SXSW Short Reviews: Class Actress, Boxer Rebellion, Tahiti 80, Clock Opera

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Austin – Here are some shorter reviews of bands I saw.

Boxer Rebellion

Boxer Rebellion played the anchor slot of British Embassy Tuesday night showcase and the well coiffed Nathan Nicholson and his band delivered a stellar, straight forward performance of select tracks off their new album The Cold Still. Unfortunately for them, they played after Pulled Apart By Horses, a band whose antics left the crowd in a daze. In comparison, the Boxer Rebellions brand of straight up melodic rock might have seemed kind of tame. They did play a song about kidnapping though, so that counts for something.

The Boxer Rebellion – These Walls Are Thin by TBR

Class Actress

Class Actress is Elizabeth Harper, a Brooklyn singer whose heartfelt dramatic electronic beats are well suited for parties at 3 am. Sadly, her timeslot was at 3pm and it was a bit awkward to walk from a bright and sunny day into a dark night club with some deep, dark beats. Despite the small crowd, Elizabeth did a nice job delivering the Class Actress experience. Dressed in an oversized dress shirt and flanked by two dudes on electronic gadgets, Elizabeth sang her tracks over some nice throbbing beats. Maybe it was her dress shirt, but at times I thought it was some drunk recently heart broken/repressed chick on stage singing karaoke. Maybe that was the point. Her debut record Journal of Ardency is out now.

Class Actress: Journal of Ardency by TheMusicFile

Clock Opera, Bat Bar,SXSW

Playing before the debut of Ellie Goulding, I had originally pegged Clock Opera as an appetizer before the main course. At some point during their set, it hit me – these guys were really good. Featuring a bassist, a drummer and lead singer Guy Connelly who was on synths, Clock Opera played some catchy electronic tracks. Guy’s semi heartbreak/dramatic vocals work really well with the type of electronic music they are creating. I dont know much else about these guys, but they are definitely a band I’ll keep my eye on in the future.

Belongings by moshi moshi music

Tahiti 80

Confined to a dark night club, Tahiti 80‘s sunny French pop music seemed terribly misplaced for a SXSW show. Still the veterans carried on, previewing tracks off their third album The Past, The Present, & The Possible. The bands summery laid back pop music seemed like a complete derivative of their personalities, as each member of the band seemed to have been having a blast. Even a guitar problem, which forces one of the members to restring his guitar, did not seem to faze these guys. It would have killed a younger band, for sure. The short set ended with hit single Heartbeat, much to the crowd (and my) delight.

SXSW Review: The Black Lips, Club DeVille, March 18

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Austin – The Black Lips are a good time. Playing Club De Ville on Thursday night to test out some “new shit” that’s due out in June, the Atlanta band absolutely rocked the crowd on Thursday night.

It only took about two songs before a mosh pit started. I don’t know the Black Lips well, but it was a catchy punk rock tune that evoke shades of the 70s NYC punk scene. As the set progressed I came to realize that the Black Lips are basically a classic 60s era pop band squeezed through a punk rock sieve. The result is surprisingly catchy tracks with some heavy edge. Analysis aside, The band basically played some kick ass rock and roll on Thursday, including O Katrina, one of the few tracks I know about. The band was quite lively on stage, spitting water, going into the crowd, kicking up a mess and generally giving the crowd a nice dose of adrenaline. Any band that refers to video projections as “magic time” gets good grades in my books.

Their new album is called Arabia Mountain, and it’s produced by Mark Ronson. Sounds like a good combination.

Black Lips – O Katrina! by todaystune

Concert Review: Mark Kozelek, March 22, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything, Music | 2 Comments

“A cynic is just a disappointed romantic. They want the world to be different, but know it isn’t, can’t, and will never be.”
-Some guy I used to talk to in the 90’s

Since about 1996, this is what I had always imagined Mark Kozelek to be. More than anything else, his brooding ways made him the misanthropic soulful white man of mystery to me. Teenage girls love that stuff; big girls do too. The perceived vulnerability, rejection, passion, and sad sweetness. The tortured artist (a little extreme, but not by much). Prolific songwriting. Talent pure and simple (the greatest aphrodisiac on earth). Rumors of his sleazy playboy ways with female fans only fanned the flames of desire for me.

