SXSW Review: Laura Jane Grace, Big Phony, Graham Coxon, March 15, Central Presbyterian Church

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

Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace
Taking a break from Against Me!, Chicago native Laura Jane Grace played a few shows around Austin in support of Bought To Rot, her latest and first with new backing band The Devouring Mothers. She also performed here solo, without backing from The Devouring Mothers, and I can see why.

Her voice is bright, solid but not overwhelming. Angry and cathartic when she shouts, it felt as though she could take on the cavernous space regardless of the mic. Or maybe she was thinking for those poor Dickensian-looking hipster children in Austin who will be eaten as TDM runs free.

I found “The Airplane Song” very good, and same with “The Apology Song“. Sure, those titles aren’t creative, but it doesn’t matter when the contents are heartfelt. She did include at least one Against Me! number: “Cavalier Eternal”, which is so light it doesn’t seem possible for it to carry the lyrics. I came away from the concert convinced that “The Best Ever Death Metal Band” should have chosen “Hospital Bombers” for their name – after all, they’ve already uttered the diametrically unthinkable in a church.  

Big PhonyBig Phony
AKA Big Tony or Pony in Korea, NYC born Big Phony now lives in Seoul with his gravely voice and a lonely guitar. “My job is to bum you out – otherwise I’m not doing it properly”, he declared as soon as he finished MacGyver and it was opportune to speak. And Gods were we bummed out.

The guitar playing is less strumming and more classical. Most other songs are a type of lamentation meditation. Songs like Shoot the Shit (“this song isn’t that sad but it is about my dead father who passed in my teens”) speaks to the pains of disconnecting with family, but are never resolved except for a relieving note. And the beats are quite odd. He talks so much, half way through starting a song he would pause and drift onto another train of thought (but I secretly do admire his set for the honesty). Gods I hated this set, and I hate Big Phony just as he instructed me to.

Graham Coxon
Graham Coxon
When one shares a spot on a BBC list with Billy Corgan, Jack White, and Prince; one does not claim to “not know how to play the guitar to save one’s life”. But Graham Coxon did just that, I think as a perfectionist. The Blur guitarist has a voice that is quite distinctively, unmistakably English. And to be fair, that voice layers a British Morbid Dark (find it at your local Sherwin Williams) on more serious numbers.

“Latte” (not “Coffee and TV”) was pretty cute – with a fun chord that I bet would be difficult for me to do in the next life. Actually there are multiple instances of that slider type of chord – and I’m just mentally finishing it. “All Over Me” was one of the highlights for me, as well as “Sorrow’s Army” (I can’t stop hearing Sauron’s Army).

Coxon made use of the looper on quite a few occasions, and it was fun to see the layers like a tiramisu constructed right in front of you. Watching him employ huge glasses to read an equally huge book for chords and lyrics did remind me of my age, however.

SXSW Review: The Nude Party, Nothing, Cherry Glazerr, March 15, Container Bar

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

The Nude PartyThe Nude Party
Opening with some good ol’ rock instrumentals, North Carolina 8-piece The Nude Party started a lazy afternoon for me. This is the laid-back indie rock that you always wished to hear at SXSW.

And what they lack in crowd banter and apparent energy, was more than compensated for by their bright music and highly entertaining stage presence. Highlights of their set were certainly “Feel Alright” and the closer “Chevrolet Van”. My brain jumped immediately to Bananas-In-Pajamas after hearing the opening chords of the latter. “Man, you wish you’ve got a job”.  

Nothing
Nothing
I could qualify Nothing as a polite heavy rock band. But if the name says otherwise, why bother to categorize nothing? While Domenic Palermo’s singing voice isn’t spot on, it doesn’t have to be, seeing how it carries its own off-tone 1995 charm. I do have to say that for me, the recordings sound better – check out Dance On The Blacktop, their third album, which came out less than a year ago. Check out “Blue Line Baby”, which was a stand out at this live set.

Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr
It has been a while since a technical glitch spoiled my SXSW experience. But unfortunately for Cherry Glazerr, the microphones were not playing ball at this set. Credit to them for sound musicianship – they played patiently while the sound people caught up – and when they eventually did, pieces of the new album Stuffed and Ready, such as “Daddi” and “Wasted Nun”, came flying like free tailed bats out of the Bracken Cave.

