Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hip Hop Legend Nas Live at Emo's

Sunday night at Emo’s Austin got their first live look at hip hop legend Nasir Jones, aka Nas. He did not one, but two back to back shows in which he sold out both. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the second show. You really missed out if you didn’t catch either show.

Opening for Nas on this tour was popular Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli. Now Talib is no stranger to Austin. I remember him opening for Common a couple of years ago at Stubb's. Austin loves him and he gives a good show. He doesn’t come with hype men or an entourage, which I love by the way. As much as I love hip hop, I often find too many rappers often bring too many unnecessary people on stage. Now Kweli only comes with a DJ, but it works and works well. Usually I only enjoy hip hop shows that bring a band such as RZA, Common, and of course The Roots.

There is really nothing quotable or profound to I can say about Talib’s performance. He was solid as always and was a good opener. I didn’t hear anything new from him that I didn’t hear two years ago, but I enjoyed the tracks just the same. I really just wish him and Mos Def would do another Black Star album and tour.

Oh, I almost forgot. The actual opener for the show was this poor young girl from the California Bay area named Eva (I could be wrong on the name, so feel free to hit me up in the comments). This girl came out with some tired ass bubble gum R&B (I use the R&B classification loosely) and four back up dancers. I swear she was singing to a tape anyway. The You Tube comments and my fellow bloggers are already commenting on her.

This time, those few comments represent what the whole crowd was actually feeling. She lasted all but two songs before she got booed off the stage. No joke. Two songs and her dancers were the first ones off the stage before her. They knew when it was time to quit. I wonder what geniuses thought it would be a good idea to book her for this show or tour. I mean, did they want her to fail? You can’t throw some teeny, label manufactured, mediocre talent girl to the lions at a Nas show. Nas fans are hip hop purists and won’t even tolerate whack rappers. Still goes to show those in the industry still don’t all get it.

After Talib, Nas finally came out. I was wondering what he was going to have left for this second show. People coming out of the first show were already singing his praises, so I was anxious. That, and I have been waiting since I was like ten years old to see Nas. Those who were there already now…he came with it. He “killt” it. He owned it. He’s Nas.

As hard as it is for me to say anything negative about the greatest rapper alive not named Mos Def, I have two gripes. 1) I heard during the first show he did some Tupac covers. He didn’t do those during the second show and 2) Even with the crowd screaming and yelling for him to do “Ether”, he only gave us a few seconds of it.

Addressing Nas directly here:
C’mon Nas! We know you and Jay are BFFs now. We know this. We read the magazines, the interviews online, etc. We know. Still, you asked us what we wanted to hear and then teased us with it. Why? “Ether” was your best track of this decade. It is a remnant of the best battle hip hop has ever known. It was a battle you won. You said so yourself Sunday night.

Oh well, Nas is still one of my all time favorites. His new CD is in my truck right now and I haven’t taken it out since I got it. In case you want to see clips of the second show, check out this clip a dude by the name of “mashfest” uploaded. The Emo’s people told me I couldn’t take my camera in there, so I left it in my car. Thanks Mash, for being a renegade and giving the people a memory of the best hip hop show this year.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm a Thorrier !!!!

Last weekend I was home again on the Red River side of downtown Austin,Texas. The Red River music venues, with the exception of Stubb’s outdoor and Emo’s outside, are where Austin’s lesser known or up and coming bands can be found. Bands range from metal, punk rock, indie, psychedelic, and garage rock. Saturday I made the trip to Red 7 for one of the better metal touring acts right now, Valient Thorr.

(Valient himself with Austin's own Deanna Marie of Velvet Brick)

I discovered Valient Thorr a little differently than I usually discover bands. Typically I find a band on myspace, a music magazine, or though word of mouth. None of the above applied here. As odd as this may sound, I discovered Valient Thorr on a t-shirt Kyle Shutt of The Sword was wearing at The Sword’s January show at Emo’s. Now do you believe in product placement? Shortly after The Sword show, I befriended Valient Thorr on myspace as a reminder to check them out later. I honestly didn’t listen to them at that point on time.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was listening to something online, can’t remember what exactly now. Whatever it was, there was a bumper or sound bite of Fat Mike from punk rock mega stars NoFX. Fat Mike said the following on that bumper: “I fucking hate metal, but I love these guys”. I didn’t catch who he was talking about and I was online and curious. So, I “Googled” the quote. As it turns out, he was referring to Valient Thorr. I immediately opened another tab and pulled up Valient Thorr’s myspace. This time I listened to their music, I mean really listened.

