Friday, June 27, 2008

Maneja Beto at Stubbs

Tonight I went to Stubbs (indoor) for local Latino indie rock band, "Maneja Beto". Translated literally, it means "Beto Drives" in case you were wondering. Maneja Beto is a rare blend between traditional Mexican cumbia and indie rock. I know that sounds weird. Those aren't really two genres that merge often. In fact, I have yet to find a marriage of Mexican cumbia and indie rock that is better than Maneja Beto

Maneja Beto is not anything new to me personally. I have seen them twice before and know that their music is amazing. However, I made a special trip out to Stubbs tonight because Maneja Beto will soon be on hiatus. That's right. They will not be playing many shows after tonight for a long while. That being said, I made it a point to come out to Stubbs to see them tonight to review the show and help spread the word about Maneja Beto.

For those not familiar with Maneja Beto, let me break it down for you. Their sound is unique. When I mentioned cumbia and indie rock coming together through them earlier, I was merely scratching the surface. They sing in Spanish but sound nothing like any other band you've heard, local or mainstream. They blend the keyboards and feedback with guitars. They merge two voices, Bobby Garza and Alex Chavez, with musical harmonies not yet touched by most Latin Alternative bands. Melodic is another word that comes to mind when I listen to their music. You really do have to listen for yourself.

Are they energetic and exciting live? Honestly, no. Are they fantastic musicians? Yes. Are they original and creative? Yes. When you go to a Maneja concert, you won't find the large crowds (yet) or a mosh pit. You'll see an older mid to late twenty's and up crowd dancing to the cumbias and nodding their heads to the indie songs, like my personal favorite of theirs, "Apertura". I know this because it has been the same crowd at all three shows of theirs I have been to.

Tonight was no different. The crowd was small but enthusiastically into their music. Truthfully I have seen bigger crowds for worse bands at other local Red River joints such as Red Eyed Fly and Headhunters. They don't deserve such mediocrity and low turn outs. Maneja Beto is too good of band. They recently entered a Myspace Latino sponsorship contest and lost to a bunch of gimmicky Pussycat Doll clones. It just goes to show that smut and boobies are still valued by the general Latino public over creativity.

With the recent release of their most recent EP, "Maneja Beto", they should be gaining popularity. All five tracks are worthy of being a single and make for a good listen. Again, the tracks won't pump you up, but they won't put you to sleep. Their music, I figured out, is for the music snobs of the world to appreciate. The idiots who like the spoon fed, over saturated garbage of Mun2 and MTV Tres won't like it. Those who look for something different, creative, unique and Latino will love Maneja Beto.

Maneja's music can currently be heard on M.E. Telvision's "Sonido Boombox" and new internet radio program "Rock y Roll Radio". If by some miracle you read this blog on Friday the 27th of June, Make plans to see them open for Alejandro Escovedo at The Continental Club on South Congress. They are cool guys, great musicians, and offer a unique product. You will not be disappointed. Check out this video from Pachanga Fest put out by

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Built By Snow at Guero's

Can you believe I got up early on a Saturday and didn't play golf? I know, sounds crazy right? Well I had a good reason as The Summerfest kick off at Guero's was happening. The first band started at noon, but I got there a little after one o’ clock in time to see a local indie rock favorite of mine, Built By Snow.

The whole event was hosted by local KUT personality Laurie Gallardo and put on by The Loyalty Firm. I thought it was cool that show such as this with a long line up was going to be at Guero’s. It had been a while since I hung out at Guero’s for show. I like shows there as it is outside and small. Plus, they have a separate outside bar right there so you don’t have to go inside for a drink.

Right after I parked, I could hear Built By Snow playing as I walked down Congress on my way to Guero’s. I recognize their video game like synthesized sounds anywhere. This was my first time seeing them live despite having their music in my ipod for some time now. Even though it was more humid and hot today than any other show I’ve been to this year, they still rocked. “Juliana” was the song playing when I arrived.

During their set I was looking up at the sky and kept thinking to myself this was going to get rained out. Once my attention was back on stage, JP (guitar and lead vocals) had his keyboard player play a ditty from an old Nintendo Game. He asked the crowd if anyone recognized it, even gave them hints that it was from an old Nintendo (NES) game. I knew it right away, but didn’t want to reveal how big of a nerd I was. Some people made good guesses such as Contra, but no one seemed to know. I didn’t want them to feel bad so I shouted out the answer for them, which was “Double Dragon”. They all looked surprised that someone there actually knew. They said to “give that guy something”, but I got nothing. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I got a good show. I mean they played “Invaders”, which is one of their better tracks. I only wish I could have caught their whole set.

