I just got back from attending the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX once again. My feet are swollen, my ears are ringing, and my stomach just said “go ahead – I dare you to eat another pulled pork taco.” And I want to go back to sleep. But it was all worth it. I got to see long-established artists who I had never seen before (Nick Cave, Kelly Hogan), buzzy up-and-comers who were worth the hype (Rhye, Savages), and I also got to stumble onto previously unheard-of acts that were satisfying (San Cisco, Heliotropes). It’s all about trade-offs. Yeah, I missed a shot to go see Prince and A Tribe Called Quest, but in that time I scurried around to see nine bands at six different venues, and when do you ever get to do that?
For a music fan it’s an embarrassment of riches, really. It’s almost like you don’t even need a guide. You just think of a band you like that put out
a record in the last year or two and voila! there they are, playing two blocks away. You only have to fight your way through all the ”Free Hugs”and the sidewalk drummers and DJ Babychino, supposedly “the world’s youngest DJ” and the DJ who additionally sounds like a fancy coffee drink.
Anyhow, with two thousand bands performing it does become a challenge to figure out who you want to see, and it’s even more of a challenge to figure out who you did see. So I made this list to help me remember.
I also took some video, since the Flip camera hasn’t given out on me yet, and put together my own little highlight reel from this year’s experience, below. It’s best viewed eating a pulled pork taco and drinking a Shiner Bock.
You knew it had to happen at some point right?
I’m a sucker for Christmas music, and I try to upload a mixtape every year with the good and interesting stuff that I’ve found while poking around the internet and the used CD racks. Last year I was amused to find an outer space-themed Christmas record, but once I did, I was not surprised to find lots of other nutty “Christmas in outer space” records, because yeah, the internet. And once I found those I came across a whole galaxy full of low-hanging fruit just there for the taking: Star Wars holiday albums! Star Trek ads! William Shatner! NASA recordings! Spacey electronic music! So yes, I’ve jumped the shark a bit with this mix. It had to be done. But there’s lots of good stuff here, and I did more mixing and editing to make things move along. Give it a shot.
Mixes from previous years can be found and downloaded here. You can listen to my outer space Christmas below or get it right from Soundcloud.
Tuesday I went to “Krautwerk 1-8: Kraftwerk Covered” at Littlefield in Brooklyn. The show was a “screw you” to the failed MOMA ticketing system that left most fans (this one included) suffering under the spinning pinwheels of internet death, but, because it was put together by the Onion’s Joe Garden and Marianne Ways, it was also a Kraftwerk cover show that didn’t take itself too seriously. Naturally, it was MCed by somebody’s computer speech function, and featured a diverse lineup of talent. I’m really glad I went. Rolling Stone gave it a good writeup, but here is my little teaser video. Can you do a teaser for something that already happened? I think I just did.
Oh, yes I did.
My favorite time of year to listen to Christmas music is around Christmas time. I’m crazy that way. So every year I make a new mix of stuff that I’ve enjoyed listening to. This year’s mix has got 1960s psychedelic rock from Korea, some good ol’ bluegrass, an admittedly annoying dance craze from the 90s, and a Bob Dylan mashup that you won’t hear anywhere else because I MADE IT MY DAMN SELF. I’m crazy that way, too. Most of all, it’s fun and harmless – your aunt would even like it (full disclosure: I already played it for her). So feel free to download and enjoy it here. You can get mixes from years past here as well. Enjoy.
(by the way, the exploding bulb in the background of the tracklisting is from Alan Sailer’s fantastic “War Against Christmas” Flickr page.)
Last night is one of the reasons I love New York, because it’s one of the few places that you can see stuff like this (even from my, umm… less than optimal view, below). Lincoln Center hosted a free performance of “A Checkroom Romance,” the story of a man so obsessed with coat checkrooms that he decides to convert his daughter’s room into one, written by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy. Katchor’s inimitable comic artwork formed the visuals for the story, and Mulcahy and band performed the score.
Mark has long been one of my favorite musicians and he’s simply getting better, providing a lively and evocative narrative without being melodramatic or show-tuney. Katchor‘s drawings are great, and the oddball story was clever, satisfying and affecting. It’s a shame that they are doing so few performances. Guys, you gotta take this thing on the road. I’ll make sure there’s a coat check.