New Song from Sleater-Kinney on Planned Parenthood Benefit Compilation
You can now stream 7 Inches For Planned Parenthood, a collection of 7 inch records that will benefit the organization, ahead of its November release date. Contributors include a wide variety of notable musicians, comedians, and writers, from Margaret Atwood to CHVRCHES, who recorded covers, spoken word pieces, and new songs for set. Pacific Northwest shredders Sleater-Kinney penned a new song, “Here We Come,” for the collection. You can listen to the full playlist below, and better yet, you can buy the set on 11/17 to help Planned Parenthood during a crucial time when women’s access to birth control, health care, and safe, legal abortion are under threat. Full details are available here.
Yet Again, Reports Of Sexual Assault In The Music Industry
As reported last week, allegations of sexual assaultinvolving several indie musicians continue to surface, including Alex Calder (who has since released a statement confirming the story and apologizing) and producer Gaslamp Killer (who denies the allegations; Brainfeeder label mate Flying Lotus was criticized on Twitter as a rape apologist for coming to his defense at a recent show). But perhaps the most startling developments have been the case against Real Estate/Ducktails guitarist Matt Mondanile, whose unseemly behavior toward women was a so-called “open secret” in the scene. Spin has published the full allegations against him, and most of his Ducktails shows have since been canceled. Meanwhile, Bjork has revealed the harassment she experienced on the set of Dancer in the Dark at the hands of Lars von Trier, and Ariel Pink finds himself embroiled in controversy once again after a reddit user described his “tone-deaf” shenanigans at a performance in San Francisco over the weekend, in which he drunkenly pinned his girlfriend and bandmate Charlotte Ercoli to the ground. If all of this news is depressing, you can take solace in the NPR #MeToo playlist, featuring artists who have used music to validate, work through or transcend their experiences. Listen here.
RIP Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, read the story of transgender soul pioneer Jackie Shane, Fox News are not fans of Radiohead, watch new videos from Screaming Females, MGMT and Japanese Breakfast, find out how 100 cars can equal a song, the Michael Jackson Halloween special will air on CBS next Friday, Google’s latest doodle honored Selena, Dan Deacon + rats, Roxane Gay interviewed Nicki Minaj, the history of Homerpalooza, Haim covered Shania Twain, new songs from Tears For Fears and The Go! Team, Jack White’s children’s book, and the latest Taylor Swift single.
About an hour from Los Angeles is Pomona, well known for car dealerships and a strip of perfectly creepy looking antique shops with pastel pink and green exteriors, but there was something very magical in the air the night Dan Deacon stopped by for a one-off show in the middle of his stint supporting Arcade Fire’s massive arena tour. He had specifically taken the night off for a visit to The Glass House, a much celebrated all-ages venue located on a street that seems like something out of a ghost town, with the only exception being the pumped up high school cool cats congregating outside, resting on telephone poles, and performing tricks on their skateboards. However unassuming, by the night’s end my friends and I had decided the show was one of the best we had experienced in a very long time, or possibly in forever.
The show itself seemed to have around seventy people there, which in the large space of the venue created a dynamic for a comfortable, positive, and ridiculously friendly vibe. It seemed as though both the audience and Deacon were happy to be playing in a more intimate setting where, as he put it, “there were no chairs or bleachers.” After all, Deacon is known to put on shows that include interactive icebreaker type games involving his audience.
Opening up for Deacon were local indie rockers Jetpacks and Laserguns. Their stage set up included homemade, giant triangular neon signs and monitors with vertical lines which reacted to different sonic elements in the songs. The band played a plethora of new age electronic equipment, in addition to good ol’ guitar, drums, and bass. Though their sound is decidedly modern, their affinity for eighties sounds cropped up with a buoyant energy through the set – high frequency swirling noises, bass lines that fit perfectly in the groove of the drums, and squealing , buzzing synths that took on the tone of the laser beams referenced in the band’s moniker. Too often, a heavy reliance on these elements can make a band’s output seem distanced or sterile, but Jetpacks and Laserguns’ infectious enthusiasm and handmade crafting of visual elements make it clear that so much human love and energy have been put into this specific creative project.
Minutes after Jetpacks and Laserguns exited the stage, Dan Deacon began setting up his table of neon-tape-covered equipment in the middle of the floor – yes, the middle of the floor, not the stage! It was clear from the beginning of Deacon’s set that he is not only a musician, but also something of a comedian, a sort of goofily unhinged summer camp counselor bursting with ideas for wacky, feel-good social experiments in which everyone is encouraged to participate. He began the show with a rant about the future, aliens, and dualism, and after a mind-blowing first song, he ordered the audience to gather on either side of the room, wait until the drum and bass drop, and then race back to the middle in order to high- five as many people as possible. Quirky activities like these have long been built into Deacon’s sets as a means of disrupting typically passive audiences, and its nearly impossible not to smile and play along.