Built By Snow, in addition to having cool music, have some of the coolest videos of any local band I’ve seen. As far as their sound, I describe it to friends by saying it is as if The Cars and Weezer spawned a band. Built By Snow is that band. I have also described it as “video game rock”. If you plan to be in Austin on July 12th or 14th, you can catch them at Emo’s. They are one of the better indie rock acts to come out of Austin. Finally, I will leave you with this video of theirs that seems to be somewhat of a You Tube phenomenon. It’s for an awesome song called “All The Weird Kids Know”.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Grenadier...Austin's Newest "Band to Watch For"

Wednesday night I headed out to Antone's, an Austin staple and must see in terms of venues, for a music contest sponsored by The Recording Conservatory of Austin. The winner was to receive 100 hours of studio time at Stinson Studios. It was certainly a good prize and I can see why an unsigned band would be all over this competition. Apparently there was some online voting involved. I heard about it through myspace. Yes, at times I do read bulletins.

The band I was really there to see was a new band on the scene by the name of “Grenadier”. Although it may be a new band, new being less than ten shows under their belt, the faces are familiar. Grenadier is fronted by Dynamite Boy alumni Adrian Munoz. Other members are from recently broken up Near Miss and Engraved. Now many of you know I love Dynamite Boy. See my blog archives for the reunion show I caught at Emo's in May.

Anyway, so the Dynamite Boy connection was what interested me in hearing Grenadier. They were on the bill at the Dynamite Boy reunion show, but were an early band so I of course was out drinking elsewhere at that time. After all, this is Austin and no one here just goes out to just one spot when they go downtown. Looking back, I should have been there for the whole show. Once I heard of this show, I made it a point to catch Grenadier no matter what.

Adrian Munoz is the lead singer for Grenadier. I didn't know he could sing really. I know he did some screams and back ground harmonies for Dynamite Boy, but didn't expect him to sound "lead singer" material. He's actually pretty good. He's not all that's good about Grenadier though. The band itself has good, seasoned musicians that have put together something really cool and energetic. I'd describe their sound as alternative with hints of punk and emo, but emo in reference only to some of Munoz's screams. Nothing else. Please don't let that component turn you off. I just call it like I hear it.

The first song I heard that night was "Remedies and Enemies". It is the first song you are going to hear on their myspace page. It is probably going to be their single, as well it should be. I think it was their best song. The rest of their set was good, not great or fantastic, but good. I can see this whole Grenadier thing happening for them should they stick with it. I think they will. They had no "merch" as of yet and no recordings or CDs. The fact that they were voted in for this showcase or competition speaks volumes given where they are at as a band. No they didn't win and I didn't stick around to find out who did. I came for a Grenadier show and I got a good one.

Kudos to the new drummer, Jeremy, for playing his first show. Other notable tracks were "Manikins" and "Elitist". If you want to check out Grenadier, they will be on the bill with Andrew W.K. and Tom Gabel(of Against Me!) at Emo's on July 4th. It's going to be an awesome show. Trust me on that.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My First Rilo Kiley Experience

Monday night I was at Stubbs thanks to 101x, a local alternative rock radio station here in Austin. I won tickets to see Rilo Kiley last week by texting in. It was completely at random. I am not one of those people who are professional radio contest winners. I confess that I had never heard Rilo Kiley's music before last Sunday. I only knew the name because my sister listens to them. I really tried winning them for her as she bought me a ticket to Rancid last week. Luckily for both of us I guess, I won. I couldn't have been happier now that I went.

The concert couldn't have fallen on a better evening. Stubbs Outdoor Amphitheater is the best place in the world in my opinion to see a long as its a nice weather that is. Yeah it was humid and hot, but it was beautiful none the less.

The first thing I noticed once at Stubbs was the ratio for girl to guy was probably about 7 to 1. I have never been to a show like that before. Most of the shows I go to are a bunch of dudes ready to go crazy and get in the pit, at least lately that's been the case. The second observation was that everyone there seemed to shop at Urban Outfitters and/or American Apparel. I'm not sure how I missed that memo about the dress code requirement. Last observation, I was way taller than everyone and I'm only 6 ft.

Before I could really notice everything else, opening act Benji Hughes started. Ironically, he was the one act I was looking forward to. I heard of him in an interview with Josh Shepard on Rock y Roll Radio. Josh is the music director over at M.E. Television and was a guest on the show that week. Host Paul Saucido asked Josh about what artist or group he liked most from SXSW or something to that regard. Shepard answered "Benji Hughes". I mean, here is a guy who must see so much stuff come through M.E. and he said Hughes was the one who stood out. I remember Shepard describing Hughes as something between Andre 3000 and Willie Nelson. Anyway, that's how I heard of Benji Hughes. When I saw his name on the bill, I couldn't wait to check this guy out.