This being an uber chilly and windy Austin afternoon, they did not bring out the theatrics from their videos. But it was nonetheless exciting to see that they could reinvent themselves, away from singing about grilled cheese.



SXSW Review: Say Sue Me, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, March 13, Valhalla

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

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 9.52.36 AM

Every year for #sxsw, I typically get hyped for the Korean music showcase. It’s a typically glossy affair that in the past had the appeal of bringing some of Korea’s biggest pop acts into these tiny venues.

However, the last year or two have seen K-pop explode in popularity which led SXSW to book the Korean pop night at the Moody Theater. For whatever reason, this became less appealing to me.

Luckily, off in the little corner of Vahalla, another Korean movement was burgeoning. Damnably, a London-based record label, was putting on a showcase highlighting something that has mostly gone under the radar – Asian rock. Being Asian, I felt it was part of my duty to check it out and I wasn’t disappointed.

Say Sue Me was actually on my SXSW list for 2018 but I wasn’t able to make their showcase last year. A four piece band, the group’s sugary twee sound brings forth the nostalgic memories of Camera Obscura and those Labrador Swedish bands (Lacrosse, Acid House Kings, etc) with a little more guitar mixed in.

Between the catchy hooks, the soft comforting vocals of Sumi Choi and the hand claps, I’m shocked these guys aren’t bigger.

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 9.52.28 AM

Next up was the Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, a three piece punk rock band. First of all, that’s the best band name. Second, look at their song titles:

“I’m a Fucking McDonalds”
“National Police Shit”
“Keep Drinking!!!”

Basically, they are excellent namers of things. Their music wouldn’t look out of place in Southern California and it seems they are heavily influenced by their local punk scene. The visual contrast of the band and the music was eye opening. I previously associated that type of music with tattooed-punk looking white dudes (and sometimes gals), but to see them played by relatively clean cut, polite Koreans made me realize that music really is universal and I should stop assigning music to certain subcultures.

Despite their relatively clean cut looks, the group rocked hard, and a mini mosh pit developed beside me. At one point, guitarist Seo Bondu aggressively ran into the crowd, a pleasant surprise which I was not expecting. Kind of like the entire show itself – a pleasant surprise I wasn’t expecting.

SXSW Review: Olvia Neutron-John, Foie Gras, March 15

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

olivia neutron john

If you’ve ever been to Austin, or even if you haven’t but know remotely anything about the city at all, you’re probably familiar with its unofficial motto: Keep Austin Weird. But that motto need not only apply to Austinites and the Friday night of SXSW saw two visitors to the city doing their best to keep things as weird as possible. In their respective shows, Olivia Neutron-John and Foie Gras definitely made it weird with each act putting on an intense and memorable performance.

Olivia Neutron-John’s sound was made up an interesting mix of industrial sounds with some Casio sounding beats and tones – a unique aesthetic wherein you could hear some light and bubbly sounding bleeps and bloops while Olivia Neutron-John (aka Anna Nasty) shouted out things like “Hold what you kill, feel it slip away!” (or something to that effect) into the mic. I’ll be honest – my initial interest in this show was based 100% on the play on words in the artist’s name, but once I had a listen and then saw it live, I was hooked.

foie gras

For the final slot on my schedule for the night, I headed to Cheer Up Charlie’s for Foie Gras, but once I entered the room, it seemed more like I was in Twin Peaks. And not the cool, kind of creepy yet chill vibe of The Roadhouse, but the full on ‘everyone’s talking backwards and Killer BOB is freaking you out in the Black Lodge’ sort of vibe. So of course I was very into it. In a post on her Instagram from after the show, Foie Gras wrote, “shout outs to the guy who said my set both aroused and scared him” about an audience member and I suppose that’s a fairly apt description. Ultimately, Foie Gras’ dark, heavy goth vibes were the perfect way to end things off for my Friday night and along with Olivia Neutron-John’s earlier set, made for a perfectly weird evening.