After listening to what was on their myspace, I couldn’t believe I didn’t own their CDs already. Looking back at the page again, I saw that they were touring and coming to Austin to play at Red 7. Honestly, I was surprised they were playing there and not at a bigger venue. Red 7 certainly was a good venue for them none the less. Red 7 (also the black t-shirt capital of Austin) is one of the last of Austin’s hard rock venues. Metal, punk, and anything intense or underground gets pushed to the back burner now. It didn’t used to be this way, but with the death of venues like The Back Room, The Metro,Rock City Ice House and Liberty Lunch being long gone there isn’t a lot of options. Oh well, Red 7 it was Saturday.

I got there at Red 7 and was astonished to see that it wasn’t more packed than it was. However, many of Austin’s metal heads were probably in Dallas for Ozzfest. It was no big deal for me as I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was at. I even got to chat with “Valient himself” as he was walking amongst the crowd. He was very approachable and quite the humble guy. As I watched people come up to him all night, he seemed to be the same way with everyone else. That is really cool and speaks well of him.

After listening to two decent bands before Valient Thorr, I was glad they finally took the stage. By that time there were more people in the crowd and Red 7 looked packed. The mosh pitters in the crowd were warmed up and ready to get going again "Thorrier" style.

Once Valient Thorr started, they immediately started kicking ass and taking names. They have such intensity, crazy energy and can play the hell out of their instruments. Plus I haven't seen beards that sweet since ZZ Top. The ZZ comparison stops there as Valient Thorr's music is more political, intense and maybe even controversial to some.

Their political consciousness and fearlessness to say whatever they feel is what I love about them. Not since Rage Against the Machine, NoFX or Public Enemy have I heard such conscious rock done right. Hear it for yourself on "Exit Strategy" and "Goveruptcy", both of which they performed Saturday. Another song I liked they played was "Heatseeker". Don't go through Valient's mail. That is all I have to say about that. Listen to their album "Legend of The World" album and you will see what I mean.

After about an hour of a crazy hot set, after all the sweat and mosh pits I could handle I had to go home. I forgot how good and bad a metal show feels. On my way out I bought a t-shirt as Valient Thorr has some of the coolest and most artistic shirts around. Their album covers are just as well done.

If you want to see a clip of the show from Red 7, check out my You Tube channel. Before you do, check out their video for "Man Behind the Curtain" to get a feel for Valient Thorr in case you are unfamiliar. Once you do, join me and the rest of the "Thorriers" as we rock to Valient Thorr. I only wish I were on the West Coast right now as they are playing with The Misfits and Motorhead. I bet my body would seriously ache after that show.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Days with Plastilina Mosh in Austin

Monterrey, Mexico’s own Plastilina Mosh was in Austin this week. Originally scheduled just for an Univision (Spanish television network) taping, Plastilina Mosh, or P-Mosh, ended up making the most of their stay in Austin. Although it all started with Univison, they ended up with an M.E. Live taping and a show at Emo’s Lounge. I was lucky enough to be at both.

It all started for me Thursday afternoon at The Radisson on Congress and Cesar Chavez. I had to pick some give away schwag up for Rock y Roll Radio to pass out at their Emo’s Lounge show that night. As I picked up everything, I caught P-Mosh outside smoking a cigarette, so I asked to join them and chat. We talked about the upcoming show, their tapings, Austin, Mexico, and bands we liked. It was awesome and yes, totally groupie of me. I know. It’s all good though as someone in a previous post pulled my “man card” for going to see Tilly and the Wall.

Well, later that night at Emo’s Lounge I caught the show. It was actually a listening party for their new album “All You Need is Mosh”. DJ Manolo Black was spinning while Paul Saucido and Dacia Saenz from Rock y Roll Radio were hosting. There was a full house there at Emo’s Lounge and pretty well mixed in terms of age and cities. I talked to four young guys who drove all the way from Laredo just for this show and to three guys from El Paso who did the same.

Their set itself was in one word, fun. Definitely entertaining as well. One of their first songs they performed was an older one and personal favorite of mine, “Peligroso Pop”. Good times.

Everyone up front was dancing, jumping and singing along. I could tell that the P Mosh guys were really feeding off that and enjoying themselves. In fact, they even covered Motley Crue’s classic power ballad “Home Sweet Home”. How seriously can a band take themselves by covering that? P-Mosh also had the best ending I have seen this year for a show. I uploaded it to my You Tube channel for you to check out.