Hughes had a short set, but he totally won me over. I thought he was funky. Looking at him I thought that Rick Rubin had a brother I didn't know about. His look is that of a biker with a long ZZ Top beard, which didn't match his sound. Hughes had sort of a deep voice with a slight rasp. It is definitely distinguishable. No one out there sounds like him that comes to mind. He is worth looking up and listening to. I doubt he will go mainstream, but I can see him getting more popular as he tours with Rilo Kiley. If he came back around to Austin, I'd go and take some people with me. I'd like to see their faces when they see what he looks like and then hear what he actually sounds like. My favorite song he did was "You Stood Me Up" because he mentions my birthday and its indie rock funky.

Following Benji Hughes was Thao With the Get Down Staydown. Kind of a long but I dig the name. Thao With the Get Down Stay Down was a indie rock folk band, fronted by Thao Nguyen. Thao has a great voice, which combined with the music itself reminds me of Edie Brickell. Feist also comes to mind, but only when talking about the voice. She also showed personality. I loved it when she told the crowd Austin was better than Dallas. She was also proud of her new dress she bought for the Austin show. The girls clapped for that, but I didn't care. I guess that's a gender difference. I just wanted to hear the music.

Now I love folk as much as the next guy, but I do have to be in the mood for it. The only folk artist I can ever be amped about anytime is Annie DeFranco. Monday night, I was just not feeling it. I wanted something louder and with heavier guitar. Thao's guitar was acoustic. The other guitar player was a bassist. Now understand I am not bashing Thao, but I could only listen to their music while chillin' at home late night relaxing. That's not a bad thing. I just don't think I was really the target for this genre. Kudos anyway Thao With the Get Down Stay Down.

Now comes the part about headliner, Rilo Kiley. I wanted to see what the buzz about them was all about. All I knew of them was what I sort of read in Spin magazine a while back. Spin said they were the next Fleetwood Mac. Despite knowing that, I had zero expectations before tonight and was just glad to be there. At that point, Stubbs was finally packed and crowded.

As they came out, a loud surge of screaming girls erupted. Beach balls also started floating or bouncing around here and there. It was also dark outside so the scene was officially set.

The whole make up of the band was very Fleetwood. The main singer, Jenny Lewis, was totally everyone in the audience's girl crush. I could totally see why. She is the beautiful indie girl next door who told me "no" every time I asked her out in high school. She is the indie poster girl of the current young generation. I think she looked like Kirsten Dunst a little bit, but a little prettier.

Even now I'm distracted by the aura that is Jenny Lewis. Getting back to the concert.....Rilo Kiley was exceptional. Jenny Lewis has a voice that really conveys the emotion of the songs she sings. I love that in singer. That is how it is supposed to be done. She was not the only singer. Guitarist Blake Sennett also took lead vocals on a couple of songs, hence completing the Fleetwood reference I remember from Spin. He was good, but Jenny Lewis is what gives the band its signature sound and over all vibe. There were several songs I liked, but since this night was my first Rilo Kiley experience, I couldn't tell you the names of all of them. After asking my sister and another girl next to me, I figured out my two favorite songs were "Silver Lining" and "Portions for Foxes". I dig the guitar on both of those and course the voice of Jenny Lewis. Kudos Jenny.

Since I didn't pay for the tickets, I feel obligated to pick up Rilo Kiley CDs next time I hit up Waterloo. I mean, I usually don't buy anything but vinyl when it comes to buying music. The only CDs I pay for are usually from local Austin artists I catch at a show. However, Rilo Kiley was just so good that I feel I owe it to them to show my appreciation for such a great concert. Check out a clip for yourself:

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rancid Live at La Zona Rosa

Friday the 13th is always a good night to go to concert. It's as if the day, which is supposed to be bad luck, is made for hardcore rock shows of some sort. This Friday was no different. Punk rock veterans Rancid came through Austin to play at La Zona Rosa. I knew it would be awesome because I have seen them twice before, but that was over ten years ago when they were on Warped Tour. I have never seen them like this, in a smaller venue where they are the headliner. I looked forward to it all week.

I first started listening to Rancid around my freshmen year of high school when "...And Out Come the Wolves" came out. That was their third album, so yeah I got on their bandwagon a little late. Oh well. I have ridden that wagon ever since.

The opening band on the bill was a local punk act I was unfamiliar with, called "Ill Spent Youth”. I had heard the name and remember seeing their name listed on the Red River page in The Austin Chronicle. I also saw them on a flyer for a party over at the Sober Daze house.

