my attempt to casually walk through the side entrance pretending to be someone important ultimately failed. I then retreated to Esther’s Follie to check out some comedy acts to cheer me up. Once fully cheered, I decided I liked nothing more then to hear some familiar depressing music. It was my emotional roller coaster night I guess. Midnight seemed like a perfect time for the Antlers to play. It’s dark outside and they play dark music. They were playing the French Kiss showcase, which also featured bands like An Horse, Suckers and Les Savy Favs.

Just like their opening set for the Editors in February, the Antlers played only a handful of songs – five to be exact, and just like that concert a month ago, I was equally captivated by their music. This time, I was slightly less captivated as the sound system pretty much sucked balls for some reason. Still, it’s always a pleasure to see Pete Silbermann sing. The man does not hit all his notes, and somehow every version of Two comes out sounding a bit different, but the intensity and heart behind the voice makes it all okay somehow. The Antlers have become experts at the building up songs. The music starts off quietly, maybe a few beeps, a few boops. Some slowly paced drum beats and stellar guitar feedback and then the next thing you know, Silbermann’s wailing on his guitar, the synth has become deafening and theres a massive wall of sound hitting you square in the face. It’s quite the treat experiencing it. This wasn’t the best set of theirs I’ve seen, I thought the some of the tenderness that is Bear was lost amongst the chattering and the crappy sound system. Still, a band I would recommend seeing live.

Here’s a crappy video I took during their set. This video camera is good a picking up vocals, bad at picking up noise, so don’t think this is acoustic performance by any measure:

ps. the picture was not from sxsw, but from February because our photographer Gary decided to take a break.