My vantage point directly in front of Dan Deacon provided optimal grooving-out space (I put in a good hour of intense dancing, or rather primal jumping movements) and also allowed me to see how intricate Deacon’s actions are when layering his complex digital soundscapes. He covers all of his gear in striped neon pink, green, yellow, and blue tape, creating a space where even electronic music geeks such as myself would not be distracted by the kind of equipment he was using. Every time he turned a knob, or pressed a new button on his “table of mysteries,” sounds would blast out of the speakers that had so much texture and were so tangible, it felt as though I could touch them and put them in my pocket to take home.
Most of the set relied on on songs from America, released in 2012 on Domino Records. However, Deacon performed so much noise improvisation throughout his set, that each song he played felt stimulating, new, and incredibly special. For instance, during his last song, in order to create a specific distorted and crunchy noise, he scraped the top of his microphone on the giant speakers behind him; it is creative flourishes such as these that make Deacon’s music so unique, moving, and memorable. Part of what his work hinges on is his incredible abilities as a curator of interesting sounds. But Deacon doesn’t rest on those laurels – instead, he spends the entirety of his shows creating a community, no small task in just a few short hours. But by the end of the night all seventy of the newly sweaty and blissed out audience members felt a little more familiar with one another as a result of Deacon’s ability to do so. It’s no wonder that Arcade Fire have enlisted him to help inspire party-like atmospheres in clubs ten times the size of The Glass House, and he’s certainly risen to that challenge. You can check out his website for upcoming dates.
Friday dawned with a frenetic anxiety brought on by the odd sensation that all of the fun I was having was coming to an end. From a pessimistic point of view, my time in Austin was half over. Though I’d not totally squandered the preceding days the list of bands I wanted to see still seemed a mile long. I tried to be positive, reminding myself of the two golden days that remained, and with serious fervor began to check those bands off the list.
First, the RhapsodyRocks party at Club DeVille. The line-up was great, but comprised mostly of bands I’d seen once or twice. However, the internet radio-sponsored showcase was also throwing around free beer, beer coozies, sunglasses, and cowbells, so that increased my desire to stick around.
I’d caught Tanlines most recently at last October’s CMJ, where they’d debuted a lot of new material. Again, most of the set list was comprised of songs from the Brooklyn duo’s recently released album Mixed Emotions, and not only are Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen growing more comfortable with these tracks, their pride in this latest work is readily apparent.
I hadn’t seen Washed Out since the previous summer and, much like Tanlines, know Ernest Greene to reliably deliver a great show. It had been almost two years since I’d seen Zola Jesus, during which time she’d released her most outstanding material, so I was psyched for her contribution to the showcase. BUT I also knew that over at the Mess With Texas warehouse, Purity Ring would be gearing up for a set I couldn’t miss. I’d been dying to see them since their release of two amazing singles “Ungirthed” (w/ b-side “Lofticries”) and “Belispeak” but I hadn’t been able to to make it to their last NYC performances. I couldn’t resist; all I could do was hope that I’d make it back in time for Zola.
Purity Ring’s lyrically morbid but insanely catchy pop songs are constructed with two basic building blocks: Megan James’ lilting, slightly coquetteish vocals, and the production of Corrin Roddick, who in a live setting mans a table of percussive lights and electronic devices. While I was definitely starting to see this delegation of music making responsibility repeated in band after band, Purity Ring went a few steps further with the addition of a captivating light show that took place before brightly-hued red, orange and teal curtains. The backdrops are illuminated by spotlights, turning James and Roddick into ghostly silhouettes. James is in charge of pounding an elevated bass drum at dramatic intervals, and as she does so, it lights up like a full moon. She also swings a mechanic’s utility light around her head, though in a controlled rather than erratic fashion. But most impressive are the tiered lights which respond to taps and tones within the songs, framing Roddick’s mixing table. They shift from red to purple to blue to yellow to orange, glowing through the crowd like psychedelic fireflies attempting to attract the trippiest mate.
