Report from the frontlines – At the Proletariat beer isn’t just for drinking!

OK! One bias you will have to accept is that to me, live music is that by which all is measured. I’ve always thought that the Brits were always good at making Studio(!) albums (Rubber Soul, Dark Side of the Moon, et al.) but on this side of the Atlantic were too impatient and caveman-like to fuck around in the studio. Music is experienced not by smoking pot in your room but in the stench and bile of a club. Fuck your IPOD and Cds* – you get your ass out and you go to the music!

It was with this bias that I went to see the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, The Red and White, Blades, and Jenny Westbury at the Proletariat last Saturday. Shawna and Jonathan; the Sharks and Sailors posse; John Sears; the bands themselves; and a bunch of other people were all there so a few India Pale Ales and it was going to be a great night of music. Having been armed with a camera, a crappy pen, and some napkins, I can report to you what you missed:

Jana Hunter and Theresa Maldonado are two women here in Houston who have been putting a lot of the boys to shame with their incredible ability to craft a song and their exceptional vocal delivery. I think I can safely add Jenny Westbury to this category. Her opening performance last week was unexpectedly charming in a way I can only explain as that same juxtaposition of vulnerability and confidence that makes Neal Young’s acoustic material so engaging. Take a listen to “Self Assured City” on her My space for example; it’s a lovely, simple, and catchy melody but, when she lets the melody stroll off the path hit some unexpected higher notes, it fills you with the same giddy spirit that fills all Houstonians when they feel that first cool breeze of autumn across their face. Another song she performed that you can also hear on her Myspace is “A song about my mom” – the song has this wonderful conversational rambling quality that I simply adore. If these songs don’t grab you then well I guess I’m just a sucker for this kind of stuff but I think Westbury is definitely someone to watch out for here in Houston. [Now, I know what you are going to do and that is listen to the other two tracks on her Myspace – trust me, there are some ill-advised keyboards on there so just stick to the acoustic stuff].

Blades had been hyped by so many people (people whom I trust) that maybe it led to some unattainable expectations. Perhaps it is an inherent danger in math-rock but, when the parts are so choreographed, it can loose all sense of spontaneity and danger. Let’s face it, live rock is about that moment and with Blades I felt they were constantly thinking about that next note and not the one they were playing at that moment. I kept thinking “Hit that note like you mean it! Let it bleed, Goddamnit!” John Sears assured me that their last show at Rudz sounded much better and given that the drums seemed so puny it’s possible that this may not have been the show by which to gauge them but even so the composition also left me a bit cold in that it felt like a bunch of riffs put together. Listen to their Myspace song “Microsurgical Vasectomy.” The song spends a good 2 minutes on a one-chord riff that isn’t particularly interesting then at 2:24 is goes into this cool riff. But what do these two parts have to do with each other? I’m not sure and that’s a big problem for me despite the fact that there are some good ideas floating out there. That may be the genre but I suspect that this band is sill very primordial and they may be the victims of ideas that they just can’t pull off just yet. So, let’s give them a few month and see what crawls out from the bog before we make any call, eh?

The Red and White’s line up of Lucas Gohram, Will Adams, Chris Ryan, and Lance Scott Walker makes them kind of a local super-group and theirs was a bittersweet performance as we were listening to the Red and White’s final set before Lance relocated to New York. Now, I’m all about hearing a band live but the nice thing about a studio album or any recording is that there is a document of that band and this is one band that should have recorded their songs for posterity. This show was just my savoring every note of this band because these motherfuckers aren’t going to ever release these songs. Just listen to their only track (Turn off the Dark) on their Myspace – the cascade of the guitar notes is fucking manna from heaven then when the band comes in – fuck – that’s like a nice warm shot of whisky on a cold autumn day. Then the low string riff juxtaposes – fuck yeah! Now that is how you fucking a drive a riff cross-country! You missed them? Well tough-shit because this was the night they swept up their Madala.

The night closed out with the Fatal Flying Guilloteens. I mean what the fuck can I say that I haven’t said before? This is a band that nobody should follow. Within seconds beer is flying, sweat is pouring from everyone on stage, and the entire crowd looks like they are having an epileptic seizure. It’s sloppy riding-the-edge rock and roll at it’s best. I mean I blew an entire roll on these guys and I’ll be damned if I could get anything to focus – they just can’t stay still. You know what the Guilloteens are? They are that same insanity a child has when he discovers something he’s never seen before and demands everyone look at it and be as excited as they are:

“Look at this! It’s rock and roll!”
“Yeah uh huh.”
“No! No motherfucker! Rock and Roll are you getting this through your head!”
“Uh, can you let go of my jacket?”
”ROCK AND FUCKING ROLL!”
“Uh…”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Then they explode!