Though my love affair with the Red House Painters peaked in the 90’s, I missed several chances to see Kozelek in his various forms after I turned 19. And after finally coming to see this man live last night, a flood of nostalgia took me back to a place when music was a soaring chasm of knife-wrenching emotions. Lost mixed tapes, stalemated relationships, high highs, and low lows. One only wonders how a teenager might ever become bored with such hormonal peaks and valleys naturally occurring on an hourly basis. Listening to Rollercoaster now, the familiar ebb and flow has returned…yes, I have renewed love for this man. I might forget about him again soon, but for now he is back with a new level of fixation.

I am not sure what else to say here. I am still a little shell-shocked at what a bipolar experience the 2.5 hour set was. I felt like I was being put in a hyperbaric chamber of vicissitude followed by joy and laughter, interspersed between one of the most intimate performances I’ve ever seen in my life. Apparently the pattern of what we saw last night was not unusual. I suppose this is Mr. Kozelek’s method of bonding with his audience. Here’s how I saw the events unfolding:

  1. Commanding massive attention. When’s the last time you walked into a venue where a whisper sounded like a scream, and the sound of a cash register opening and closing was the loudest thing in the venue? No matter how we may feel about his abrasive discourse as a performer, this man owns his shows.
  2. Enduring light heckling for a couple of minutes. When are people going to figure out that yelling out requests is the lowest form of human expression at a show?
  3. Cracking some jabbing jokes. There were moments where Kozelek came off quite charming in the show–maybe even likeable, gently winning the audience over with some jokes that started off as sort of mean (at a dork’s expense), and then evolved into being downright cruel. There was a funny moment early on where he described smelling pot smoke during the set as the most dangerous thing he’d ever experienced in Canada. Then a super(loud)fan up close yelled “awesome” as soon as the first couple of chords were being strum for the next song…he stopped and said “how the fuck do you know what song I’m going to play? I don’t even know what song I’m going to play!” that loosened us all up. I have to admit I was afraid my piercing laughter might be called out for extended derision.
  4. Insults, insults, insults. When another unfortunate fan failed to learn his lesson in humiliation, he got a stern talking to. This fan proceeds to yell “What’s Steve Martin like?” to which Kozelek responds, “That’s all you have to say to me? I have like 20 albums and that’s the question you ask!??” From there, it disintegrated pretty quickly into the standard angry jokes about the guy being a nerd who’d never been laid (I suppose this is what male adult bullying is). From there, it was a slippery slope into “My record label tells me I’m not selling well in Canada. Who the hell cares about Canada?? You’re like Australia…no one cares about you.”
  5. Vicious lecture about talking at shows (hey, I can’t say I disagree there). But I have to say that even as an old lady concert matron who is this (*squinches fingers together*) close to carrying a Sophia Petrillo old lady purse, if only to suckerpunch excessive talkers with at shows, thought he took it entirely too far. His policy of no photography or cell phones (the bouncer particularly emphasized how texting would not be tolerated when he carded me) had already struck a lot of folks as being overly…hmm…arrogant? When he had another outburst with a group close to the stage talking quietly, he said “Do I have a sign that says TALK above my head? Do I look like a TV set?”, a series of gradual outbursts throughout the night following this theme persisted. I was happy when he redeemed himself by explaining how it felt to hear talking as a performer…”It’s like having sex and then a cell phone goes off – it’s like a fly buzzing around your head when you’re making love”.

I have to say, that these moments of sharpness were always contrasted by eventual salvation, humbleness, and other amazing things. Not least of which was the music, where a lone man and his acoustic guitar managed to sound like the richest orchestral arrangement in recent memory. If the Flaming Lips show last year was an illustration of collective intimacy; Mark Kozelek’s show last night was the peak of isolated intimacy. When he performed, I felt like I was the only one there listening.