While all of this was exciting to watch, the songs were the real draw. Purity Ring has kept their material close to the chest, selectively releasing only three songs thus far and not a note more. I had to know if they could keep up the seething momentum those infectious pop gems had created long enough to release an album that wasn’t just filler, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. Each offering was carefully constructed, mysterious yet up-tempo enough to dance to, and not just an extension of the sound they’d already built such buzz on, but a perfect showcase for their strongest assets. There’s no release date set for the Canadian duo’s full-length LP, but if the SXSW performances are any indication we can expect more enigmatic lyrics layered with deceptively joyous melodies and a healthy dose of R&B-influenced bounce.
At this point, Zola Jesus was just beginning her set back at Club DeVille, but again I was faced with a dilemma. Over at the Hotel Vegas compound, BrooklynVegan was hosting a noteworthy showcase of their own, and two bands I had yet to see were slated for the afternoon – Craft Spells and Tennis.
Hotel Vegas is comprised of two small conjoined lounges, one of which is named Cafe Volstead and has some really swanky taxidermy mounted on equally swanky wallpaper. As part of the takeover, BrooklynVegan had also erected an outdoor stage, upon which snappy London-based foursome Django Django were banging out an energetic, joyful set, wearing eccentrically patterned shirts reflective of their generally quirky pop. It might have been the mixing but the live set seemed to be lacking some of the more creative percussion and synth techniques present in the band’s popular singles “Waveform” and “Default”. The songs came across as pretty nonchalant, summery pop a la The Beach Boys, whom the band has often drawn comparisons to.
Meanwhile, Inside Hotel Vegas, the dark and pounding rhythms of Trust were a stark contrast to the daylight scorching the earth outside. I’d seen Robert Alfons perform solo under his Trust moniker as opening act for Balam Acab last November, and the set was pretty similar despite having some additional band members this time around. Alfons grips the mic and leans toward the audience as though he is begging an executioner for his life. His vocals sound like they’re dripping down the back of his throat, which I mean in a good way; in a higher register that same voice can sound nasal, though even then it’s often tempered by the pummeling beats that typify Trust’s music. What I find really fascinating about Trust is that while these jams have all the glitz and grunge of 90’s club scorchers, Alfons consistently looks as if he’s just rolled out of bed without bothering to comb his hair or change his sweatpants. Circa 1995, if you heard these songs on the radio you could pretty much assume they were made by muscular men in tight, shiny clothing and leather, or at least some guy wearing eyeliner. It’s not necessarily true that a vocalists’ style has any import on the music itself, and let’s face it, not everyone can be the dude from Diamond Rings. But I find myself a little worried about Alfons; he looks like he’s going to slit his wrists in a bathtub the second he walks off stage, and given the caliber of the songs on debut LP TRST, that would really suck.
Trust’s set was dank and sludgy in all the right ways, so I almost forgot it was mid-afternoon; I emerged from the dark revery to see Denver-based husband-and-wife duo Tennis setting up. Joined by two additional musicians on drums and synths, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley were picture-perfect; Alaina’s tiny frame exploded in a poof of feathery hair and her tall, hunky husband looked like he would put down his guitar any second and hoist her in his beefy arms. It’s not hard to imagine these two as Prom King & Queen. Their sophomore albumYoung and Old, out now on Fat Possum Records, shows quite a growth spurt from 2011’s Cape Dory, an album mainly concerned with breezy, beachy anthems (it was inspired by a sailing trip the couple took). Both thematically and lyrically, Tennis have shored things up without losing their pop sensibilities. Their set was shortened by a late set-up but toothache sweet, mostly drawing on songs from the new record and closing with a lively rendition of lead single “Origins”.
Craft Spells played amidst the glassy-eyed mounted animals of Cafe Volstead, and I was beyond excited to see them play. I’ve followed the band since they began releasing singles in 2009 and was thoroughly pleased with last year’s Idle Labor, which included updates of those early demos and drew upon them to create a cohesive 80’s-inspired synth-pop gem. Craft Spells nimbly translated the buoyant feel of favorites like “You Should Close The Door” and “Party Talk”; heavy-lidded crooner Justin Vallesteros seemed less the sensitive, socially awkward recluse implied by some of his more heartsick lyrics, fearlessly surveying the crowd and blissfully bopping to his own hooky melodies. The boyish good looks of all four bandmates had at least one lady (me) swooning in the audience, wanting to somehow smuggle them out of the venue in my pockets.