Friday afternoon it was more P-Mosh for me and my crew. I arrived at M.E. TV for their M.E. Live Taping Paul Saucido set up for Sonido Boombox. I love the M.E. Television tapings because of the intimacy and close proximity to the band itself. No other channel in Austin can do what they do in terms of quality tapings. Paul Saucido does a good job of making sure the Latin Alternative acts are well represented.

For those not in the know, let me fill you in. Plastilina Mosh is a big deal in Mexico and Latin America, which translates to having a large following of American Latinos. I have known of them since the late 1990s when I used to hear some of their songs at clubs in San Antonio and Laredo. I also had friends in college who were from El Paso that listened to them a lot. I don’t know that I would drive nine hours to see P-Mosh, but I totally believe now that they have lots of fans that would as I found out Thursday.

Plastilina Mosh’s sound is rock with a little pop, electronic and funk sung in both English and Spanish. Being from Monterrey, one of the most chic cities in Mexico not named Mexico City, it is no surprise that they have such a cool eclectic sound. Some comparisons or familiar sounds that come to mind are the Beastie Boys and maybe some Franz Ferdinand. It is evident that when you listen to P Mosh, they are heavily influenced by American and European bands. Many bands of from Latin America now are bridging the gap and making music for broader audiences by singing in English. Plastilina Mosh is one of the better bands to do that. I can’t wait to see the video of their M.E. Live taping. Maybe then you who are unfamiliar with P Mosh can check them out and add them to your collection.

After talking to them again Friday, you will get another chance to see them in Austin soon. I will keep you posted. For now, check out my favorite P Mosh video called “Peligroso Pop” which translates to “Dangerous Pop”. Enjoy:

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Less Than Jake in Austin

Saturday my day was all about Less Than Jake. I had been planning for weeks for Saturday. Less than Jake made not one, but two appearances in Austin. I was excited as it had been over ten years since I last saw Less Than Jake in concert. I think they were on the bill for one of the many 90s Warped Tours I attended. This summer seems to be a 90s Warped theme for me as I already saw NoFX, Pennywise, Authority Zero, Strung Out and Rancid already. Yes kids, that’s how awesome the Warped Tour line up once was. Well, Saturday with Less Than Jake made me feel a little nostalgic about the “old days”.

Just as in the 90s during my teen years, I was excited when I heard Less Than Jake was coming to Austin. Their first stop was an Encore Records for an in store appearance. That in store appearance was actually a short acoustic set as Encore has a sound system and P.A. set up in the corner of the store. Encore even had a real sound guy working the boards, which even Less Than Jake applauded.

Their performance at Encore was hilariously entertaining. The two members of the band who performed were bassist/vocalist Roger and Chris, vocals/guitarist. Apparently, according to Chris, Roger had just bought the acoustic bass guitar he was playing that same day. Roger claimed he never played it before and he was just going to “go for it”. In between tuning and playing actual songs, Chris and Roger went back and forth about how Chris hated how the bass sounded. Roger said it wasn’t that bad, it sounded fine, and all to the amusement of the audience. Chris kept telling Roger to just “put it away” and told his trombone player, Buddy, who was recording this for them to turn off the video camera. It was all in good spirit and in good fun. After about forty minutes or so, they stopped to sign autographs for fans and of course I got my new copy of “GNV FLA” signed.

Immediately after the in store, I had to head downtown to La Zona Rosa as doors opened at seven. To get up front, you have to be early. Plus, I enjoy catching the opening bands at these major types of shows. I’m glad I was early. Not only did I get front row, I was one of the few people who got to hear O Pioneers. They performed as duo, a guitarist/vocalist and a drummer. They were really good, but I remember thinking two things during their set. 1) How did they get on this bill with Less Than Jake as they are not a ska or punk band and 2) Why are they so far away from each other? I mean literally it was like watching a tennis match, moving my head from one end of the stage to another. The drummer was like ten feet away from the singer. Other than that crazy distance, I enjoyed their set. Despite a low early turnout, they still rocked and everyone who saw their set seemed content.

After O Pioneers wrapped up, Big D and the Kids Table set up. “Big D” playing with Less Than Jake made sense. Big D is a ska/punk band who have been on the scene for a few years now, coming from the same era as Less Than Jake. With a three man brass section, they definitely added a good ska vibe to the show. Personally I am not really into Big D, but they aren’t bad. I remember a couple of songs they played, such as “New England” and what I think is called “One Two”. Their set was good, but lead singer David McWane seemed tired. Being that this was the last leg of the Less Than Jake tour, I guess that’s understandable. Instead of the beer he was drinking, someone should have served him something with Red Bull in it. It would have been a much livelier show for me. Over all, if they came back around to Austin I’d probably go see them again. I love a good punk/ska show.