  • All Mixed Up – probably my favorite performance of the night, and certainly my concert moment of the year so far
  • Mistress
  • Four Fingered Fisherman
  • Follow You Follow Me (I told you Phil Collins used to be pretty awesome)
  • Carry Me Ohio (in encore)

Setlist: Bold indicates blown away

  1. Up to My Neck in You (AC/DC cover)
  2. Glenn Tipton
  3. Third and Seneca
  4. Trucker’s Atlas (Modest Mouse cover)
  5. Tiny Cities Made of Ashes (Modest Mouse cover)
  6. New Partner (Will Oldham cover)
  7. Moorestown
  8. Natural Light (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone cover)
  9. Australian Winter
  10. Heron Blue
  11. Like the River
  12. Bay of Skulls
  13. All Mixed Up (Cars cover)
  14. Follow You, Follow Me (Genesis cover)
  15. Summer Dress
  16. Half Moon Bay
  17. Mistress
  18. Void
  19. Down Through
  20. Blue Orchids
  21. Church of Pines


  1. Four Fingered Fisherman (Modest Mouse cover)
  2. Carry Me Ohio
  3. Katy Song

I feel inspired to write classic album reviews again.

4.5 out of 5

SXSW Review: Men Without Hats, Club DeVille, March 19

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 5 Comments

Men Without Hats

Austin – Men Without Hats was undoubtedly one of the most unique shows I have ever went to. Now for some background, Men Without Hats are a Canadian 80s new wave band that gained popularity with hit singles The Safety Dance and Pop Goes The World. You have heard those songs before. They were the headliners for NXNE‘s showcase in Austin, at a nice and late time of 1 am.

My pure interest in attending this showcase was just to hear The Safety Dance and also, to just say that I saw them. I’m sure a small minority at Club Deville were in that group. As I soon found out, the majority of the people at the show were big Men Without Hat fans who I suspect have been waiting awhile to see these guys.

Starting about ten minutes past one, Men Without Hats lead singer came on stage to a rapturous applause. Dressed in a leather hat and wearing those weird sunglasses that I thought only Bono wore, the rather well tanned Ivan Doroschuk looked like he just stepped out of his house in Fort Lauderdale for the show.

The mostly way over 30 crowd didn’t care. They were putty in this man’s hands. It became pretty apparent that most people here knew lyrics to all the songs and with Ivan Doroschuk’s baritone voice, pointed deliveries and classic rock star stage moves, the atmosphere quickly got festive.

One woman fan appeared to be the time of her life. Probably in her early forties, I am sure that she had waited her whole life to see this band. She had also secured one of the few chairs available in Club Deville and so at the start of the show, she was comfortably sitting. However with the first strings of the first song, her excitement was unstoppable and she had to get up. There she threw her first awkward double fist pump, yet for most of the song, despite wanting to get closer to see her heroes, she would only stray a few inches from her chair, not wanting to lose such a valuable resource. “What if I had to sit? I’m old and it’s 1am!” she must have thought. However, as Men Without Hats played what I suppose to be hit after hit, the woman got more and more excited and probably thought “fuck it” and abandoned the chair in favor of rushing to the front of the stage. It was quite heartwarming to see music give people such an excitable rush. My photographer Derek then took the chair.

Okay back to the show, obviously I am unaware of any Men Without Hats songs besides the two I mentioned. The crowd was loving it all though. When the opening beats of the Safety Dance emerged, people just lost it. They started doing the wave and even Ivan did it. At this point, I fully realized how it would feel to be on board those classic rock boat cruises that are thrown together once in awhile. I was on that rock cruise. Obviously the song inspired a singalong and also… wait for it… a CONGA line! Seriously. It was kind of amazing. Pop goes the world ended the set and I am pretty sure you couldn’t find a happier group of concert goers that night.

1. Jumpin Jack Flash (Rolling Stone Cover)
2. Moonbeam
3. Antarctica
4. I Got The Message
5. Living in China
6. Safety Dance
7. Pop Goes The World

8. I Like

Safety dance from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.