By the time you read this, I'll be knee-deep in barbecue, beer and the music of hundreds of bands in Austin at South by Southwest. Most of you, on the other hand, will be staying here in T-Town, seeing a lot of the same bands I'll be seeing--and spending a lot less money doing it.
Thank the organizers of West by Southwest (WXSW) for that. Capitalizing on the fact that dozens of acts pass through town on their way to and from the Big Dance, the local festival--whose second round of shows takes place this week over four days at three venues--gathers some of the heavy-hitters (and lesser-knowns) playing in Austin and makes them part of our li'l budget-friendly shindig. Make no mistake: These bands are not merely SXSW's table scraps--they're genuine mouthwatering courses on a prix-fixe menu, and you'd be a chump for passing on the meal.
Here's a rundown of this week's WXSW menu:
Week Two, Night One: Sunday, March 22 (all acts in ascending order of appearance):
Plush: One of a few Next Big Things out of Phoenix (no, really), Miniature Tigers sound like E.L.O., if they dropped the cello player for a dude with a Kinks fetish. In other words, expect hooks upon delightfully poppy hooks (9 p.m.); Seattle's Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band play deceptively complex, jangly indie-pop tunes. And they've got a 14-year-old drummer. Someone tell those Congress bouncers to cut the kid some slack. (10 p.m.); on their new, third album, Grrr ... (released a couple of weeks ago on Dead Oceans), the Ivy Leaguers of Bishop Allen continue to give twee pop a good name (11 p.m.).
Week Two, Night Two: Monday, March 23:
Club Congress: The gentlemen of Tucson's Golden Boots are responsible for the creation of my favorite album so far this year, the whimsical but spooky, psychedelic, freaky country-folk-rock platter called The Winter of Our Discotheque (Park the Van) (7:30 p.m.); Chicago's Maps and Atlases' guitar interplay can recall Pinback or even The Sea and Cake, but their arty streak is wider than either. Bonus points for titling a song "Artichokes" (8:30 p.m.); Delaware's The Spinto Band, the Boots' Park the Van labelmates, specialize in lovingly crafted, giddy three-minute pop tunes (9:30 p.m.). At 11 p.m., Congress' longstanding '80s Night takes over for all your dancing needs.
Plush: London's TAT sound something like a post riot-grrrl Pat Benatar fronting a modern pop-punk outfit. In other words, they sound like they belong on the Warped Tour--which they'll join come June (8:30 p.m.); Tera Melos might be just another instrumental post-rock trio, if they didn't have such a well-tuned ear to melody (9:30 p.m.); Marnie Stern locks her considerable guitar-shredding talents into busy, difficult rhythms and unexpected melodies, and nothing sounds quite like it (10:30 p.m.); These Arms Are Snakes' brand of math-y post-hardcore is in a league of its own--let's settle on "artcore," cool? (11:30 p.m.).
Solar Culture Gallery: Oakland's Bart Davenport, like the singer-songwriters of the golden era of the '70s, isn't afraid of some blue-eyed soul or poppy "bop-bop-bahh"s (9:30 p.m.); the Bay Area's The Botticellis manage to make a cover of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" sound like a '60s/'70s-era, breezy, sun-drenched California pop song, much like the rest of their output (10:30 p.m.); taking cues from the wide-spanning history of post-synthesizer dance music, San Francisco's Sugar and Gold never sound dated (11:30 p.m.).
Week Two, Night Three: Tuesday, March 24:
Club Congress: The Album Leaf's Drew Andrews plays a free, solo set on the Hotel Congress patio (7 p.m.); like the aforementioned Maps and Atlases, Tucson's RCougar know their way through pleasant interlocking guitar grooves (8:30 p.m.); chances are, you've never seen a band from Budapest, Hungary, which is where The Moog, purveyors of some enjoyable guitar-driven pop-rock (with an occasional Arctic Monkeys nod), call home (9:30 p.m.); there are far worse sources from which to draw inspiration than the Kinks, and there are far worse bands who do it than the charming Princeton (10:30 p.m.); the new project from the former frontman for Death From Above 1979, Sebastian Grainger and the Mountains treat vintage power pop, Echo and the Bunnymen and '70s hard rock with equal reverence (11:30 p.m.).
Plush: Portland's McDougall play an updated take on guitar/banjo/mandolin folk (8:30 p.m.); fellow Portlanders Hillstomp go the similarly stripped-down traditional road, but occasionally meander off into gutbucket blues territory (9:30 p.m.); hey, more Portlanders! Red Fang plays a dirty, groove-heavy brand of blues rock that's not quite metal (10:30 p.m.); Early Man might just be the most metal band ever signed to Matador Records (11:30 p.m.).
Week Two, Night Four: Wednesday, March 25:
Club Congress: Mika Miko is one of those bands I came upon by accident at SXSW a year or two ago, and the fact that I still remember them really does say something. But then, I've got a special place in my heart for '80s American punk rock (8:30 p.m.); abrasive Montreal noiseniks AIDS Wolf would have fit right in to NYC's No Wave scene of the late '70s (9:30 p.m.); Long Beach's Crystal Antlers are raw and artsy, but they can also betray a soulfulness that many similar bands lack. Plus--and this is probably over-mentioned but too awesome to avoid--their percussionist goes by the name Sexual Chocolate (10:30 p.m.); read all about Monotonix in Annie Holub's feature article this week, and if you go, please remember to wear fire-resistant clothing (11:30 p.m.).
Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. The number is 622-8848.
Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. The number is 798-1298.
Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 E. Toole Ave. The number is 884-0874.
Call any one of them for more information. Admission to individual shows is $8; a wristband that gets you into all of this week's shows is $10.
This just in from Bob Spasm, who dare I say sounds a bit mellower than usual, regarding Spasmfest '09: "It is I, Bob Spasm, the Mother Teresa of Tucson punk rock, back to feed the music-starved unwashed masses (or is it asses) some quality musical food! This year's SPASMFEST features Bloodspasm (24th year), Knuckle Junction, Vanish Twin, Chicano Brown and For or Against. This year's theme: WORLD PEACE--WHY? SPASMFEST '09 will take place this Saturday, March 21, at 9 p.m., at Vaudeville, 110 E. Congress St. Five bands, $5, 21+." Thanks, Bob! Questions? Dial 'em up at 622-3535.
Finally, a couple of brief notes:
The Airborne Toxic Event show originally scheduled for The Rock this week has been postponed until May 20.
And, this just in: Human Rights, of the Bad Brains, will play an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave, on Saturday, March 21. $10. Call 884-0874 for more info.