Speaking of a good show, Less Than Jake came on shortly there after Big D. Unlike the in store earlier in the day, the whole band cam out and immediately got down to business. With more people in attendance, there was just a good energy inside La Zona Rosa. Watching Less Than Jake directly from the front row was something I didn’t get to experience at those early 90s Warped Tours. They played material from their new album of course, but old favorites from the older albums “Rockview” and “Losing Streak” are what made the show for me. Well that, and the comedic antics of lead singer/guitarist Chris. They talked a lot during their set, but being that Chris was actually funny, it didn’t really bother me.

Something else one can only see from the front row is little things Chris does to play with the photographers, such as acting like he is going blow a snot rocket at them. He didn’t of course because he is not a douche bag, but it was funny to see her face and then see him smile at her afterwards. Chris also made sure to pose with a funny face of some sort when he saw the cameras directly on him. What a personality that guy is. In case you haven’t come across the clips on you tube, he does indeed perform a song with a George Bush mask.

Finally, my Saturday with Less Than Jake concluded with me catching Roger’s guitar pick at the end of the show. I love this band more than ever now. You should have been there. In case you weren't, here is a clip of what you missed:

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Love Girl in a Coma

Friday night I saw for the second time live, San Antonio’s own Girl in a Coma. I don’t think I can express in words how much I love Girl in a Coma. I only discovered them last November at a show they played here in Austin at Stubb’s indoor with The Cliks.

At that time, I had never heard of Girl in a Coma. I remember the day of the show was my last day of finals for the fall semester and I just wanted to go downtown. None of my friends were free that night so I went down Red River by myself. I went to Stubbs to eat barbeque and found out a “girl” band from San Antonio was playing there that night for ten bucks. That sounded good to me so I went downstairs to see the show. Both bands, The Cliks and Girl in a Coma, won me over that night.

Girl in a Coma is signed to rock goddess Joan Jett’s label, Black Heart Records. They are a three piece band of Latina women from San Antonio that sing in English. They named themselves after a Morrissey song “Girlfriend in a Coma”, but oddly enough they do not sound anything like Morrissey (Side note: Mexicans from San Antonio are obsessed with Morrissey). Their sound is a blend of punk, garage rock, and melodic rock.

What really captivates me about Girl in a Coma is their combination of energy, well written music, and Nina Diaz’s (lead vocals/guitar) voice. She does scare me a little when she sings. She makes such mean facial expressions but her voice still melts me none the less. Nina’s voice is the best blend of strong and feminine that I have ever heard in a female lead rock band. I know it is bold to say that, but listen for yourself. You should find it to be true. It also doesn’t hurt that Nina Diaz is gorgeous.

Last night I got to experience Girl in a Coma’s greatness again as they played at Emo’s inside. This is after months of listening to their album “Both Before I’m Gone”, which is a phenomenal album. Despite feeling under the weather, I drug myself out to Emo’s. There was no way I was going to miss their show. Somehow I started to feel better once their set started. Maybe it was all mental, I don’t know.

It seemed that all of Girl in a Coma’s San Antonio fans made the drive up for their show. It was no surprise to me because Girl in a Coma has a loyal and devout fan base in their hometown. Their fan base is mostly young women as I saw last night, but by no means are they a “chick band”. They rock too hard and the few guys in the house were digging their set. Even the staff at Emo’s took notice as I caught them bobbing their heads a little and listening.

The crowd last night also got treated to a few new songs from Girl in a Coma. My first impression was that when they wrote those new songs, they were listening to blues and maybe some stuff from The Doors. It was a different sound for them but still very good. I look forward to anything new from Girl in a Coma, but am curious about those particular songs. According to their set list Jenn gave me, I believe they were called “Empty Promises” and “Vino”. Look out for those on this tour.

Their set did not disappoint. Rather than elaborate on that, I wanted to share with you all some thoughts I had last night. There were three differences I noticed since I last saw them in November. Lead singer Nina Diaz shrunk. By that I mean she lost a lot of weight. She also played a set with her hair down and in a presentable shirt, which looked really good on her. In November, she was heavier, had her hair slicked back in a pony tail and was in a wife beater tank with Dickies slacks. Now honestly I could care less what a band looks like, but I think these changes should help the band go forward and get an even bigger fan base. They already have an amazing sound and are genuinely cool people. I expect nothing but big things for Girl in a Coma from here on.

If Girl in a Coma is unfamiliar to you, get acquainted first with this seemingly controversial video for one of my favorite songs, titled “Road To Home”:

Standout tracks: Say, Clumsy Sky, Their Cell

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