South By Southwest

SXSW Song of the Day: The Big Pink – Stay Gold

Posted on by Ricky in Song of the Day, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

English duo The Big Pink released their second record Future This a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the group after their hit album A Brief History of Love. Would they be a one album wonder like Glasvegas or will they build on that album into something better? Luckily for us, the new record expands on the Big Pink sound and the result is a really good album. The album has surprisingly dropped some of the shoe-gaze/wall of sound elements that made their first album popular, and replaced it with Kasabian like anthems. That works for me.

Check out the first single off the album, titled Stay Gold

SXSW: The Final Recap – What we loved, hated, etc.

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 5 Comments

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Toronto – Are you sick of our SXSW coverage yet? I’m not, but I love that festival and will forever love it. No matter how much I gripe about any problems, make no mistake, SXSW is one of my favorite things on Earth. There is a reason why most people who go once, go again and again. It’s fantastic. Here are our final thoughts from the Panic Manual crew regarding this festival.

Best Act

Matt & Kim

Ricky: For me, it was OMD. It’s almost unfair, they have a few tracks that shall remain forever timeless, so there’s no way some newbie act will be able to compete with that. Matt & Kim were awesome as well, but I’ve seen them now five times, so I knew what to expect.

Paul: Matt & Kim

Derek: Can I pick two? The Vaccines & Matt & Kim @ Fader Fort

Gary: Datarock, uber energetic and confusingly sophisticated beneath the obnoxious red tracksuits.

Best Moment

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Ricky: While this year lacked extremely memorable moments (aka Late of the Pier fist fights with security), one of the most heartfelt moments was seeing Edwyn Collins stand up to sing his hit single A Girl Like You. If you know anything about his recent physical troubles, then you can appreciate how Collins, who walks with a cane and sat for most of the show, put forth the effort to stand up and perform his most popular track in front of a relatively small crowd. What a performer.

Paul: Damien Jurado telling the noisy people at the back of the bar to shut up while he was playing. Take that, concert douchebags!

Gary: Getting knocked around by an Asobi Seksu fangirl then getting told-off by a baldheaded guy because I stepped on his girlfriend’s shoe and then getting support from fellow concert goers.

Derek: Fist bumping Aziz Ansari? OMD at the SPIN afternoon? Backstage for Matt & Kim? I could go on, but it was all great.

Biggest Surprise

Joy Formidable

Ricky: Jonquil and Clock Opera were both exceptional bands that I had previously heard of, but never heard. I’m a fan of both now.

Paul: The Joy Formidable filling in for Raphael Saadiq at Fader Fort. I didn’t know much about them beforehand, but they put on a hell of a show. Also, meeting Troy and Abed from Community out in the street was pretty cool too.

Gary: John Grant.

Derek: Jonquil at the British Embassy were great!

Biggest Disappointment

Ricky: Obviously, missing all of Saturday was a disappointment, but that was unavoidable. Romany Rye was disappointing, but I don’t even know where I heard of them from. They sounded like a jam band that played some random saloon on a highway pit stop.

Paul: Olof Arnalds. She’s got a decent sound, but a little of her goes a long way.

Gary: Toro y moi. It was so disappointing that I forgot about it

Derek: I was hoping for more from Olaf Arnalds. I was also quite disappointed with Those Dancing Days no-show (visa issues)

Best Food

Ricky: How can you pick between the best burger on Earth (Casino El Amino) and one of the best bbq spots I had ever been to (Salt Lick)? You don’t. Call it even.

Paul: Tough call. It was all pretty good. I’ll go with Chuy’s.

Gary: Iron Works; having a beef rib wrapped around my face is gleefully delicious each time, no matter how repetitious.

Derek: It was a tie: Salt Lick and Chuy’s

Big Thanks

Our time at SXSW this year was greatly enhanced by Blackbeard Rum, who provided us with many free spiced rum & pepsi drinks at the Spin Loft. There rum was good enough that one of our photographers went to the liquor store and bought a bottle on his way home to the hotel. Apparently, they are new on the market and made by the same Puerto Ricans who make DonQ. I would also like to thank Havianas for giving me free custom flip flops and also to the company Case-Mate for giving me and various people free Iphone skins. Check out their site, you can customize your own case. I’m a sucker for free stuff, what can I say.

Finally, here is me riding a white carousel

SXSW Review: Beach Fossils; John Grant with Midlake [Buffalo Billiards; Central Presbyterian Church, March 18, 2011]

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

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What does a band that relies much on reverb sound like when live? I won’t really find out until I next see Beach Fossils. This set of theirs that I went to left a little more to be desired, unfortunately. A few songs in (I think after they played the Horse?), the was a problem with the guitar. The vocal immediately declared “this place sucks”. Although that totally could have been justified – perhaps it was a long simmering irritation from when they were setting up. Anyway, it would appear that the rest of the band knew what was coming, because they started to gyrate like spintops. The vocal finally snapped a little later, breaking a few strings. OK. No big deal. I’ve seen gigs go on sans a few strings. But apparently someone had reached the brink – and the vocal declared again that the audience would either have to wait for him to re-string… or this 5 min set was all they are getting that night. You can imagine a little awkwardness all around. I haven’t heard a single “BOO” up until this point – the audience was still enjoying their show. So, the bass player actually had to come forward and… entertain, by way of stand-up comedy. I, however, couldn’t wait for them to oil the machine and restart. Off I went to the church.