========================================

* LPs though are still cool!

LINKS:
Jenny Westbury http://www.myspace.com/jennywestbury
Blades http://www.myspace.com/reloadingblades
The Red and White http://www.myspace.com/theredandwhite
The Fatal Flying Guilloteens
http://www.myspace.com/fatalflyingguilloteens

MORE PICTURES:
Flickr

Next Week:
Guest Writer Rosa Guerrero will expound on the Dimes!

The Familiar and the Spectacle

I’ve recently relocated to the “Live Music Capital of the World,” a fact—if it can indeed be said that this little bit of boosterism is a fact—you will learn as soon as you step foot off a plane at the Austin airport. Placards affixed to the walls of the jetways announce it. Later, you’ll see it on billboards and bumper stickers just to drive the point home. Since they say it so often, it must be true. I’m not sure who “they” is, by the way, but my suspicion is that “they” are also responsible for the even more pervasive “Keep Austin Weird” billboards and bumper stickers. But I don’t buy it (the live music bit—I’m on the fence about the weird bit).

Oh sure, Austin may be the Live music Capital of the World for a week out of every year when bands from all over the world come here for South by Southwest to be seen by A&R guys in leather jackets with a balding spot and a ponytail. Okay, maybe the A&R guys don’t all have ponytails, but they do all have leather jackets. How else are they going to tell the world (and more importantly the talent) that they are rebels, that they aren’t part of the machine?

After the leather jackets leave—the rest of the year, that is—Austin’s claim as our planet’s live music mecca is pretty tenuous. There do seem to be a lot of singer-songwriters that I just don’t have the stomach to actually see. And you’re never very far from an infernal blues boogie band. You can tell this particular beast by its ability to inspire any stiff, middle-aged bottle blonde to bob her head and—God help you if you happen to be anywhere near this action—shake her ass. Her significant other will then bite his bottom lip and make strained faces as he tries to keep up.

But what the hell do I know? My sense of musical adventure since I alit on this city has extended only as far as a good spectacle. A good, familiar spectacle, as I have mostly gone out to see things that I have either seen before or nostalgia acts. I suppose Scratch Acid and X could be considered nostalgia acts. I was almost tempted to go see the Rolling Stones’ first ever performance in the Live Music Capital of the World. I mean, there were billboards for it. And I buy everything I see on a billboard. Usually. This time I resisted.

I couldn’t resist, though, going to the Austin Record Convention, which is apparently “the largest sale of recorded music in the USA.” Or that’s what they say. It didn’t seem as big as the hype. And it wasn’t just records–among the aisles of records, there were also t-shirts, tour programs, and things that nobody could possibly hope to sell. I mean, who wants a slightly water damaged Dokken button? And then there was the Beatles crap. It seemed that each booth had its own little corner of Beatles crap. There were even booths entirely devoted to Beatles crap. Dolls. T-shirts that said “I’m Still Pissed About Yoko.” In a room full collectors, the Beatles collectors really stand out as being especially creepy.

Tonight, barring some natural disaster, I will be going back to familiar territory to see Denton based accordion rock god, CornMo, who will be opening for Ben Folds. You know, more spectacle.

Week 1: Rodrigo y Gabriela

No baby Anaconda yet, so here’s my introductory Thursday blog. But first, low bites to all my fellow snakesters out there. This one goes out to Dick Viper (miss you buddy).
My goal for this blog is, first, to keep it short. I’m sure you got better things to do on a Thursday than sit on a computer reading blogs (after all KoL doesn’t play itself). Second, I’m going to keep it simple ‘cause I don’t want to work that hard and neither do you. And finally, I’m also going to try to give you something to talk about over the weekend and maybe you’ll make a friend. I have lots of friends.
So for this Thursday view one Rodrigo y Gabriela video. Four hands, two nylon string guitars.* No bios, critiques, etc. You can find that on your own; I’m sure you know how. This is a nice intro video that showcases both Rodrigo’s nice lead work, and Gabriela’s insane rhythm work. After you watch it you can go start your weekend.