I arrived at La Zona Rosa just as they started. I listened to a couple of their opening songs and my first impression of them was that they were just "alright" to me. No they didn't suck, they just didn't "wow" me. I did like the songs they had with the trombone player. I wish I could tell you the name of those songs, but I since drank those brain cells away. Honestly, the most memorable part of their set was how quickly and abrupt it ended. I remember hearing, "We got one more" and then they had to walk off for some reason or another. In all honesty, I did want to hear that last song as most bands save their best for last.

Lower Class Brats, another Austin based punk band came on after Ill Spent Youth. I noticed these guys looked a little older than Ill Spent Youth and had the necessary mohawked member that all punk bands should have. Like with Ill Spent Youth, I had heard the name plenty of times and seen them on myspace before. I was actually interested in seeing them simply because they were the and right before Rancid, so I figured they had to be decent. I always love discovering good local punk bands. What I did not expect was for them to be as good as they were.

I mean, where have I been? Can I join the L.C.B. army? These guys were seasoned punk rockers. Their style is more for the hardcore punk rock crowd, as compared to the Green Day or Blink 182 punk loving crowd. I doubt you'd hear them on local radio except for niche market punk rock shows every now and then. I could be wrong. Someone fill me in if otherwise. They sparked the first big circle pit of the night and pretty much had it like that during their whole set. It was during their third or fourth song that people began to push and shove. It was at that point that it became a real punk rock show. I remember hearing crowd responses such as "we don't need your dictionary" and "ultra violent!". Ultra violent (name of song) must be a fan favorite as people were really into that song more than others. Their lead singer, Bones DeLarge, was also the only performer tonight to jump into the crowd as this picture shows. Kudos Bones. Great set.

Thankfully after the Lower Class Brats finished up, there was a few minutes in between sets. I needed to rest my arms and move closer to the front so that I could capture a brief video clip as Rancid came out. I got one clip from the whole night. Check it out:

Right from the get go, the Rancid show became one big pit-push and shove fest. I didn't expect anything less as I have been to plenty of punk shows before. I didn't figure a Rancid show to be any different. It was hard to capture photos as I could not keep my arm up and beer was flying all over the place. So, I engaged in the pushing, shoving, crowd surfer dodging and singing along. At that point I needed to ring out my t-shirt. It was awesome. I stayed up front for a while before I decided enough was enough and I had my fun.

I needed a beer and went to the bar in the back to enjoy the show. It was a lot easier on my old body and the beer sure tasted good. Plus, being that La Zona Rosa isn't that big of a venue, I could still see Rancid well from the back. Being back there got me a different view of Rancid I had never seen, not even during those 90s Warped Tours I went to. I actually just got to "listen" to them live and was blown away. They had a cool background as they had a projector displaying different images behind them. They concluded with my favorite Rancid song of all time, "Ruby Soho". It was the song that made me a fan in high school and it still sounded amazing my third time hearing it live. It was the perfect way to end the night.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

RZA brings Bobby Digital and crew to Emo's

It must be unofficially "Real Hip Hop Week" here in Austin this week as this is the third hip hop show I caught in three days. What's nice about everything is that it hasn't been the over saturated radio stuff you hear on most hip hop stations these days. This week and this show was for the backpackers, old school lovers and edu-tainment genre lovers. The RZA is the super producer and MC for the greatest hip hop super group ever assembled, The Wu Tang Clan. He graced Austin with his presence Wednesday night at Emo's for his "RZA as Bobby Digital" tour. Bobby Digital, for those that don't know, is his alter ego.

RZA brought with him a crew of Wu Affiliates including the Black Knights, Solomon Childs and Stone Mecca. Truthfully, I had not heard of either of those artists but I knew I could expect decent music at the very least because RZA isn't going to let just anyone on his tour. He wouldn't damage his good name, reputation or credibility by bringing some whack rappers or singers. I mean this is the genius backbone of The Wu Tang Clan.

When I got to Emo's there was already a good amount of people in line and inside before me, but I still was able to get up front by the stage. As we all waited for the performers to get started, we listened to the sounds of Austin's own DJ Notion. He was alright, not terrible or anything. He had the crowd bobbing their heads, warming them up and doing his job. Nothing he played sucked and no one booed him, so he definitely knew the crowd he was catering to. Had he spun some D4L or Soulja Boy, he would have been booed at and harassed by this crowd. The RZA fans in attendance mostly consisted of hip hop purists that would eat you alive should you come with some "BS". After his set he gave away some cool posters he made for the RZA show. I didn't go get one in fear of losing my spot up front. Looking back, I wish I would have.

