Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tilly and the Wall at Emo's

Once again I stepped outside of my normal realm of musical tastes to venture into the world of “indie girl rock”. Last month it was Rilo Kiley. This month it was the Tilly and the Wall show at Emo’s Thursday night. I had a good time at Rilo Kiley, so I was up for some Tilly.

I recently discovered Tilly and the Wall by accident, randomly combing over different myspace band profiles. I recognized the name as I remember they were one of the bands that received a lot of buzz during SXSW. After browsing their myspace page, I saw that they were coming to Emo’s and penciled it in to my calendar. I didn’t have anything planned for Thursday and I wanted to see what the buzz was all about.

As I arrived at Emo’s, the place was kind of empty as the show didn’t start until an hour later. Those that were there early seemed to be a similar crowd to the people I saw at Rilo Kiley. There were lots of teen girls that looked straight out of the Urban Outfitters catalogue. There was no shortage of leggings, 60s style dexter glasses (or what I call Lisa Loebs) and headbands. The few guys in attendance seemed to be with their dates or girlfriends.

The first band to start the night was a young Austin based band called “Ringo Deathstarr”. I have seen their name on a few flyers around the web, but were not familiar with them beyond that. From the very start they seemed nervous to me. Perhaps some sound issues contributed to that. Age and band maturity may been a factor, as none of them looked older than 21 to me. I also had trouble hearing their vocals. I did come away with a good idea of what their sound is like and heard some good things musically. They incorporate feedback well and have a really good guitar player who stands out. As I am listening to their music on myspace while writing this, I can’t help but notice a complete paradox in what I heard from them Thursday and what I am hearing now. Their music is really good. You will like it if you are into stuff that sounds like The Cars, Starfly, Joy Division, etc. I will just call it an off night. I’m making it a point to go catch another show from them later on sometime.

The second band on the bill, Belaire, came on shortly there after Ringo Deathstarr wrapped up. Belaire is another band whose name I had seen and heard but have never seen live. I noticed a larger crowd had come in for Belaire, with even more headbands and leotards to go around. Once Belaire got started, it immediately became an idie rock dance party. Oh yeah, the sweet-sweet electro pop, synthesized sounds have a lot of power over of the hipster and indie girl persuasion. They can’t help but move to it.

I didn’t catch the names of their songs really, except for one called “Madison”. They claimed that “Madison” was about a dog. Over all their set was good. They had a much better sound than Ringo Deathstarr did, technically speaking that is. Their last song of their set was the stand out single for me, called “Back Into The Wall”. They mentioned they are working on a new album for a fall release. Belaire fans should look out for that.

Finally around midnight came the headliner we were all waiting for, Tilly and the Wall. You could tell they were coming by all the glitter and balloons circulating around. It was going to be “one of those shows” I thought to myself. The reality of it was that I didn’t know what to expect. All I ever heard about this band other than the SXSW reviews was that they had a tap dancing percussionist. Right in the middle of the stage was an elevated wood platform. There were also two smaller wood platforms by each microphone towards the front of the stage. I couldn’t wait to see what all that was about.

As soon Tilly and the Wall came out, all you could heard was screaming cheers. They even brought out more balloons and yes, a tap dancer. The two lead vocalists, Neely and Kianna, were both wearing tap shoes as well to enhance the tap effect. It was definitely original and cool.

Besides the tap dance percussion, Tilly brought with them an elaborate lighting system to provide a real psychedelic atmosphere and further enhance their live show. The lights were even brighter than their clothing, which as you can see from the clips and pictures, is pretty bright. It was like living in an episode of “Laugh In” for a second there.

Once they got started, I was totally drawn in. There was not one second that went by during their set where I was bored, spaced out, or dying to leave. I couldn’t have been more entertained by something so unfamiliar to me. I heard so many familiar elements from other bands as I listened to Tilly and the Wall. I heard some elements of Simon and Garfunkel, The Cars, The Bangles, The Octopus Project, and even Abba. Yes, Abba.

Tilly and Wall is something straight out of the 60s. If Tilly was around during the first Woodstock or The Monterey Pop Festival, they would have rocked those crowds and been legends by now. Your mom would be telling you about Tilly and the Wall. Instead, your once hippy mom will soon be asking you to put some Tilly and the Wall into her ipod for her.

Tilly is now a band I will continue to listen to. Pull my man card if you want. I don’t care. I probably left it Rilo Kiley anyway. I’d recommend Tilly and the Wall to anyone, and I mean anyone, even if for just their live show. Check out a clip of my favorite song of theirs, called “Pot Kettle Black”.

