SXSW 2012 – Bands to See



It always creeps up on me. One minute, my friends and I are lamenting the fact that South by Southwest is over, and we have to wait a whole year before we do it all again. The very next, it’s time for a constant barrage of music, libations, and general merriment. And so, here we are again, poised on the edge of greatness (or a great catastrophe, depending on how organized you are). What’s that, you say? You don’t even know who is playing this year? Worry not, o yon procrastinator! That’s what I’m here for. I’ve scoured the SXSW lineup this year and have come up with the below suggestions of bands you really can’t miss. Per our usual format, you’ll find below the name of an incredible band, a brief description of what they’re like, a video of a song that encapsulates what they’re about, and the venues & showtimes where you can actually find them. Some are new to me, some are old favorites. Either way — buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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UTOPiAfest – Name Says It All



After the Austin City Limits Festival this year, I had a discussion with my mom about the changing vibe of that weekend. I was happy that there were bigger artists coming through Austin to perform, and still had a blast, but from my first year in 2005, a lot felt different about the festival. My mom said that it seemed to her that the weekend was becoming less rock “n” roll, and more corporate. This has been a commonplace complaint for ACL purists who remember its first year, but now I”m starting to agree. It felt as though there was a void for a truly family-friendly, laid back, welcoming and positive festival for Texans, not to mention a lack of camping festivals. Enter UTOPiAfest.

Out in the middle of a ranch in Utopia, Texas, this festival felt right from the word “Go.” When Zack and I drove up, we parked our chassis in a dirt-and-rock parking lot and walked up the dusty road toward what felt like an oasis. Beautiful green rolling hills surrounded a camp of teepees, tents and trailers as children ran around all over the place, and their parents relaxed in the shade.  Zack and I, as members of the press, were treated more kindly than I ever have been — we were fed and given an endless amount of water, coke and beer (pick your poison), and even if we hadn”t been, everyone was so friendly on the campgrounds that they probably would have taken care of us, anyway. Although we were very sad not to have been able to camp at the festival overnight (curse you, adulthood and jobs!) we decided we wanted to really make a day of it Saturday, and see as much as possible before the three hour drive back home so Zack could work at 6:00AM.

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Little Lo and Win Butler are playing at our house, at our house.



Now that Zack and I are starting to settle into our apartment, we’re ready to show of some of our most prized possessions — the Easy Canvas Prints prints that we got during our favorite concert photography contest. The canvases are beautiful and our sad little digital camera doesn’t do them justice. They almost look like paintings — particularly Austin Writes Music’s winner Sarah Vasquez‘s Little Lo photo. Now just let us paint some walls and finish unpacking before y’all come over and see these in person, eh? Check out Zack’s post about Chad Wadsworth’s (Win)ning shot here.

Huge thanks to Easy Canvas Prints for helping us run the contest. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, and our walls.

Canvas Prints contest winner!



Happy Monday morning! I managed to move a boatload of stuff over the weekend, and I’m officially all up in Zack’s apartment now. Our treat for ourselves last night was looking through all of your photo submissions, and we had some really beautiful shots to choose from that definitely made it a tough decision.

For the Austin bands contest, the photo that ultimately won our hearts was one taken by blogger extraordinaire Sarah Vasquez, over at So Many Bands. It’s a gorgeous photo of Ian and Stephanie from Little Lo, bathed in stage light. Little Lo are not only one of our favorite local bands, but they hold sentimental value for Zack and me, because we saw them on our first date. It’s also a complimentary photo to the one we picked for the Festival Crashers contest. So congrats to Sarah, and we’ll be sure to post a photo of the canvases when they’re up on our wall!

Photo by Sarah Vasquez

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Win a canvas of your photograph and decorate my home!



My lovely readers, some of you may know that I am about to move in with my amazing and also-music-writer boyfriend, Zack Teibloom from Festival Crashers. We are excited to share a space (and a bitchin’ vinyl collection) together, but we need some help with pulling together awesome stuff for our walls. Serendipitously for us, the fine people at Canvas Prints have offered to print out some concert photos so we can rockify our apartment.