If you’ve continued reading after watching the video, then you are an idiot and deserve more of my writing. Or maybe you think I have the secret to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s style. Well, I do, and here it is, in one short how-to video in English! Look out Esteban. And here’s Gabriela on the spotlight, John Bonham’s got nothing on her (except the drum kit). And here’s, Diablo Rojo, a great concert closer and one of my favorites. Rodrigo y Gabriela played about a month ago in Durham NC at Duke University. Since then they’ve been on Drew Carey’s boss’ late night show, so I guess they’ve made the big time. But Rodrigo y Gabriela made themselves on the streets of Dublin, so be on the look out, you might find them busking in your town, throw them a coin.
Well, I hope you now feel part of a little known secret that most Gringos (and many Miami Cubans, too) have missed. Rodrigo y Gabriela are undeniable evidence that you don’t need huge amps, electric guitars, 64-piece drum kits, and screaming high pitched vocals to rock like you sold your soul to the devil. What you do need is to actually sell your soul to the devil. However, remember that just because you sell your soul to the devil doesn’t guarantee you are going to rock like you sold your soul to the devil (witness Kajagoogoo – though saying their name does make me feel like I rock, every time, try it). But go ahead and sell your soul to the devil anyways, it’s the only way you’ll find out if you are the second coming of Jesus or not. I’m not.
Oh, and also, Donovan is better than Dylan.
*This blog will be biased towards nylon string guitars, so if you suck, do it on a nylon string guitar, send me a record and I’ll try to turn your suckiness into some sort of achievement.

Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies – Live Classics Vol 1

This would be the day the dsl modem craps out. Posting from the neighborhood internet cafe. Good luck Mr. and Mrs. Anaconda! Babies! And now…


Is Bobby Conn the Anti-Christ? In the song We Come in Peace he sings “we come in peace.” That suggests that he is not the Anti-Christ (who does not come in peace). However the next song is contradictory in that Bobby Conn says “I am the Anti-Christ.” That is an admittance. All the trickery on Live Classics Vol 1 – angelic choruses, ethereal keyboards, glam beats, syncopated metal lead guitars, songs with titles such as We Come in Peace that contain lyrics with similar words – they can’t cover up that admittance, not even with electric violin. Doesn’t the devil play violin? In Georgia yes, here in Chicago the devil might employ a six piece rock band that includes violin instead. Bobby Conn’s singing voice sounds like Patti Smith sucking helium with Prince. So sounds the devil’s singing voice. Try to keep the devil’s speaking voice out of your mind when you think about this. The devil’s speaking voice is deeper and therefore distracting. Is pop-scat evil? If Bobby Conn is the Anti-Christ (and I’m pretty sure that he is) then the small crowd that was present for the recording of Live Classics is going to hell. Is an album truly live if it’s recorded in front of a studio audience? It sounds a bit rehearsed. The devil would do that you know. Why is Bobby Conn telling me to die? If Bobby Conn is the Anti-Christ then what are the Glassy Gypsies? Don’t answer that. Turn out the lights. Don’t turn out the lights.

The Ten Opening Promises

What I lay before you are ten promises directly from the horse’s mouth. These are things that will give you, dear reader, an admittedly broad overview of what you can expect from my future posts. And so, here without any further ado are the ten opening promises:

1) I promise that no matter what Jack White does in his excuse for a career, you will never read about how I finally “get” him.

2) I promise that even though I am a musician myself you will never hear me claim to be anything more than a moron when it comes to music (unless I don’t like you). *

3) You have my most solemn promise that I will try and work the band Popol Vuh into as many blog entries as I possibly can. Yes, I enjoy them that much.

4) I hereby promise to use this blog as a springboard for my opinions on music. This means that you won’t be getting the Lord’s gospel; you will be getting opinions. This means that I can listen to your record, whoever you are, and openly describe it as being shitty without fear of being accused of being a snob (unless you are overly sensitive, and egomaniacal). This also means that I will not bore you to tears by waxing philosophical for pages on end about bands I really don’t give two shits about, or jerking myself off in print for the sole purpose of sounding like I am some sort of expert on all facets of any music scene. I won’t be doing the latter because I don’t care, at all, about being viewed as a comprehensive completist who thinks his encyclopedic knowledge of every talentless local hack that can strum an E chord deserves for me to notice, and worse, write about it. The world, hell, Houston, is filled with god-awful, interminable blogs that are replete with horrible writing about forgettable bands by people who really ought to look into another pastime for their useless creative energy (like playing Dungeons and Dragons, just like when they were kids – pre getting laid). If you give a shit, you will find out just how much I love about music, and why, and also what I think is intolerable, because ignoring what causes you pain is worse than facing it and holding it up to the light.

