Festival Reviews

Day starts heading to Mellow Johnny’s bike  shop to catch Pickwick only came to know this band when doing some SXSW research and really glad I did.  This kid has got it, band is great, not sure how to describe him but, his voice is stunning and I would suggest to anyone, go and check out the band and their KEXP radio station videos. 

Now it’s off to Cedar Street to see Of Monsters & Men and Ed SheeranOf Monsters & Men are fantastic. Very similar to our Canadian band the Stars, great harmonies, clever songs, from Iceland!    Ed Sheeran is up next, and this guy is pretty darned entertaining.  He does have a great voice, and by his last song, he has got the entire crowd doing an audience participation song, while he loops some self-created beats on his mic, he has a split crowd singing parts of the song. He is a showman and must admit, I quite liked it! 

An attempt now to go see Dry The River failed as the W Hotel patio where they were to playing only holds 100 people and its well past  full.  So....back to Mellow Johnny’s for rockabilly band JD MacPherson.  New cd coming out on Rounder, this fellow and his band mates know what they are doing.  A great showman with a spectacular band. Big keys, stand-up bass, saxophone, great upbeat party going on at Mellow Johnny’s 

Now we return to Cedar for the sweet harmonies of Grafitti6 and Fanfarlo, both great patio music, especially when you are on Cedar St Courtyard! 

Dinner time!  A little rest then mayhem! Here is where I throw in my opinion ....watch out....don’t hate me!! 

 

Again...the plan changes ……We check out the Google/YouTube party line-up...none!  Easy access for badges so, we decide to go see Nick Waterhouse and Lee Fields at the Hype hotel.

 

Nick Waterhouse comes on with three backup singers, saxophone and a great rock-a-billy blues sound. A rocking band and a great start...the kid really gets the people moving!

 

Next up, Lee Fields!  He is like a smaller version of Charles Bradley...but with more energy!  This young/old guy sings for the ladies and they sing back...if only I had half of this senior citizens soul or charm!!  Fantastic set!!

 

Then a quick run up to see Cults and Frankie Rose at the aforementioned You Tube/Google party.  Cults are perfectly dreamy and a great sunny band to listen to in the beating sun!  Frankie Rose fits right in as well; though everyone including the band seems to be suffering from the night before, and that morning feeling but, both bands get a great response.  

 

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Wedneday ...first full day in Austin...lets jump in! 

Start off by wandering up toward Mohawk to see django django but we have a little time. Why not go into Paste magazine party, get some early cool sounds and beers. Sandra shops for lovely Tretorn shoes on display and then listen to a kick ass New Orleans band called mynameisjohnmichael   fantastic horns, great New Orleans blues rock sound with a dynamic energetic little singer who has the spirit of some great performers in him like Springsteen.  It’s great how these little side trips turn out so well

 

Now to Mohawk.  django django are first on, club offers some great viewing spots so crowd looks sparse but by the time the band gets into their 3rd song...everyone is paying attention   I did love the record so am particularly happy that they can pull it off live, great fun, like a funky Byrds at times, fun to watch especially when 3 of the 4 band members play keyboards at once and everyone agrees!

 

Inside Mohawk its Husky performing. I didn’t know much about these guys but they are a solid 4 piece with beautiful harmonies. and a great front guy

 

Outside now for Kindness, a funky awkward long haired white guy singing funky pop songs ...good band and back up singers, they have their moments.

 

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Realised after dinner that Campfire Trails show did not start until 9pm so got antsy and decided to push my luck and hit another club first.  

Hype hotel with a huge line was starting Tuesday night and first band of the evening was Oberhofer..lots of buzz about this Brooklyn band so we took the chance, and though there was a huge line, badges went on in.

 

The spirited, Strokes"ish" Oberhofer hit the stage and these kids were fantastic, highlight of the evening for sure. Young but very polished, energetic little fellas, floppy haired and rocking. it was a hoot. 

 

Then it was off to Bat Bar for Campfire Trails night. First off,. Apache Relay.  Almost Dry the River but not quite there, their set was haunted by what I thought was no vocals audible for the first few songs. This turned out to be an issue all night.  Good little band with a little Springsteen thrown in with a cover of State Trooper. 

 

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Supersonic Festival The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham, 21-23 Oct 2011

 

 

Supersonic - probably one of the most original festivals around.  Musicians mix with the

audience, as both get the same – to see challenging new music, and acts who rarely

play live in the UK. The setting is perfect - huge railway arches shelter eclectic food

vendors, and a narrow bridge over an urban river provides a crossing between venues,

which include warehouses and an old library, which ironically plays host to some of the

loudest bands.

 

And loud is the order of the day. Electric Wizard, Wolves in the Throne Room, Skull

Defects (wonderful repeated rhythms, SO loud)…but one of the most powerful sounds of

the whole weekend is the final track by aPAtT (think I got that right),  a Sunn 0)) ‘pastiche’

which echoes around the room and shakes you to your core. Serious or an expertly played

 joke?

 

Interpreting humour was a big issue for me this year – lots of Scandinavian bands, all

with a weird sense of humour. Circle – great band, very heavy, but are they being ‘ironic’

looking like a hair metal tribute band? Not until the singer stuffs his water bottle down the

front of his spandex tights, do we finally know the answer for sure. Turbonegro – they

dress like the Village People, with sailors hats, bowler hats and handlebar moustaches –

and play like a pub band playing punk anthems. Great fans, biggest mosh of the weekend,

who dress in matching badged denim like 70s Quo-ites. Ironic, post –ironic, or just having

a laugh?  And does it even matter? Not just the Scand bands either -the Secret Chiefs,

 in monks hoods and a net curtain hijab, play wonderful versions of Dallas soundtracks.

The funniest words came from Pekko Kappi describing the subjects of his eerie folk drones

 – as in ‘this one’s about a woman so evil that her husband sent her to hell and she beat

up all the demons’.

 

Maybe the really big names of last year were absent – and the planned collaboration

between David Tibet of Current 93 and jazz rockers Zu fell through for some reason –

but its those bands we’ve never heard of that make the weekend so special. For  example,

Klaus Kinski rocked the library – rampant energy, indie jazz rock, and a singer with a

penchant for self-abuse not seen since the salad days of Iggy Pop. A charmingly quiet

chap afterwards, onstage he French-kissed his guitarist, beat his head til it bled with what

he afterwards told me was a sock full of drawing pins (do all singers carry these, in case

they get the urge?!), then rolled on said pins, finally mounting the amps to walk perilously

along the gantry. Now I didn’t know they could do this, but the backdrop people can type

messages in extreme circumstances – and he was rewarded with a big white on black

blast of ‘Get Down You Dick’!

 

Those backdrops are another star of the festival – works of art in themselves, in keeping

with the variety of media used in the festival. Its not just music. Occasionally the images

are so striking they detract from the musicians – as when Mike Watts quirky songs were

given a backing of lurid images from old horror and porn movies. Perhaps they were

practising for Drunk in Hell or whoever.

 

Overall a great, warm experience, made even more special by the volunteer staff,

the enthusiasm of all who play here, and the wonderful duration of the Capsule girls who

organise it – truly a fans festival!

 
Kevin Hand

 

 

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