SXSW Film Review: 299 Queen Street West (Sean Menard, 2023)

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


If you were to ask me for the perfect documentary that captures what it was like to listen to music while growing up in Canada, 299 Queen Street West would be it. I’m very happy that this film exists because I can now watch it every five or ten years and remember what it was like when I was young.

For the uninitiated, 299 Queen Street West chronicles the story of MuchMusic, a DIY startup 24 hour music channel that was an extremely large part of the lives of everyone who grew up in Canada in the ’80s and ’90s. If you are not Canadian, however, this documentary is still for you as the film also chronicles the changing landscape of music on several fronts, from the medium through which it was delivered (music videos to streaming) to the genres that took turns dominating the landscape over the course of 30 years.

The story is told purely through archival clips, featuring the voices of many of the players that defined the MuchMusic era including Erica Ehm, Steve Anthony, Master T, Rick the Temp, and Strombo among others. I really appreciated this approach (vs visual talking head) as it really let the film focus in on clips of the past. I was not in Canada when MuchMusic first started, but it was interesting to see how the channel grew from its initial conception to it taking over the building at 299 Queen Street west. For me, the nostalgia kicked in with clips from Electric Circus, The Wedge, Intimate and Interactive and footage of all the VJ’s.

At almost two hours the film provides just the right amount of time to relive all those memories and as the film draws to a conclusion, we start to see the demise of MuchMusic and it’s eventual transformation into what it is today, which is garbage. Still, the story of MuchMusic as captured in this film will bring up a lot of fond memories and joy for those who lived through it while also capturing a very important moment in time for the world of music as a whole.

I believe this film will be streaming on Crave at some point, which is quite ironic in itself.

SXSW Review: Voxtrot, March 16, Stubb’s

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


Watching a reunited Voxtrot play Stubbs at SXSW in 2023 brought a warm and fuzzy feeling to my heart.

It’s hard to imagine but the nostalgia of hearing tunes like “Raised By Wolves” and “The Start of Something” hit much differently than, say, the Britpop bands I’m mostly enthralled with.

For the uninitiated, Voxtrot is a band from Austin that released a series of “hits” in the mid ’00s. They released one album, several EPs and then disbanded just as quickly as they arrived.

I can’t actually tell how popular the band truly was because I only knew those songs were really big in my circle – music blogs and music diehards. However, in a way that’s why the nostalgia hits differently. They are a band that you would have discovered via blogs at the time and their songs – pure pop heaven with catchy lyrics and hooks – were the stuff that made you feel really good when you discovered it. Hearing their set brought me back to that period where music discovery was exciting, something I can’t quite seem to replicate today.

While I’m not sure if my sentiment is shared, what I can be sure of is that a large crowd showed up on Thursday night to see the group play Austin for the first time in over 13 years. Kicking off with the track “Raised By Wolves,” the group sounded like they never missed a beat, even adding a much punchier, more rocking sound to each track (perhaps adjusting for a festival crowd). The next 40 minutes reintroduced the crowd to their catalog of songs including “Soft and Warm” and “Wrecking Force”.

In a move that would delight any Voxtrot fan, the group debuted a new track during their set. Maybe their next show at SXSW won’t take another 14 years. That makes me happy.

SXSW Review: Jamie-Lee Dimes, March 17, Lucille

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

20230317_122643 (640x488)

Appearing as part of the Sounds Australia showcase, Jamie-Lee Dimes took to the stage at Lucille and announced that she had decided beforehand that she’d just wing her setlist depending on how vulnerable she was feeling. Based on the selection of songs played that afternoon, I’d wager she was feeling vulnerable enough.

That vulnerablity came through in songs like “Find A Home”, a song about touring life and living out of motels, as well as in “Wishing I Was Someone Else”, a song described by Dimes as being “about spending too much time in isolation and yeah … you know how that goes.”

“I’m singing all my midnight moonshine songs I wrote in my mom’s garage during the pandemic,” explained Dimes at one point and true to her word, she played a set of fairly personal songs, most of them unreleased tunes from her upcoming album, due out later this year.

SXSW Review: Brandt Brauer Frick, Desire, Kalush Orchestra, March 16, Parish

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

20230316_230204 (640x480)

Sometimes the most memorable shows end up being the ones you don’t see – the “ones that got away,” as it were. These are the shows that stick out for some reason, often because you regret missing them, but sometimes it’s because you still ended up seeing something great anyways. Such is often the case at SXSW and such was the case on Thursday night at Parish.

With weather conditions either delaying any outdoor shows or cancelling them completely, the Thursday night of SXSW was already thrown into a bit of chaos in general and much of the Panic Manual crew just opted to stay inside, safe and dry, once the rain and lightning started up. Not me though. I rallied and headed out, protected by my rain poncho and only slightly deterred by a brief stopover inside the convention center while I waited for the rain to die down a little. After all, this was Tangerine Dream night and I was determined not to miss it. But, alas, I did miss it.

I arrived at Parish, only slightly damp and ready to take in an evening of music which would culminate in a performance by the German synth masters. Onstage as I walked in were Kalush Orchestra, who I had completely forgotten were on this bill, so I was pleasantly surprised to catch even a few brief moments of the current Eurovision champs in action. But wait, weren’t they supposed to open the show at 8:00? And wasn’t it now pushing 10:00? This complicated matters a bit.

Throwing a further wrench in the works were the delays to Desire’s set caused by some sort of technical issues. These issues were eventually settled and Desire put on a compelling enough performance that culminated in a cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Pretty cool, but still not Tangerine Dream.

Next up were Brandt Brauer Frick, a trio that happens to share a member with the night’s headliners, so in a way, I kind of saw Tangerine Dream, right? At least maybe a little?

A model of German precision and efficiency, the trio took to the stage, each clad in suit and tie, and proceeded to lay down some sweet electro jams. It sounded fantastic and it was pretty impressive to watch the interplay between the three of them. Often, electronic music performances can ultimately amount to just watching someone stand there pressing buttons and twiddling a bunch of knobs, which isn’t always the most exciting. With Brandt Brauer Frick, I really wanted to watch them stand there twiddling knobs.

And then came the moment when I had to make that hard gametime decision – should I stay or should I go? With Tangerine Dream’s initial performance timeslot only about 20ish minutes away, and with Roosevelt still getting the equipment set up for his show, it looked like it would likely be at least 1:00 before the group would take the stage. And having already had a fairly long day, I was starting to fade.

So I called it – no Tangerine Dream for me. So be it. Oh well, at least I came close. Maybe next time. And hey, that Brandt Brauer Frick set made for one heck of a consolation prize, so all in all, not too bad.