South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Cut Copy, March 17, Lustre Pearl

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

Cut Copy, March 17 2018

In my head, I have this dream that one day I’m asked to curate a festival. I know it’s implausible but maybe the multi-billion dollar corporation I work for decides to throw a festival for some reason and I’m asked to pick the bands. Anyways, it’s a fun exercise and I’m always like, what bands would I book? How would you make the ultimate showcase? In my mind, the audience would probably be a mixed bag of normal people and indie kids.

Anyways, Cut Copy would definitely be one of the bands on that imaginary festival, because they are amazing and super fun live.

It’s crazy to think that In Ghost Colours is ten years old now. I still remember discovering that record, putting it on at my friends place and just drunkenly dancing to it. It was so good and probably really pushed good clean electronic dance music to the forefront.

Of course Cut Copy has made a few records since, including last year’s Haiku From Zero, which is slowly growing on me.

Electronic acts are either really good or really bad live. Some acts you feel like, well I could just listen to this at home really really loud and it’s almost the same experience. The great acts leave you tired, exhausted and happy. This is Cut Copy. They play their tracks with energy and enthusiam and Dan Whitford does a good job getting the crowd involved with some well timed antics.

Even with a shitty sound system (Dan was visibly displeased), Cut Copy got a tired crowd dancing their asses off with a hit-filled 45 minute set. Much like their Toronto show, they started off with “Need You Now,” which is my favorite Cut Copy song. I would much prefer it to be the closer, as I think the epic buildup of that song is more suitable for closing, but I won’t complain about it as an opener.

The set consisted a lot of songs you would know but by far the two most popular tracks were the songs from In Ghost Colours. “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights & Music” are just magnificent pop songs, and frankly, when you have those two tracks in your arsenal, you can never go wrong with your show.

Cut Copy are great live. I now await the 10 year anniversary reissue of In Ghost Colours.

SxSW Review: SYML, Low, March 13, St. David’s Sanctuary

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Music, Reviews, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

SYML, March 13 2018

SYML
After overcoming some sound interference troubles, Brian Fennell (formerly of the indie rock band Barcelona) quickly began in the church pulpit as SYML, which means simple in Welsh. Just as the name implied, it would turn out to be a straightforward singer-songwriter concert that has come to be St. David’s Sanctuary’s signature.

Over the years, it has also become clear that if you can’t sing, St. David’s is not a place to showcase your talents. SYML is, fortunately, not in that latter category. While I find it a bit distracting to have the cello and violin backing to his one man show, there was little hestitation in his delivery for passages. That said, the songwriting itself isn’t always clearly original. It isn’t hard to see that the opening of “Ghosts” neatly paraphrased Coldplay’s “In My Place.” While refreshing, his “Mr. Sandman” cover was not just a little creepy, and self-admittedly so. The lyrics were twisted into a lament about loneliness that might make Tim Burton jump. Even with all its idiosyncracies, this is still a first-rate set, ending with the promotional piece “Where’s My Love.” I would recommend the above tracks as well as “Wildfire.”

Low
If the previous set was “simple”, Low’s performance is its quantum entangled pair. How can we put more symbolism into a show? “I know! Let’s have two stern-faced, practicing Mormons sing nearly monotonic verses against a backdrop of ascending drum beats for 40 minutes in a dimly lit church, and conspicuously display their drinking of red soda and chomping of apples. That way, no one will think we were being serious!”

To be fair, Low has had a long career of minimalist excellence. It’s really not surprising that they managed to make the seemingly simple and monotonic music beautiful. And to be honest, it was a completely different experience if you were willing to stay the course. Problem was, it did not engender that will in most of the audience on this night. If St. David’s Sanctuary monitored their doors, they would have registered the exodus in between every track played. It was rare to see a concert hemorrhage audience throughout. I think a masochist mindset definitely came to the fore – and many just wanted to derive some type of reward having stayed with the performance. And as if they understood implicitly, Low did eventually open up the format for a number of more flowing pieces.

As for me, I felt like I had been party to some ritual to which I did not submit, but perhaps I did sign up for it. After all, SxSW is about getting a dose of the weird.

Low, March 13, 2018

SXSW Review: The Sloths, March 17, Hotel Vegas Annex

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

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“We started this shit back in ’64 and we played a battle of the bands with The Doors. That’s how fucking old we are!”

