Little Radar released their debut album, Up In Arms, last night at the Mohawk, and it’s about time — the band has been a local favorite for many, performing their upbeat, raucous pop-rock tunes seemingly non-stop around town. Up In Arms captures this energy perfectly, and barrels through a crisp six-song set giving you a taste of how great a Little Radar live show is.
“Cup O’Tea” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It starts out slow and almost sea-faring, with waves of guitars playing on one another and wistfully sung lyrics by Sean Hale. Then, a little over halfway through, everything kicks into spunky high-gear, encouraging the kind of head-banging and hip-shaking the Empire Records staff were involved in.
Hale’s voice is particularly stellar on “Nature of the Beast,” which has an almost jazz-like rhythmic breakdown in it after each verse. It’s a high-powered ending that bookends Up In Arms‘ rocking opener, “Spitfire,” very well.
It builds on a beautiful Band of Horses-like EP the band had already put out (seriously, if you haven’t listened to the band’s Kill a Buffalo, do it now. I recommend “Wake Up” as your starter,) and solidifies Little Radar as an up-and-coming Austin band to watch.
The quartet were on point at their record release, proving why they are always worth a trip out to a local venue to see them perform live. Their live show puts even more muscle and bite behind their sound, and watching these four talented musicians do their thing is just a treat.
They also brought an incredibly talented group of bands along with them to celebrate. The Baker Family started the night off roaring out of the gate — it was somewhat reminiscent of Cursive’s emotional rock, but with its own flavor. The band is full of incredible instrumentalists; bassist Nathan Ribner is one of the best I’ve seen, wailing and flying up and down his instrument and acting as as much of a driving percussion force as drummer Darryl Schomberg II, who himself appears to disappear as his arms fly around his kit. “Mr. and Mrs. Baker” are the personality of the band, as Stu Baker bellows from his guts and Liz dances, sings, plays and is inviting and sweet, even in a Panda bear mask. They bowled me over and I immediately purchased their $5 cassette tape (with digital download inside!)
The Couch were up next, and kept dropping references (both verbally and musically) to the White Stripes and Jack White. Mostly, they were just a totally solid rock group with amazing energy and raw power behind their songs. In the same pure-rock vein as fellow Austinites Not in the Face! they add some attitude to our music scene, and they adore their friends in Little Radar. You can’t ask for much more than that.
The musicianship on display at Little Radar’s release show speaks to the quality they aspire to. Plug in and stay tuned to Little Radar.
There is something magically empowering about a woman who can shred on guitar. After all these years, the instrument is still dominantly wielded by men, so when artists like Feist step in to rock, it’s like a quick, cool breeze on a warm, sticky Texas night.
Leslie Feist was a bit preoccupied by our hot spring weather, making quips about how much she was sweating, but luckily her backup singers (Mountain Men) were ready with a blanket to fan her. If it wasn’t hot enough, Feist made it scorching with emotional pop-rock punches. Her set was all over the map, featuring beautifully executed songs from her latest album, Metals, and imaginatively reinvented older hits, like a stripped-down, tribal “Mushaboom.”
As any incredible bandleader would, Feist involves the crowd in her shows. Her performances are as much her fans’ as her own, as she commands sing-alongs, arm waving and clapping — sometimes all 3. During “Comfort Me,” there was a moment where she almost got the crowd to gently wave their arms from left to right, but participation was spotty at best. However, she was able to get attendees to “eeh” and “nah” along, so near the end of the song, she called, “Am I asking too much to do the arm thing, too?” That brought the laughter and eased the self-consciousness, and all arms were raised in the air to wave to the tune.
I tried to keep eyes on all band members during the performance, but it is nearly impossible to take your eyes off of Feist. For her stage setup, she had projectors spitting her and her bandmates’ images on a screen behind her and upside-down on the canopy above her in a trippy, ’70s-retro style reminiscent of things I’ve seen the band Chairlift do. When she’d rock back and forth, toward and away from the camera, with her long brown hair falling in front of her face, she looked like the most badass rock guitarist you could imagine from that era. Her gender was almost obscured and she transformed into a Deity of Rock, just there to rip it up.
You remember that Feist is a rocking woman, however, when she eggs on the ladies in lady-power sing-alongs. Her smile was probably not bigger than it was during “The Circle Married the Line,” and female voices raised up like Disney-cartoon singing birds for the line, “First light was, last light was alright when the circle married the line.”
She seemed empowered by that sing-along, and after the song ended, she declared, “Austin, you have sealed your fate! Because…you just sang along.” She then instructed us in groups to sing different notes for a harmony of “Ah”s. To break up the group, she said, “Can all the people who came here to meet someone sing ‘ah.'” Then, ‘Can all the people who came here with someone very specific and special sing, ‘ah.'” Finally, “I don’t know what other group there is…can people who came here to break someone up to be with that someone sing ‘ah!’ That’s a terrible thing to admit, you should be ashamed. Unless you’re singing ‘ah’ really loudly TO that person, like in their face!'” She ended the harmony by saying, “Are there any Canadians here tonight? I always like to ask that to show how fun Canadians are!” With everyone set, she broke into “So Sorry.”
“Undiscovered First” was one of the most striking songs, with a huge build, dramatic climax and intense flashes of white light from the stage to emphasize beats at the end of the song. It’s one of the coolest things about Feist live shows: they enhance her recorded music, as her voice is allowed to unleash in a bigger space.
The biggest reaction of the night came with the one-two punch of “My Moon My Man” into “I Feel It All.” The latter elicited the biggest dance party, with shimmying, shaking and smiles all over the place.
The only hitch in the entire evening had nothing to do with Feist, and everything to do with the crowd. There were a lot of talkers, and apparently a fight broke out, as Feist edited the words of “Secret Heart” during her encore to reflect. (“Some violence goin’ on/Wish Austin would let me in on this secret…”) A fight? At a Feist concert? It was a diverse, hodgepodge crowd, but it’s awfully sad to have things devolve that way.
No matter the crowd, nobody could really take away from Feist’s performance. She was totally on, balancing big rockers with gentler, almost-folk songs. She was in charge, and we couldn’t have asked for a better leader.
I first fell in love with Deer Tick after hearing their kinder, folkier tunes, like “Ashamed,” “Diamond Rings 2007,” and even harder ones like “These Old Shoes” and “Christ Jesus.” They’ve, for the most part, abandoned these ballads in favor of something grittier, spit-ier and altogether rougher around the edges on their latest release, Divine Providence. So it makes sense they’d be touring with a rough-and-tumble gang like Turbo Fruits, who sound like they stepped directly out of someone’s garage and onto the stage (a good thing).
Each time I’ve seen John McCauley III and co. live, there have been antics. I’ve seen him play with Middle Brother and stage dive near his grandmother, I’ve seen him shoot a snot rocket into the unfortunate front row, and I’ve seen (photos of) him donning a dress and rocking a mustache. He’s also proposed to a Darlin’ (Nikki, of Those Darlin’s) which has, through thick, thin, grime and gunk, endeared me to him and Deer Tick for life.
If you want to see what might go down in Antone’s this sacred Sunday, leave a comment on this thread with your name and e-mail address. One lucky reader will win a pair of tickets to the show. I’ll announce the winner on Friday – best of luck!