This is where you come in. We are each hosting a separate contest for Austinites with concert photos, wherein we will pick winners and not only will your fabulous pics get put up in our place, but you, too, will take home a canvas of your winning photograph. The canvas the winner receives will be 14″x11″. Sound good? Read on for rules:

  1. You’ve gotta do some ‘liking’ of Canvas Prints, because we like them for letting us run this contest. PLUS, by ‘liking’ them on Facebook, every single one of you gets 50% off of your next order, and free shipping. So no matter what, everyone’s a winner.
  2. You’ve gotta submit a photo of one of these Texas bands, because – let’s be honest, we want our favorites displayed. (This is where the photo contests differ. Check out Festival Crashers for more winning.) Here are your choices:
  • The Bright Light Social Hour
  • The Black & White Years
  • Little Lo
  • Royal Forest
  • Brazos (Old skool!/Extinct :(  )
  • Sarah Jaffe
  • The Boxing Lesson
  • Spoon

The contest runs from now until July 15, the day before The Great Migration, and we’ll announce the winners post-move that Monday. Please email your entries to: caitlin AT austinwritesmusic DOT com. You can submit up to 10 photos, and make sure you link directly to your submission (not just your general photo site for us to peruse).

Also, for more chances to win free shwag, be sure to follow Canvas Prints on Twitter.

Austin’s sweethearts Little Lo celebrate “A Poison Tree” at the Parish



Photo by Pooneh Ghana

It’s no secret I’ve rooted for Little Lo since I first heard about the band through my friend and their mandolin/guitar/sax player Ian Rogers. I met Rogers at the 2009 La Zona Rosa Phoenix gig, when he joined the group of friends I’d made at the show in a guessing game. He was very giggly, with a big, bright grin. This is probably the best way I can summarize Little Lo as a band – they are a bubbly beacon of loveliness in the landscape of Austin music. What “A Poison Tree” proves is that these wonderful people are brilliant songwriters. Each track flows effortlessly into the next, without the handicap of each song sounding exactly like the next. It’s a cohesive record without being at all boring; every song stands out as a “best” track.

“Wounded Knee” rushes past with energy; it’s a perfect opener and a guaranteed hook for anyone new to the band. You’ll perk up immediately and beg for more, as mastermind Ryan McGill and Bailey Glover act as complimentary narrators. “Hairlong” is my personal favorite; I have long adored this track in a live setting, and the band captured its playfulness perfectly, as someone (perhaps mischievous drummer Sam “Houdini” Houdek, or the expressive bassist Josh Mead) cries out before the song climaxes in a chorus of voices and instruments. “Roots, Trees, Wires” sounds as though it was given just a delicate refining for the EP, and “For Fun” is another tune I was excited to finally hear recorded (although I’ll admit, I miss the kazoo ushering in the band’s entrance). “Broken Skin” allows the band to slow down and embrace some melancholy before the song twists and they sweetly, but firmly, proclaim their love. The whole thing ends in a whisper with “A Poison Tree,” leaving you wondering if you only dreamed the entire thing. Luckily, Little Lo will remind us all that this isn’t just a dream – they’ll perform the entire EP at the Parish on Sunday. If there’s one thing you will take away from a Little Lo show, it is the idea that love and dreams combined can create the most moving beauty.

Keep your eyes on Little Lo’s bandcamp page for more EP information, and check out FestivalCrashers.com for an excellent interview with the band and vivid description of the recording process.

Free Press Summer Fest – a rain-or-shine good time



I’ve only run a few races in my life, but I can say from both personal and second-hand experience, there are moments during a run in which you want to quit. Your legs are sore, your whole body is exhausted, you’re afraid your lungs might collapse, the heat is bearing down on you and your brain feels like it may melt out of your ears. Then you’ll see a water station off in the distance, or a heavy, quick-paced song will pop on your iPod, or a cool breeze will blow in your face just for a moment, and despite wanting to sit on a curb with every fiber of your being, you’ll continue on until you reach the finish line.