After DJ Notion was done with his set, another DJ for the rest of the show set up along with a crew setting up band equipment for Stone Mecca later. After another good DJ set, Staten Island Wu Affiliate Solomon Childs came on stage, claiming to be fresh of the airplane. He didn't have much to work off of in terms of music he would have normally performed to. Childs had the DJ go off previous recordings he did and did some freestyles. I posted one of them on you tube for you to check out. I liked him personally. His was flow was grimey and raw, true to the Wu Tang brand and style. It was a real short set but enough to spark my curiousity as to who how was and what music he's done. Hopefully if you catch this tour in another city, you will get to check him out. I hope that he gets to do a longer set and most importantly, the set he wanted to do last night.

Following Solomon Childs was a West Coast Wu Affiliate called "Black Knights", or RZA's West Coast Killa Bees. Despite the Compton ski hat and Raiders jersey, you could definitely tell from their sound they were West Coast. I really can't explain that to those who aren't hip hop afficionados, but they just had that flow and swagger that screams "West West". Now its been too long since I saw any West Coast rappers (not including the Dilated Peoples show Monday night) I think the last one was maybe Snoop at the old Austin Music Hall. Now the Black Knights had beats that were darker than the West Coast G-funk style beats typically associated with West Coast sound. Again, staying true to the Wu sound and brand. They had good energy despite the humidity and heat and the crowd seemed to be feeling them. The most notable moment for me during the Black Knight's set was when one of them started rhyming acapella. Their set didn't seem that long either, but that was fine as the crowd was hot and were still a band away from the headliner.

Stone Mecca, the co-headliner for The RZA, was not a hip hop act. They were a soul band or R&B collective if you will. Being unfamiliar with Stone Mecca and a fan of this sort of music, I was looking forward to this set. Plus I was hoping that their music was chill enough to calm the crowd a little because it was starting to feel like a rock concert with all the pushing and shoving. After over 10 years of mosh pits and craziness, I was starting to feel my age in the front row. I'm not 18 anymore, that's for sure.

I also started to wonder why or how it was a soul act was going on right before RZA. It didn't make sense to me as Stone Mecca wouldn't have been my first choice to go on right before RZA. They were really good though. They had a good band that included key boards players, a bassist, a guitar player, drummer, bongos...the works. They also had three lovely ladies singing what I thought would be back up, but they all sing individually on certain tracks. The lead singer, Jevon McGlory, fronted most of the songs. I would describe Stone Mecca to people as a mix of Toni Tony Tone, Maxwell, and Klymaxx. What won me over was a song called "A Walk". It was song featured in RZA's cartoon, "Afro Samurai". They were the best surprise of the night for me.

Speaking of surprises, RZA just came out of no where when he took the stage. Stone Mecca didn't break down their instruments, which is why I was caught off guard. As it turns out, Stone Mecca was the house band for RZA. Logistically it all made sense to me at that point. All RZA had to do once Stone Mecca's set was done was to just come out and start rockin' the crowd. That RZA is so smart I tell you...must be all that Wuchess.

Once RZA got started, it was like rock concert crazy. He started with his own music, mostly off his solo records and new forthcoming album "Digi Snacks". The song I remember him performing off that album was "You Can't Stop Me Now". He had the crowd responding and singing along with him the whole time, even the dudes stage diving and making a mosh pit. You can tell he was really feeling the love from Austin as all night the crowd were throwing up the signature Wu Tang W's and chanting "WU TANG" for him. He even said himself that he loved their energy despite how crazy hot it was.

Things really started to get crazy and people excited when he took off his top shirt to expose his Wu undershirt. At that point he got into some older Wu Tang classics which the crowd loved, getting the loudest it had been all night. The last time I saw anything Wu related was in 1997 during the MTV Sports and Music Fest at Zilker Park. That was the largest crowd of that three day festival, partly because Method Man headlined during the height of the Wu Tang's popularity....or so I thought. After last night, it was clear we are still at the height of the Wu Tang Clan's popularity and it will never die. I swear at one point I saw in RZA's eyes at one point where he was going to get emotional. I can't say I blame him. It was a beautiful thing. Austin had nothing but love for him and his whole crew. Someone even brought their Wu Tang Manual with them. I left mine at home.

Hip Hop was once again alive and well in Austin, real hip hop that is. Hopefully these past three days will be a wake up call for more hip hop acts to come by Austin. Mos Def anyone?

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fresh Rhymes And Videotape Tour Comes to Austin

I did it again ladies and gentleman. I won some tickets off M.E. Television's website. This time, it was two tickets to check out the Dilated Peoples tour, creatively titled "Fresh Rhymes And Videotape". All I knew about who was on the bill with them was hip hop super producer and MC, The Alchemist. Now this was not my first Dilated Peoples show(won't be my last either). I saw them at Stubbs indoor a couple years ago when they played with Little Brother. It was a good show then, but judging from the tour bus you see pictured here, it seemed that this tour was a little bigger. The venue was bigger this time around as well as the show was at Emo's (outside). I got there super early to make sure everything was cool and I was on the guest list. I had no trouble as M.E. took care of me.