5) I hereby promise to see at least something in the neighborhood of at least a cool million faces, and lay before you, with my very honor, my most sincere intention to rock more than a good 75% of them all.

6) I am laying down a singular, heart wrenching promise to actually pay a mote of attention to the new Beck album. Hahahahahahaha, just kidding.

7) I promise to stop this silly promise shit and go back to listening to this bad-ass Popol Vuh compilation that Michael Harwell made for me a few years back. Seriously, the Aguirre soundtrack album absolutely slays me every time I listen to it, without exception.

* see promise number four

See you next Tuesday, bitches!

P.S. Seeing as how this is Halloween, I strongly recommend you rush to the nearest Hollywood on Montrose and Westheimer and pick up a copy of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, because although it is unimaginably cheesy, it also happens to be totally fucking brilliant. And to top it off, the soundtrack by Italian prog creeps, Goblin is a classic in and of itself. Check them out on E-Bay, you won’t be disappointed. And while you’re there, pick up a copy of Suspiria, And if you find it’s not for you, stick with the Raconteurs and Jeepers Creepers or some such shit. Happy Halloween!

Devil’s Night

There are many things that I should probably do in an introductory post, like introduce myself, talk about New Zealand’s music scene, make grand statements about my plans, et cetera. But I’m disinclined to do so, because tonight is Devil’s Night.

Those of you who, unlike me, didn’t grow up in or near Detroit, Michigan may have never heard of Devil’s Night. Perhaps your municipalities don’t have the quaint tradition of mass arson every October 30th. As in: 800 arsons at its height, about twenty years ago. I remember the sense of civic triumph the year that less than 100 fires were lit on Devil’s Night. When you’re from Detroit, these sorts of things are what you take civic pride in.

Devil’s Night turns my mind to thoughts of Roky Erickson, not because of any Detroit connection but because – well, because the man was bloody obsessed with the devil. I’d imagine most of you at this stage have heard the 13th Floor Elevators (even if you don’t know it – for instance, the movie version of HIGH FIDELITY kicks off with their version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”), but his solo career has been much less celebrated for any number of reasons. As in: years spent in institutions, electro-shock ‘therapy’, and an increasing obsession with Mr. Lucifer.

The excellent film YOU’RE GONNA MISS ME, which played at the New Zealand International Film Festival this year, chronicles the life and times of Roky better than I can in this short of space, and I highly recommend it if it comes to your area. What I can do, I hope, is convince you that your record collection is lacking if you don’t have some Roky Erickson. Unfortunately, thanks to the sorts of complications that ensue when you’re a popular and mentally unstable musician, his discography is a clustered thicket of half-assed recordings at the height of his instability, unofficial reissues from which he won’t get a cent, et cetera.

My one-stop Roky Erickson solution is also called YOU’RE GONNA MISS ME, and while it’s out of print, it’s a reasonably comprehensive collection of his solo career highlights. (Apparently, there’s a newer double CD anthology, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE BEFORE, which also includes some of his Elevators work.) As befits a mentally ill musician, it’s schizophrenic, from achingly sentimental rock love songs (“Nothing in Return”, “Starry Eyes”) to horror-movie inspired rambles (“Creature With The Atom Brain” and “I Walked With A Zombie”, the latter an egregious omission on the newer anthology) to wild-eyed screaming rock (“Two-Headed Dog” and “Bermuda”, which has an outright scary closing vocal delivery – Roky Erickson can scream like no man alive.

But the scariest song, the sound of staring calmly at the ceiling while the city around you burns, is the deceptively placid, even beautiful “I Have Always Been Here Before”. I’ve listened to this song 500 times if I’ve heard it once, I even named a short film I made after it, and I’m still not closer to figuring out what it means than after a first listen, even though it makes perfect sense. It’s just Roky singing and either one or two acoustic guitars, and he’s singing with a quiet determination completely unlike the scream on his rock songs, and his lyrics ramble about Stonehenge and Lucifer’s temples and squeeze in lines like “that which was supposed to have frightened you, but somehow you never took to fright”.

Maybe that’s what scares me – the resignation of the song that’s revealed in that line, the perpetual past tense, the absolute weariness. This is the sound of a man who has fought with his devils and lost. He can’t even be scared any more, because being scared doesn’t make sense when you have looked your devils in the eye and have taken the worst they have to offer. What’s left to fear?

Other than experiencing it again. And again. And again.

