Tuesday, March 20, 2007

There Was A Music Conference In Austin Last Week?!

So, as you well know there’s a big music festival that happens in Austin, Texas every March. I attended this year and decided to summarize my trip with a list of bests and worsts. (And thank God I didn’t review the Best Wurst while I was down there… that place looked terrible.)

burning star core.jpgBest “File Under” I Thought Of While Watching Burning Star Core’s Violin Feedback Session:
File Under: Merzbore

Strangest Doppelgänger Spotting:
There was this kid in the airport on the way to Austin who looks just like that CMJ’s favorite Sha Sha singer. Long, shaggy hair, big cheeks and (gasp!) a green Ben Kweller T-shirt! This has to be him, right? Nope. At least that’s what he told my roommate. “I get that a lot. Sorry.” So why are you wearing a Kweller T-shirt, genius?

Best 50th Anniversary Concert Revue For A Label Celebrating Their 50th Anniversary:
The Stax 50th Anniversary concert. Present were Booker T. And The MGs, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Steve Cropper and Isaac Hayes. Mr. Hayes wasn’t doing to well and only sang about a verse of “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.” Did we mention the label is turning 50?


Best Question I Didn’t Get To Ask Mr. Isaac Hayes Because He Left Early:
“Got any tips on how to be a better baaaaad mother-shut-my-mouth?” (Hey, I’m just talking about me!)

Non-Austin-Related Addendum: Best Question CMJ Didn’t Ask Elijah Wood In His Recent Industry Profile:
“How many records sold qualify as platinum in Middle Earth?”

Most Shocking Yet Equally Unsurprising Joke Told At The Austin Convention Center:
Daniel Johnston: To warm up the audience for some (excellent) new material, he says, “I hear all the Jews are having a pajama party in the concentration camp.” And then a few seconds later, “Heil Hitler.” Yes, I realize it’s not a joke, but we all know Daniel’s story. And by “we all” I’m not including the legions of record execs that had no idea who he was and just wanted to see the “next big thing” on Day Stage. Guess he blew his shot of signing to Maverick.

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Best Band-Audience Fight:
Qui, the impressive, LA squonk-rock two-piece that just added David Yow to their lineup. Not only were they five hours late, but Yow incensed the audience off the bat with liberal usage of the N-word in a mocking Texan accent. After a few noisy, post-punk tunes (and a very drunk Yow stumbling everywhere), he looks into the audience at a woman in the front row and says, “You flipped me off, cunt!” Well, that’s actually when the birds started flying. Not only did she throw beer on him, but when he stepped off the stage to get in her face (he never hit her), she and her friends started accosting him. When he got back onstage he had blood coming down the side of his forehead. (See the interview below.) When I went to the bathroom after the show, a guy wearing a band badge for the Frantic who called himself Mitch (there’s no Mitch in the Frantic, liar) said to me, “This is the worst band I’ve ever heard and I hope they die from gonorrhea.” Well I’ve now heard the Frantic, sir, and the Frantic are no Qui. Sorry duder.


The Art Of Self-Defense: An Exclusive Account Of What Happened With Jessica B., From Southern Illinois (“Not Chicago!”) Who Fought David Yow
I came here with some people and wanted to hear music. This girl I took a piss with was up front and she had “Give me a beer” on her palm. She was like the smallest girl there. The band had this tub of beers onstage next to them. And dude was like “That fucking cunt flipped me off!” And I was like “Fuck you,” and I wasted my beer by throwing it at him. He came into the audience and I started punching him and scratching him and he pushed her. Fuck him. Quit.

qui 2.jpg

A Quote From Jessica B.’s Friend From Austin Whose Name I Didn’t Get
So who was that band?
Qui. Do you know the Jesus Lizard?
Yeah, they’re good.
That was their singer.
Damn it. I used to like them. Now I have to hate them.

Best Factual Error (Kind Of):
The drummer/singer from Times New Viking saying, “Devo didn’t write love songs” before their song, “Devo And Wine.” As creepy as it is, Devo’s “Girl U Want” qualifies as a love song. Also, “The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise,” is about missing a girl only to be happy to find out she’s a boy.

Two Cover Songs I Didn’t Need To Hear:
1) The Mountain Goats with Pony Up doing Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town.” (Dude, John, how old was that girl you were hip-checking onstage?)

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2) Daniel Johnston doing Wings’ “Band On The Run.” I never liked this song to begin with, and as much as I love Johnston do we really need the gooey keyboard part played on a violin? (This was the better of the two, though.)

Most Endearing Iggy Pop Moment:
At Austin City Limits after finishing new song “My Idea Of Fun” for KEXP’s broadcast of the Stooges, he said, “This concludes the scripted portion of our time together… There’s love. There’s money. Sometimes she took… fuck! Aw, damn!” And he thought he could keep from cursing.