I was right down the street from Cheer Up Charlie’s, a brightly painted heap of cinder blocks hunched in a dusty lot on E 6th where electronic mastermind Dan Deacon would soon be unpacking his gadgetry. First, I stopped at an adjacent food truck trailer park and ate what I deemed “Best SXSW Sandwich” – The Gonzo Juice truck’s pulled pork roast with carrot slaw, gobs of schiracha cream sauce, and spicy mustard piled on (what else?) Texas Toast. This obviously isn’t a food blog, but as I sat at the crowded picnic table I had a definite SXSW moment; across from me some guys were talking about shows they’d played earlier and shows they were playing later in the week. I sat there reveling in deliciousness and simultaneously trying to figure out what band they were in based on venues and time slots. While for most part everyone SXSW is in nonstop party mode, many of the musicians play two and sometimes three sets a day, and then find time to go to their friends’ shows. And despite all of the gear they have to haul and strained vocal chords and hangover headaches, these guys talked excitedly about contributing to that experience. Not that I didn’t before, but I really found myself appreciating that energy and enthusiasm; the passion and drive of the musicians who come to Austin this particular week in March is the biggest factor as to why SXSW is so exhilarating.
Speaking of enthusiasm, if you’ve ever seen Dan Deacon live then you’re well aware of the level of energy necessary to survive one of his sets (and if you haven’t, seriously, what are you waiting for?). Deacon’s densely layered electronic arrangements provide a backdrop for the zany activities that he introduces between the songs. His instructions can include interpretive dance contests, high fives, mimicry, and sometimes chanting. He’ll either divide the audience into specific sections or ask the audience to make a circle, introduces a concept, and then pretty much everyone joins in the fun, because the main draw of a Dan Deacon show is the wacky outcome of hipster pretentiousness falling away. Deacon does this at every show, making the antics typical by now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, because in all of us there is this hyperactive five-year-old who just wants to eat a bunch of candy and jump around forever and ever, and these shows cater to that exuberant inner child. He has a knack for turning an audience from spectators into participants, and with the shift from the traditional singer-guitar-drummer-bassist band model into a more experimental, electronic-driven realm, where it’s sometimes just one guy on stage with a computer, being able to do that is paramount. Though Deacon is normally backed by multiple drummers and a bevy of live musicians, one unique aspect of this particular performance was that Deacon was flying solo, so it’s a good thing he’s been honing his audience involvement skills for a long time. He didn’t even perform on the stage provided, but in the pit of dust with everyone crowding around him – the bizarro ringleader of an impromptu circus. While Deacon claimed to hate playing SXSW, no one saw true evidence of such – he seemed rather like he was enjoying himself. He introduced some new material, which was promising considering the fact that his last release, Bromst, is by now three years old. His next release, a first on new label Domino, is slated to drop sometime this year.
I was pretty excited about the awesome acts lined up for The Hype Machine’s crazy “Hype Hotel” endeavor. I’m not sure what the space is normally used for, but they seemed to have a good thing going in the mid-sized building; there was often a line to get inside that stretched around the block. I’d RSVP’d and was particularly excited for that evening’s show – Neon Indian opening for Star Slinger, guaranteed to result in an insane dance party. Unfortunately, RSVPing didn’t matter since by the time I went to pick up my gimmicky little “key card” and wristband, they’d run out, and I was therefore shit out of luck. Since trying and failing to get into the Jesus & Mary Chain show the night before had taught me a valuable lesson about not wasting time at SXSW, I shrugged my shoulders about it (it helped that I’d already seen both acts prior to SXSW) and decided to choose from one of the 2,015,945,864,738 other bands playing.
One of those bands was Nite Jewel, Mona Gonzalez’s solo project fleshed out by a couple of guys and a badass lady drummer. I’ve remained sort of undecided about whether I really like Nite Jewel’s music; though the dreamy pop songs are not in and of themselves particularly divisive, the music sometimes falls flat for me. I’ll listen for a minute, ask myself if I really like it, think that I do, decide that I don’t, turn it off, then inevitably revisit it. But there are two reasons I’m siding in favor of Nite Jewel once and for all. For one thing, her newest record One Second Of Love is brimming with sublime pop nuggets that amplify all the best aspects of Mona’s tunes. There’s still a dreamy minimalist quality, but the songs are less lo-fi and more straightforward, more accessible. The second reason I’m now an official Nite Jewel fan is that her show was fantastic. Part of the eclecticWax Poetics bill, Mona rocked the line-up with cutesy energy and just the right amount of kitsch. She danced around next to her keyboards like the heroine of an eighties movie might dance alone in her bedroom, and that’s really the quality that imbues all the tracks on her latest offering, and the biggest draw in listening to them. Since the equipment set up had taken a little longer than expected, her set was short, though to her credit Mona begged the sound tech to let her keep going, reminding him that “They’re pop songs they’re short”. While it’s true that these inspired bursts of affection issue forth in a gauzy blur, they are far from simple pop songs, driven by her distinct personality and sound.
