SXSW

Song of the Day/SXSW Reminiscing: The Head and the Heart – When I Fall Asleep

Posted on by Ricky in Song of the Day | 1 Comment

One of the shows I regret missing this year was Seattle folk pop act The Head and the Heart at the Microsoft Party at SXSW Interactive last year. Now as you know, SXSW Interactive is a four or five day festival where a lot of internet professionals go to mingle, add each other on twitter (and subsequently, forget about them) and drink their face off. Large companies such as Google, Microsoft and Adobe often throw parties to show off how much money they have/make people like their brand. So at the Microsoft Party, the company hired The Head and the Heart, Yeasayer and some other band to play their party at the GORGEOUS Moody Theatre.

Now these parties typically have open bars, so as me and Derek made our way to the W hotel for the party, we were expecting some sort of alcoholic intake. What we did not expect, was that the there was another party, thrown by some other company on the terrace of the W hotel. Confusingly walking into that one (that’s the easiest way to crash parties). We were shocked to discover the high quality free alcohol they were serving – pricey cognacs and Johnny Walker Blacks. What what!

Among a sea of free Lonestars, Dos Equis and Captain Morgan Rums, finding a party with free quality liquor at SXSW is like hitting the jackpot. Rising to the opportunity, I pretended to be friends with the people at the front of the line to get the drinks quickly. There was some frowns from the people behind me, but then I told them I had 20,000 followers on Twitter and I would @ them, and all was peaceful once again.

As you would expect, we over indulged on cognac/whiskey, and by the time the Head and the Heart came on, the Panic Manual crew was a mess. Derek somehow made it back to the hotel at some point, I made it through both the Head and the Heart and Yeasayer but don’t remember any of it and apparently walked home with a poster.

While it seemed amusing at the time, I regretted being in such poor state when this band came on. All you have to do is listen to this song to figure out why:s full of delightful strings, pianos and colorful arrangements, the track’s gentle tones and toe tapping rhythm is pleasant to the ear and the heart. It’s a shame I missed it all. Next time, I won’t.

The song is off the band’s recently released Itune sessions CD. It features a bunch of cool songs. Check it out here

Concert Review: Foster the People, June 18, Mod Club Theatre

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | Leave a comment

L.A.’s  Foster the People should probably document its incredible timeline for anyone hoping to capitalize on Hype Machine. It seems like only a few short months ago, their breakout single Pumped Up Kicks was making the rounds. I’d be willing to bet that whoever scouted and signed them to Sony Music is rolling in accolades right now. It’s not often that a band enters a major label as indie to enjoy immediate major chart success.

Seeing as the band’s debut Torches has barely been officially out for a month now, Saturday night’s concert at the Mod Club was pretty impressive. They played their first Toronto show at Lee’s Palace in early April only to graduate a mere two and a half months later to the next level. It usually takes bands several tour legs to take that step, so even in today’s breakneck pace of internet-fueled mania, this is very fast progress.

I wonder if openers Gardens & Villa are taking notes.

Unfortunately for them, I find it doubtful that they’ll be skyrocketed to anything other than funemployment in terms of their musical careers. Granted, I only observed around three songs, but throughout them I was whisked to the mall kiosk that features Central Americans in ponchos playing unfortunate new-age flute music. I suppose everyone else was too busy attending Taste of Little Italy or playing NXNE to book anyone more appropriate.

The good news is that Foster the People are charismatic live, and that the album plays better in front of an audience than it does in the studio. That is, with the exception of Pumped Up Kicks (falling rather flat no matter how many bubbles were dropped from the ceiling), which they wisely chose not to close with. There are several enthusiastic drummers who like to perform standing up/slightly hunched over, which only serves to add perceived showmanship. Lead singer Mark Foster is also surprisingly dynamic, which you would not necessarily expect from a former jingle composer.

While the set was quite short, I’m not sure what else we should come to expect from an outfit that has around 10-12 officially released songs. And besides, the frat people needed somewhere to dance in bubbles on a Saturday night.

This is their setlist from the Ohio date last week, which I can only suppose was pretty much what we got on Saturday:

Warrant
Miss You
Houdini
Waste
Call It What You Want
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Pumped Up Kicks
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Helena Beat

Helena Beat by Foster The People

Song Of The Day: ARMS – Heat And Hot Water

Posted on by Paul in Song of the Day | Leave a comment

Toronto – ARMS were one of a few bands that I first came across at SXSW and they definitely made a good first impression with their catchy indie rock. Yet for whatever reason, we never did write about them at the time. It’s time to rectify that now. 

The Brooklyn based band is fronted by former Harlem Shakes guitarist Todd Goldstein and they have a new album, entitled Summer Skills, due out sometime in May.  In the meantime, check out this track from their self-titled EP.

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!