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

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 5 Comments

DSC_1778.jpg

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

:
Asobi Seksu, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 127.jpg

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

Concert Review: British Sea Power, Lee’s Palace, March 24th

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – The first time I saw British Sea Power, it was November 7th or 8th, in 2003. It was my second ever show in Toronto. They were playing the Horseshoe. It was my first time at the Horseshoe. It was a crazy show. Despite an excellent debut album (Decline of the British Sea Power), The British Sea Power in 2003 was known more for their stage antics then they were for their music. The stage contained foliage, they wore foliage and they generally had crazy shows which involved various members of the band invading the crowd. One particular moment I recall was Eamon (now part of Brakes) walking through the crowd with a marching drum just going absolutely nuts with it. It was at that moment I though “hmm, probably made the right decision moving here”.

That was roughly seven and a half years ago. Since then the band has delivered three more excellent albums, including 2011 Valhalla Dancehall. While reviews have been lukewarm about Valhalla Dancehall, I think it’s only because the Brighton band have set such a high standard for themselves after 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music?. On Thursday night, British Sea Power took the familiar stage at Lee’s. There was no foliage this time around, but when you have a back catalog as good as British Sea Power’s, there’s no need to do anything but play the tunes.

Once again introduced by Kayvon, who has done this every show in Toronto, the band took the stage in a rather subdue manner. The band played a pair of tracks off Valhalla Dancehall (Who’s in Control, We Are Sound) to start off their set. The newer material sounded very British Sea Power-ish, which isn’t too surprising, since the band seem to be content in creating music within this world they have created. Nothing sounds like the British Sea Power and British Sea Power sounds like nothing else. I don’t know what I just said, but fans of their music will get it. Just in case you thought this was going to be a sole showcase of their new material, the opening riff from Remember Me started and instantly you felt a bit better. Oh Larsen B, one of the tracks off Open Season followed. At this point, Yan announced that his brother (Hamilton) had a cold and would not be singing, which led me to think that I wouldn’t hear Blackout (I didn’t).

The rest of the nineteen (!) song set list featured samples from all the albums, including the track Zeus, off their 2010 EP. Since I’m a big fan, every track sounded good. The addition of Phil Sumner and Abi Fry on keyboards and violins helped create a fuller sound for a lot of the tracks. The encore was rather fabulous, as the band played Waving Flag which naturally merged into the instrumental The Great Skua before launching into Carrion which somehow segued into All in It. The band left to a great ovation. They might be content to stay within their own musical world, but damn I am content to stay it in with them.

At this point, I left the show, satisfied that I had a nice 18 song set. However

I AM AN IDIOT

Because shortly after, there was a second encore,which featured piggy back riding, crowd surfing and a crazy version of Apologies To Insect Life. Behold, Ladies and Gentleman, my first big concert regret of the year.

Anyways, British Sea Power are awesome and you should check them out.

Who’s In Control
We Are Sound
Remember Me
Oh Larsen B
Stunde Null
Luna
Zeus
Thin Black Sail
Atom
Fear of Drowning
The Spirit Of St. Louis
It Ended On An Oily Stage
Living Is So Easy
Lights Out For Darker Skies

Waving Flags
The Great Skua
Carrion
All In It

Apologies To Insect Life

British Sea Power – Zeus by The Drift Record Shop

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

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

Asobi Seksu, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 121.jpg

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?

Asobi Seksu, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 119.jpg

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.

SXSW Review: Datarock [Cedar Street Courtyard, Filter Culture Collide party, March 19, 2011]

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

Datarock, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 73.jpg

Baltimore – Here is a recepe I learned at SXSW this year:

Several Talking Heads
4 red tracksuits
4 Norwegians
1 bowl of electro-pop
200+ SXSW goers

Cube the Talking Heads and marinate in electro-pop. Mix in the Norwegians wrapped in individual tracksuits, sprinkle the SXSW goers, and bake under warm March sun for 45 minutes until well done. Voila. You have made a Filter Culture Collide party with Datarock.

I am usually not enticed by electro-pop/punk, even on the best of days. But the way a Datarock song is assembled makes it easy to like. Simple bass lines, scarce use of guitar for highlights or hooks, everything strung together loosely by weird lyrics set to a melody that ought to be played on a synth. The Talking Heads resemblance is plain from miles away. They have a song called True Stories that is full of Talking Heads song titles (not to mention its theme is basically an offshoot of Psycho Killer). Alos, why else would you shout out Fa-Fa-Fa? The interesting thing is that the formula actually works. They were one of the first acts for Filter’s party that afternoon, and it showed. Although it was far from empty, Cedar Street Courtyard was not as we saw it in yester-years during White Lies or Temper Trap. This time, I had the option of moving from the balcony to the stage without catching snake eyes from 50 people. Datarock opened energetically by stomping down the staircase. Initially I was skeptical. The vocal Fredrik Saroea fist-pumped like a cheerleader, Thomas Larssen on bass had a ridiculously wide stance that made 2/3 pi looks acute, saxophone Kjetil Møster was jumping behind the vocal like a boxer, and Adrian Meehan looked every part the timid vampire under that hoodie, picking at drums away from the sun.

I am glad that first impressions are often wrong. After my initial assessment,  Datarock opened with the Pretender (I believe). Over the next 45-50 minutes they would go through their albums, including Computer camp love, California, Catcher in the Rye (there may be a Bon Jovi tune here), and DANCE. For each song, Saroea would smartly (or smugly, depending on your vantage) introduce the audience to a background. California, for example, was supposed to be a play. Not that anyone cared whether Datarock makes the Writers’ guild, but compare this to the often muffled: “Mmmmmm… thank you. This next song is called X”. I would much rather have such stage act enliven the performance than not, especially because Datarock is built on such idiosyncrasies. The audience, too, gradually warmed up to their presence. I started the concert on the balcony beside two gentlemen who were scoffing. By the time everyone else in the courtyard was fist-pumping to Fa-Fa-Fa, they told me about their plans to high-five the band after. Let’s be clear, though: this was NOT a Matt and Kim style free-love-for-all. Perhaps the music was off-kilter. Everyone was just on the cusp. If Matt (or Kim) was to jump topless into the crowd at their concert, there would be a supernova on the spot. Møster did so, and was greeted by a parting audience like Moses with Red Sea. I think he was a little baffled. But honestly, it was 3PM. I would need much more alcohol before I stick my hand out to support a sweaty 200 lb Norwegian. Late in the show, Meehan also abandoned the drums so he could jump onto the speaker stack to sing. As I said, they were very energetic, but I can’t figure out why the crowd wasn’t as receptive as with other comparable concerts.

Datarock, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 75.jpg

Overall, Datarock was very enjoyable to watch and listen, and not just because of showmanship. I would hazard to guess that the formula worked because of the European influence… house music and continental suave. Or perhaps that’s just my head talking. 0.5 star bonus!