For those who’d like to experience it yourself, I recommend dropping by the MP3 blog Buddyhead and downloading “Before” and two other Roky tracks there, including a downright terrifying version of “Heroin”. I never believed Lou Reed when he said “I’m going to try to nullify my own life”, but when Roky sings it … oh dear god.

And everyone in Detroit: have a safe Devil’s Night.

Party Shutdown #1

Post delayed due to rough Saturday night, an explanation of ‘rough’ follows:

The Nervous Cabaret, who performed at thedanger.com’s Halloween party, had good reason to be anxious. For non-New Yorkers unaccustomed with this city’s cabaret law, we’re living in a city where dancing is illegal in public unless the owner of an ‘establishment’ holds a license, has been fingerprinted, and can afford a back-up generator. I’m not sure if it was this particular law, the various Building Code violations, or the state liquor licensing laws that caused the party organizers to run afoul of the NYPD, ending the fun in a warehouse lost in Bushwick. Probably, too many people (around 3,000) wearing scary costumes showing up all at once didn’t help matters.

It’s tough to throw a party in this town, especially one with a sense of adventure while also meeting the authority’s standards for ‘public safety’. My friend Jennie best described the super-club and mini-club zones of Chelsea and the Meat-Packing District as the ‘Senior Assholes and Junior Assholes Quarters’ within the city: lines of people waiting behind velvet ropes starting fights with bouncers to pay for canned experiences of slick DJs, expensive drinks, new fake-old interiors. It’s the acceptance of the new fake-old aesthetic that really bothers me as an architect, especially when this city is so full of authentic industrial decrepitude. Fortunately, someone is trying to make use of it.

We did get to see the Hungry March Band march, a bit of Subatomic Sound System, and several of the scheduled DJs spin prior to it all going wrong- but, I’m reasonably certain that neither of the headliners, Spinoza & Wolf + Lamb, made it on. The police showed up shortly after 2am to thoroughly disperse the crowd, so thoroughly that I lost all of my friends in addition to the ones I couldn’t find in the first place. Admittedly, this might have been aggravated by alchohol-impaired judgements on several counts. My friend Rob sent me this message a few hours later:

…I made it to 3rd Ward. I did not see you there, but that was no surprise considering how overcrowded it was. What a fucking nightmare, those guys should be charged with endangerment of their guests. On the way down from the third floor the bathrooms were overflowing and dripping down the stairs onto everyone’s head, most people will probably wake up with E. coli…

Hopefully, Third Ward will be able to get a new Certificate of Occupancy and a bonafide cabaret license, because a lot of people would like to see it all go right.

Welcome to our Humble Blog.

A few months ago I got the idea of devoting a blog exclusively to music. I mean why not? I’d thought of some people whom I’ve always admired and, for some inexplicable reason, I was sure that they’d jump aboard. Thanks to the internet I was able to contact these people who’ve been a big part of my musical life and guess what? They agreed. So, welcome if you will:

Carlos Anaconda – (He chose to remain anonymous) performed in one of the most unique and singular bands ever to come out of Houston – Dry Nod. Truly a band that set standards I’ve rarely seen met and never exceeded.

Heidi Bullinga – former Station manager at KTRU. To suggest that I take chances with my DJ sets, she’s once told me “If you don’t play at least one crappy song during your show, you haven’t done your job.” The best piece of musical advice I’ve ever received.

John Cramer – Former Mike Gunn guitarist whose sharp and biting wit are equally matched by his love of music.

Justin Crane – One of the driest smart-asses ever to sit in a DJ booth.

Doug Dillaman – His band Ultra Hummus** was an assault on all that came within 500 feet of their shows. This band made noise like no other and to this day remains an inspiration.

Kilian Sweeney – His bands de Schmog* and Texas Guinness Lovers showed me that a band could be fun, kick up a party, and yet still be challenging and smart.

If you haven’t caught on, everyone here is from Houston or at least spent enough time here to be permanently damaged by its music scene. My hopes in rounding up these super-friends is to have a blog that provides some snippet of what music means to us – the excitement of a new song, the boredom of loading musical equipment before a show, the feel of a local scene, or what ever the hell strikes us or (when we choose to punt our column) our guests. In short this is our transmission to you and we hope you enjoy it.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to shower as I’m off to see the Fatal Flying Guilloteens perform along with The Red and The White at the Proletariat – it should be a great show!

*My humble apologies to Kilian. I misspelled this as “Da” in my original post.
** Yeah, I screwed this one up too. Sorry Doug.