Attending a music festival is a very similar experience to this, and Free Press Summer Fest may have been the most parallel example of any festival I have ever attended. There were moment in the 100-degree blazing heat of the afternoon where I wanted to limp to the shade, licking my wounds, and dip my head in a bucket of ice water. Houston, Texas in the summertime is no joke, particularly when you host a festival along a blacktop street. However, the Free Press Summer Fest crew are fantastic about booking the kinds of bands and providing the kinds of accessories that will urge you on at the last moment, turning the tide and keeping you rocking for just one more song and one more song until you realize the sun’s gone down and it’s time to go home.

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Free Press Preview – Who to see in Houston



It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed the sweat, blood and tears of a music festival, but luckily that is all about to change. Houston is offering up a smattering of awesome local, state-wide and national acts this weekend at the Free Press Summer Fest, and I scoured every single slot to give you my recommendations for best of the fest. Read on to get a short synopsis of who you should check out, as well as a song to peak your interest. See you in Houston!

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Benefit for Japan at The Scoot Inn



A last-minute benefit has been put together by Bearded Allies featuring some awesome local bands at the Scoot Inn. On Saturday, blog favorites Little Lo, Ghost of Electricity, Lean Hounds and psych rockers The Boxing Lesson will perform, and the $5 cover charge will be donated to Mercy Corp’s Japan fundraiser. Doors are at 7:00p.m. Get out there for a good cause! More info can be found on Facebook.

Free Week Review – Wednesday night at the Mohawk



Wednesday night at the Mohawk was like riding an emotional roller coaster, with all participants shoved in one tiny box car, spontaneously howling with delight, holding tight to one another for dear life and sweating all over the place while incredible local bands navigated us on our way.

The evening opened up with Dark Water Hymnal, a five-piece that plays orchestral pop music for woodland elves at a dance party. There were definite nods to Frightened Rabbit, and the group peaked at their second-to-last song, “ Wherever We Are.” It was the best blend of their Tolkien folk-meets-modern dance rock, and the lyrics were immediate and affecting. One concert attendee, J.D., approached me with his input: “What a well put-together band. They’re raw and more alive in some songs — just really nice. I’d want to introduce these guys to my friends. I’d take them home to my parents.” They’re sharp on record, and with a little more time, I think their live show has the potential to hit just as hard.

Next up, Little Lo took the stage. The band isn’t even 100% settled on all of their song titles, so I’ll do the best I can here. The tiny inside room at the Mohawk was packed the whole night, and there were a lot of Chatty Cathys up in there (my kind way of saying Austin peoples need to STFU if they’re gonna be hanging out in the room where the music is going on, kthx). Still, when the group broke out with tentatively-titled “SXSW Song,” Sam Houdek’s explosive drum kick-off silenced the room, if only for a few minutes. The group truly sounded like they were at their peak; they filled the room with their songs, and played with so much love and excitement that our little roller coaster boxcar felt like it was imminently on that swooshing downward rush, stuck in the very best moments of the ride. Lead singers Ryan James McGill and Bailey Glover each have completely unique voices; McGill’s is simultaneously achingly honest and quietly smooth, whereas Glover’s soars, with the kind of strong vibrato that is perfectly at home on a stage. It feels like it should be unlikely for these voices to wrap around one another so perfectly, but they are wonderful compliments, and the rest of the group’s backing harmonies are the perfect bed in which they can cozy up. McGill is a masterful wordsmith; phrasing like “Down here I don’t have to lie, I just lay” and “I do look good in green for you” stay with you long after the band has packed up their equipment. They played “Wounded Knee” for our aforementioned pal J.D., who discovered the group at the Oh Snap! Festival. Bassist Josh Mead is delightful to watch during this tune, as he dances around in his own world, and saxophonist/mandolin player Ian Rogers lights up every time he catches his bandmate jamming out. Multi-instrumentalists Stephanie Groudle and George Pappas crowded around a mic with their band members for Little Lo’s interpretation of a William Blake poem, but you could see on Groudle and Houdek’s faces that the crowd was making it impossibly difficult for them to hear their harmonies during the quiet tune. It was the only moment of frustration for the group, and they trudged along, living out the title sentiment during “For Fun.” They closed the night out with “Broken Skin,” which starts slow and bubbles up to an encompassing boil at the end. The main stage lights shut off at the song’s climax, leaving only light from strings of Christmas lights in the background and creating great shadows as the band members tore the roof off. It was a brilliant set, and possibly the best Little Lo performance I’ve seen yet. Bravo.