On my way to meet up with Annie at the S.O. Terik showcase in the the neighborhood, I had to stop by Status Clothing, a 6th Street storefront where 9-year old phenom DJ BabyChino was on the turntables. Billed as the World’s Youngest DJ, BabyChino is nothing if not adorable, dressed like many of his forebears in the requisite urban garb but in much, much smaller sizes, and sporting large, plastic-rimmed glasses on his shaved head. He’s Vegas-based but has toured the world, though he had to stand on a raised platform just to reach his turntables and laptop. Every once in a while, he’d mouth the words to the old school hip-hop he was spinning, elevating his badass status but still made me want to say “awww”, which is something I’ve not said of any other DJ, performer, or producer, ever. He drew quite a crowd of gawkers, and because most of them were watching from outside the glass windows of the storefront I started wondering if this little guy felt less like a DJ and more like a taxidermied antelope at the Museum of Natural History. I also wondered at what age BabyChino will want to drop the “baby” from his name, and will make his mom stop leaving notes in his lunchbox.
I wandered far down Red River into the woodsy area between downtown proper and the river, filled with leafy, down-home bars. As I meandered about, looking for some friends I was meeting up with, I heard Gardens & Villa performing “Orange Blossom” at one of the bars. This song gives me shivers of springtime joy; Gardens & Villa is one of those bands I kind of ignored for a while, not for any reason other than I simply can’t hear everything, but at this point I’m super excited for their debut record to drop and was really hoping to catch one of their sets while in Austin. My timing was perfect in that regard but I honestly couldn’t figure out which bar they were playing or how to get in to see them. I had a decent-ish view from the street, even if my short stature made seeing over the fence difficult. I could hear the band just fine and their sound was spot on. However, since this set up made me feel like a weirdo stalker and I had promised to meet up with my posse, I moved on.
Clive Bar had a sprawling multilevel patio that is probably very nice when there aren’t bands squished awkwardly into a tiny area making it impossible to view the stage and impossible to move through the cramped crowd. Because Annie is the shit and had a raw hookup we hung out in this “Green Room” area that was really more of a log cabin bungalow to the side of the stage. A really gnarly painting of a nude lady with a rabbit’s head was mounted on the ceiling; all around her were bunnies in various stages of Boschian copulations but rendered in a comic-book style. We slugged beers in this secret, magical little den while New Build played their poppy indie jams. Everything New Build does sounds like it could be soundtracking some cheesy movie – whether it’s funky 70’s espionage flicks or 80’s roadtrip rom coms. I don’t know if that’s really a bad thing, especially since they tackle that task with flair and aplomb. But I also have to admit that I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, mesmerized as I was by all the bunny sex going on in the painting above my head, and the two semi-obnoxious girls arm-wrestling because (I guess) they thought it would impress whatever dudes were around. Plus, New Build are some pretty unassuming dudes; they all wore nondescript tees in neutral colors, sported prerequisite beards (not that you’ll ever hear me complain about a beard), and gave the impression that they were there solely to play some songs in as understated a fashion as possible. Which they did.
When Grimes took the stage we were able to stand in the photo bay, giving us a great view of the bizarro-pop goddess. Maybe I should mention that I have a total girlcrush on Claire Boucher (if I haven’t already elsewhere on this blog), a crush which (dark)bloomed last summer when I saw her open for Washed Out. Unfortunately Boucher was not having a good night – the equipment at the venue was half-busted, and her voice was fast disappearing with the strain of singing in showcase after showcase, making it difficult for her to hit the falsettos omnipresent in her tunes. She swore a lot, but she was the only one who truly seemed to mind all the technical difficulties – everyone else was enthralled by her, dance-marching in her futuristic get-up, tucking her mic between her shoulder and her cheek while twisting knobs or plinking keyboard notes. While I want to keep Grimes and her quirky woodland-sprite magic all to myself, I’m glad everyone is as head over heels for her as I am, because she is a true artist. The second you write her off as some half-baked weirdo, she throws out some deep metaphysical theme, or else she’s chronicling her difficulties with intimacy in a way that’s every bit as real and accessible as someone who’s half as cool. I could go on, but I’m already embarrassing myself.
Since I was working on my own death cough it was time to call it a night. My final day in Austin was upon me, and I’d finally redeemed myself, in the nick of time.
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.