Once inside it was empty and the only people there associated with the tour were the merch guys. To tell you how hot it was, I wasn't drinking anything but bottled water instead of my usual Lone Star. I picked up some free promo stickers at the merch table as I do enjoy some good schwag (not a weed reference by the way). Shortly there after, I heard someone take the mic and start calling people to the stage. "Cool" I thought as I was already tired of waiting. It had to be the heat as I am a pretty patient and chill dude.

The opening act was a rapper by the name of 88-Keys. I had never heard of him ppreviously. For all I knew he was local. Normally I would would have done my homework but I did not find out I was going to be at this concert until the day of. So, I was looking forward to being surprised. Truthfully, I wasn't really expecting much from an opening act. This dude surprised me though.I was just kind of listening at first, bobbing my head as the beats were good. He was backed by a beautiful lady DJ named Syncity who was part of his live act also. He told the story of his friend "Adam". Adam's story was worked into his whole set as he creatively changed costumes with almost each new song. Him and DJ Syncity were both fun, funny, energetic and cool. I look forward to hearing more from him and his new album he said was coming out. There is a song on there with Kanye West. Check out this clip from my you tube page. It's 88-Keys as Kanye:

L.A. rapper Aceyalone (pronounced like A-C-Alone) took the stage shortly after 88-Keys was done. Aceyalone performed with his tour DJ, Hines Buchanan. Now I had heard of Aceyalone before but never got the opportunity to see him live. What I had heard from various magazines, blogs and/or internet sites was that he somehow never got the recognition he deserved despite getting some good reviews. As he got started the crowd was a little bigger and I was already in a good mood from 88-Key's set. His rhymes were good and beats were dope, but the set was just alright for me. I can't put my finger on it. Now understand that "alright" doesn't mean awful, because he was far from awful. I was telling friend about the show and he emailed me an mp3 file of Aceyalone's CD called "A Book of Human Language". I was honestly blown away by how good that was. Maybe it was the Texas heat affecting him. No Pacific Ocean sea breeze here in Texas to cool you off. If he comes back around, I will definitely check him out again.

Following Aceyalone, I (and the whole front row) was expecting The Alchemist to come out next. However there were rumors going around the crowd somehow that he was not there. It seemed that way as DJ Babu, tour DJ for Dilated Peoples was setting up. People were starting to wonder. Then immediately after Evidence and Rakaa came out we all forgot or stopped caring for the moment. In typical Dilated People fashion, they came out with lots of energy and excitement.

I tell you what, Dilated Peoples never disappoint. I love it when bands or artists feel their own work and are passionate about it on stage versus treating it like just another paid performance. Emo's was packed at this point and everyone was bobbing their heads to DJ Babu's beats. Here is the interesting thing to about Monday night. According to Evidence, the technical difficulties that they were having were due to a hard drive crashing on what I guess was DJ Babu's laptop. In true DJ form, Babu did the whole set live versus running the show from a file off a hard drive. That's how it was done before laptops, so good thing they have a real DJ in Babu on boardrunning things. That wasn't the surprise of the night though.

Remember when I mentioned that The Alchemist was rumored to not be performing as scheduled after all? Well Evidence addressed that with the crowd and gave him a call from his cell live on stage. Just when we all thought he was a no show, out he comes! The Alchemist did indeed join Dilated Peoples on stage and gave the crowd what they came come hear "Hold You Down" live. Sure there was no Nina Sky, but is was the highlight of The Alchemist's performance for me.

Speaking of surprises on stage, Evidence pulled a guy from the crowd on stage. He did so because he had a Dilated Peoples tattoo on his arm. That devoted fan was Bill Alverson. You can see the tattoo here in the picture with him and Evidence. This just goes to show how cool and down to earth the Dilated Peoples are. At the last Dilated Peoples show I attended at Stubbs, they stayed after to sign autographs and take pictures. They always do that. Other than their amazing sound, this is why they have such loyal die hard fans. Not all will end up with tattoos like Bill's but will always come to their show when in their city. They ended their set with their biggest hits "I Can't Live My Life" and "First Things First". Both Hip Hop classics if you ask me. Hopefully they will be back in Austin again soon as I imagine they will. They seem to do well here and people love them.