If Little Lo was the number one highlight of my night at the Mohawk, Danny Malone was a very close second. Malone had more tattoos and more hair than the last time I saw him, but seemed otherwise to be the same incredibly talented oddball troubadour Austin knows, loves and claims. He opened with the devastating “Close Enough,” and since he was performing acoustically, he didn’t have drums to silence the room and opted for a powerful harmonica part instead. A bulk of the audience seemed to be there to support Malone, as calls of “Danny!” echoed around the place. He picked up the pace on his second song, “My Affection.” On the verse, “Maybe you should think of leaving town,” Malone growled the lyrics, emphasizing how much emotion he plays with. He’s the kind of artist who seems to be reliving whatever experiences his songs are about every time he plays them, which has to be a painful thing if it is indeed true — many of Malone’s songs are about broken hearts and dissatisfaction. He addressed the audience after this, quipping, “We’re celebrating poverty! Woo!” The Free Week joke did not go over very well, so Malone mumbled, “…go Wildbats!” and, after a beat, followed up with, “Or ice cats, or whatever,” and then with a chuckle, continued his set with the sweet tune, “Sailing.” Up next was a new track, which Malone described as his “new hit song.” Possibly titled “Sugar Water,” the opening line was, “Face down in the sink/I found you there puking in your sleep.” Malone is a master of cynicism, witty sarcasm and musical and lyrical dichotomies; he coupled the biting verses with a “Bop-shoo-op” breakdown, which was the perfect counter. On a personal note, the next song, “Wait On Me,” definitely got to me, causing some pools to gather in my eyes. It’s a gentle plea with melancholy self-awareness, and Malone hit all the notes just right. To shake things up, he put his signature dance routine into the next setlist slot, and tonight he released balloons into the audience as his own set of lamps flickered in time with his Michael Jackson-esque moves. People seemed fairly unfazed by the display, further indicating a majority were likely fans there to support Malone. Indeed, a sing-along emerged on “Secrets You Know,” and some head banging accompanied Malone’s cries of “Like I was born with it/I’m so bored with it.” Though there were calls for his hit “Baby Bleu” to close out the set, Malone opted to go with a new tune, saying, “Let’s just end this calmly.” Judging by the wild applause that followed the song, I doubt anyone was disappointed.

Marmalakes ended the night at the Mohawk with pretty, catchy pop songs. Drummer Josh Halpern’s parents attended the event, which (let’s be honest) was basically the most awesome and adorable thing ever. Mr. Halpern asked the group of folks I was standing near if his wife could scoot in to get a good look at her son, but Mrs. Halpern insisted we stay near the stage. “I’ve seen them a million times — plus, look how cute he is! And he’s nice, too!” Your mom: the best wingman you could ask for. The band shot through their set, performing old favorites and new tunes to a still-packed and loving room. The bit hit, “Vittoria,” was once again a joyous sing-along, and the room half-accurately clapped along during the second verse. The crowd begged for an encore, but the band waved goodbye and people scattered into the street. It was a wonderful cap to a fabulous Free Week lineup.

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