Tilly and the Wall standout tracks: Pot Kettle Black, Tall Tall Grass

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Under The Gun at Rock City Icehouse

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Saturday at Rock City Ice House, local Austin based punk rock act Under The Gun performed to a small crowd for what was another Austin Insite night. Although the night was about some metal/rock band called Point of Contact, I was there for some punk rock. The fact that it was an Austin Insite night helped in my decision to head out as Insite nights always seem to have a couple good bands on the bill worth checking out.

I was there super early as the flyer advertised Under the Gun going on at 8:30. Well at 8:30, there wasn’t anyone on stage. I am not sure what happened, but it turned out that Under The Gun didn’t play until closer to eleven. It was worth hanging out though as Under The Gun is always an energetic and excellent live.

Due to the scheduling or booking mix up, they had to keep their set short. It was solid none the less. “Triple A” and “Drinking My Life Away” are my personal favorites. As always they ended their set with “Six Pack and a Bong”, a punk rock party song with a little bit of a reggae vibe to it.

Under The Gun exudes the spirit of the old Warped Tour I used to go to in the 1990s when I was in high school. You will never catch them in skinny jeans or with any kind of guy liner. Will Campbell (bassist) can’t fit in skinny anything at 6’4 and 235 lbs.

They sing about drinking and “the end of apathetic ass holes”. For a three piece, they come hard despite Will and Dennis Mauk’s (guitarist and lead vocals) silliness. I think if their current album “Drinking My Life Away” had come out in 1995, I could have seen them on Warped Tour. For now, you can catch them around the Austin and central Texas area. Show up early as they worth drinking to.

I wanted to conclude by saying that I have a lot of respect for them. They play on despite recent drummer changes, switching from a five piece to a three piece band, and other of life’s obstacles that have been thrown their way. That’s real punk rock. They will continue on as long as they have a place to play and a bar tab. Real punk rock fans will love them. They are just one of many solid punk rock bands the Austin scene has to offer. Hang out on Red River with me any given day and see for yourself.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cumbia Rock with Kanko

Last Friday night I headed downtown to The Parrish on 6th to check out a band I first heard about at SXSW. During SXSW I worked a radio showcase over at Habana. Batanga featured a lot of good artists that day, but one band that caught my eye was local Latin Alternative act “Kanko”.

To be honest, I was running around doing miscellaneous errands and production assistant type stuff while Kanko was on. What I did hear from them that day sounded good to me, so I figured since they are Austin based I’d get a chance to seem them later on.

Later on brings us to the end of May. I saw Kanko on the bill for Pachanga Fest. I missed Pachanga, therefore missing Kanko again along with the other bands that played. I’m not too disappointed because I knew I would catch them again some day. That some day finally came Friday night at The Parrish.

Kanko started their set around 11 pm, a good time slot for them. They immediately got started with some music that had all the hot white girls dancing. Enough said there right? Kanko’s music is a good blend of rock and Mexican cumbia....with hints of punk. I call their music “cumbia rock”.

The only other band in town I’ve seen in my made up “cumbia rock” genre is Maneja Beto. Maneja is more of the indie rock persuasion where Kanko’s music is harder and faster cumbia rock. Despite the harder and faster sound, it is still very danceable.

Lead singer Brian Ramos is a very active musician on the scene. I’ve noticed that along with being the lead singer of Kanko, he also plays in another Latin Alternative band called El Sancho. El Sancho played in a Myspace Latino showcase recently there at the Parrish. Ramos also got together with Charanga Cakewalk to create a theme song for Rock y Roll Radio, an internet radio show hosted by Paul Saucido.

With all this talent, drive, hard work and contacts I think Kanko will be around for a while. I am not sure to what level exactly, as they are a semi-new band that only came together within the last couple of years or so. However, with Maneja Beto on hiatus for a while, Kanko will be a good cumbia rock fix in the meantime.

Kanko tracks to listen to: Agua Ardiente, Culero, La Maquina

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Los Lonely Boys at Blue's On The Green

You haven’t lived in Austin, Texas until you have caught a Blues On The Green show at Zilker Park. Sponsored by Amplify and put on by KSGR, Blues on the Green is a summer tradition here in Austin. I look forward to it every year as it is the thing to do on a hot summer Wednesday night. Best of all, it is free to the public. You can even take your dog. What more do you need?