My only complaint and/or request is for them to bring some vinyl to sell with their merch. I would have bought a record and had them sign it. Remember that for me please next time if you read this. It would mean a lot to me and many other fans. Finally, if you missed the show you can check out the you tube clips I took from my camera.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Getting Down in Austin with Afrika Bambaataa

Never in my life did I ever think I would ever get to see Hip Hip pioneer and legend Afrika Bambaataa. I thought I missed that chance as I was too young and didn't live in a major Hip Hop mecca like New York City. Well this past Sunday my luck changed. Thanks to a local email list I subscribe to, Do512, I was lucky enough to check out Bambaata over at Beauty Bar on 7th.

For those that don't know, Afrika Bambaataa is a Hip Hop legend best known for being part of the Zulu Nation and such hits like "Planet Rock" and "Looking For the Perfect Beat". If you do a Google image search you'll see him in really eccentric costumes, which he was also known for. Every real Hip Hop fan, B-boy, B-girl, hipster, scenester, dance music lover and their mom knows of Afrika Bambaataa. I had heard that he did DJ sets every now and then at various spots. Again, I was just surprised he came to Austin on a Sunday night. Then again I'm not surprised. That's Austin for you folks. That's the kind of scene and vibe this city of the main reasons I love it here.

Starlynx and D.J. Dojo, according to the show flyer, were responsible for putting the show on. It turns out that D.J. Dojo is DJ Manny and DJ Big Face's record store on Sout h 1st. I had the privilege of meeting DJ Manny in May at an M.E. Live! taping. He was kicking it with Nortec Collective as they were both performing at the first annual Pachanga Festival. Well, here he was again with his DJ and business partner DJ Big Face at Beauty bar before the AfrikaBambaataa set. DJ Manny, being the down to earth and the cool dude that he is recognized me and thanked me for coming. As you can see from the picture, him and Big Face are both pretty animated dudes. The camera you see there was connected to a projector for them to project images on the wall while they do their set. It really adds to their show and is really cool in a dark setting. Their two man, DJ team set included some old school hip hop (of course) and some good electronic beats and rhythms.

Manny and Big Face wrapped up around midnight and did a good job getting the crowd dancing and ready for Bambaataa. What's funny is I was expecting Bambaataa to be in the same area DJ Manny was in, but he was in the DJ booth at the other end of Beauty Bar. I still made my way up to the front of the booth which was conveniently located by the bar (mmm...Lone Star). As he started spinning, me and everyone else went crazy. He spun some old school hip hop and I even remember so old school Luther Vandros in the set. I believe it was "All My Love", but the alcohol clouded my memory at that point. Plus, this wasn't the usual show where the artist or band performs and either I sit and watch or am fighting a crowd in mosh pit. This was a dance party. I was dancing my ass off getting sweaty, as it was crowded and humid Sunday night. I could literally ring my t-shirt out with sweat and I came home tired and worn out.

Check out a shot I took of the crowd at Beauty Bar during the set. The crowd was your typical Beauty Bar crowd: eclectic, all races and all scenes represented including hipster kids, B-boys, and everything in between. Sunday night with Afrika Bambaataa was in my mind, what early Hip Hop pioneers envisioned for Hip Hop. Hip Hop would be a way to unite everyone regardless of crowd and age, class or race, and make them feel good together. Thanks to Starlynx and Beauty Bar for hooking this whole thing up and giving me one of my best memories yet.

When you see an Afrika Bambaataa DJ set, you just get down crazy (as in dance a lot). Something takes over you and you feel like it's the early 1980s all over again, when Hip Hop was fun and new. Hip Hop is alive and well in Austin, even though it isn't what we are really known for.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

New M.E. Live! Tapings

This past Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to attend new in studio tapings of M.E. Live! here in Austin. The tapings came before two Latino Music Month showcases. The first being a Conexion Rockera production at Stubbs featuring Pinata Protest, and two groups I saw Friday. The other showcase was the first ever Pachanga Music Festival. Since I was unable to attend either this weekend due to other obligations, the M.E. Live taping allowed me to experience what I missed.

There were six bands scheduled. They are as follows: La Conquista (Monterrey, MX), Grupo Fantasma(Austin,TX), De Los Muertos(San Antonio, TX), Charanga Cakewalk(Austin,TX), The Sweethearts(Austin,TX), and Nortec Collective(Tijuana, MX). I arrived during the last song Grupo Fantasma performed, so I missed La Conquista.Well, I wouldn't say I missed La conquista. While they are all lovely, I can't help but think of The Pussycat Dolls with accordions when I pass by their videos on TV. Plus, I will see them next week during a Myspace Latino showcase at The Parish on 6th. I will reassess my opinion of La Conquista after that show.

I also was not that disappointed that I didn't catch all of Grupo Fantasma. I know they are amazing live as I have seen them at least three times. They even played with Prince. Enough said. They have a new album coming called Sonidos Gold and I can't wait to get my hands on it. They are going on national tour so do catch them in your city if you can.