Yes, it’s true. The Sloths are old. This much was clear not only from the band’s appearance and from singer Tommy McLoughlin’s introduction of his band as they took to the stage at Hotel Vegas, but from the knee pads McLoughlin was wearing and the slightly corny jokes about their memories starting to go. But while they got their start a long time ago, The Sloths have only really been getting their due in recent years.

The Sloths have a rather interesting history. Starting out way back in the 1960s, he band released one single, “Makin’ Love” b/w “You Mean Everything to Me,” which didn’t really do much of anything for them until a couple decades later when “Makin’ Love” reappeared on a garage rock compilation called Back From The Grave. This eventually resuscitated the band’s career and they released heir first full length, also entitled Back From The Grave, on Burger Records back in 2015. That long, circuitous road finally took them to the stage at Hotel Vegas as part of Burger Records annual Burgermania fest-within-a-fest.

For an old guy, McLoughlin’s got some moves, strutting across the stage, shaking his maracas, and jumping into the crowd on a few occasions to bust a move with various dance partners. He even threw in a couple of wardrobe changes (inspired, he said, by the likes of Cher and Britney) for a bit of extra showmanship and draped an Irish flag over a music stand he kept by his side in honour of St. Patrick’s Day, later replacing that one with a Texas flag at “around about midnight” (once St. Patty’s was officially over) before launching into a cover of the old garage rock standard “Gloria.” One of the highlights of their set was the band’s latest single “I Survived” with it’s refrain of “I survived 27″ referencing the so-called “27 Club” of rock stars dying young and celebrating the fact that basically making it to a ripe old age can be seen as a certain kind of success when you’re living the rock and roll life.

So yes, The Sloths are old. But as Aaliyah once said, age ain’t nothing but a number and senior citizens though they may be, The Sloths definitely brought it.

SxSW Film Review: Constructing Albert [Laura Collado]

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Sibling rivalry is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an emotion reserved for the lowest common denominators on Jerry Springer. Even in the rarefied world of haute cuisine, where the names elBulli and Adria recall creative genius operating at an ionospheric level, this is still true. Although Albert Adria has been behind the restaurant elBulli for decades, his culinary talents seemed to have been overshadowed by his brother Ferran’s conceptual overhaul of the language of fine dining. The idea was quite startlingly simplistic: an experimental kitchen whose goal is solely to invent experiences between mouthfuls. The closure of elBulli, however, left Albert literally at a loss. His invisibility behind Ferran and elBulli’s reputation both hampered his ambition to become his own boss. Constructing Albert is the documentary about how they remade his new brand in this long shadow.

In 2013 when Albert (and filming) began, that arduous journey involved opening and coordinating five restaurants in one year. Tickets, 41deg, Pakta, Bodega 1900, and Nino Viejo. Both Tickets and 41deg ended up earning Michelin stars. Having gotten that far, Albert then decided to close 41deg in order to use it as a stepping stone toward a new concept restaurant called Enigma. In this hindsight view, you can really appreciate the way that entrepreneurs in the restaurant world interact with their critics. Bear in mind that these critics are not the Yelping public, but a stratified group of foodies that have somehow garnered the power over life and death. The vocabulary needed to commune with them, while alien, isn’t hard to stomach. I liken it to how academics shape their interests by experimenting with publishing in top journals – just substitute “publications” for “restaurants”. Perhaps the inventions in elBulli in the early 1980s were never meant to earn Michelin stars. But in constructing a new brand and reputation, that is now the first and last thing on the menu.

Describing this on paper makes it seem like simple business decisions. But in reality, people work the kitchen and restaurants. Where the film shines isn’t in the narrative of a brand, but the evolution of the personal stakes everyone involved has wagered, including that of director Laura Collado. During Q&A, she mentioned that the original intent of the documentary was indeed to explore the sibling rivalry, which would have been a short few interviews. Five years later, watching the film in 2018, one’s appreciation of the dynamics between the chefs has to be revised. While I am certain that her footage could have been edited so, a nasty intrigue never materialized. If anything, the film seemed a bit of a muted celebration of Albert. And why not? As if juggling 5 restaurants, 2 Michelin stars, a revolving list of dishes that updates every two months, thousands of ingredients and techniques isn’t entertaining – just looking at the results makes me want to drop $500 on a meal.