On July 9th, Blues On The Green featured none other than San Angelo’s own Los Lonely Boys. It is rare you get to see a major label band of their magnitude for free. Judging by the size of the crowd, it seemed that all of Austin felt the same way. Even with the heat and ungodly humidity, I felt like I was at ACL Fest out there.

Now before Wednesday night, the Lonely Boys had been seen around Austin promoting their new album “Forgiven”. They did an in store performance and signing at Waterloo Records a few days before this show. They also made a cameo appearance at Antone’s during an encore with Del Castillo. I was at that show covering Pacha Massive and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. They did an awesome War cover set that included “Sisco Kid”, one of my all time favorites. I thought for sure I would hear some more War covers Wednesday night, but they left those off the set list.

Los Lonely Boys did play a good hour plus set with tracks from their new album Wednesday, including their new single “Staying With Me”. It is a good first single, but lacks the catchiness that “Heaven” had their first time around. Other surprises they threw the crowd’s way were a Stevie Wonder cover of “Superstition”, a guest guitarist named A.B. Hernandez and some random gringo singer nobody heard of. That was actually the funniest part of the set as the song he sang with them was called “Guero’s in the Barrio”. It is not on my copy of the new CD “Forgiven”. Apparently it is only on version you get at Wal Mart. Don’t get me started on how I feel about that. I’m not happy about it to say the least.

The brothers Garza always put on a good show, showing off their personality and musicianship. Wednesday night was no different. I know this may sound cheesy or corny, but I really dig how they smile a lot while on stage. They should smile. They have every reason in the world to be happy and optimistic about their upcoming tour to support “Forgiven”.

The material from their first album was the highlight for me because it was a blend of Mexcian, blues, and rock. There is less bilingualism in “Forgiven” than their self titled album I have. None the less, they are totally worth seeing live. Check out this video I took from my digital camera during “Heaven”.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Pacha Massive live at Antone's

Last Thursday at Antone's, New York's own Pacha Massive played a free show sponsored by Pacifico Beer. Pacha Massive is a bilingual band who blends Latin, jazz, funk and some electronica. Their sound is something I have been looking for in Latin music for a while. I have discovered some real Latin music gems this year at the local level, such as Maneja Beto and Grupo Fantasma, but not anything new in the Latin mainstream.

Pacha Massive is a new group signed to Nacional Records, the same label as recent Austin performers Manu Chao (ACL) and Bostitch & Fussible (Pachanga Fest). Once again, Nacional Records signed an incredible band.

Pacha’s ethnic make up is as eclectic as their sound. Front man and guitar player DJ Nova is Dominican, his wife and bassist Maya is Colombian. The rest of Pacha’s ethnic make up includes Mexican, Italian and Philippine. It makes sense that a group so eclectic in make up creates such an incredible hybrid of genres. This is why I enjoy their music so much and was looking forward to them coming to Austin.

I first heard of Pacha Massive coming to Austin earlier in the week from internet radio program, Rock y Roll Radio. Hosts Paul Saucido and Dacia Saenz did a phone interview with Pacha Massive for a special show and myspace bit. I was even more excited when I heard it was a free show. I immediately penciled it into my concert calendar.

They were the late show Thursday, following a big Del Castillo show in which Los Lonely Boys made a cameo appearance. Pacha Massive went on around 11:30. The crowd (different from the Del Castillo crowd) was immediately into their set and the dancing ensued. Apparently, this is what happens when Pacha infects your ears. Your ears tell your mind “you must get downright now” and you start dancing. It could also be the alcohol, but whatever.

Pacha did not disappoint. Every song in some form or fashion showed off their excellent musicianship, their vibrant personality, and their confident swagger. I absolutely love it when a group dances to its own music as if no one is watching. DJ Nova and Maya get down even while playing guitar. Their chemistry on stage, perhaps due to them being married, is excellent. You can tell that Pacha Massive love the ride they are on with this tour and their new album, “All Good Things”. Only “good things” will come if they keep this up.

I got a chance to go back stage at Antone’s before and after their show to meet them. I wanted to share this with readers before I conclude this blog. Pacha Massive is one of the most friendly, down to earth groups I have ever come across at their level in any genre. They look you in the eye when talking to you, remember your name later, and shake your hand upon both greeting and departing. You’d be surprised how many bands I have met at different levels that do not practice such manners. Thank you Pacha Massive and please come back to Austin again soon. I leave you all with their video for my favorite Pacha Massive song, "Don't Let Go".

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