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Midlake’s Roscoe was one of those songs that went on single-repeat for days when I first discovered it in 2007, and I’ve been a fan since. Not that having them backup someone did not seem fitting, but I thought I would be much happier watching Midlake. As John Grant’s beefy, tenor voice filled the Central Presbyterian Church, I changed my mind. How could I not listen to someone who lists “Chinese pop, Japanese classical music, and regional Mexican” as his genre? Formerly of the Czars, Grant mentioned that he had almost given up on music, until he met Midlake. A few songs in, I realized that I had heard him before – in Marz, where he sang about a grocery store near his hometown. The format of the set was simple – Grant would rotate between the piano, guitar and vocal, while the rest of Midlake handles the nitty-gritty.

I was surprised that the church, a block down from FOX News (I am serious), would be the setting for this concert… or any concert at all. Sure they hosted Menomena! just before this set. Yet if it isn’t clear by now, John Grant is anything but a conformist. Imagine reciting these words at the altar:

I hope I didn’t destroy your celebration
Or your Bar Mitzvah, birthday party or your Christmas
You tell me that my life is based upon a lie
I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee
I hope you know that all I want from you is sex
To be with someone that looks smashing in athletic wear
Who’s gonna be the one to save me from myself?
You’d better bring a stun gun and perhaps a crowbar
I really don’t know who the fuck you think you are
Can I please see your license and your registration?

Now cast that onto a sky-piercing chorus sung at 100 db – Queen of Denmark was indeed impressive to hear (catch this session on youtube for an idea). A Presbyterian church was also the perfect setting for these bitter confessions. I think it approaches Adia in evoking emotions. The effect was clear – I think more movement would have been detected if this was a Sunday worship. I had to stop taking photos 1-2 songs into the set, because everyone else gave me the evil eye when they were disturbed by the camera shutter. Where Dreams Go To Die is another, similarly moving ballade that they performed this night. Grant’s voice carried substance, was never shrill nor thin, and it seemed to flow effortlessly from him. It may be the benches, but this was the only SXSW concert where I saw a standing ovation from the audience. Now I understand why Midlake was perfectly willing to play the second fiddle. I would go and see this guy live again in a foot-tap.

So in the end

Beach Fossils: , for the awkward set.

John Grant with Midlake:

SXSW Review: Asobi Seksu [Parish, March 19, 2011]

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

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Baltimore – Every year at SXSW, things occur at the Parish that should stay at the Parish. It is one of those magic space, a simultaneously synchronized spacetime between this an another universe that inherits the properties of neither. It happened again this year. But first let me set the scene. Casiokids were playing as I mounted the stairs at Parish. There was no visible way of getting past the sound desk as the funnel between it and the bar was already crowded with people taller than me on stilts. I grudgingly sat down on the stupid incline – like an extended version of those intermediate areas on the TTC streetcar. I grew impatient waiting for casual sex (“Asobi Seksu”), and decided to try my luck on pushing to the front. When I came back, someone has taken my portion of the incline. It’s not even a seat! And it’s taken. What’s weirder: I was offered it back! I stood there and watched as the girl silently slid herself down, took her seat on the floor immediately adjacent to the incline and thought, “Do I look disabled, elderly, unbalanced, or all of the above?” No matter. I moved right up to the stage during intermission. The band is setting up, Yuki Chikudate came out amidst some yelps and whistles.

And then it began. I felt something push against my back. It was a girl in an over-sized T-shirt and tights, with a huge backpack. Just as I was moving my camera bag around so it wouldn’t be in her way again, I got another nudge. Same person. O-Kay. What I didn’t know, was that for the next 40 minutes I would be waltzing with this person, dancing to keep myself diagonally opposite in order to avoid her bouncing backpack and waving bushel of long hair while she rocked out, screaming “play Citrus!”. That’s not even a song title! It’s like asking Pink Floyd to play the Dark Side of the Moon… they can, but that just doesn’t make sense when they can play other albums. The bizarre chain didn’t end there. As I stepped further and further back, apparently I touched a girl’s toe. So I did the Canadian “soury”. 2 seconds later because his brain works like dinosaurs’, lo and behold, her guardian angel came lumbering forth, tapped my shoulder and said: “Hey! You stepped on my girl friend there.” Nice. All I needed after being pushed around by a mixture of hair and backpack, was a bald-headed douche with half a follicle covering his single-digit IQ reminding me that I have sinned against the opposite sex. I ignore him. And then was tagged again. I turned to see that another concert goer leaned forth and said, “you should punch the guy”. WHAT?! Where am I?

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Anyway. That’s enough of that. Asobi Seksu was everything that I expected them to be from the records. Like more popular bands, they don’t deviate much because so much is integral to the music that it’s difficult to adapt on the fly. And they only chose the good numbers. They started with two new songs, “Coming up” and “Trails”, the latter I like quite a lot. I could still identify a clear Japanese stamp. Although I won’t be able to say who wrote what, there is always an “opening up” in the later half of each song. It applies to “Trails”. Also “Thursday”, “Strawberries”, both of which were performed. And it was always in these dance-dream pop moments that my nemesis the backpacker waved her fanny around. Ugh. Oddly, Asobi Seksu finished with a Jesus and Mary Chain cover, Never understand. As usual, I like the acoustic version a lot more – you can hear Yuki more, too. That’s something which did not translate completely at the Parish. But it didn’t deter anyone in the audience from enjoying the set. Although I’m not so sure about that backpack girl, who left a shoe during the frantic dancing… and no one told her about it.