Best Unscripted Producer Moment:
The idiot who told Lee “Scratch” Perry to go onstage during the Direct TV taping of his concert. He came out and said, “Today we are here to celebrate reggae!” The crowd went wild, and then the host told him to get back behind stage. And basically chased him off. Then the audience was asked to cheer another three times before Perry actually came back. Someone on the production staff needs to lay off the ganja herb, mon.

lee perry.jpg

Best Band I Was Thinking Of Making Fun Of Until I Realized They Liked Jesu As Much As Me:
Aa. Like totally righteous drum circle man. Well, shit. I love Godflesh, too. I did kind of like you guys, too. I take it back.

Most Frightening Bouncer-Audience Fight:
Oxbow at Spiro’s Amphitheater Friday night at 1am. Anyone who’s seen San Francisco art-meddlers Oxbow perform in the 20+ years they’ve been a band knows one thing is true: frontman Eugene Robinson hates pants. I guess the bouncers at Spiro’s, who strangely all wore neon light necklaces, have never seen Oxbow before. As usual, Robinson started the show fully dressed, with his ears covered in gaffer’s tape. But when he got down to his undershirt and his underwear, I noticed the bouncer behind the stage wasn’t just looking uncomfortable, he was downright angry.

oxbow 4.jpg

After their fifth or sixth song, Robinson said, “The constabulary has informed me I need to put my pants back on. This is our last song.” Guess what? He didn’t put his pants back on. About three minutes into the song, a guy walks to the back wall and cuts the band’s power. In a fit, Robinson threw the mic to the floor as hard ash could. Drummer Greg Davis kept playing and the bouncers started swarming him. Guitarist Niko Wenner and bassist Dan Adams picked up drumsticks and played along in solidarity. Some of the guys from Pelican ascended the stage to intervene with the bouncers and one made the mistake of spitting at a bouncer. That’s when the riot began.

oxbow 3.jpgThe bouncers start fighting with anyone they could, and they tackled the member of Pelican, three of them swarming on him. I tried to pull one of the bigger guys off him and was successful but then he started charging me and I got out of his way. Everything seemed to calm down for a minute and I tried talking to Hydra Head co-owner Mark Thompson, who then pointed towards the stage. The bouncers were stampeding in a horizontal line towards anyone in their way and out into the alley. Again they swarmed the member of Pelican, who apologized for spitting, and that’s when I saw the cops starting to arrive. As with most riots, that was my cue to leave.

The next day I called South By Southwest’s office to no avail and have subsequently written them a letter about the hostile, fascistic, homophobic (were it a woman stripping, it would have been different) and shortsighted actions on behalf of the club’s security staff. After meeting up with some of the guys from the night before, I was relieved to hear no one was seriously injured, luckily. Oxbow performed again Saturday night and Robinson made a joke that he hoped there wouldn’t be two nights/two fights. Guess Spiro’s just isn’t ready for subversive intellectual types.

Update: Thanks to those fuckers at Spiro’s, my camera’s got something rattling in it now. They’re lucky it works.

Fight Songs: An Interview With Oxbow Vocalist Eugne Robinson
What do you remember about the “Oxbow Incident”?

I see the bouncers moving closer to us and having been a bouncer once I figure it’s to a) tell us we have one more song to play and they’re anticipating us not being that into this or b) there’s a curfew. Imagine my surprise when it had to do with the fact that I was pantsless. Not underwear-less. Just without pants. The police had purportedly told them to tell me to put my pants on. I thanked him for telling me but indicated that I would, of course, not be putting my pants on until I finished. Just like fucking. They cut the power. Greg and I, per our standard operating procedure, keep playing. They attack Greg. I stop them. The crowd flips out. Spit is thrown and then subsequently punches. Show’s over in the middle of our last song. People outside the club screaming, “Spiro’s sucks! Spiro’s sucks!” I walk out of the club, still without pants, and have someone take a picture of me with a local cop. The local cop was more than happy to oblige.

oxbow 2.jpgHas this ever happened before at your shows?
Of course… A similar thing had happened before when we played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers… The problem there was because some people came out onstage and got married during our set. And they took the time out of our set. I went insane and then we had a roadie and he was insane and so we beat all the bouncers and only stopped when police came onstage with their guns drawn. I tried to apologize to the Chili Peppers but they were not so prone to being that understanding. My point is this though: do not attempt to stop the fuck. Unless your building is on fire.

What did you say to the Spiro’s people after all was said and done?
Well the biggest bouncer came over and apologized. He said he was a performer as well and he hated to do it but the cops had told him to. I told him I was unlikely to listen to anybody but a cop but I complained about how he had treated our friends in Pelican even if the guys had spit on him. But then I said that when I was a bouncer if someone had ever spit on me I’d have broken his jaw in two places and then have rubbed mucus in his eyes. So in the scheme of things I was accepting his apology. The club owner, despite having given me free booze earlier, was a cock with his mewling about calling the police back to arrest someone for hurting/threatening his bouncers.

Why do you think they were so adamant about you putting your pants back on?
At a certain point it really isn’t about the pants at all, right? At a certain point it’s “just because I told you so.”

Was anyone seriously hurt?
My sense of decorum took a beating. Outside of that? And the bumps and bruises suffered by the valiant men of Pelican, no.