After Grupo Fantasma broke down their all their equipment and instruments, De Los Muertos set up. Their lead singer was this rockabilly looking Elvis dude in mariachi pants. Only from San Antonio man....I know because my whole family is from there (West side actually). Still, I had never heard of them before and didn't know what to expect. Once they started, I felt like I was listening to a Robert Rodriguez/Tarantino movie. I swear they could have been on the soundtrack for any of those films: El Mariachi, Desperado, or Once Upon a Time in Mexico. They sounded a little blues and maybe a little funk, with a darker Latin edge. Their songs were in English in case you were wondering, but you could definitely hear the Mexican influence. Like all the groups, I only got to hear three songs but look forward to catching a whole set from De Los Muertos one day. I wouldn't mind driving down to San Antonio to catch them. To the left you see a picture of Sonido Boombox host Paul Saucido introducing them. I am not saying I dig De Los Muertos yet, but I loved what I heard thus far.

Next to perform for M.E. Live! was a local Austin group, Charanga Cakewalk. I had already been familiar with their music as it is played regularly on Sonido Boombox and on a newly launched internet radio program called Rock Y Roll Radio. Charanga Cakewalk is Michael Ramos and a cast of other talented musicians including a percussionist, a keyboard player, and a guitarist. Ramos plays the accordion and whatever you call a small piano you blow into pictured below.

The next band to follow was a punk/pop (not the other way around) band from Austin called "The Sweethearts". The Sweethearts are a female fronted and kind of a throwback to what was good from that genre in the 90s. Being 28, maybe that's why I dig them. Now I have said this before, whenever I see a female fronted group, I cross my fingers that I am not in store for something smutty or gimmicky. With The Sweethearts, you get nothing of the sort. Lead singer Linette is charismatic but sweet, and her voice reminds me of a edgier or rougher Gwen Stefani.

As far as the band goes, Ren can really play guitar and the other two members were definitely seasoned and good at what they do. I had never seen them live either so it was cool. Punk is actually a genre of choice for me and I am pretty picky about it. The Sweethearts prove that Austin punk rock is not dead and will soon show that to the West Coast as they tour this summer. Don't believe me? Look around on their myspace as they posted a letter from Fat Records. Basically what it said was they liked them and they wanted to see them live or something to that regard. I asked Linette at the taping about that because it was difficult to read. And yes, their songs are in English.

The last band to perform for M.E. Live! was the popular DJ team from Tijuana, Mexico known as Nortec Collective. From the Nortec Collective came Bostitch and Fussible. They took the longest to set up as they had the most complicated gizmos (yes, the technical word for DJ equipment like mixers, etc) to set up. Along with Bostitch and Fussible, they had an accordion player and a clarinetist. They did tracks from their new album titled "Tijuana Sound Machine".

I had not seen a bad ass DJ or electronica show since the Chemical Brothers or Crystal Method concerts I went to when I was in high school. Although this wasn't a typical concert, the experience of seeing Bostitch and Fussible live and up close like that blew me away. No really, it was amazing. I sat above the actual stage area looking down on them and got to see how they did all their music and sounds. I couldn't begin to explain it. They only gizmos I was familiar with were the Apple laptops.

The way Nortec Collective merges the electronic dance music sound with Norteno or banda music of Mexico is genius. Their live accordion player was not only the best accordion player I've seen since Mingo Saldivar, but the accordion itself was so "blinged out" that the lady sitting next to me said she would wear it as a purse it was so fabulous. The clarinet player was also good, but I thought he looked either tired or uncomfortable. He was great either way. In the picture above to the left, that is me with Ramon Amezcua, aka "Bostitch". I got to speak to him before the taping and he was the coolest dude. His English appeared to be limited which was probably why he was just chilling by the bar they had set up by himself. All I did was tell him in Spanish how excited I was to see him and we just talked and talked and talked. I hope all you Nortec Collective fans read this and recognize that about Bostitch. I am still excited as I spoke with a musical genius there at M.E. and got a picture. The day could not have been better for me. If you like electronica, Mexican music, or both, you'll love Nortec Collective.

Finally I wanted to thank the good people of M.E. Television not only for the invite, but for showcasing all these bands through their fine network. Thanks to M.E., I have discovered so many new local and national bands that I now listen to and love. I don't know where else people in Austin could see many of these bands on TV otherwise. None of this has aired as of yet, but keep on the look out. M.E. TV is on digital channel 577 and channel 15.

I will leave you with a Nortec video I took off of good old You Tube. This is my favorite song from them right now called "Tijuana Sound Machine". Enjoy.

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